Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cultural Identity - Tough Decisions

We are not really rat tail people - we were a little surprised with Benjamin's rat tail (Is there a better name for it? modified mullet?). I have had visions of snipping it off. I think when it is time for a haircut we will have to tell it goodbye. This is where the question of culture comes in. In Guangzhou our guide was surprised that he came from an orphanage with this haircut - because this is special in China - it is considered a really cute haircut for little boys (also many will have shaved heads or sort of a mohawk). I feel bad cutting this off, it seems to be the one part of his culture he still has. We are taking away his language (this is very sad), his food, almost everything he has ever known. We will try to keep him in touch with his culture - but we have to face the fact - that we live in a very non-diverse area in the middle of the country. We will do everything we have to help him hold on to his culture - It still makes me sad - So, alas, we will eventually clip the hair - We will continue to celebrate the Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year, and I will attempt to make asian recipes I find online, we try to speak a little (very little) Chinese. In a few months we will try to find someone to speak with him in Mandarin and we will continue to celebrate that we are a multi-racial family and that 2 of our kids are chinese-american. We are always open to suggestions about how to integrate Asian influence into our lives (no - I am not going to become Buddhist). I love that our family gets to enjoy multiple cultures - that is so much fun - I have learned so much about my children's homeland! Back to the rat tail - If Benjamin wants to keep it - I would let him - but I still hope he doesn't mind parting with it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Benjamin's Adoption Video

I had to do a presentation about out trip to China last night - so I had to finish Benjamin's Adoption video. I have tried to trim it down - but those kids are just so darn cute! I might be a little biased - but I have seen a lot of kids! I hope you enjoy - Sorry if it seems redundant after reading the rest of the blog. I always enjoy photos set to music (kind of like one of those old tear-jerker Kodak commercials - I loved those!). Have a great day - I need to go bond and attach!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Own

Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else's child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.
--- Rita Laws, PhD

This is how the conversation usually goes: (between me and anonymous)
Anon: "So you are back from China."
Me: "Yes - we had a great trip"
Anon: "How is the new baby, It's a girl?"
Me: "No, We have a new big boy, he is 5."
Anon: "So you have 4 kids now - and 2 of them are your own, right?"
Me: "No, I have 4 children of my own."
Anon: looking puzzled "but, you have 2 of your own"
Me: "We adopted Benjamin - Now we have 4 children of our own"
Anon: "You know what I mean"
Me: "Not really!"

Prior to adopting Benjamin we had to read lots of books about the implications of adopting an older child. One of the book I read was called "Our Own". For some reason when we came home with Claire this conversation didn't occur so much. I have been asked multiple times since we have been home (for 12 days now) how many children I have that are my own - They are all my own (or our own). They are all loved and they are our children no matter how they joined our family. The conversation above was with one particularly dense person this weekend - who kept asking the same question - even as I explained it to her. Oh well - I will just continue with education on proper adoption terminology (How would you feel if you were adopted and someone asked your mom how many kids of her own she had - I would think that would make you feel badly). Benjamin is doing great. He is going to Preschool each afternoon and is doing very well.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How Do I Wake Them Up?

I am writing this at 6 pm on Monday evening - Wesley is sitting here with me eating the lasagna I made for dinner. The other 3 kids are asleep. I can't figure out how to wake them up. If I do - they are so cranky - but I can't stand many more of these 4 am mornings. My only hope is that the weather is really nice tomorrow and I can make them all play outside tomorrow. I think they would have a hard time sleeping on the swingset or on their bikes. The bad weather these last few days has led to a lot of movie watching (AKA sleeping on a couch with a movie playing). Benjamin is doing well at home. He went to preschool today. I think he liked it. He was definitely not interested in staying there without Kendell or I though. I have added some pictures from the end of our trip. We went to a Safari Park in Guangzhou and the kids got to pet a real live baby bear, baby monkey, baby white tiger, and a baby wallaby. It was really fun. I also included one photo of us in Hong Kong - It was very foggy that morning so we couldn't really get any good pictures. The other photo is of the kids at the White Swan. They have decided after 3 weeks of photos that there is no need to stand still for a picture anymore.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ET Go Home

We caught a bike home today - or maybe a plane. We are safe and sound after 25 hours on the go. I am headed to bed now. I need to post on the last couple days tomorrow - If I can wake up. Thanks for all the comments, they were very fun to read - I couldn't comment back in China - They block most access to Blogger (except to post - I could only read the comments because I had them emailed to me) - I will have to discuss the censorship there in the future. Good night and thanks for the prayers and good wishes they worked - Now if I can convince the boys it is bedtime and not the middle of the day I will be good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear

We went to school today. We visited a 4th grade English class. Kendell worked on teaching them Fuzzy Wuzzy - The students showed us their zoo - They have an ostrich, peacock, monkey, goat, pigeons, other assorted birds, fruit trees and other assorted garden items. All of these are on the roof of the school - so as you can see Chinese schools are just like ours. The school was so loud I don't know how anyone learned anything - It reminded me of recess all day long. The kids were very nice and we had a great visit. We went to the park and shopping (of course). We went out for Thai one last time this evening - We are now packed and ready to go - Tomorrow we go to the Safari Park - then have the oath taking at the American consulate (that is what we have been here in Guangzhou waiting for). We then take a train to Hong Kong - which is a 2 hour train ride - We stay at a hotel and take a 12:45 pm flight home on Thursday to Chicago and then home - We arrive at our home airport at 8 pm on Thursday night. That is all for now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Say Ahhhh!

Benjamin passed his medical exam today - not a shock, but certainly a relief. We had a good time at the doctor - can you imagine - it was a doctor's office with no waiting - we saw 3 doctors in less than 30 minutes. We stopped by the park on the way back to the hotel today - there were lots of schoolkids out - they were on rollerblades, scooters, and skateboards. Can you imagine the liability issues? No helmets anywhere to be seen and the kids were having a great time. We had our red couch photo where all the new kids have their picture taken together - The babies in the group were not interested and Benjamin looked like he couldn't believe he had to sit by those kids - We got some funny photos though. We went on a Pearl River cruise tonight - It was really nice - it was a dragonboat and the view from the boat was great. Benjamin is doing well - What we have learned on this trip so far is:
1: Benjamin still is really worried we aren't taking him home.
2: He does not want to share a room with Wesley - he wants to sleep in our room.
3: Claire is 3 years old - It is hard to be 3 - the whole world is against you - just ask her.
4: We drank no Coke today, things were better this way!
5: When the shops around here aren't busy you can get some great deals. Not many families left here - since the trade fair is next week and people were ready to bargain.
6: Benjamin + Chinese Power Rangers video = Power Ranger Benjamin (maybe not such a good idea!)
7: I can't think of #7 - It is getting late.
Hope you enjoy the random pictures for the day.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Coke - The Resident Evil

Benjamin really likes Coke - like to much - We have let the kids drink Coke on this trip even though they normally don't get it - but it is hard to get just water or milk with a meal - today Benjamin got a Coke with his lunch - We were letting him drink it out of his glass - he wanted it out of the can - He pouted through the whole meal and wouldn't eat or drink anything - tough for him - more for us.  I have decided that Coke is evil and has led to many "issues".  Don't let Coke know I said that!  Nothing exciting today again - We went to the jade and pearl market and didn't get much - it was hot and we were unmotivated - We did go to the DVD store and stock up - 10 DVD's for $20.  We got Enchanted, National Treasure-Book of Secrets, Alvin and the chipmunks, 3 Barbie movies (guess who picked those out!), a chinese power rangers, and some others - That felt good - saving 90% on a purchase.  Mom and I went to church this morning it was the English service - but was mostly in Mandarin - We ducked out after about 45 minutes - They had some good music and the place was packed.  The kids spent the evening watching their new movies and eating Papa John's pizza.  Only 2 full days left here in Guangzhou - Benjamin's medical exam is tomorrow - We are also going to try and go on a River Cruise tomorrow night - I am not sure if that is a great idea - as I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't lose somebody overboard.  The hotel is fabulous - the service is great - They make up the bed in the morning and they come back at night and give you fresh towels and take your trash and leave chocolate - and turn down the bed so you don't strain yourself going to sleep.  We finally have a travel group which is very exciting - it is fun to finally have other families to talk to. The photos today are of the church we went to and of my kids - in a state of extreme happiness from having new movies. It is funny, as I read through these posts as I write them they are becoming more of a list of things we did for the day and less interesting or informative information. That must be what happens on day #17 of a really long trip with all the kids. Frightening!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

No Shopping For Benjamin (Gei wa)

Benjamin loves to shop - or really he just loves to get stuff. He does not like to hear the word "No". If he hears this very bad word - he must be disgruntled for quite a while and you might as well just take him back to the room - because he will no longer be holding your hand or walking with you. So I think that this may save us some money on the trip as we will only be shopping in shifts. I might explain that the island we are staying on is full of shops with all sort of very cheap Chinese souveneirs (if you get a present from us - which is highly unlikely since we are so cheap - it will likely be from here and will have been cheap!). Today we went and got Benjamin's visa photo taken - The boy is very photogenic! We had a very exciting paperwork meeting - I was very glad to get rid of some paperwork. Mom and I had a massage for 90 minutes for the price of 68 yuan ($10) - Now that is my kind of deal - Kendell got to watch the kids while we were gone - Isn't he lucky to have all that bonding time alone! I have included some pictures of our trip to the park this morning and of the view from our room on the 26th floor of the Pearl River - Sadly it looks the best when it is dark. The island we are staying on is absolutely beautiful and the weather is great. We are so sorry to have missed all the flooding at home - we are hoping our house is still there and that our ducks haven't floated away.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jessie - A Star Is Born

I can't tell you how may pictures Jessie had to take with rural Chinese tourists in Beijing - I am pretty sure it was over 20 - when we visited the Summer Palace she was practically mobbed by a tour group - I was surprised - but thought that once we got to Guangzhou her status as a rock star would fade. Tonight at dinner - as I was thinking how nice it would be not to have to stop and have Jessie's photo taken all the time - Some students stopped her to have their picture taken with her - What's the deal - She is awfully cute - There are so many American tourists/families here that I am hoping that is the last picture (Jessie loves it though!). Anyhoo - I think Benjamin liked the plane ride - the trip was about 3 hours - We don't have any plans this week yet - except paperwork stuff. Benjamin asked our guide before we left if we were going to take him with us - She reassured him he was staying with us. So I think he was feeling better. We really like our new room - We even have a little living room and a huge bathroom - Look - I have finished another post without any sarcasm or wit (sorry).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Packing Up the Wagons

We just finished packing for our trip to Guangzhou.  Our agency rep should be here soon to drop of Benjamin's passport - We are ready to go - We have had a lot of togetherness here - Our room at the White Swan is supposed to be a 2 bedroom suite.  I was feeling adventurous this morning and we rented a driver/minibus and went to the Botanical Gardens (those who know me - know I just can't pass up a good garden!).  Apparently every school in Beijing was going to the garden - I am not exagerating if I say that there were probably 1000 or more kids there - I have never seen a Botanical garden that was wall to wall people (or tree to tree).  We had a good time and the conservatory had the most beautiful collection of orchids I have ever seen.  I have included a few photos - that only I may appreciate - We are now back at the hotel and everyone is fighting over the Nintendo again (if we had 4 of them - I bet no one would want to play with it!).  Benjamin knows several words now - like, for example McDonald's, Kentucky (Fried Chicken), and pizza.  He loves Spiderman and will sometimes not leave the room without his spiderman pajamas. He ordered a Coke at the chinese restaurant today at lunch (we thought that might be what he was saying) - the waitress brought it and we had them take it back - only water at this meal - He was not very happy with this - so he didn't eat much.  He says they used to give him soda, juice, and sugar water to drink in the evening and by the looks of his teeth - I believe it.  Not much else to add today. I am also including a photo for my medically inclined friends - We passed by the Hospital of the Femoral Head and the Andrology Hospital today.  When we went to the Children's Hospital and they had a stomatology department - very interesting.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Keep Off The Grass

I don't think people in Beijing have ever walked on grass - I'm serious. We went to a park today - Something like the Earth Park - and there were a million signs warning you to keep off the grass. I don't think that children here EVER play on grass - Isn't that weird? The park was very nice and in the center had a large temple like place which was originally built over 600 years ago - The kids had a great time running around the large open area (not grassy). We then found the play area. I think that China is more adult centered than child centered - The playground had almost all exercise equipment for adults and a couple of things for kids to climb on (over concrete, of course). I have yet to see a swing or a slide in all the parks we have been in (this has the kids quite preclempt). Claire had to use to squatty potty at the park - and all we managed to do was have her pee on both of her ankles (it was pretty bad). We had dim sum (I think) at a nearby restaurant which was really good and then came back to the hotel for my (I mean Claire's) afternoon nap. The kids had great fun with paper airplanes and then we went for dinner at Outback Steakhouse - It was OK - but was the most expensive meal we have had yet. We are now relaxing at the room - We get Benjamin's passport tomorrow - Yeah! Benjamin does really well with us in the room. When we are out with the guide he tends to prefer walking with them and talking to them the whole time - He does not like to do what we say when we are out - but he does listen well in the room. He likes to play Uno and we are definitetly going to have to put up the Nintendo when we get home. The sign photo today (look at #9) warns parkgoers to avoid superstitious activity in the park). Good Night from Beijing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Would You Drink the Water?

This will probably be my most uninteresting post of the whole trip - or at least I hope so. This morning we went and saw Benjamin's finding spot - This may important for him to be able to see when he gets older. Then we layed around the hotel room - We went out for lunch and came back to the room. I didn't drink the water, but still seem to have obtained some sort of stomach issue. I have learned today that Pepto Bismol can be taken every 30 minutes - I am still waiting for it to work. No pictures today since the only photos I have are of Benjamin's finding spot and I currently lack motivation to take candid, fun kid pictures here in the room. We are going to a museum tomorrow - At least I will be if I am feeling better.
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