Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Not Titled One

I've learned at least two things about myself since I started blogging.
I can't remember the first one, but the second one is that I like to give my post a title before I write it. 
Stupid idea. 
I know where I think I'm headed when I sit down to type
...but it isn't always where I end up. 
(like yesterday...after I published my post, I had a much better title in my head. But I was in bed at that point and just didn't think you'd mind a poorly titled post...again. So I decided to retitle it today--but, of course, I have no idea what that superb title I had last night might have been. C'est la vie!)

I've decided to write this post first, then choose the title.
(I will confide that I think it should be "Constant Faith and Abiding Love")

It drives me a little nutty when I don't think I have expectations, yet I get into a situation and find myself perturbed that someone doesn't act/think/say/do what I thought they were going to. 
I am begin to see: if someone's behavior isn't what I thought and it bugs me...I must have been expecting something--

So, I have begun to distill some of this gobbledygook to find 
the nugget of truth I need to deal with within myself. 
Hypothetically,  this is about me and you.
I get confused when you don't act the way you did last time. 
Therefore, no matter how hard I try not to,
I must have expectations...
I expect you to act the same, or at least somewhat predictably, 
with each similar interaction we have. 
I personally want the freedom to be spontaneous and unpredictable,
I want you to be same-same and boring.
I can be capricious when you are constant.
I guess the reverse is also true. If I am predictable, you may feel the freedom to be impetuous.
(FYI: I prefer being the spontaneous one, okay?)
So, how does that work in parenting these kids of ours, Maylin specifically?
I set myself up for conflict (either within myself, or with the child) when I treat her as if she is the same person today that she was yesterday. I can go on and on about her growth, and how we're heading in good directions...
yet still act with the mindset that she will respond just the same way today as she did yesterday.
Our survival (I'd like to coin a new word here:
thrival~I want more than just surviving~) may be dependent on my willingness 
to be fluid in my interactions while I am constant in my expectations.

She needs constant from me so she can be variable in her responses. She needs to try out different actions to "see what will fit" both her personality and the course in which I am steering her. She needs to be unpredictable at this stage so I can respond positively (or negatively)
to her attempts in find her new social, and family place. What worked, or even what didn't work, in the orphanage needs to be attempted, and discarded if need be. That's her job for now.
It can make me a little crazy.

She needs me to prove to her the same thing I pledged to Mark 26 mostly-wonderful years ago:
"I promise you my Constant Faith and Abiding Love."
She has to learn that I will be pointing her in the same direction EVERY stinkin' time. 
She has to believe that I have faith that she'll make good choices.
She needs to know we will always be there. Always.
She needs to "feel the love," so to speak.

I had a thing about Ben and Beth at the times of their coming home (each as newborns) that I was going to tote them around more than I had our biological kids. I shared my other children pretty freely with those around us. Not Ben and Beth. They needed to be in my or Mark's arms and no one else's. They had learned their birth mothers' movements, and sounds for 9 months prior to arrival in our family. I was going to "give them 9 months" in my arms to learn me and my movements. I felt the same way about Matthew's first 12 months apart from us. 
If that was sound reasoning, then I have at least a 6 year investment ahead before I can expect her to fully trust our constancy and love. In some ways, I think I have to "oulast" the caregivers who "abandoned" her at 6 years in order to prove I won't. 
I'm sure I can do that. Now, she needs to be sure.
And it may take us awhile.

One day, Maylin's one weakness may be her fondness for our dog, Lucy. 
Today, a 15 second pat/rub on Lucy's side was enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Other Side of Expectations

So, how is Derschdom on 8.27.11?

Wouldn't you like to be able to ask Maylin that?
I'd love to be able to get inside her head for just a little bit and figure out how she is processing this adoption/moving to the "new orphanage"/family life thing.

It's interesting to watch her form different relationships with each of us. 
She has 9 people in her family, 
and a b'zillion people that kinda' live here, 
plus the friends we see on a regular basis at 
church, and
other places.

She has lots of relationships into which she will invest--
which also means she has lots of people who will be investing in her.

There are already methods of communication that she expects with me. 
I don't deal well with "whiny voice," or "limp noodles."
(okay, "I don't deal well" actually translates into "I will train out of you."
Maylin tries those tactics with me, but abandons them sooner than later. 
Smart girl. 
She was adorably sweet and loving with me on Friday,
with lots of unsolicited hugs, wo ai ni 
(spoken, "whoa eye knee" and means I love you) and multi-kisses.

Maylin asks for BaBa more than once every work day...
She is satisfied with, "BaBa is at work," as if she has a clue what I'm saying. 
When Daddy arrives home, she is "much more afraid of Lucy" 
until he doesn't buy the act, and makes her deal with Lucy just like I have.
She loves to get him to throw her around, and make her giggle.
Daddy has figured out that he gets to do that at 6pm, not at 8pm.
Apparently, adrenaline makes bedtime a little more difficult.

With the 4 oldest siblings, Maylin likes to be hauled around 
while she directs the activities and places
  where they, her loyal subjects, will amuse her.
With the three oldest boys, but especially Austin, 
she mocks words just to tease.
It's difficult to have a serious conversation with anyone 
while the Parrot is cackling your words back at you.

Ben is doing a great job nurturing and teaching as opportunity permits. 
He does get a little aggressive in trying to continue 
the lesson after she's lost interest (which is pretty quickly right now.)

 Beth and Maylin are still jockeying for Alpha Female
(as if we don't already have two of those around here.)
Beth enjoys mothering; Maylin enjoys being babied. 
It's a symbiotic relationship until the "Baby" gets demanding, and the "Mother" quits.
(BOY, do I empathize with Beth on that one!!)

Matthew isn't large enough to tote her around so his usefulness is 
relegated to being Finder of Fun Toys 
(which she then gets to whine about wanting.)
He's sweet about it, and he's learning to be kind while maintaining boundaries. 
Well, kind of. 
At least, he's trying.

The Lucy-Maylin saga is creeping forward in a positive direction.
Maylin was in Justin's arms when he squatted to pat Lucy, and
Maylin volunteered a tentative touch and was satisfied.
Lucy was free-roaming in the house all day today, and Maylin only had a couple issues. 
She's almost proud of herself for walking by her, until Lucy turns to look at Maylin, then she gets a little anxious. (the girl, not the dog)
Today marks two weeks that we've been home.
That was my sort-of goal for First Contact.

She's been very uncomfortable when we have stopped at people's homes. 
Not sure what that is. I'll update you when I get a grip on that.

So, the always-analyzing-Momma (which actually is a laugh since I was NOT blessed with that skill as a natural "hardwire" in my brain. Really. Ask the men in my family.) can see how God is peaking Maylin's learning curve with our varied styles of interaction.

I am good at seeing where the situation is heading and steering us in a more desirable course.
Mark is great at making her "use her words" for every. stinking. thing. 
Jon and Justin have agendas in getting her to touch the animals, as well as nurturing her.
Anne is learning Mandarin and will hopefully help keep Maylin's first language functional while she learns English.
In mocking Austin, her mouth is coincidentally learning how to form the sounds she will be needing for English, as well as building a silly-bond that is needed for all relationships with Austin.
Ben looks up words on GoogleTranslate (|zh-CN|wo%20ai%20ni) to help communicate with Maylin. He tries to reach into her world while we often try to pull her into ours.
Beth spends hours toting her in the pool, and is stretching her in sharing.
Matthew is Finder of Fun Toys. What else do we want from him?!

It seems like Maylin is really doing well.
She is still not a morning person (which means we'll have two females vying for AlphaGrouch one of these days) She sees photos of her orphanage friends and excitedly tells us their names.Yet, when
a Chinese friend used the word "orphanage" in conversation about our buying and donating shoes (to an orphanage in Honduras,) Maylin shut down. She is obedient about things I assume she'll argue with me about, while she picks an apparently random issue about which to have a meltdown.

Pretty much a regular kid, don't you think?

And FYI: Don't compete with us. We rock at charades.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Busy Stuff of Childhood

Peace out with Justin

cool camera+hot humid evening=fogged lens

Both of these are scary beasts

Initiate stripping sequence

How many times does a Barbie need to be washed?

Until the soap runs out...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great Expectations

I'm not all into the original work by that title.
I like some of Charles Dickens' work.
Most Americans have at least been exposed to his work.
I mean, who hasn't use a fake English accent to quote the diminutive
Timothy Cratchit (a.k.a. Tiny Tim)
"God bless us, every one!"

But Great Expectations, the story, seems a bit depressing, don't you think?
In the Dickens story, Pip sets his "Great Expectations" on the wealth of an unknown benefactor 
and eventually, finds himself penniless and nearly friendless because of his self-absorption, and ambition. 
As with many novels with social class and ambition as a theme,
Pip then makes good.
Yeah, Pip. 

That was a total digress from a point I hadn't even made yet.
I have spent the beginning of this week 
contemplating Expectations.
Today marked our 12th day home together.

What did I expect? What did Maylin expect?
What are appropriate expectations from the siblings? 
What should I expect from a child who is processing so many things on so many levels?
What to do when I realize I had expectations that I didn't know I had?

These are the things weird dreams are made of.
Or a Dr. Seuss book.

When you ask me (as some of my six blog readers have,)
Is her behavior what you expected?
I have honestly answered, I had no expectations.

I was well-read on older child adoption. I have considered lots of aspects of international adoption. I read several books regarding Ch*na adoptions and the multi-faceted social/political issues that are involved.
I've lived adoption; I've raised six year olds; I had lined up resources for potential problems we may face.
I covered lots of ground.

 I was as "prepared" as well as almost anyone who's never done this before.
My "expectations" were that Maylin would fall somewhere in a range of
potential scenarios from really psychotic to well-adjusted
That was reasonable, don't you think?
I think (pause here with pursed lips and nod head slightly...)  
I did okay with those expectations.
Maylin's behavior does fall within that spectrum, and I am very thankful that she's on the "easier" and "normal" side of that continuum. She acts like a six year old. She sometimes acts younger. She is bright, and inquisitive, and a funny card. She can be unreasonable (which I think is perfectly reasonable in her position.) She enjoys charming people, but doesn't turn it off and on in a manipulative way. She reacts with "justifiable fear" and is learning to manage the angst her fears might cause.
She is really pretty normal
(except, she fits in with this family, which may negate that "normal" assessment.)

But, now that we're home, and beginning to learn each other, and interacting, and beginning the long range goals of adult-rearing...I have to create expectations...goals.

In our daily experiences, I know I need short-range goals
("get through this tantrum without being angry with her")
and long-range goals
("move her toward talking her emotions out with me.")

I worked so hard at NO Expectations
that switching gears to assessing where we both are, and how that fits into this family, and what situations I need to create in order to facilitate her growth in healthy ways, (in other words: Expectations)
is just hard work!

I need wisdom in finding the balance in where Maylin is (or any of the kids, ages 9-23) and where they, age appropriately, ought to be. With Maylin, my learning curve is a little skewed by the fact we only have a 24 day history, and I have no information about her previous training. My arsenal of child-rearing tactics is on hold tentatively while we try to move forward without overwhelming either of us. I think we're distilling all the niceties of life into two key points:
Learning to Trust and Learning to Obey.

I hope I can create an environment encourages Maylin to Trust and to Obey. She needs to know that Baba and I will do our very best to give her what she needs, not necessarily what she wants (whoa--possible tantrum ahead...) And we'll lovingly insist that she will do what we ask (while we lovingly choose our few demands wisely.)

I cannot escape the parallels to my relationship with my own Father, 
the One Who sends me flowers so routinely.

So, if you see me staring at one of the children with my eyebrows a little squinchy and my head tilted, pray for us. It means I'm in the assessing mode and am searching (a.k.a praying) to recognize the heart issue, and how to promote the heart change needed to produce the behavior that pleases God. 
I really want my Expectations to be Great ones.

I should be in bed, prepping in my weird dream world, for tomorrow's issues.
I also have more thoughts on expectations to share.

Writing my posts multiple times a day (in my head) may be my one weakness.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Shell Game

Ever been puzzled by the Shell Game?

You know, the dude on the sidewalk with a TV tray and a set of 3 cups hides
a small red ball under one of them and 
moves the cups around a few times...then, no matter how hard you tried to follow 
the cup you were sure he'd put the ball under...
Shazaam, No Ball.
Statues in Guangzhou on the Pedestrian Street

How does that happen?

I'll be honest with you,we're getting good at a similar game at Our House.
It's because we Practice. 
Our Game:
Maylin inside the house~Lucy (our 45 fuzzy pounds of canine happiness) outside.
Maylin outside~Lucy roams the house.
Maylin in bed with the door shut~Lucy granted house freedom.
Lucy with a door between her and Maylin~Maylin content.
Lucy with only air between her and Maylin~Maylin very anxious.
Justin observed it's like a revolving door.
(the irony in that statement is that we have so many people coming and going around here on 
"a normal day" 
that we've always joked about the revolving front door anyway. 
Guess we now have a revolving back door, also)

I had set in my own head (for no particular reason) that by 2 weeks, 
I think she'll be mostly past the terror. Maylin has progressed 
from screaming terror anytime she saw Lucy 
to voluntarily watching through the glass door as the siblings played with the dog.

Progress. I'll take it. 
This is only Day 5 of Indoctrination in the Ways of Dersch, so I think she's doing great.

The other little issue is kind of a Littles' issue.
(I've referred to our three youngest kids as 
The Littles 
since they were toddlers and I realized we couldn't call them 
The Babies
for the rest of their lives...but we would end up doing that if we didn't change the habit sooner than later.)
The Littles' issue that is still a little issue is Maylin's time zones...
Her brain is stuck somewhere between here and China. She is tired by bedtime and goes down with little complaint. But her internal clock wakes her up VERY early...and she feels compelled to wake up her siblings--even Justin who is grouped with "The Bigs." Monday, she was roaming by 5am, and apparently this morning, Maylin started "the Bugle Call: Reveille" around 4am. 
The Chicken Man (a real one sells you see below)

Smallest store in Guangzhou (you're looking at the whole thing here)

Beth is my sleepy cat-girl, so she got smarter today and showed 
Maylin that is was still "sleeping time" by crawling back in bed--and it worked. 
(Even though all the lights were on in their room, the bath, the hall and the schoolroom!) 
The kids were all still asleep when I checked at 6:30.

We'll eventually get her internal clock reset, and then we'll probably fight getting her up on time to get the kids to school...but that can be tomorrow's trouble, since today has enough of it's own...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Days When the Flowers aren't Easy to See

Sometimes we need 

Perspective has been defined as:

a : the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed  
<places the issues in proper perspective>;
b : the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance 
<trying to maintain my perspective>
The Troubles we each have are real enough, aren't they? 
But sometimes, I think I get bogged down a bit in the troubles (and even occasionally, the joys) that seem so much a part of my world that I forget that there is a bigger world
On Sunday, I asked God to keep my vision off "only us"
while we become this new family, 
while we get our new rhythm
It's just so easy for me to get myopic.
I mean, I realize that my primary focus needs to be on those under my own roof, and that I am called to be the momma of many for this time, but I'm wary that I will get sucked into my own little world (ever-expanding as it is!) and I just don't want to BE that small.
I hummed Brandon Heath's
Give Me Your Eyes
through much of our China Adventures. 
While bringing home Maylin was intensely personal, 
I didn't want this new experience to be about "only us."
All that to say, a friend had an immense loss today, and 
sharing in her pain helps put  
my life in perspective.

Maylin's screaming at the pediatrician visit today? problem.
Her temper when she thought Beth mistreated her? problem.
The achy head from messin' with my time zones? problem.
The overheating pool pump?
The increased price of my favorite fabric softener?
The missing school forms?
The milk spilled on the newly-mopped floor?

With a renewed "capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance," I have to admit that my tone is telling the kids more than I think my voice is. A 10 year old let loose in the kitchen certainly needs to be more careful, and she does need to clean up after herself, and she ought to cream the butter and sugar first before she adds the eggs...but can I instruct her on ONE of those today, and deal with the other items later? Maybe I could read through the recipe with her instead of finishing the folding and sighing that I'd be "there in a minute." 

EVERY mother I have ever read or talked to that has suffered the death of her child bemoans the lost moments when she could have injected joy into life with her child. I think of that when I'm at a loss in training these young hearts. 
I sincerely believe personal growth requires
"delight and struggle" (Charlotte Mason) 
but do I allow room for great delight in their days after I've seen the struggle? 

I guess my challenge to me today was to have discernment in what things are "character builders" or are "character breakers." 
Living in the moment, but choosing to focus on the big picture, not the moment.

Because, I am not raising children. I'm raising adults.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

ALL home together

Just warning you up front...I'm tired.
And crabby.

Some of it's plain ol' we-just-spent-62-hours-on-international-travel.
Some is the whole day/night time zone issue.
Some of it's hormones (such an ugly admission.)
Some of it is life re-entry and the subsequent issues that always brings.
Some of it, there doesn't have to be a reason.

But I'm okay with being crabby as long as I think I won't be this way forever.
I don't especially like me this way, so I doubt the rest of you do.

It was so nice when the kids met us at the airport in Orlando. It was great to hug their necks, even though it felt like their necks were a few inches farther from their feet than they were when we last saw them (23 days ago for the Littles)

Our travel was not-as-planned since China wouldn't allow Maylin (traveling on a Chinese passport) to enter Taiwan without the appropriate VISA. Well, that would have been good to know when we booked those tickets, eh? Mark had checked VISA requirements, and the internet said we didn't need one. Hmmm.
We showed up at the airport at 2pm on Thursday (2am EST) to check in for the flight to Taipei, and were told they wouldn't let Maylin on the plane. That don't work.

In the end, the story can condense to this:
We purchased 3 tickets to fly Guangzhou, China to Hong Kong. 
(run, run, run to gate. wait, wait, wait for the delayed flight)
Fly Hong Kong to Taipei, Taiwan.
(run, run, run to gate. wait, wait, wait for another delayed flight.)
Fly Taipei to LA (12 hour flight)
Maylin enters the US of A and becomes a citizen. 
Too tired to cry, but too happy to talk.
(I made note that the US Customs and Immigration Officer that did her paperwork was a pleasant Hispanic dude called, De Jesus. Made me smile) 
Is it sacrilegious to say, Thank you, DeJesus?

Miss the final flight to Orlando because of our international flight being late.
Cry at ticket counter.
Check into hotel and gratefully eat an extremely yummy hamburger at 12m California time. (PST)
(3pm China-tummy time)
Return to airport at 6:30am PST.
Fly to Orlando (5 hour flight) to meet the family.(4:30pm EST)

Yeah! Cheesecake Factory, then home.

Maylin was pleased to see the four sibs and future sister-in-law she'd already met in China, and is warming up to the other three. She had a rough time going to sleep last night at 12:30...well, actually closer to 1:45am since she cried for 50 minutes. She only cried for about 15 minutes when we put her to nap this afternoon.

Lots of flowers. Lots of seeds. Lots of patience needed.
One very specific need is for her fear of all animals to be replaced by trust and a sound mind. There is no way for us to know why she is deathly afraid of animals ( even sparrows and butterflies...) but life will be difficult for her (and our dog, Lucy) until that particular hurdle is behind us. Mark and I need wisdom.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Necklace and the Eyes

I brought two frou-frou items with us for our girl:
a necklace, and 3 hair, technically, that makes 4 frou-frou items.

The necklace is one I'd picked up on clearance at WalMart last January, after the after-Christmas sales.
Really cheap, uh, inexpensively.
I pick up stuff  like that to have on hands for those surprise birthday parties that other mothers repay me with. (I think paybacks are quite my due, seeing I've thrown together parties at the last minute nearly every year for nearly every kid. You'd think I could do better party planning than that,
since I obviously have a full year's notice.)

Regardless, the necklace was a sweet little Flower I found on my shelf as I was packing for China. I read the three words that hang as charms with the "crystal" and the heart charm:

Really, could you have picked out a better set of words for our girl to have near her heart? How could I know  in January I'd need those words in my closet 8 months later? Hmm.
Some Flowers were in seed, maybe?

Maylin enjoys putting it on nearly everyday.

I also brought three hair clips because I figured, neither of my other girls would wear them past the age of 3, so I needed to begin hair bow training ASAP with Maylin. Maybe I would be able to get Maylin used to the idea that they were part of her American "uniform" and she'll
possibly wear them once she's home. 

HA! She lets me put them in, but sneaks them into her pocket shortly thereafter...

That's the, for the eyes.
As you've seen in the  photos, she has lovely eyes of the deepest brown.

And she uses those eyes to talk.

 Tonight they said some sweet things to us.
She rubbed my hands and gave me qinwen (kisses) on my cheeks and arms
while I sang her a song about Little Ones belonging to Him.
At Yuntai Gardens---AMAZING

It was gorgeous...even in the rain
(and it was much cooler than it could have been!)

This afternoon, those eyes joined her mouth in saying some not-very-sweet things about her daddy who had told her "no" about something and was forced to endure the Wrath of Khan.
(Daddy  Outwitted, Outplayed, Outlasted while I was plotting to vote myself off the Island)
Tuesday night after her bath, hangin' with her Baba
At lunch, her eyes told us she was contemplating a meltdown, but she chose the lesser of two evils
(melt down vs. asking for something instead of grunting)
She clearly understands her options at times, and we can watch her making choices.

After supper, we took her to the outdoor pool on the 14th floor.
Her eyes told us she had no intentions of putting one body part in that water, regardless of who else was in there (Daddy,  and friends Sofi and Luca) and no matter how much fun it looked like they were having.

Well, you know how it goes...
She kept her sandals and cover-up on, but got closer to the edge as the four of them played and splashed. Maylin's eyes even started to smile and she enjoyed the activity.
She actually put her hand in the water.
She bent over near the edge and splashed daddy.
And then her eyes breifly widened and said,
as she slipped, and fell into the pool...right into daddy's arms.

Of course, she cried and sputtered while daddy talked to her in English and
Luca (a newly adopted 6 yr old) told her in Chinese
that "you're okay, you'll be fine."

She didn't seem to hold onto the surprise or the anxiety for long, and we headed to the Foosball table where her eyes told us she thought watching this competition was great fun. She loves to observe, but like me, Justin and Matthew, she doesn't feel the need to be in the middle of it until she's sure she's got the upper hand.

For tonight though, Daddy and I think we've got the upper hand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday.Tuesday, Part 2

The pedestrian street near the hotel

A family friend that met us for dinner. Thanks, Kevin!

Lobby at the famous Red Swan hotel on Shamian Island

no caption needed


View from the top of the hotel. Poolside!

Monday and Tuesday have been relaxed and rainy. The good news is that the rain has dropped the temp to not-quite-reasonable. I figure we're wet from rain or sweat, and somehow, even dirty rain seems better than nasty sweat dripping down our backs. Mostly.

We met our guide in the lobby at 10:30am to take the kids (there are 3 families, including us from our agency) for their TB skin tests to be checked. All 3 were obvious negatives and our 30 second exam (for all three kids) was well worth the 15 minute drive to the clinic. We stayed on Shamian Island for to drop off some laundry, have lunch at the Cow and Bridge and do some shopping.

For supper, we met our Chinese friend, Kevin, who lives in Guangzhou. He was a student at UF and became a friend of Maylin's oldest two brothers, Jon and Justin. He's returned to China after he graduated with his Masters, and we had the chance to connect Monday night. Very sweet guy.

Tuesday has been relatively low key. We had our consulate appointment at 8:30am. For those who are not fully versed in the Chinese adoption process, one of the pivotal initials is "CA" (which is most often followed by a squeal!) The consulate appointment is the final step in the process of getting our girl home. We took the oath of immigration for Maylin (promising we didn't lie on any paper work)  and we'll have her visa in passport by tomorrow afternoon. So Yeah!!

Other than the bad belly that Mark had to put up with, and the 25 minute flailing response from our girlie to a "no" from her momma, it's all good. We have an afternoon to fill, and then, we'll start filling suitcases.
Getting excited to get home!!


The breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn Shifu
The new shoes

Our adoption friends, Caroline and Jack

At the Cow and Bridge with Sofi, Luca,Tammy, Caroline and Jack

Jordon  is a shop owner, brother, and calligrapher

What's not to love in a jewelry shop?!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our first head-to-head

This story is nearly 48 hours old now. I'm still a little pensive about the telling of it. I'd like to change the names to protect the innocent, but really, you'd guess who the players are, wouldn't you?

Maylin and Momma have had their first fight. 
(spoiler warning: We both won. I think.)

Through this blog, I want to share the fun and excitement of bringing our new daughter home. I also want to be transparent when it ain't so pretty. That would be about 45 minutes last Saturday night.

Maylin is a night owl. Let's just say, it works well for me.
She is a slug in the morning. That's okay since my eyeballs wake up a good hour before my brain. The down side is she starts winding up around 8 and by 9:30...she ought to be in bed, but is sassing her way through the process. 

Saturday night, Mark went to the executive lounge to get some internet stuff done. The connection was slow and the process took longer than either of us expected. In the past 6 days Maylin has been with us, we have all turned out the lights and gone to bed at the same time. I wasn't going to try to put her down for the night if Mark was going to be here "any minute." It was still a bit early for bed, anyway. 

She sat beside me at the computer after we had colored, and cut, and read, and snacked, and all the other things we do to fill our time together in the hotel room. I think she puts up with it because someone told her we need to bond.
Yeah, I'm sure that's it.

I wrote out the numbers 1-10 while saying their names in Chinese and English. Then I wrote Maylin Li and pointed to her as well as the scratches on the paper while saying, "Maylin Li. That's your name."
I created and named a circle, a triangle, and a square.

She put her hand over mine, and motioned that she wanted me to write it all again. So I went through the paces again, but this time, she said most of them with me! Then she wanted to hold the pen herself and have me guide her through the same routine. She said all the numbers again and we were both quite pleased with ourselves! We went through the same thing several time before Maylin said, "Baba!" and then rattled on in Chinese. 
I figured, why not? So I grabbed my room key and we headed out the door together to find her Baba. He was just as excited as I had been to hear us tell him in both languages what we'd done and how brilliant Maylin is.

We then kissed his scratchy cheek and headed back to our room without him. We settled again for a few minutes when she pretended to write something more, and sparkled, as she coyly whispered, "Baba!"
I smiled and told her "no, Baba was working."

It kind of went down hill from there.

She resorted to pulling and hitting when I told her no again and put her in an upholstered chair. It was a long, loud 50 minutes while I held her like a baby, and she fought with all she's worth. The emotions of at least 7 long days of transition came out every pore and muscle of that little girl. She was angry and sad and who-knows-what-else as she kicked and stiffened and fought my arms.

I know there are other ways some of you may have chosen to handle it.
I was Asking for any other option that would be better for Maylin, and heard nothing but my heart saying,
"It's okay, Baby. Momma loves you."
I rocked and walked and patted her leg or back.
I sat quietly and resolutely while I sing-songed my mantra:
"It's okay, Baby. Momma loves you."

...and eventually, her tired head stopped pulling away from mine, her body softened,  and she let me hold her while she came back to me. She kept her face directed away from mine for another half hour, even once she was calmed. Once she was settled, I offered her yogurt to drink (a favorite) and we nibbled some crackers together.

By the time Daddy arrived, she was bathed (oh, so sweet to see her scrub her head in a furious way then let me dump water over her head while she rubs the water out of her face!) lotioned with momma's good stuff and dressed in her TinkerBell gown. There was hardly evidence of the battle that had raged just the hour before.

I don't think it's our last one.
I think it must be tough living her side of this new arrangement.
There were moments today that I saw the defiance begin to surface when she didn't get her way,
and that look crossed her face. But she reigned it in and we'll just deal with it another day.
Helping Daddy hang up washed laundry

I wrote the above yesterday evening, but truly wanted it to settle in my heart before I published it. One reason may have been because I have a fabulous addendum:

I got my first spontaneous hug from Maylin tonight.
And in the spirit of my being transparent with you, as well as the fact that it truly cracked me up,
I must say, I will forever remember that moment.

I've never before been hugged by anyone while I was using a squatty.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday-Sunday in Guangzhou

We're learning our girl, 
Most of the itty-bitty bits are pretty fun, or sassy, or shy.
Most of them.
Maylin is exploring just about everything within the confines of our room. 
She enjoys manipulating the zipper on our suitcases, exploring the stuff inside our suitcases, 
checking out the new snack foods, the TV remote, 
the desk lamp dimmer, the desk lamp light bulb 
Having the suite has been great

(which will certainly put a blister on your index finger, if you must touch it...OUCH) 

and the computer which you may only touch with parental supervision.
Our room at the Holiday Inn Shifu

Most of her activity is sanctioned, although some of it we've just chosen to ignore (like completely peeling the paper off her Crayolas. I'm sure we wouldn't have let any of the other kids do that at 6 years old.)

And FYI--it just ain't right to color with paperless crayons. Take it from a gal who has colored 5 full pages all the way to the edge today:
It just.ain't.right.

 The burn from the light happened although she was repeatedly warned with all sorts of sounds and charades what might happen should she chose to touch the hot bulb. My friend Toby has a sayin' which so puts her behavior in a nutshell regarding the touching  the light bulb thing... I hope he adds it as a comment below.

Those who know me personally can vouch for my
Those who know me personally can also vouch for my lack of sympathy if you choose to do something stupid when you've been warned it's stupid. Good thing Maylin doesn't know me well yet, because she got the "aww, poor baby" sympathy-pout from me but I don't think she is tuned in to the
underlying sarcasm. yet.
Lotus flower at Six-Banyan Temple

After the first potty stop of the day

Change of subject: Using the bathroom must be a universal time-filler for all kids. The Urologist's newest daughter can hold a major bladderful sometimes...yet insistently requires a visit to the little girls' squatty anytime she's bored.

(She is scamming me as if I haven't figured this out, 
Oh Clever Child #8 in the Dersch Dynasty)

While the three of us were on Shamian Island shopping this sweaty afternoon, I  had an
interesting bathroom experience with Maylin. Mark was almost ready to begin the negotiation part of the transaction (read: haggling) when I heard the whispered

niao-niao (think meow-meow, with an N sound)

I replied, Shao hou. In a minute.

coy smile: niao-niao

head shake: In a minute

insistent pulling on my hand: niao-niao

rolled eyes: Do you have a bathroom she can use?

The shop lady was, as every shop sales person has been so far, quite taken with our Inner Mongolian Beauty, and was quick to say she'd show me one we could use. Before I could say Charmin, she whisked us out the door, around the exterior of the building, to the alleyway in back (this is about the time I thought, "I may never see her Ba-Ba again, and we didn't tell him where we were going...") up a short flight of irregular stairs to the laundry area that she also runs, and triumphantly pointed up another 4 steps to the squatty potty. 
I wait for you here.
Uh, we can get ourselves back to the store...will you tell her Ba-ba where we are? Thanks.

I've thought of taking a photo of what it takes to get two people squeezed into a stall that has 9/10th of the floor taken up with, well, a porcelain hole in the floor. But, no can do. That gets weird, even for me. 
So, you figure it out: While toe-to-toe, I have to hold onto a little girl's tiny ribcage while she's clinging to my slippery-wet, sweaty arms while I'm  pulling up her dress so she can pull down the other clothing we need removed, while keeping our feet at the required angles to avoid what we wanted to avoid...
It was funny enough that I even enjoyed the absurdity of it at the moment.

And then it happened.

My ebony-eyed cherub flashed her pearly white chicklets at me, 
and pulled a stolen toy out of her underwear.
Not. Even. Kidding.

Did I mention that I was already feeling a little like I was living a Monty Python rerun?
I put on my neutral face, placed the toy on a flat surface above the pee-line, and we finished what we had come for.

Job done, we left the toy at the rightful shop. I didn't mention anything to the shop owner.

If, perchance, you're on Shamian Island in the near future
 and you're interested in a little red transformer-like toy,

don't touch it. Just don't.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I will be the first to admit I don't know everything. 

Well, I think some of my acquaintances should actually be first admit 
they don't know it all, 
but I'm man enough to get the line started for this one.

As our friend Duane reminded us lately, just because you experience something in one place in China, it doesn't mean you can say, 
"in China, things are (this) way." 

Saying "while in (this location in) China, I experienced..." is a much more accurate way of expressing your observations without painting a whole country with your personal experiential brush. And so, I preface my observations with acknowledgement that below are 

my observations, 
 my experiences, and 
my opinions 
gained during our travels.

1. It is possible to impale your eyeball on the ends of an extended sun umbrella while dodging another passing umbrella.
2. It is, apparently, not as surprising to the Asian pedestrians with whom I am milling along the sidewalk to have the nearby, well-dressed female in a lacy skirt and high-heels clear her throat with incredible resonance and spit the results on the sidewalk in front of her, as it is to me.
3. Mirrored elevator doors are reflective for the sole purpose of personal grooming--in all the really personal ways.
4. Each of the Chinese bold enough to speak to our odd family of Caucasian parents with their gorgeous Asian daughter have expressed their excitement that Maylin will soon be an American. Responses are often "very good!" or "lucky girl!"
5. Nearly-six year olds are pretty good at charades, no matter what the language.
6. There are things worse than squatty potties.
7. Toilet paper is optional in public bathrooms, as are soap, paper towels, and occasionally, running water.
8. If you (bathroom word) down a hole on a train, it must go somewhere.
9. Even if your room is designated No Smoking, the air ducts are capable of creating a second-hand smoke opportunity for your family.
10. Noodles come in two lengths: long, and even longer.
11. Even if it's on a skewer, is cooked, and the street vendor claims it has a shouldn't necessarily eat it.

12.A screaming fit sounds pretty much the same in any language, as does the cooing of a mother.
13. "Princess" translates into every language.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Train to Hohhot 7.31.11

I sit across from the Asian version of my mother-in-law. Her warm red-brown skin and easy smile remind both Mark and me of another Grandma waiting across the world for her newest grand daughter to arrive from China. She sits knee-to-knee across from me in a three-seat, padded, blue chair that mimics our own seats and watches intently, if briefly, the foreign lady writing in such oddly shaped scratches in her notebook.

The girls with whom she is traveling seem as comfortable with her silence as they do with her occasional instruction. The round-cheeked younger girl plays a game on her phone and eats spring onion-flavored Bugles. She doesn't put them on her fingertips as fake nails, like my kids back home would have done.

I'm crossing land I've never seen before, yet it seems so like all the other rural areas I've seen. Corn, millet, squalor, newly-planted trees wired into military rows to divide the land from the rails taking me to my new  daughter.

I'm oddly passive. Maybe it's the fatigue from our busy week as volunteer teachers in the English Program. Maybe it's protective detachment. Whatever the reason, unnamed emotion sometimes creeps up on me and spills quietly from the corner of my eyes.

My heads rests against the white cloth covering the headrest, declaring in 2 languages: For Your Satisfaction. How many heads will rest here before they change the currently clean looking cloth? How many heads will look through this window as they travel to the unknown in the next city? Has there ever been another foreign woman travel in this seat to her unknown daughter in an unknown city?

Tickets and ID's are checked and money collected from the passengers who saved time by not purchasing a ticket earlier. The passengers are all compliant, and noisy, and shuffling.

Everything, including me, smells of bad cigarettes, and I'd like to eat something to get the feel of smoke out of my throat. But my stomach is finally settled and adding anything to it seems counterproductive.

Mark and I had eaten this morning at the nearly-deserted hotel breakfast area. I was have a cup of very English tea available. It's one of my comfort foods and I took it as a token of His affection for me this morning. He, too, is working a Plan for His daughters.

The diminutive, but well-proportioned, dark-skinned man who has stood throughout our 1 hour and and 45 minutes of travel watches other passengers through dark eyes with interest--neither obtrusively staring, nor passively disinterested. This morning, as we moved through the paces of getting ourselves onto the train with it's required jostling and maneuvering, the people around us were all citizens of this foreign culture we were attempting to enter--just human forms with generic Asian faces. Now as we sit, and ride together to the next chapter in each of our stories, they have become unique persons with physical characteristics clearly distinguishable from the next. I wonder if I too am a Caucasian-caricature of some face in their memories.

The sway and bump of our transportation remind me that the rhythm of life is going on and on and on around me--inside this train, in the fields, and living areas we pass. That rhythm is so different for each of us, and it seems to change at different times. 

We're off to find our New Rhythm.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Hohhot Morning

We began with a very sleepy girl, dragged down to breakfast because
the clock told us 
it was time to eat.

(And yes, that was the mother. But Maylin didn't eat much, either...)

We are finding so many things that we have in common with our little China doll:
She has nosebleeds like one of her brothers.
She sticks one big toe into the space beside the big toe on the other foot like Daddy does.
She sucks her thumb occasionally like her sister, Beth.
Her smile is Matthew's.
She loves taking photos, like photographer sister, Anne.
She loves food, but not-so-much before 10am (that's her momma's girl!)
...and I'm sure we'll find more as we learn her better.

The agenda this morning was our visit to the PSB (Public Safety Bureau) which is similar to our police department in the USA. The guide and driver picked us up at the hotel doors in a black minivan, and drove us about 10 minutes to our destination. We sat in the warm stuffy room at the end of the seventh floor for about 40 minutes while copies were made, red circle and star stamps were slammed onto triplicate copies of who-knows-what official docs, and nine document booklets were bound, and handed to us.

Our guide, Hao Shu Fang, seems completely competent...and doesn't especially like to have us interfere with questions about the process. She's very friendly and talkative while official business is not being conducted.
Shopping together the first day. She loves the street vendor drinkable "yogurts."
After the PSB paper collection, we were driven to a stern, well-regulated entrance to another official building. Miss Hao showed her ID, a phone call was made, and we were allowed to pass through the (huge puddle guarding the) gate. We took the elevators on the right side, since they opened at the odd numbered floors...and exited into a lobby where we were "buzzed through" to the hall. It felt very "Get Smart" to me.
We made our trip down the dimly lit hall past a few creepy, closet-sized rooms that were tiled for easy clean up after the interrogation (okay, Mark and I make some of this stuff up to keep ourselves's kind of a hobby we've acquired during official stuff)

It only took a matter of minutes to be given Maylin's official Chinese passport. 
And we were done for the day. 
All of the documents needed from Inner Mongolia are in our possession.

After putting the official docs in the hotel room safe, we ventured to the local street-store for drinks, and "ramen." Back in the hotel, we had a little in-room picnic with some of the other groceries we had collected, and indulged in MSG-laden noodle bowls. Mark is currently "sleeping his off..." 
(the MSG-seasoned bowls, not the beverages...which were tea and water...we bought!)

Two of our Chinese friends, Gloria (on left) and Pink (on right) at the banquet we were treated to by the schools in which we were volunteer teaching in Baotou. 

Queen Bee sits in the center, of course.

Now, we have a full day of relaxation, exploration, and bonding. Will you ask for the very specific Flowers to be sent that Maylin bond with Mark? She enjoys his company and silliness from afar, but refuses taking his hand (at times) and assumes I will be her caregiver. It's not a big deal, but it would be nice to have that bond established (or begun!) before we get home and he has busy busy days at the office.

Time for our siesta!