Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surgery & Silliness

Shaling saw Dr. Huang today. He says her ear looks good (clean), so we will proceed with the eardrum repair surgery next Thursday. She will be put under & he will scrape away some tissue from under her skin behind her ear. Then, he will insert the tissue into the hole in her eardrum. He should be able to do all of this through her ear canal, so as not to have to cut a deep incision behind her ear.

Today is the first time I think she understood me well when I explained what was going to happen. She reacted with fear -- even covering her ears to show she didn't even want to hear about it. When she did listen, I explained she would be asleep when it happened. She indicated that she wouldn't be able to sleep, so I explained that the doctor would give her medicine to sleep. She thought that was funny & giggled for several minutes.

When we got home, Preston was quite depressed -- he'd had a rough day. He forgot his lunch; he found out he missed his percussion sectional yesterday; he realized he misunderstood the instructions on two science assignments. He was telling me about it while I sorted laundry. Suddenly, Shaling grabbed one of my bras & slung it over her shoulders and behind her back. She began proudly prancing around saying, "look at my new backpack!" She even showed it off to the cat. Preston began belly-laughing & all of the sudden his bad day was behind him. It was so rewarding to see him cheer up so quickly.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Yucky to Icky

Last Friday night, Shaling & I drove down to St. Louis to meet Grandma & Aunt Ann at a Cardinal game. We absolutely sang our dear hearts out to quite a variety of songs, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Cee Lo Green, "Party in the U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus, "Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman, and several more. She broke my heart when she reached up to skip Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", telling me, "I no like this one."

When we took a break from the music, she tattled on her dad. The preface to this is that she picked out her outfit for the Friday game on WEDNESDAY...all of the way down to her socks. She even inquired about Cardinal underwear. Apparently, Dad (who, remember, is a Chicago Cubs fan) couldn't keep his mouth shut about her attire.

Shaling tells it like this:

"Mom, in the morning, Dad not nice."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. I come downstairs & say 'good morning, Dad'; Dad say, 'good morning, Shaling; you are going to see the yucky Cardinals."

"You're right. That is not nice."

"Yeah. We should start telling Dad, 'you go see the yucky Cubs.'"

"Or, we could show Dad how to be nice."

"Yeah!!! Boys yucky. Girls NOT yucky."


On Sunday, we attended a family reunion in Carlinville. On our way into town, we passed the distinct odor of skunk. It was a bit faint, as if it had been there a few days, but most of us still knew exactly what it was. Not Shaling, however, who gave a couple of extra sniffs and said, "smells good".

Dad replied, "No, Shaling, it doesn't smell good. That's a skunk. It smells icky."

Preston, who craves every opportunity he can get to teach Shaling something new, jumped all over this. Quite matter-of-factly, he said, "Yeah, Shaling. A skunk is an animal that farts when it gets scared so that people won't come close."

Here are some pictures from that Cardinal game Friday night:

Shaling poses between Grandma & Aunt Ann.

Shaling & Grandma

Though she barely understands what she's doing, Shaling keeps score based on what we tell her to do.

Shaling makes it up on the large scoreboard, thanks to a new fan-friendly option -- you can send a picture to Twitter and have it posted on the scoreboard.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Puzzling Picture

Life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the question. ~Tennessee Williams

I follow the blogs of several other adoptive parents. Usually I enjoy hearing their personal stories & seeing pictures of their children growing & adapting to their new lives. On Monday, I was touched by a different sort of picture…one worth a 1000 words questions.

Adoptive mom Kelly (blog: The Raudenbush Family: wondering) found an announcement on a Chinese website that included this picture:

Yes, that is a real, live baby girl (with her eyes blocked out). She is in a cardboard box, surrounded by formula, a bottle, a bag with some possessions, and what looks like a beautiful blanket or pillow or outfit underneath her.

I was going to go to the Chinese website to read the announcement directly (via Google translate), but the announcement seems to have been removed. Per Kelly, there was supposedly a large sum of money left with this beautiful, precious little girl. Her finding supposedly occurred during rush hour. However, I agree with Kelly that every hour in China is “rush hour”.

Considering the tiny bit of information we have about this baby girl, I theorize that she was abandoned based on her gender and the one child rule. Considering how well she was cared for and how much was left with her, I imagine her birth mom did not want to give her up, but that she was pressured to do by her husband, her culture, her in-laws, or a combination thereof.

Per a book (Silent Tears) I read by Kay Bratt, there is an ancient Chinese belief that a child born on the day another family member dies is bad luck…and caused that death. I don’t think most of modern China adheres to that anymore, but just like in the United States, there are a handful of families that have remained in the “dark ages”.

When I look at the picture of this absolutely health baby girl, all sorts of questions come to mind.

Did she already have a name?

Did the birth mom wait around nearby to make sure her precious bundle would be rescued?

Or, did she scurry off quickly as to make sure to go undetected?

Does she think of her darling daughter daily? Hourly? Every minute?

I admit, I've become infatuated with the picture. I’ll always wonder what Shaling looked like when she was found. According to her finding announcement, she was in an apple box. We were told that an apple box is an almost paper thin box used for carrying -- you guessed it -- apples. It was also apparent that she had been in the hospital – probably for some time – and probably just released that day. She was approximately 5 or 6 weeks old.

Because of the nature of Shaling’s abandonment, I’ll always choose to believe she was given up primarily for economic reasons. I believe her parents thought she was going to be “expensive” due to her medical issue and that they didn’t think they would be able to afford to raise her.

Whilst I’m aghast at the thought of giving up a child in such a manner, I’m also in awe of the strength of a parent that loves a child so much that they will go to such extremes to ensure a better life for their child.

I’ll always wonder…

Did her parents drop her off at that bus station together?

Or, was the task left up to her mother alone?

For that matter, was her mother a single mother without the resources to raise Shaling on her own?

What name did she have picked out for her daughter?

Did she envision her as a girly-girl? A scholar? An athlete? An artist?

How often does she think of Shaling?

Did she watch to see who picked Shaling up?

Did she see Shaling’s finding announcement in the paper?

If so, did it break her heart to ignore it?

Is she still alive?

If she worries about her daughter’s fate, I wish there was a way for me to ease her mind; let her know just how much Shaling is healthy, smart, athletic, funny, hard-working, affectionate, & loved.

Yeah, I’ve gotten a bit infatuated with that picture. And though it prompts so many questions to which I'll never have answers, the most important thing about it is that it reminds me that I’ll always have an emotional connection to a woman I’ll never have the opportunity to meet.

A connection that has changed the appearance and mechanics of my family.


And ever.

Thank you, God.

For those who haven't seen them, this is the closest I'll have to baby pictures of Shaling (these are pictures OF pictures that were in her orphanage file):

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Too Two

A week or so ago, the kids were watching television. A toy commercial came on and Preston told me he wanted one. I told him to put it on his Christmas list. Shaling said, "I want too." Her English is coming along fantastically, but her grammar isn't always perfect; she'd left out the word "it".

Preston gently teased her, "You want two? I just want one."

I told him that he knew what she meant. She said, "Yeah, Preston! TOO - tee oh oh."

I was quite proud that she knew there was more than one spelling and she knew which one was correct. The reading/spelling takes even longer to learn than the spoken language.


I also have to brag -- apparently Sunday was "Mom Day" in Shaling's world. She wanted to sit by me in church; she was clingy & affectionate with me, etc. Well, we went to eat at Olive Garden ($7.95 never-ending pasta bowl). At the end of the meal, they brought us those delicious minty chocolates. She took a couple of the wrappers and folded them into a little package, asking me to open it. I was hesitant, thinking she was trying to trick me into thinking a chocolate was still in there. However, when I got to the very inside wrapper, I found this:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fourth Grade is Fun (or Hard Work)

This is a follow-up to today's earlier entry. Apparently, the first day of 4th grade was extremely tiring. The kids beat me home. This is Shaling when I arrived home:

This is Shaling about an hour later:

First Day of 4th & 6th Grade

Today was a big day around these here parts. Lots of new clothes, new backpacks, new school supplies, & new "titles" -- freshman, 1st grader, 7th grader, etc. In our house, it was "4th grader" & "6th grader". In several houses in our neighborhood, things were a flurry as parents scrambled to get kids out of bed, fed, dressed, & out the door. I myself do not get to experience that joy, as I leave for work before anyone else's alarm clock rings (at least in our house).

However, I get to hear plenty about it from Brock. Oh - and sometimes I DO get to experience it via telephone. Take today, for instance. I had carefully picked out Shaling's outfit for her first day of school (with Shaling's assistance) yesterday. We chose a gray ruffled skirt, a pink shirt with a cat & lots of "bling" (with gray highlights here & there), & white tights. We also settled on her wearing ner new Barbie tennis shoes instead of sandals.

Well...I get a call from her this morning. She wanted to know if she should wear socks too. I think there was also some confusion over whether she should wear underwear AND tights. Dad, of course, has no experience in these matters and was no help. And by no help I mean he is one of the very reasons that the fashion police even exist.

It seems that overall, the morning went well. Brock even remembered to take several "First Day of School" pictures for me, despite the fact that I only asked or reminded him to do so roughly 10 or 20 times & left the camera smack dab in the middle of the counter where he prepares breakfast. Being the good man that he is, he followed through on the mission for me, but unfortunately, my daughter was uncooperative.

If you look at some of these pictures, you'd think she was irate that she had to go to school. However, that would be false. She was in a good mood -- just an ornery one. She didn't want to help her dad out. She gave him false glares, turned her head, anything to avoid allowing a decent picture. A couple of the pictures were snapped as she turned her head & if you look closely, you'll see a smirk starting to roll out the side of her mouth. By the time she did give a nice smile, Preston was so bored of posing for pictures that he isn't smiling.

Anyway, here are the pictures.

Shaling, just before Dad gets her out of bed.

Preston, just before Dad gets him out of bed.

The kids enjoy their breakfast; Shaling's bad attitude towards the camera has begun in earnest.

Preston & Shaling arrive at the neighbors' house where they usually catch the bus.

The kids stand with several of their neighborhood buddies, ready for the bus to come.

Dad trying very hard to get a good picture of both kids.

Ah, yes, her getaway vehicle has arrived.

The school bus finally takes her away from the evil clicks of Dad's camera.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fun at the Illinois State Fair

Shaling took in her first state fair parade last Thursday night. Here she is modeling her new Statue of Liberty hat:

She & Ally & Preston (& Anya, not pictured) got quite sugared up on all of the treats they collected from the parade.

Ally (who is eating a Smartie), Shaling, & Anya all enjoyed the Statue of Liberty hats.

Shaling & Preston have "megapasses" -- we buy these at Christmas time, when they're cheaper, and count them as part of the kids' Christmas gifts. The megapasses allow them to ride rides at the fair all day long, any day. So, to get the most out of them, we took them to the fair on Friday and Dad took them both Saturday & Sunday.

Here are some videos of a couple of the rides Shaling likes:

Fun House

2011 Illinois State Fair: Shaling & the Fun House from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Himalaya (careful, this one will make you dizzy)

2011 Illinois State Fair: Shaling & Ally on the Himalaya from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oh-Run-Gee, Two-Sleep, Mouth Surgery


During the children’s sermon yesterday, Miss Beth was making a point about how everyone is unique; everyone has their own preferences. She asked Shaling about her favorite color. When we first met Shaling, her favorite color was red, which is a significant color in Chinese culture. However, her tastes have changed a bit and she replied to Miss Beth with, “blue and oh-run-gee” (I love the way she says orange, “oh-run-gee”, and will miss it when she finally starts to pronounce it correctly).

If you know me well, you probably giggled or perhaps rolled your eyes at Shaling’s new favorite colors. Brock and I met while members of the Marching Illini at the University of Illinois, so orange and blue are prominent in our household anyway. Plus, I’m a big fan of Rochester schools (which the kids attend) – the music program, sports, and education itself. The Rochester Rockets just happen to wear orange and blue as well. So, I’m sure it looks to some of my friends that I just happened to indoctrinate her. I promise I didn’t – the girl just has natural school spirit!


Shaling truly does not like to sleep alone. In China, she shared a room with several other girls and that feels much more natural to her than being alone in a full-sized bed, in her very own bedroom. She often asks if she and Preston can “two-sleep”. Though on occasion they do just that, we’ve also explained to them that as they get older, it will not be appropriate – girls can spend the night with girls and boys can spend the night with boys, but mixed genders cannot do so.

Shaling has come up with the perfect solution. She told me last week that we need to get two more “people” (kids). She wants a girl to two-sleep with her and a boy to two-sleep with Preston.

Mouth Surgery

Shaling & I had our initial visits with our new dentist, Dr. Milner, on Friday. Dr. Milner (Dave) is also a friend of mine (and fellow sports enthusiast). His wife, Sa, is of Chinese descent. Sa tried hard to speak to Shaling in Mandarin, but Shaling would have none of it. It makes me sad that she is giving up her native tongue.

Dave tells me that Shaling probably has orthodontic surgery in her future. He is referring us to an orthodontist (our first visit will be Thursday, September 22nd) and the orthodontist will make the final determination, but Shaling will probably need a tooth extracted. She’s got some permanent teeth blocking the growth of another permanent tooth. The orthodontist will probably decide to sacrifice one for the other.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just Two More Weeks Until 4th & 6th Grade

Preston & Shaling start school on Monday, August 22nd. They will be in the same building this year, as Rochester Intermediate School includes grades 4 through 6. Shaling’s friend Jimmy (formerly GuangHui) will be in 5th grade, right in between them. I think they are both excited about school starting, but also hate to see their summer coming to a close all at the same time.

They are finally done being gone from us this summer, as they returned over the weekend from a week at Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds’ house. They enjoyed tubing on Lake Shafer, riding on a “big boat” at Lake Michigan, and making crafts with Grandma. We asked Shaling if she wanted to spend 5 nights with Grandma & Grandpa again next year and she surprised us when she told us “no”. She followed that up with, “ten nights”.

On their way to bring Preston & Shaling home to us, Grandma & Grandpa went to Effingham, Illinois so that Grandma could visit her 93-year-old mom, Great Grandma Devall, in the nursing home. Great Grandma Devall has had a stroke or two and is not always coherent. This particular day, she was not only alert, but more coherent than Grandma Reynolds has seen her in several years. When Brock & Amy’s “kids” were mentioned, she indicated that she remembered Preston, but not Shaling. She also commented on the unique name. Great Grandma was reminded that we adopted her from China & that she is 9-years-old. She said she would like to meet her.

So, Grandma Reynolds called Grandpa to have him bring the kids to the nursing home. The visit went quite well, with Shaling wanting to help push Great Grandma’s wheelchair when they went for a short walk. Shaling’s only follow-up question was why Great Grandma asks the same questions over & over. I’m thrilled that Shaling had the opportunity to meet her, as she has now met a great grandparent on both my side of the family & Brock’s side of the family. Unfortunately, no pictures were taken.

When Shaling & Preston arrived home, there was a kitchen table full of school supplies awaiting them. On Saturday, they both dutifully helped me label everything and load up their new “Rochester Rocket” backpacks. The only thing left is to go shoe shopping for P.E. sneakers and perhaps new clothes shopping.

Shaling has a busy week ahead of her. She & I are meeting Mrs. Collins (Shaling’s 3rd grade teacher) for a ladies night out at a Thai food restaurant tonight.

On Wednesday, she goes back to see the Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist. He will check on how her ear is clearing up from the latest infection. I’m anxious to discover if he still plans to have her surgery on September 8th, or if it’s been postponed.

On Friday, Shaling & I have new patient dentist appointments. I’ve switched the entire family to a new dentist, a friend of mine, Dr. Milner, who is a fellow Rochester Rocket, Fighting Illini, & St. Louis Cardinals fan. Brock had his first appointment with him last week. His wife, who works in the office, is of Chinese descent, but raised in Thailand. We will follow that up by meeting Uncle Scott, Aunt Michelle, Cooper, & Chase at the Illinois State Fair for the afternoon & evening.

On Saturday, Shaling will attend a dance camp/rehearsal in the afternoon. As a family, we will then watch an evening performance of Camp Rock the Musical on stage at the theater in New Salem. Towards the end of the performance, Shaling & the other girls from the afternoon rehearsal will be called up on stage to do a dance number as part of the performance.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grandma Just Sent 3 More Pictures

Apparently, Preston & Shaling got brave enough to try tubing yesterday (I can see from the pictures that Shaling faithfully had her ear plugged). Previously, Preston was hesitant to try tubing, but I think riding the torpedo with Ethan helped bring him along. When we were in Monticello last month, Shaling was adamant she didn't want to try tubing. Somehow Grandma & Grandpa apparently worked some magic and changed their minds. I think you'll see from the expressions on their faces that it was definitely worth it!

One Last Week Away From Mom & Dad

Preston & Shaling are spending the week with Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds, at their summer home in Monticello, Indiana. After having spent a week at church camp in June & a week with Uncle Scott & Aunt Barbara in July, this is the 3rd & final week of the summer that they get a break from Mom & Dad (& vice versa). Dad drove them to Indiana while Mom stayed home alone for the weekend for some Cardinal baseball and therapeutic time.

On Saturday, Dad took them to Indiana Beach, an amusement park on Lake Shafer (Grandma & Grandpa’s house is on the lake). After a few hours there, Preston began to poop out & wanted to go home, but Shaling did not. Stretching what he could out of Preston first, Dad took the kids back to Grandma & Grandpa’s house. Preston played with some other nearby kids & also went for a ride on a torpedo (a long inflated tube with seats for several kids – it is pulled behind the boat).

After spending some time in the air conditioning, Dad & Shaling returned to Indiana Beach (free reentry). The first trip lasted for about 5 hours, so the encore lasted a mere two, three, four, five, SIX hours. Unfortunately, Dad didn’t have the camera, so I have no pictures for you. He told me that she rode a particular roller coaster TEN times, but didn’t want to try the other ones. She rode the bumper cars, Superstition Mountain, some kiddie rides, & several others I don’t remember.

I do have pictures of Shaling wearing a new dress. Last April, I posted a picture of Grandma Reynolds (& Preston) holding up some material for a sundress:

She wanted to wait until Shaling was here so that she made the correct size. Well here Shaling is, modeling the finished product:

Oh, and speaking of pictures, here is one of Dad from Sunday morning (after his 11 hours at Indiana Beach on Saturday):

Today, Preston & Shaling are headed to Lake Michigan with Grandpa. Grandpa’s friend has a “big” boat on Lake Michigan. Preston has gotten to take a ride on it the last couple of years during his week-long stay with Grandma & Grandpa. We are looking forward to hearing how Shaling likes it. Here is a picture of her in the car on the way:

****All pictures in today’s blog are courtesy of Grandpa Reynolds (& his cell phone).