All posts by Tabby

Settling In

imageWell, it has been 4 days since we have been home and this is the second day of being home with cheecky monkey and no one else (except for small snatches of Brittney and Jorge). He is doing suprisingly well and we have only had a few, minor meltdowns. He is a sweet and tender boy who just so happens to be VERY active, much like Daniel was when he was a boy; except where Daniel was all knees and elbows, Judah is a solid 60 lbs, in a compact little body.

Yesterday we moved from activity to activity so fast that by noon we had done everything and he was already asking when Daniel would be home so he could play Godzilla. Fortunately, he did go down for a nap which gave me a couple hours to sit and read and just decompress from all the BIG changes that have happened in 3 weeks.

Considering all things – I think we are doing well. It is as tough as I expected it to be and tougher than I had hoped. We were pretty educated by our agency on children who have been in an institute and some of the things that are common to their adjustment and behavior, but we really were not mentally prepared for the effects being in a foster family would have on our boy. We constantly have to remind ourselves that he is grieving a loving family. We also face the challenge of loving him through his inability to understand why he has been taken from his family.

In China we learned his family never told him he was not thier own; in his mind he was taken from a family and this one thing may be the hardest ‘effect of adoption’ we have to overcome (and the fact he was very indulged, but he is learning fast who the boss is). It is something that we will continue to lift up and ask that you join us. It is hard for us at times to seperate the behavior from the boy and to not take it personally when his behavior is directed at us. However, it is not hard to love these children; it IS hard to parent though when the boundaries have been established by others first and we are left to redraw the lines.

T

Bittersweet

image

So today is our last day in China. It is bittersweet for several reasons. One, because we have made friends here and it has been such an encouragement and a blessing; two, because we are leaving this beautiful city and we have had only a small look into such a vast culture and amazing history, and lastly because we are leaving behind Jia Yu’s world.

Last night was very hard for him and he cried because he was homesick. He talked to us about his Chinese Mama and we were able to catch enough phrases to understand he was sharing his sadness with us. It is all so much for him to take in but in the middle of hitting himself, he allowed Rob and I both to hold him and love him. He finally crawled in my lap to eat some ‘comfort food’ – snacks from his home, and let me hold him for about an hour. This was a first because our little guy never sits still. Every fifteen minutes or so he would turn around and rub my face and kiss me. It was a hard night and all our hearts broke for our boy.

We did get to sleep in after a very busy day yesterday. After the consulate, then swimming, then the park, then swimming again…let me tell you a funny story about that. Jia Yu is a negotiator (even with a language barrier) and he LOVES the pool. Yesterday in the pool we were wrapping up and told him every few minutes when we would be leaving. At 2 minutes he was negotiating with Baba (Rob – 2 minutes Jia Yu, Jia Yu – 4 minutes Baba, Rob – 1 minute Jia Yu, Jia Yu – ok, ok 2 minutes) and so it goes, you get the picture and I was seated behind Baba holding up 2 fingers and Baba had 2 fiingers up and Jia Yu say’s “ok, Baba 2 minutes, and Mama 2 minutes” and he smashes is left 2 fingers into his right and say’s “Jia Yu, 4 minutes!” Cheeky Monkey!

Today has been easier but emotional. I have had the cries and he has been clingy (another first, no flight risk today) and has cried as well. We are all trying to just love him and be close by if he needs us. We spent some time at a famous house and then went to the Six Banyan Temple. It was beautiful and a good look into Buddist religion and architecture. A funny moment came after we were told not to photograph the monks, but we look up and one is on his cell phone. Hum!?

Jia Yu understands well that tomorrow we take a plane to Mae Gua (America). He is excited to see Daniel and “Grittney”.  But, I know that it will be more difficult as we approach leaving. Please pray for him, pray that we are discerning, gentle and loving. Pray all these families traveling have a smooth flight and arrive home safely.

We hope everyone can join us Friday to meet our boy. He loves cake so we will be sure to have that…and Chinese food too. We love you guys!

Oh, and one more thing – for those in our family and extended family who are particularly gassy – he has you beat, hands down! And one more, he has snored so loud that we all slept with ear plugs and it didn’t help!

One Step Closer to Home

image

Hello Family & Friends,

We just got back from our Embassy Appointment.  Unfortunately, the government would not let us take a single picture of the oath or anything. So you will just have to take my word for it.  It was fairly painless compared to the other ‘red tape’ agencies.

Today we plan on a swim (which seems to tire the cheeky monkey out) and then take a walk down to the other park near our hotel. Hopefully we will find an affordable place to eat tonight. Although we have enjoyed our hotel and Goungzhou very much, there are not as many places to have a meal, Chinese or otherwise…except McDonalds. Bluuh!

As for yesterday, it was probably our first normal-ish day so far. We had to head to the Medical Exam place to have his TB test looked at and all was well. After that we went to the Shaiman Island for some shopping and eating at Lucy’s (a very common stop for anyone on the island).  It was a brief trip, but Jia Yu did well while we were shopping…no running off…and he ate his meal and only about 1/2 my fries. I unfortunately had some stomach trouble the night before after our stop at the Arabian resturant, so I was super happy to get a ginger ale and grilled cheese. Rob had his first cheese burger in China, Grace had cheese pizza, and Jia Yu had lamb, again.  It’s a good thing we didn’t try any of their Mexican dishes–we found out after the fact that they have not sat well with others who have tried them.

We came back and took the kids to the pool since it seemed to tire Jia Yu out the day before. We have really enjoyed the pool and whirlpool. After that was dinner and some time in the play park that is in our hotel. This was the first meal Jia Yu had (McNuggets) that he ate at the same pace as the rest of us and only begged a few fries off sister. We played catch where he caught on quick and he loved playing on the swings (although we could tell it was his first time because he had no clue how to do it and almost fell out the front and back a few times).

The best part was that we were there with about 25 other adoptive families there as well. We actually met a family from Texas (Decatur) who have adopted 3 children, they have 10 ranging from 31 – 2). Thier new boy, Ben, was just about the cutest thing you can imagine and ANYONE would have taken him home. He was just 2 and already could count to 44 and speak well in English. It was encouraging to see these families, many with children that just need a simple surgery to repair a cleft lip. All these families have shared about their amazing children and how well they are adapting to the change. It is amazing and such a blessing that God created these children to be so resilient. There are a few though that have shared the difficulties too, extreme mood swings, the silent tears, the children who don’t know how hold their parent because most likely they have not been held. We have seen the effects up close and we have seen in DAYS how these children respond to love and attention and it is amazing. These families are amazing and encourage us so much. At the same time it makes my heart break for that little boy in the institute that was so enamored with his picture, just waiting for a family. Here in China his life and oppurtunities are very limited, I pray he finds a family soon.

We also had the opportunity to Skype with Rob’s father and a woman he works with that teaches Chinese to Chinese children and their American families.  Jia Yu was very happy to have someone to speak with, even if only briefly.  And considering he was about to actually fall asleep on his own at 8:30, we were happy to get anything out of him.  And, while we seem to be wearing him out and he is sleeping well; we, on the other hand, have had to deal with his loud snoring every night.  There will definitely be a visit to the ENT when we get back.

Well, my sweet girl and cheecky monkey have been patiently waiting to have a swim before we head to the park, so I better go. We love you all!

Britt, please have some fruit for us at the house, bacon and oj. This kid is an eating machine! If anyone has Legos to spare…we sure could use some. Two more days until we fly home!

Change of Venue

image

Ok, so first we are sorry for not updating before now. To say it has been hectic would be an understatement. So I will do my best to update since our last, well, update.

We started Thursday morning with a trip to the Orphanage. I tried to mentally prepare myself for this but there really is no way to know how you will feel or the effect is has until later. The grounds of the SWI are very nice and it is a very large compound. However, we were only able to see the room Jia Yu stayed in while he was there as well as the room where our friends’ daughter slept, and the bathroom and TV room of her age group as well.

We did get to see some of the younger kids she lived with and I can tell you it really tore me up. In particular was one little boy, who looked to be maybe 3 and very small. He was sitting very quietly at his table, as were all the children, and no one was smiling. I took a picture of him and bent to show it to him…his little face was like night and day, beaming when he saw himself and gently running his fingers down the screen. It just broke my heart for these kids and while the outside of the institute was very nice the inside was old, dark, with peeling paint and the kids room had no toys that we could see. To think this is one of the best orphanages really pierced my heart. All the little faces just looking for a Mama and Baba to love them.

After the visit we returned to the market to shop a bit and them home to the hotel…which became the site of the first Jia Yu vs. Mama bout for the title of who has the strongest will. Now I may joke about it but let me just tell you this was not pleasant for any of us. With an older child, the testing is more intense because you are dealing with a small person, not a baby or toddler who can be held or constrained to a bed or playpen. This battle included a whole whirlwind of bad behavior and a real test of patience for me. Even tears (for the first time) from Jia Yu. Give him to strangers, no tears…give him to strangers who don’t speak the way he does…no tears, but tell him he has to use his words and not grunt at me when we know he is able to talk…ALL OUT WAR! It was tough. I would never let my other kids get away with what he did and at the same time I had to decide what boundaries to set with an adopted child. It was super emotional and I will admit sent me into a funk the entire next day. My best friend sent me the verse “do not grow weary in well doing” and it really was timely for me. Even retelling it makes me cry.  I am so human and on my own, under my own power could never endure.

Friday for us was a slow morning because we caught our flight out to Goungzhou. Rob and I both were super on guard with the flight risk but he did very well and was excited to fly on the plane (fei jei). He did really well, because he loves to play Angry Birds but 2.5 hours was his limit and by the time we got off the plan he was toggled ON!

So on to Guangzhou we went…and let me tell you it was everything I imagined Shanghai to be (and wasn’t). This city is amazing and I would return anytime. Our guide, Jack, is hysterical and kept us all entertained with his wit and comparisons to Shanghai “because you know Guangzhou is better.”

The city is huge with millions of people but the streets here are clean and the drivers here are not allowed to “horn” so they have learned to drive and we could actually relax and enjoy the ride. Our hotel is the nicest I have ever stayed in with a Four Seasons restaurant in the lobby. It connects with the subway underneath, there is a Starbucks across the street and many shops within walking distance. Dinner was in the hotel where Jia Yu tried again to order…and keep ordering. I seriously can not tell you how much this kid eats. More then Rob…more the Dan! He is a machine and constantly tries to get the waitresses to bring him more, knowing full well we can’t understand them! Cheeky Monkey!

I am glad to report that our bedtime preparations went off without a repeat of the night before and we got our first REAL sleep since coming to China.
Today was a good day. I can say that now, after dragging him to the Doctor for his medical exam (he weighs in at a whopping 62 lbs and 48 inches tall – I told you he was a tank) where he was checked over very well. This place was an adoption mecca; we saw probably 60 families adopting children and it made me happy to see many of them with boys. It was slightly better than controlled chaos but we managed with our fabulous guide Jack and were in-and-out in no time. We came back to the hotel which was good because I needed a Zanax but settled for some much needed alone time to workout, while the kids and dad went swimming. Side note: a couple days before Ming Ming asked him if he could swim and he said yes, I can do all the styles; frog, back stroke, etc. Well, he is a story teller…he told us that too! Swimming was a little more drinking the pool than the freestyle.

After that we took a long walk to one of the two parks near our hotel. Park is not really a word I would use for it. It was AMAZING! Unlike any I have seen. The landscape here is very much like Florida with tropical plants everywhere and mountain ranges off in the distance. The park itself wandered around a large lake and everywhere you looked there were Chinese families playing, people doing Tai Chi, playing a game with a birdie and their feet, dancing, singing Karaoke and exercising. We were with our other Gladney family (3 adults and 4 Asian kids) and us and we really got a lot of looks today. I am sure they were trying to figure out where the blonde child came from. We walked for over an hour before stopping at the Green Island Bar/Grill and had one of the best meals yet and yes, he did try to get the waitress to bring him more food. Grace and I even tried eel – it was yummy.

We also had a moment earlier (now that we finally have internet) to Skype my sister Alea and had a moment online with my other kids. It was so good to see and hear Alea and when I saw my kids I cried. I miss them so much as this is the longest I have ever been away from them both. Jia Yu was a Crazy Monkey for Alea and was really looking forward to “seeing” Dan. Surprisingly, he has formed an attachment to Dan and talks often about his Ge Ge, Dan. Even from the first day he could point him out in pictures. Today he was even on the potty just yelling (he does that a lot too) Ge Ge DANIEL, Ge Ge DANIEL!

Sorry Britt. He is all boy…total boy…crazy boy and a handful. A beautiful, sweet (he LOVES to give kisses) funny, tank-of-a-boy.

So, it’s 7:40 here and I owe my girl some time alone with mom so we are off to check out the sauna. Tomorrow we head to the Zoo and a famous street market. I promise that now we have internet we will upload some pictures (if he is a blur in them it’s seriously because he never stops moving) and we will update more frequently. Love you all, just 4 more days before we fly home.

The Making of a Family

image

It’s hard to believe that we have only been here five days and still have another eight days, including a plane ride from Shanghai to Guangzhou.  We are certainly trying to soak in as much of the experience as possible–as much as our tired minds and bodies will let us.  Shanghai is so incredibly large and diverse.  Each day’s events take us through completely different areas of the city, which seems to stretch on and on with no end.  We already can’t wait until we can return as a family and visit more of Judah’s home country without the interruption of appointments.

We are continually amazed by Judah and just how good God has been in the middle of all of this.  It has been barely two days since we met him for the first time and there is already a family bond taking place.  Even with the two that weren’t able to come with us–he talks about ge ge (older brother) Daniel and jie jie (older sister) Brittney. 

Communication is difficult at times, more because we don’t understand him as much as he understands us.  He told our guide and translator yesterday that he knows that mom and dad don’t speak Chinese, but he has learned to talk to us using hand gestures.  And his English expands and improves by the minute.  I wish everyone could just be a fly on the wall and see and hear it all.  I completely expect that by the time we make it home we will have almost forgotten how little undertood each other that first day.

His personality is definitely a fit for our clan.  God knew what He was doing.  Our friend, Kathy, texted and asked me to describe him in 10 words.  I’m not sure I used 10 exactly, but my reply was that he is an incredibly-smart-all-boy-eating-machine-Casonova.  Oh, and he really needs our five acres to run around on.  I’m sure the hotel room and bus rides and appointments are driving him crazy.  But he has adapted amazingly well for being 100% outside of his daily routine.

There is so much that has transpired since the last update. Yeterday we completed the paperwork at the DMV-like agency as well as the notarizing of our paperwork–it’s legal now for China, he is ours. Last night found us terribly exhausted. We ended our evening by venturing out of the hotel for more affordable food and into a small resturant where Judah took mercy on us and ordered dinner for us, which included some elaborate purple warm-milk drink for Grace (which she would not drink) and some delicous noodles and sticky buns. If potstickers are your thing then sticky buns will rock your world! Judah kept up a string of chatter with several of the staff there and kept trying to order more food (he is a tank). I think he is really handling this all much better then we are.  Pray for Grace as she is terribly homesick and misses American food.

Today we toured the Bund, and area across from the famous Financial District; bordered on one side by a row of the most impressive banks you can imagine, literally about 15-20 banks, large and domineering. The other side by the river and a very familiar Shanghai skyline. Everywhere we go we get a lot of attention.  I think that Americans are facinating; Americans with a Chinese daughter are interesting; American families with an apparently normal and healthy Chinese boy is downright STRANGE! I think when they can (and even when WE can’t) they try to talk with us and discover what’s going on with this mixed-culture family.

After the Bund we went to a Chinese Temple garden. I can’t describe it well enough but I can tell you it was everything I imagined when I thought of China. Like we stepped onto the set of Fearless. It was HUGE and was a 15th centuary home of an extremely wealthy family. You could walk for hours around the grounds. It was also the site of our 2nd episode of run-away son. It seems that the biggest ‘issue’ we have to overcome with our new son (besides food and table manners) is that he was terribly spoiled by his family. We have confirmation on this but I’ll get to that soon.

After that was shopping–which was fast and furious because it was literally shoulder-to-shoulder and our guide warned us of thieves and hawkers. Rob and Judah stayed at our group meeting place while Gracie and I shopped for a charm for her, mostly to keep him from making a get-a-way in the midst of thousands of people.

The ride back was probably the highlight though.  Judah and I sat with our guide Ming Ming so she and I could talk with him. He told her that his parents did not speak Chinese and asked her to talk to him so he could speak Chinese. This makes my heart so sad and at the same time I am so grateful for Ming Ming and how smart and resourceful our boy is. In our three-way conversation Judah said he lived in a village in a large house with two stories. His family lived with many people and until recently he shared a room with them. They had chickens, but they ate them, and 2 ducks–but they ate one and gave the other to relatives, some rabbits (wait for it) but they ate them. We all laughed about this. He also was sure to tell us that he got ice cream in the summer once a day, sometimes twice.

We asked Ming Ming to come back to our room and translate for a while. She was able two tell us that he loved to read and tell stories and asked that I read to him, even if it was in English. We described our house and animals and showed him his room (which he was very putoff to learn he would share and asked how long before he would have his own room–in days). He was concerned about our big dog most and when i told him all she does is sleep he said “don’t you let her at least standup?”

We talked about him coming to America, he said he would but he would always be Chinese and would one day come back and teach his Chinese Mama English. He also asked Ming Ming to tell us we were saying his name wrong and then he proceeded to teach us (it took a while) how to say his name properly and agreed to be Jia Yu in China and Judah once we got to America. We spent some time talking about how we would discipline him–which was my favorite part because he told us that he always got what he wanted and never did his parent discipline him. He wanted to know what we did in America and we explained the ‘naughty chair’ and he was so funny because he said

“I can sit there and do anything as long as i don’t get up?”

“Yes”

“What if i have an itch, can i scratch?”

“Yes”

“What if Jie Jie (sister) is bad?”

“Oh, she gets a spanking.”

After this he rolled around, thought about it and ‘agreed to our terms’. He is quite the charmer/negotiator. A handful and perpetual motion…I mean never still.  In half of the pictures we have he is a blur…no…really!

Tomorrow we return for a tour of the Institute. We asked him if he was ok with that and he said yes, as long as he could show us his bed.

I am amazed at how well he is doing, he has not cried once and seems genuinely happy. He is a handful and is VERY attached to BaBa and wants to be with him and have him hold him all the time. He behaves better for me but I think that is because I am like Chinese MaMa and he is used to that. Rob is his personal jungle gym and we will have to find creative ways to get his energy out. He did say he would like to do Tae Kwon Do with us–and he promised to listen.

On a personal note, thank you all for your text messages and words of encouragment. Please keep it up (on Rob’s phone). They have been timely and needed. His adjustment and ours has been SO much better then it could have been and even though he is a handful we are so thankful he is heathly and has been loved so much that he is rotten. We are all weary though, and it’s a bit stressful playing defense and not having a break, in a place that is not home, while missing the rest of our clan.

We will try to update more but we do not have WiFi and so our updates are by phone. Friday we fly to Guangzhou and we hope for WiFi there as well as a slower daily pace–and fewer episodes of run-away son.

Love you all!