Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's like living with Pollyanna

I thought I would give a little update as to how we're all doing since arriving home last Monday. For the most part, things are going well. I came home sick with some sort of cold and I think due to jet lag, I just can't shake it. If I could just go to bed and sleep for about 12 hours I think it would go away, but life at the moment does not allow for staying in bed and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't sleep very well if it did. It's been a stretch to act like nominally pleasant mom, much less fun and energetic mom. At least I slept passed 5 am this morning.

It is so good to be home and be back with all my children. I missed them so much. Those who stayed home did really well at our friends' house and those older than two have transitioned back without a problem. The little girls did well, but it seems that life was pretty darn good for them on their little vacation. I can completely understand. As long as they can do what they want, they are the most pleasant, charming, and sweet little girls. They do no like to be thwarted and are very loud when they are. I'm afraid that life has been a bit of a come down since coming back home. Being a princess is very, very nice and having to stop being a princess is not quite so nice. Wednesday was definitely a low point with each girl ending up in her bed for having a screaming temper tantrum at different times. My mother asked me how I could say no to two such adorable little girls. My reply was that I still wanted to think they were adorable when they were five. I don't think the 'princess recover project' will have to last too much longer.

Yes, yes, you all are saying, this is marginally interesting, but you really want to know how H. is doing. I am quite happy to report that she seems to be doing very well. She is head over heels in love with her new big brother, B. In China she wasn't quite sure she was excited over the prospect of a big brother. She would look at the photo cards I made of our family and she would happily look at and talk about everyone but B. His picture was met with a frown, a wave of the hand, and the word, "No!" I couldn't blame her. Having an instant 16 year old brother would be a bit intimidating.

Her hesitation about B. took as long as the ride from the airport to overcome. At our first dinner together the one person she wanted to sit next to was Ge Ge (big brother in Mandarin). And it has been Ge Ge all the time ever since. He has been so sweet with her. She routinely ends up in his room where he reads with her or colors pictures with her or just lets her hang out. And she really likes his turtle.

She has been sleeping well, eating well, and is willing to do just about anything she is asked. H. routinely tells me that she loves me and yesterday was going through the names of the whole family telling J. that she loved each of them. I realize that at some point the honeymoon will end and 'real child' behavior will begin, but I have to say this week with H. has been very pleasant. She even picks up toys (hers and other's) without being asked. I'm torn between really wanting that behavior to keep going and wanting it to stop because it will show she is more confident in her place in our family.

But to my Pollyanna comment. You all know I love Pollyanna and that I think the book has been given an undeserved reputation. Well it seems that God has given me my very own Pollyanna. Just an example. Yesterday I had taken H. over to our friends' house because their Mandarin tutor was there and I thought H. would like to be able to talk to someone who understood her. After a few moments of shyness H. badgered her with questions and also told her how happy she was with her new family and all the new food. Afterwards I had an errand to run and so I took H. into an American store for the first time. Without any common language, by the end of the shopping trip she had charmed the cash register attendant, been allowed to decorate the store sign she was making, and the attendant in a moment of good will gave me a couple of things I was buying at half off. As we leave the store, H. calls out, "Good-bye!" across the store and the attendant calls across the store good-bye in reply. It was a charming and unexpected experience.

H. doing a puzzle this morning. She loves puzzles and has been having a ball with our vast puzzle collection.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Denim quilt

Most of us start out life shiny and new and full of possibilities.

But life can be hard. We get torn up. Worn out. Used up. We aren't the same and are pretty sure we can never be repaired.

But God can do anything. Even fix worn out, used up lives. It isn't an easy process. A lot of the old needs to be trimmed away. Refashioned. Remade. But we have to be willing to let God make these changes.

If we let Jesus make us new, it doesn't mean we don't carry the scars of our past.

But He redeems them and when joined with others who have been remade, together they make something beautiful.

My practice quilt for my 'practice child'.  I made many mistakes with both, but I think the results turned out pretty darn good both times.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy 19th birthday, M! (A little bit belated)

Being a bit preoccupied with being in China and meeting my new daughter, I neglected to wish my first born a happy birthday on the blog.  M. turned 19 a couple of weeks ago, and sadly we were not in the country to celebrate with her.  I know she was given a lovely celebration by our friends, though.  Plus it was the beginning of her spring break and had a week long house party with some of her closest friends who were also on spring break.

I think it tells you quite a bit about M.'s level of maturity that we agreed to her staying in our house with her three (sometimes four) friends without an older adult presence.  It worked out well since one of the friends is the older daughter of the family who were watching our crew and with our children there, there was no room for their own daughter to sleep.  So she bunked at our house with M. and P19.  (Good friends, I tell you.)

I just can't brag about this child enough.  She is smart, responsible, fun, and caring.  J. and I have loved watching her grow into the lovely young woman she has become.  We are honored to be her parents.

Her birthday also added a few items on my to-do list that I was working on before we left.  You see, I had decided I would make her a quilt for her birthday.  There was still significant work on it that needed to be done up to the week before our departure.  But I did it! I'll post pictures of it tomorrow.

So, here is my public birthday recognition of your birthday, M.  We love you!  Can I still wish you many happy returns of the day even though it was a couple of weeks ago?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 15 (part 2): I have the best friends in the world

After lunch we loaded up our stuff in the Shepherd's Field van and headed off to the airport. We thought we had left with plenty of time to spare. It would have been plenty of time if there hadn't been horrible traffic on the way. At one point the traffic came to a standstill and we inched along for perhaps a half an hour. At that point it started to enter my consciousness that this was taking too long and I should start to be concerned. Commence praying. Traffic jams are not too hard for God and not long after it started to free up. We passed what was the hold up and it looked to be either a major accident involving many trucks (but no sign of damage or injuries anywhere) or the trucks were doing something wrong and the police just stopped them right there in the middle of the road.  Either seemed entirely possible, but yeah Jesus, we were passed it and made it to the airport. We had no problems checking in or getting to our gate, but the plane started boarding about 20 minutes after we arrived.  At least we didn't have to sit at the gate for a long time.

The flight went well. Long, but well.  We did end up on a new airplane with individual touchscreens and movies on demand. That kept everyone pretty well occupied, though H. was suddenly aware that she wasn't in Kansas anymore. All the other planes she had flown on were Chinese airlines and all the children's shows were in Mandarin. We were on United and the programming was pretty much all English all the time. I'm not sure a 9 year old can really understand all the implications of moving to a different country.

We arrived and went through customs, a straight forward, but long process of standing in line and H. became a US citizen.  I always feel as though I should take a picture to mark the occasion, but no cameras are allowed in the customs and immigration area. And then we saw our family.

I hadn't realized how much I had missed them all until I saw them.  It was so good to hug all my babies... big and small.  M. even got excused from her rehearsal so she could be there, too.  And not only my family was there but the H-S family and the P family were there to greet us as well. P Family Mom figured out that this was the 7th time of our families gathering together at the airport to greet the newest family member.

And not only did they greet us at the airport and watch our children, they cleaned our house (the moms and older children) to the point of cleaning the stairway that L. had decorated, arranged meals for the next two weeks, and the H-S family toilet trained K.  I'll have to leave the country more often... though perhaps all the nice treats would stop if it became a regular thing.

And so now we're all back home and trying to get over jet lag.  All the people who stayed behind did a great job of surviving without us, but I can tell it was a little stressful for G. and L.  They are having the most difficulty with the transition and I can tell all the bottled up stress is finally being let loose.  I'm hoping we're at the low point today and things will start to improve after this.  (Crossing fingers.)

I'll leave you with some not-too-great photos of G. and L. because it's been a while and some of you may be in withdrawal.  They are not overly smiley today and the smile I did coax out of L. is a little manic.  But I think they're still cute.  Even when they are fussy.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 15 (part 1): Shepherd's Field Children's Village

Our visit to Shepherd's Field went very well.  H. was calm and happy to be there and showed no anxiety or confusion.  It was exactly the kind of visit I had hoped for her.  After breakfast we gathered the donations we had brought and took them over to Pam Baker's office.  We were able to meet Pam and also the head ayi.

H. was very eager to head to the house that she lived in so that's where we went next.  Here she is with one of 'her' babies.

Then it was off to the classrooms to see her teacher and friends.  We had bought candy for H. to pass out.  We went to her former class first.

And then we went to the younger class.

H. particularly wanted a picture with her and her friend, Eric.

We seemed to create a lot of chaos when we were in the classrooms and I wondered if order was going to be restored.  Evidently it wasn't restored easily since a little later we saw the older class outside playing.

After H. played with her friends a bit, she wanted to visit the other houses.  We pretty much let H. take the lead and she visited each house and went to talk to each of the ayis and some of the children.

And A. and I got to hold babies!  This is Liam.  He is 10 months old and a little peanut due to needing heart surgery.  They are just waiting for a bed to open up at the hospital for him.  He is a cutie and I would have happily brought him home with me.  I tried to get a picture of his cute smile, but missed it each time.

This is Vincent whom A. took a shine to.  He is almost two and quite delayed.  He also has some sort of skin condition (allergy?) which is why his cheeks are so red.  This is a little boy who desperately needs the love of a family.  He is a little more delayed than K. was, but in some ways reminds me mightily of him.  Some babies just need the all-consuming love of a mother to flourish and I think this little guy is one of them.  You may be seeing more advocating for Vincent on my blog.  (He's on the shared list.)  Some will be self-defense.  A. has already started her campaign.

Amity was the other baby in the room.  She just had emergency heart surgery and is a cutie.  It doesn't come through very well in the picture but she has the most amazing hair.  It's red and stands straight up.

While A. and I were holding babies, J. took TM out to play on the playground.  Any orphanage-type environment makes TM nervous and being able to jump it off on the trampoline was a good thing for him.  A., H. and I joined them and A. jumped, too.

H. was content with something a little less energetic.

We had a great time and wished we could have spent longer.  But right after lunch it was time to leave for the airport.  It was time to come home.

Day 14 (part 2): A three hour tour

I am very happy to report that TM did recover. Since I was at a point where I was doing no good what so ever, J. sent me out with the girls to walk around. We happened upon the market stalls with all the tourist kitsch, which was good because I needed to get a couple more gifts.  Evidently, being all out of patience and in a cr*ppy mood puts one in a perfect state for bartering with stall owners.  Normally, I am the world's worst barterer; I'm too worried about making sure someone is happy and that they like me.  This morning, I really didn't care and if the price was too high would happily drop the object and walk away.  This, it seems is the perfect tactic for getting a good price.  At one point, I was looking at a watch that was nearly exactly like one A. bought when we had the guide with us in Guangzhou, so I knew what a fair price was.  When the seller quoted me a price four times as high, I actually laughed at him.  I got it for about the same price that A. bought hers.

The shopping excursion was not without it's own difficulties.  No doubt a little wigged out by her brother's behavior, H. decided to act out a bit as well.  Part of it was just language difficulties.  I couldn't explain to her that I had bought her things before and would buy her things again, but that I wasn't buying anything for her this time.  At one stall she picked up a small item, which even on a good day I wouldn't have purchased, and made it very clear that she wanted it.  I said no and put it back.  She picked it back up.  I put it back.  H. pinches A. in retaliation.  I move H. away from A.  Shop keeper tells me that she will give a good deal on it.  (And it was a good deal, less than a dollar US.)  But I was able to communicate with the shop keeper that since H. is now pitching quite the whiny fit, I can't buy it for her now.  It was an accomplishment since I speak no Mandarin and the shop keeper spoke very little English.  But she understood and stopped trying to sell me the item in question.  H. is very clearly unhappy with me at this point as we head back to the hotel.

I hold my breath on the way back having no idea what will be waiting for us when we arrive, all while keeping a firm grip on H.'s hand who has decided she does not want to walk.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was to discover a calm, coherent boy sitting on the bed eating peanuts.  (Protein is very, very good.)  While all this drama has been occurring, our guide arrives to take us on our tour of Beijing.  J. asks him to come back an hour and half later, which he graciously does.  J. and I are also throwing items into suitcases while all of this is going on because we have to check out when we leave with the guide.

Since life looks as though it will continue to go on, we leave to tour Beijing with our guide.  It is a whirlwind tour.  We drove by Tienanmen Square.  It is very large.

Then we went to the Forbidden City.  You probably won't be surprised when I tell you that it involved quite a few stairs.  I think it was worth it for views such as this.

Here we all are sitting on said stairs.  (We're way down at the bottom so our guide could get the building in the picture, too.)

And a view to where we climbed.

After a couple of other stops in the Forbidden City, we did a quick pass by the Temple of Heaven.

After this super fast city tour, we had lunch with our guide and driver and then it was time to head to Shepherd's Field Children's Village.  The ride out was uneventful and after a couple of stops for our driver to ask directions we made it.  It's a good thing I knew what it looked like because the driver couldn't locate it even when we were right outside the gates.

The children were all in their houses but we were met by some of the volunteers and staff and shown to our room.  We then joined some of them at a local BBQ restaurant for dinner.  It was one of the best meals we had and a wonderful way to end our trip.  The BBQ restaurant served lamb skewers which were spicy and very good.  We also grilled hot peppers, grilled spicy bread. shredded potato salad, and a cucumber salad.  Good food and good company.  TM particularly liked the skewers and ate probably 20 skewers all by himself.

A much better ending to a day which started very badly.

Day 14 (part 1): Uncle!

Our last full day in China started off a bit rocky.  I feel in writing this blog that I navigate a fine line between being considerate of my children's privacy and being honest about some of the difficulties that raising children brings us.  This is especially true when it comes to TM.  Many people who know my son in real life read this blog and I don't want to color their opinion of him by what I write.  But I also don't want to sugarcoat some of his challenges.

He had done pretty well through the whole trip, but something set him off this morning and we still have no idea what.  The whole episode wasn't pretty.  I won't go into details, but suffice it to say J. and I probably will never show our face in the hotel we stayed in again.  I was in tears by the end and we were all a bit shaken.  Thankfully A. was with us and was able to take H. on a walk around the hotel during the worst of it.

My son does so well so much of the time.  For instance, just the day before, he came running up to me because he wasn't sure I had kissed him yet that day and wanted to be sure he got kissed.  But when he is not OK, he is really not OK.  Somewhere deep inside he still has so much hurt and pain and anger from everything he has gone through and lost.  Did I mention anger?  I ache for him, but I am also concerned.  We need to do something to help him come to grips with his anger because I fear for the older child/man he will become if we do not get him the help he needs now.

And so we will be seeking out a therapist to help him.  I am open to suggestions.  We need someone in the Chicago area who has experience with adoption and trauma, who is a Christian, and who doesn't assume the parent is the problem.  A therapist who also understand homeschooling and will not try to pressure me to put him in school would be a bonus.

And please pray for my boy.  So many people have hurt him so deeply that the pain he feels is enormous.  But I know nothing is too hard for God.

Back home!!

We arrived yesterday afternoon and it's so good to be home and see all my other children.  Travelling went well.  When I get my act together later I'll post about our last couple of days.  J., TM, and I were awake before the crack of dawn, but A. and H. seem to be sleeping still.  D. and K., our early risers, were thrilled to find company awake before them.

There's no place like home!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 13: And the gold medal for bravery goes to H... or Help! how did I get stuck with these crazy people?!

If you noticed I skipped day 12, it's because all we really did was travel. It was a two hour plane flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, so it should have been a simple matter. To borrow one of TM's phrases from when he was four, "But it not". I don't think that China believes in jet ways. They have them, they just don't use them.  At least they don't use them as I am used to them being used. Recently, flying in and out of Chinese airports goes something like this. Sit at gate and wait until called to board. Exit door to tarmac where airport employees are constantly trying to break current world records for number of people in airport bus. Ride bus in incredibly uncomfortable manner to what seems like your flight destination. Exit bus. Climb steps into jet way connected to airport building. Wait in line in jet way. Board plane. Then we got to add sit in the plane on the tarmac for an hour and half because the plane in delayed. (You know bad news is coming when the Mandarin announcement is made and the entire plane audibly groans.) When the plane lands, you get to repeat the exercise except you are exiting down the side stairs (you know the ones you see in the US, but never see anyone use them) of the jet way which is connected to the airport.  When you claim your bags and find your driver you then get to ride an hour and half into your destination city.  It's been the one thing in China I really haven't enjoyed.  Yesterday I was constantly blessing the mother who left her supply of dramamine with us because it turns out that TM gets rather motion sick on airplanes. 

So on to today... The Great Wall.  Did you know that the Great Wall would stretch across the entire US if is was stretched straight?  Or that the stones were held together with either rice flour and crushed limestone or vinegar and egg white?  Do you realize how incredibly steep it is going up and down those mountains?

We had a wonderful day.  If we had personally ordered the weather we couldn't have asked for better.  It was very sunny and clear and the temperature was mild enough that if you weren't moving a light jacket was all you needed and while hiking a t-shirt was fine.  (There were moments of incredible wind while we were up on the wall, though.)

The section of the wall our guide took us to is not the section designed for tourists.  There is no lift up to the wall and it is not restored.  It's the real deal and we climbed it.  (Sadly, there were no t-shirts for sale stating that fact.  An oversight, I'm sure... maybe if we were at the more touristy part.)  So, the Great Wall is up on top of the mountains surrounding Beijing.  And since the wall is no top, to get to it, you have to climb up the mountain.  Happily, stairs were built to access the wall.  1100 stairs.  It made Baiyun mountain look like a piece of cake.

Here's where we were heading.  The wall is the light colored stripe along the right hand side of the mountain.

Here is what the view looked like from about a quarter of the way up.  The whole area is filled with nut and fruit orchards.  Our guide said that in a month everything will be green and all the trees will be filled with flowers. I'm sure the view is breathtaking.

On we go.  H. was a trooper.  At first she wasn't overly happy about all the stairs.  We alternately pulled her along by the hand and coaxed her with snacks and water.  And we rested a lot.  You could just tell she was thinking she got the crazy family and was this going to be her life forever and ever.

We're getting closer.  This is the section of the wall we're going to climb.  (Yes, that's after the 1100 stairs to get here.)  Later on we will show you pictures from that guard house.

Here is a shot of some of the stairs we just came up. Emphasis on some.

J. played sherpa for the way up.  You'll notice that everyone has shed their coats.  We started out having each child carry his or her own coat.  You can see how long that lasted.

On the wall.  On this section it is still relatively well paved and quite easy to walk on. But look at that section just up ahead... the one with all the scrub growing on it.  That's where we're going and it is not so easy.

Here are TM and A. still on part of the good section.  They must be part mountain goat because they just seemed to scamper up without any difficulty. This doesn't look terribly impressive because I was using the telephoto feature.

But here is what it looked like from where I was standing.

This is the view of the wall behind us which we didn't climb.

That section that A. and TM were on is pretty steep.  So steep chains have been added to aid climbers.

Here's a view of J. helping H. down one of the better sections.  I have mentioned about H.'s eyesight and lack of depth perception, so this would be challenging enough.  What we have also noticed is that she has no muscles.  There is no strength in her thighs which makes going down very difficult.  She won't even jump off something without help.  (I don't think it's something to be concerned about, I think it's just from lack of use.)  Climbing the wall was very challenging for her.  Since she has such difficulty on the 'easy' section, we were really not sure about taking her on the harder one.  I was willing to sit with her and wait for the others to go and come back and we told H. she could sit and wait for Ba Ba (Daddy in Mandarin).  H. would have none of it.  TM and A. had already gone on and were out of sight and she was keeping up with them no matter what.  No matter what we did, we couldn't convince her to stop.  (I really was concerned about her getting back down... I wasn't sure she could do it.)  But, I think she has a strong competitive streak (she'll fit right in), and she was going on.  With or without us.  So on we went.

We all made it to the top of the guard tower.  The views were pretty impressive.  And so was the drop.  Remember my panic in the lighthouse?  I don't like edges and my children near each other.  J. made me turn around while he took this picture.

See?  It's a long way down.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

A Swedish family was also with us and they took this picture of the five of us.

But then it was time to go down.  Once again TM and A. had no difficulty.  This is a pretty good view of the rougher section, except it doesn't really communicate its steepness.

We got down with H., though we didn't move quickly.  I shouldered all the luggage because the way it worked best was for J. to go down backwards (yes he did it all backwards!), holding H.'s hands while I came up behind and gave encouraging pushes (J. was holding her arms and supporting her) when she balked and wanted to turn around.  She did become more and more confident in both herself and in J.'s ability to keep her safe.  You know those trust exercises that are used for group building?  This turned out to be like one of those, but times 100.  By the end of the wall, when it was time to descend those 1100 steps, H. was confident enough in J. that she allowed him to carry her piggyback for the first time.  (He has tried to before when she has been exhausted, but she has most emphatically refused.)  I think she was darn proud of herself when we made it down the roughest section of the wall.  See that smile?  Our guide took this.  If only we had the other seven children, it would be the ultimate Christmas card picture.

After the wall, our guide took us to a small farmhouse restaurant where we ate some of the best food (and possibly some of the cheapest) that we've had here.

I think most of us fell asleep in the van on the way back to Beijing, but we woke up enough to visit a tea house where we got to learn about how the Chinese brew tea and try several different kinds.  I love tea and all things related to tea.  For our bank account's sake we probably shouldn't have stopped, but we may never be back, right?  I needed some things from my daughter's country, right?  Humor me.

We're back at the hotel and feeling happily tired and not too hungry, so I think we'll go upstairs and enjoy the free happy hour that comes with the room.  (That will be a post for another day.)  Tomorrow we go to see the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square and A. is hoping to do just a little bit of shopping.  Then in the afternoon we head to Shepherd's Field Children's Village so we can visit it and H. can say her last good-byes.  I don't know what to expect from that visit... prayers are appreciated.

We may not have internet from this point onward.  I don't know what to expect at Shepherd's Field where we'll spend the night, so this could be my last post from China.  We arrive in Chicago on Monday afternoon.  We are happy for people to meet us at the airport, contact our friends who are watching the children for details.  It's a United flight and I think it is due in about 4:20pm.

Thank you for all of your comments and prayers.  They are much appreciated and our trip has gone so well I know your prayers were heard.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Checking in

A quick post just to let everyone know we have arrived safely in Beijing. It was a long day of traveling, though. We have been having difficulty logging into blogger and facebook, so am taking advantage of this moment of connected-ness.  Tomorrow we go see the sites of Beijing.  I am hoping that our VPN connection will keep working so I can post pictures of our day.  (That would be Virtual Private Network which somehow circumvents the system and allows us access to websites that are not allowed.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 11: Mountain climbing

For our last day in Guangzhou, a group of us decided to go to the Baiyun Mountain Park, another very large park in the city.  Baiyun Mountain is quite tall and the park around it is very lush and some early spring flowers were out making it quite colorful as well.  Instead of walking up, which takes about an hour, we all chose to ride the electric trams up. 

The trams stop about halfway up, where this amazing vista is.  I know it is very hazy, but if you look carefully you can make out some dark shapes toward the horizon.  These are sky scrapers and it really showed us just how big Guangzhou is.  The entire width of the vista was an arc of tall buildings.

We then proceeded to begin the climb to the top.  It wasn't straight stairs... along the way were places to rest and things to look at.  Such as these carved dragons.

We didn't make it quite to the top.  I think we probably got at least two thirds of the way there.  The families who did make it reported that it was over 800 steps.  H. was a trooper and kept right on climbing with us without complaint.  Instead she busied herself by practicing her English counting by counting the steps as we went up.  She is pretty good up to 20 and there were many sets of 20 as we went up.  We decided at one point that it was best that we turn around.  Going down was a little more difficult for H., but she kept up and remained cheerful.  See:

When we got back to the midway point of the mountain, we sat and ate lunch.  One thing about Chinese parks is they're well used.  We've seen ball room dancing classes.  (Even dance classes up at the midway point on the mountain which means the students walked up first and then danced.)   People also do tai chi, badminton, jump rope, and hackey sack.  But it's not like American hackey sack, but played with something that looks a bit like a badminton birdie.  There were some for sale where we bought lunch, so A. bought one and A. and TM decided to join the natives and play their game.  They stopped when they realized that they had gathered a crowd who were watching and laughing.  (Actually J. and I were watching and laughing as well... it was the first time either of them had played it, and let's just say neither of them exhibit savant-like hackey sack tendencies.)

We decided to call it a day and go back to the hotel.  To get back down the mountain we took the cable car.

I think H. enjoyed the cable car.

We also did some walking around in the markets a bit later on, but had a short amount of time and didn't really find the area we were looking for.  We did see quite a few chickens in crates which TM lobbied to take home, having declared them cute.

It was a good day and I think I have even managed to get everything in our suitcases so they can be set out early in the morning.

I know we are having a particularly easy experience with H. and we may still face some challenges in the future, but adopting an older child has been pretty great for us.  And we are still getting to experience some "firsts" with her even though she is nine.  In some ways these firsts are a little bittersweet for me because my heart is saddened at all she has missed, but I am thrilled that I get to be the one to allow her to experience so many new things.

Take tonight for instance.  I have been going slowly with the whole bath-thing because it was evident that it made her nervous.  She was much more comfortable standing in the tub and just pouring water over herself to get clean.  Well, I thought we'd try a real bath tonight and see how it went.  J. ran a bath with bubbles and then I took her in and showed her the tub filled with bubbles.  She was entranced by them and happily got in.  I scrounged around the room for things she could use to play with and handed them to her.  She caught on immediately to the idea and gave a huge grin and hearty laugh.  I then suggested she sit down in the water.  Surprisingly, she did so and her face showed the wonder of sitting in a tub filled with warm water.  I think I can safely assert this was the first time she had ever done so.  I let her play in the tub for a long time while I worked on packing.  Then it was time to wash her hair.  Before she insisted on my rinsing her hair by pouring water over the top of her head.  I did so, but inwardly cringed.  I have always laid my children down, supported their heads and carefully rinsed their hair under the running tub faucet.  As extra protection, I have them hold a washcloth over their eyes.  (Can you tell I have my own personal issues about water in my face?)  Tonight I convinced her that I could hold her head and rinse her hair.  She wasn't entirely convinced at first, but after she figured out what I was doing she cooperated.  But it wasn't just cooperating, she laughed with joy the whole time.  It was as if she had never imagined that having her hair washed could be pleasant.  I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to laugh or cry with her.

And those picture cards I made to help us communicate?  Well, they are proving useful, but not in the way I imagined.  We have been able to communicate pretty well, but H. has taken to using them to learn English.  She will look at a card and either say the English word or ask what it is.  Today she held up the card with the angry face and said, "Angry".  Then she said, "H. not angry, H. happy!"

And so are we.
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