Monday, June 27, 2011

Six Month Anniversary

Six months ago TODAY, we met our beautiful Shaling (Long Sha Ling) for the first time when he had our Gotcha Day. On Gotcha Day, we got custody of Shaling, but didn't get to complete the adoption until the next day, because China requires a 24-hour "harmonious period" during which the child and the family are supposed to get to know each other.

Here is our guide, Connie, walking Shaling over to her new family:

Shaling with Mom:

Shaling with Dad:

Shaling with her new brother:

One of the ironic things I remember about that day is that when we ate supper at Lucy's, Shaling ordered pizza and though I asked the waitress to make it clear she could have whatever she wanted, she insisted on pizza. At the time, we were impressed that she liked American cuisine, but realized later that she was only trying to impress us, because she definitely shuns pizza now.

We were absolutely overwhelmed with emotions that day -- thrilled and relieved that we didn't get a screamer. Heck, she didn't shed a tear. The girl's bravery still amazes me. As I recall that day, I'm also so very proud of Preston. He was working so hard at making her feel welcome to the family and teaching her as much as he could. He was so happy to finally have his sister and it didn't bother him a bit that all of the attention was revolving around her. No, in fact he was intensely contributing to that attention.

Here are a couple of pictures of the two of them in their pajamas that first night, playing their DSIs (with Preston's guidance, it took her less than 5 minutes to learn how to use it):

I remember the pleasantly surprising feeling when she calmly and firmly relied on me to help her take a bath that very first evening. She thoroughly enjoyed that bath. As I understand it, they simply bathed out of a bucket at the orphanage. I shared a king-sized bed with the two kids that night. She squeezed uptight against me and fell asleep almost immediately, overwhelmed with emotional and physical exhaustion from that special day.

I giggle a bit now when I remember how impressed we were with the number of English words she knew, but considering how far we've come, her "starter knowledge" was just a drop in the bucket. On a recent Sunday, she was even reading the comics in the paper during our drive home from church and lunch. When we arrived home, she was not finished, so she spread the paper out on my car and continued reading. I took a brief video of it with my phone:

Shaling Reads the Comics from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's friend, Ma MeiXin (now called Natalie) also had her Gotcha Day that day. The girls are good friends. Natalie, who now lives in Florida, was adopted by Carl & Kim. She has two older brothers, Matt & Andrew.

Here is a picture of Shaling & Natalie together that happy & exciting day:

Here is Natalie getting to know her mother & brothers (Carl was finishing paperwork in the other room. This photo is courtesy of Shaling, after she had grabbed my camera and took nearly 100 pictures.):

Happy 6-Month Gotcha Day Anniversary, Shaling & Natalie. You've come a long way! Your families are both so blessed to have you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Phone Conversation w/Grandma

On the way to her softball game last night, Shaling asked me if Grandma was going to be at her softball game. I told her no, but that she could call and ask Grandma if she would come to her next one (tomorrow, Saturday, at 9:00 a.m.). She indicated that she wanted to do that, so I dialed my mom’s number and handed the phone to Shaling. The conversation, from what I could hear, went something like this:


“You come to my softball game Sat-ur-day?”


At this point, assuming I knew what my mom was going to ask, I told Shaling, “morning.”

“Good morning.”

“Mom, where my game?”

I told her, “Rochester”.





At that point I interjected, “Wait. I want to talk to Grandma.”

“Grandma…wait, wait…Grandma? Mom talk to YOU.”

Before I got to the reason I wanted to talk to my mom, I asked her how impressed she was with that conversation, making note of just how far we’ve come. She was definitely impressed, telling me that she understood ALL of what Shaling was telling her.

Also, if you missed my post on Facebook, you might get a kick out of this story too. On the way to that game, I stopped to get gas. I let the kids each get a snack. Shaling chose sunflower seeds. I asked her if she was sure she knew how to eat those. She replied, “Yeah. I eat these in China.”

Sure enough, she opened the bag, popped one in her mouth, sucked the salt off, broke it open & ate the kernel, then spit out the seed. She even asked Preston for the discarded bag from his donut so she could use it for discarding her seeds. I think she definitely had eaten those in China.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eardrum Surgery

I took Shaling back to see Dr. Huang (the E.N.T. specialist) yesterday so he could examine her eardrum that has a hole in it. If you follow the blog fairly regularly, you might remember this post: Follow Up With the E.N.T. from April when we confirmed that surgery was inevitable.

Though I am one that would like to just get the whole thing over with yesterday as soon as possible, I did ask about restrictions following the surgery. She will not be allowed to swim at all (not even with ear plugs) for two months following surgery. She is becoming a stronger swimmer and is really enjoying it. She recently learned to hold her breath and put her face underwater. I didn’t want to rob her of the majority of her first summer here by doing that to her.

So, her surgery will be Thursday, September 8. The doctor believes her ear canal is wide enough that he’ll be able to insert his tools through it (and not have to make an incision behind her ear to get to it). However, she will have a small incision behind her ear, because he’ll take some fascia from underneath her skin and use that to repair the hole in the eardrum. She’ll be under general anesthetic and the surgery will take about an hour.

I noticed at the appointment that she only interacted with Dr. Huang in English, not Chinese at all. That was bittersweet – it’s great that her English has come so far, but I hate to see her lose her Chinese. She also kept popping out of the chair, assuming prematurely that the doctor was done examining her. She insists her ear is fine and that she doesn’t need surgery. I’m guessing she doesn’t realize that she has a partial hearing loss in that (her right) ear. The doctor says that should return after surgery, but it could be up to 4 months for it to appear. He also says the surgery only has a 90% success rate, so there is a 10% chance that the hearing will not return.

Speaking of her improved English, I was impressed earlier this week with the way she spontaneously started a conversation with a stranger. Her softball team was getting their team picture. The photographer’s wife was setting out sample items on a table. Shaling pointed at a little girl’s picture on a large button and asked, “Is that your daugh-ter?” As I’ve done numerous times the last few months, I got ready to explain what she’d asked. However, the woman understood her perfectly and said, “No, this one is my daughter,” while pulling out another picture. Her grammar was correct; it was an appropriate question; her enunciation was clear. Not bad for 5+ months in America.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

J-O-Y - Coming Home From Summer Camp

When we arrived at Camp CILCA yesterday to pick up Preston & Shaling from summer camp, they both were enjoying lunch with their camp friends. Preston moved and joined us while we ate lunch, but Shaling took advantage of her last few minutes with her new friends. Shaling also informed us that she was not coming home. She was going to "no go home; stay here; fun; lotsa lotsa walking".

After lunch, we helped the kids load up their stuff in the car and then we went to the chapel for the closing ceremony. Each of the staff members introduced themselves, then the kids sang a couple of songs. One of the songs, "J-O-Y", is sung every year and I have a video of Preston singing it last year. We also sing it at Vacation Bible School each summer. It's pretty catchy and the kids' enthusiasm shines through. The video below includes Preston & Shaling, singing "J-O-Y" with their camp friends.

J-O-Y at Camp CILCA 2011 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Camp Pictures

I don't have much to write, since we aren't supposed to contact our kids while they're at camp. However, Camp CILCA is gracious enough to be on Facebook and post photos (they posted 63 the other night). Here are the best two of our kids (as you can see, I'm sure they're quite miserable and can't wait to escape the torture and come home):

Preston rides in a kayak -- he told us ahead of time this was his favorite activity last year.

Shaling covers herself in dirt & sand.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Heading Off to Summer Camp

In about 10 minutes, Brock & I will drive Preston & Shaling to Camp CILCA (near Cantrall, Illinois -- about 30 minutes away) and drop them off for an entire week. They will have fun canoeing, swimming, playing games, hiking, singing songs that praise God, etc.

Shaling has been excited about her "No Mom, No Dad" week. For the last week or so, she's been counting down the days, even expressing her displeasure that she has to come home this Friday.

At lunch today, she wrote these words, "I'm Love MoM and Dad and Preston, shaling. happy. I'm sad shaling." Based on what she was telling me verbally as she wrote it, her intended message is that she loves us (and Preston); she is happy about going to camp; and she is sad because she'll miss Mom & Dad.

She also drew a map of camp, even though she hasn't been there. It has our house...a long drive, then a girls' cabin, a boys' cabin, & a lunch building. The only words she needed help spelling throughout drawing the entire note & map, were "girl" and "boy". Of course, her capitalization and grammar aren't perfect, but I find what she CAN do correctly pretty darn amazing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Make Her Head Hurt

Last year around this time, Brock & I attended an older child adoption training run by Bob & Katherine Sanford. They came back to Rochester to do another one today. We were asked to give a brief testimony on our own experience. I was excited to share our story and encourage others on their own journeys.

We wore matching adoption shirts.

I went early and bragged about how great Shaling is doing.


She clammed up. It's not the first time, and I've come to expect it when there are a lot of adults around, but no children. She thrives being around hordes large groups of children. However, she turns shy and reserved when around groups of adults. Preston, however, did share a bit with the crowd.

At least one of the couples is getting a boy from Shaling's orphanage and after we spoke, they came up and chatted with us in an informal capacity. She taught them how to pronounce his Chinese name. He is 8-years-old, so he is her "little brother", as she told English, not Chinese.

In the car on the way home, Shaling told me, "Mom, you no say me China." She was basically telling me not to talk about her being from China. Concerned that she might not be proud of her heritage or that she thought we were making fun of her, etc., I asked her why. She said, "you make my head hurt."

I guess that's her way of saying that we overwhelm her when we ask her to talk about China to groups of people.

Today as an entirety hasn't been real smooth. Brock was pretending to be 21 instead of 40 playing basketball this morning and severely sprained his ankle. The pain was bad enough that he crawled up our stairs instead of walking so that he could shower before going to prompt care. He is now on crutches.

While he was off playing hoops, I was driving the kids home from Father's Day shopping. We spotted a turtle at an extremely busy intersection close to the interstate. I went up the road and did a u-turn to go back and move it. By the time we returned, it was in the middle of the road and had two lanes of traffic backed up. I parked the car, telling the kids to stay put, and jumped out to grab it. As I scooped it up, it loudly cussed me out hissed, retreated entirely into it's shell, and proceeded to display just how gratified it was to be saved by peeing all over my foot. Yes, I literally scared the you-know-what out of it.

Surprisingly, I didn't drop it. I ran back to the car and told Preston to open the door. As I put it down on my floorboard, I said, "it peed on me". Preston said, "that was pee?!" I'm not sure what else he thought it was, but found the question amusing. We drove to a nearby boat ramp and set the turtle down a couple of feet from the water. We stood and watched for a few minutes, but it never did come of it's shell, so we just left so that it could calm down. I'm guessing from looking at it that it was a type of turtle called a "red slider". It was roughly 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Shaling was quite disappointed that we didn't bring it home...she kept telling me, "so cute".

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weird Al, Reunion with Pal, & Tantrum Royale

Last night, we had front row tickets to see Weird Al Yankovic here in Springfield. We took both kids and though I know Shaling didn't understand all of the lyrics, she giggled and had a good time. I took a few pictures and then handed her my camera. She took about 5 times as many pictures as I did.

We wore matching shirts that I had purchased from an adoption fundraiser.

Weird Al sings "I want to be your lover" to the crowd.

Earlier this weekend, Star (HengXin) Stowell came for a visit. The girls enjoyed chattering away in Chinese and swimming together at the Elks Club. Star and her dad, sister, & brother also watched Shaling's softball game.

The girls act silly.

They find themselves to be hilarious.

On Saturday, we were working to put our house back together after having new flooring installed. I realized no one had collected the mail. I asked Preston to go get it. Then, I changed my mind and asked Shaling to get it, because I noticed she had shoes on and he did not. She was L-I-V-I-D, stomping out of the room muttering and stomping down the stairs. I told her to watch her attitude.

After she'd been gone a rather unreasonable amount of time, I went looking for her. I found her sitting in a swing in the backyard, glaring lasers into the ground pouting and staring downward. I told her to get inside and she ignored me. I then told her if I had to come get her, she would be grounded for two days (no bicycle, no video games, no movies) and followed that up with a notice that she had 10 seconds. She again ignored me.

I walked over and scooped her up into my arms, telling her that if she was going to behave like a brat, I was going to treat her like one. She began crying instantaneously. I carried her into the kitchen and set her down, telling her to get upstairs. She complied, but cried and screamed louder with every step, attempting, but failing, to gain sympathy from Dad. She did, however, gain some sympathy from Preston, who quizzed me on what she WOULD be allowed to do while grounded. He was relieved to find out she could still play outside.

I let her sit in her room for awhile, then went in and sat down quietly. I eventually asked her if she was ready to be nice. When I received no response, I told her she could stay in there a bit longer and went back to helping Brock put our bedroom back together. After a few minutes, she came walking in to our room carrying a few stuffed animals and a picture of "Mom" & "Shaling" that she drew several weeks ago. I initially thought she was ready to reconcile, but when she threw the items down on my dresser, I quickly realized she was returning to me anything in her room that was associated with me.

As she left the room, I grinned at Brock and told him what she was doing. I found her attempt to display her independence somewhat humorous. He went in and talked to her, telling her it might be a good idea to apologize to Mom. It took her another 10 minutes or so, but eventually she did. By Saturday night, she was cuddling with me again and telling me she loved me, so all is well (until the next Mother-Daughter battle). The teenage years should be fun around here.