Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Wenxin is an amazing kid.  I'm amazed at how quickly he learns.  He watches us and quickly adapts to our ways.  Yesterday, I noticed he called Mike "Daddy" a few times instead of the Chinese term, "Baba."  He's been listening. 

If I were in his shoes, I'd be stressed beyond belief by all the changes.  I'm sure he is stressed to some degree, but he seems resilient and flexible.  He's eating and sleeping and playing and laughing.

And he keeps blowing me out of the water by helping.  After dinner last night, everyone ran off to play and Wenxin stuck around and cleared the table - without being asked.  This morning he asked if he could sweep the floors.  I gave him a dust mop for the wood floors and minutes later he presented me with a big pile of fuzzy crud that he'd swept up -- he even moved the bar stools and swept all the crumbs under the bar.

At dinner, if he notices that Mike and I are low on drinks, he runs to the fridge and comes back with the soda or juice or whatever and refills our glasses!  I'm not kidding. 

Maybe it's genetic - because the kids who got my genes. . . the constant helping without being asked?  Doesn't seem to be in their DNA.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Ups and Downs and All Arounds

This made my day.
Wenxin let me teach him how to write his name in English and then. . . he drew our family.  First there's Mike, and then me in the green.  I love the details - holding hands with a heart between us.  Next, holding on to my leg, is Wenxin.  Then Nathan and Katherine.  Finally Julia - squeezed in between Mike and me.

Looks like big ears run in our family.

That sweet drawing put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

We didn't start off so well

This morning I tried to have "story-time" for Katherine and Wenxin.  I picked fun, simple English books.  I read Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop  in my silliest dramatic voice. 

It was going really well.  Wenxin was engaged.  He was laughing. 

And then he began to grab for the book.  I said, "No," and continued to read and hold the book up for both kids to see.  More grabbing.  And then whining.  When I insisted on holding the book, Wenxin turned his back to me and sat facing the other way.  Then he walked off.  Poor Katherine was left having to listen to Hop on Pop.  Wenxin walked past us a time or two and made vomiting noises in our direction.  Then he ran by and slapped Katherine on the top of the head.  Mike and I intervened and gave Katherine lots of loving and had Wenxin apologize to her. 

Our days have lots of ups and downs. 

Yesterday, we learned that Wenxin enjoys jigsaw puzzles. 

It's the first thing I've found that he enjoys doing by himself.

A highlight of today was writing letters and numbers in shaving cream. 

The winner for the low point of the whole past week was the first day we tried to take Wenxin to the doctor.  I say "first day" because it took two tries before we actually got him there. 

I'd called our pediatrician to schedule a post-adoption check up for Wenxin.  While we were on the phone I mentioned he was running a fever.  (I don't freak out about fevers when kids otherwise feel fine.  I was not planning on taking him to the doctor.)

Since Wenxin was just adopted from overseas, the doctor wanted to see him right away.  I called Mike to come home from work to stay with the other kids while I took Wenxin to his appointment.  Then I made a fatal mistake.  I asked Mike to explain to Wenxin where we were going.

We bought a cool toy in Beijing.  It's a pen that reads special books in both English and Mandarin.  Mike got the vocabulary book and touched the word that said "sick."  Wenxin listened to the word for sick in Mandarin and agreed that he felt sick.  Then Mike said, "Mama will take you to the _____," and he touched the word for "doctor." 

Wenxin immediately began to say "no" over and over.  He began to touch his head and say, "Mama, no ouch!"  He smiled his biggest smile to show me he was just fine.  Then, when we continued to put on his shoes, he went berserk! 

We'd get one shoe on and the other shoe would go flying across the room.  He was sobbing and fighting and clawing.  It became clear that there was no way I'd be able to drive him safely to the doctor.

So I called the doctor and cancelled. 

When Wenxin became convinced he was out of danger, he began to say, "Mama - sleep please." 

The calm after the storm

The next morning, Mike and I packed a backpack full of toys and snacks and drinks and together, we took Wenxin to see the doctor. We decided it was a "two parent" job. We decided not to announce exactly where we were going. And this time, he did great.  We're learning.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Been A Week

It's been a week since we've been home and days since I've blogged.  Part of it is that I can't do it the way I did in China - with decent writing and lots of interesting photos.

We've landed in the "real world" where we are jet-lagged.  We have a new son who gets up at 3 a.m. each morning.  We have three other children who still have to eat, have clean clothes, be home schooled, be driven to soccer practice and games five days a week -- well, you get the picture.  There's no more Chinese guide, no driver, no fine Chinese restaurants for every meal, no hotel maid, no laundry service.  We're tired with a capital "T."

So for right now, I'll do what I always do when I don't have time to write an interesting blog post.  I'll link to someone else's work. 

Her (Chinese) Name tells the story of two Chinese girls adopted into the same family and their very different responses to their Chinese names.  What's really interesting to me is that the girls' feelings about their Chinese names changed over time.

Wen Xin is still going by Wen Xin and as we introduce him as Wen Xin to more and more friends and family, I find myself wondering if he will go by his Chinese name forever.  And since we put Joseph Michael on his adoption documents I'm wondering what will be involved to include Wenxin (it's actually one name made up of two Chinese characters) as part of his legal name. 

And how do I keep people from nicknaming him "Wen" because right now we already have "Joseph" and "Joseph Michael" and "Wenxin" and "Xin Xin" (his Chinese nickname) -- and I really don't want to add any more names to the mix?

People have strong opinions about his name.  Some people don't understand why we didn't include Wenxin on his legal documents from the get go.  And some people don't understand why we aren't just insisting that he use his American name.  I actually overheard a family member tell Katherine that she should just go ahead and start calling him Joseph whether he liked it or not.

Right now, our best Mama and Baba wisdom says that this is not the biggest issue we're facing.  We think that as he settles in to his new life in America, he'll be the best judge of what he should be called.  So much has changed in his life in such a short time.  We're not going to insist on changing his name.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watch Out, America: Here I Come!

Fan Wen Xin, aka Joseph Michael Ball, became a U.S. citizen September 18 at U.S. customs and immigration in Washington Dulles Airport.  Keep your eyes on this little guy.  He's gonna go far!

Sunday was Family Day!  We hung out with the grandparents and all wore our Chinese t-shirts.  Wen Xin decided to dodge the paparazzi once more.

Monday was a home school day.  My, aren't we hard core!  No, we're not, but we didn't really have a choice.  We home school as part of The International Community School in Winter Park FL.  We work off their lesson plans and schedule and Julia and Nathan go to school on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, there aren't any days off when new brothers come home from China.  And I think the structure may actually be helping Wen Xin.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Night with all 4 Kids under the Same Roof!

We touched down in Orlando just before midnight - almost 30 minutes early.  Wondering if anyone would be there to meet us yet, we made our way slowly to baggage claim.  But as soon as we exited the gates, 20 of our friends and family were there to meet us with Nathan, Julia and Katherine right out front!

Wen Xin passed out bags of Skittles to his new brothers and sisters and even gave away the bag I bought for him.  He played.  He allowed himself to be photographed.  He smiled and spoke to all his new grandparents.  It was perfect!

I've been thinking about who came.  Three new brothers and sisters and three new grandparents.  A family from our school with two internationally adopted children.  Hallie and Karen, my long- time friends who are both adoptive moms.  I was privileged to be at the airport when their kids came home and they were there for me.  Brings tears to my eyes.  Karen left an event where she was working as a photographer to come over to the airport and photograph Wen Xin's homecoming.  Hallie's whole family - husband, kids, grandma- drove in from St. Augustine and stayed at the airport hotel just to be with us. 

Mike's team from work was there.  Ann, who speaks fluent Mandarin, knelt down and talked with Wen Xin for a while.

Not sure what time we got home - but we let the kids play for a long time.  Nathan and Julia went to bed first.  We forced Katherine and Wen Xin to go to bed at 3:30 a.m.  Mike and I turned in at 4:30 a.m.  At a little after 7, Wen Xin was up --  going strong.  Since I've been writing this, he's successfully woken up the girls.  He shook their bunk beds until they got up.

Favorite quotes from the night:
Nathan - "Laughing is international."
Julia - "This is the best day of my life."
Katherine - "Wen Xin, we don't stand on the furniture.  Bu Yao! (not good)"  and "Sometimes kids know better than parents."  The latter was spoken in objection to being made to go to bed at 3:30 a.m. as opposed to continuing to play with her new brother.

So I'm working off 2 1/2 hours sleep and wondering how I'm going to keep up with this little Asian tornado today.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Signing off from China

In a little over an hour, we'll climb on a van for the airport.  Guangzhou to Beijing; Beijing to Washington D.C.; Washington to Orlando.  We arrive after midnight at 12:20 am on September 19.  We've asked the grandparents to bring our other kids to the airport to welcome Wen Xin home.  Any friends who can stay up that late are welcome to meet us as well.

Wonder what that's going to be like?  He'll be exhausted from 20 plus hours on a plane.  And he'll be in a new place where no one is speaking Chinese anymore.  I hope friends and family will cut him some slack if he's less than friendly.  I don't expect he'll run up and give everyone a hug.  Would be nice, but. .. not very likely. 

We're ready.  This time in China has been so good.  I absolutely love Asia!  But now it's time to go.

Wen Xin seems really really happy.  I'm certain he likes us.  He still doesn't do "first time obedience," - or 40th time obedience for that matter.  But we'll work on that when we get home.

We are feeling like a family.

So. . . See you in Orlando!

Red Couch Photos

It's a tradition at the White Swan Hotel for adopted kids to get their photos taken on a red sofa in the lobby.  I wasn't even going to try.  Wen Xin seems a little old to get all dressed up in a prissy traditional Chinese outfit.  And you know how he feels about being photographed.

But I caved.

And I'm really glad I did.

We bribed him with Coke.

I think it's also tradition for the whole family to do a portrait together on the red sofa, but that would be really pushing it.

We had the shop-owner who sold us the outfit convince Wen Xin it was really cool.

Did I mention that the White Swan is a really nice hotel?  Here are a few lobby photos.

Wonder if Wen Xin thinks this is where we live all the time?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Better Day for the Paparazzi

We went to the Guangzhou Zoo.
Wen Xin fed the giraffes.

We went shopping with Ann from Red Thread China.  Ann's a tiny woman who walks faster than anyone I've ever met.  And she's an amazing shopping guide.  At the jade and pearl markets, she helped us buy beautiful things wholesale:  75-80% off the prices in local shops.  I highly recommend her. 
In the evening, we took a dinner cruise down the Pearl River.  It was Wen Xin's first time on a boat.
The menu included duck feet.
One of my men ate them as a joke and one of my men enjoyed every bite!
And of course, the day wouldn't be complete without the nightly photo in the bubble bath.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wen Xin and the Paparazzi

Have you noticed that a lot of my photos of Wen Xin are taken from behind?  This kid has a crazy new momma who wants to photograph his every move, and at the moment, he's just not having any of that!

This afternoon we went to the Six Banyan Temple.

I photographed big fat Buddhas.

I photographed pagodas.

But when it came to photographing my son, I got half a dozen photos that look something like this.

He's become an expert at dodging the paparazzi.

In fact, there's only one time that he will willingly pose for the camera.

Wen Xin and I walked to a local park this morning while Mike caught up on e-mail in the room.

He really loved climbing on everything.  It makes sense when you think about where he's been living for the past 2 years.  We were told that the orphanage houses 1000 kids.  We asked if the children were allowed to play outside.  We were told they got some time in the courtyard every day. 

We saw the courtyard.  It's a paved area in front of the orphanage.  Now keep in mind I was totally overwhelmed the day we visited.  We'd been in China less than 24 hours and were there to meet and leave with our new son.  It was raining.  Traffic was bad so we got out and walked in the rain the last half mile or so.  But the best I remember that courtyard, it was just a paved area in front of the orphanage.  No grass.  No trees.  No playground equipment.  Maybe I misunderstand the situation.  But if the only place he's had to play outside for the past two years is that courtyard, I can see why he loves the park.
I was especially pleased to see how sweet he was to the younger children.  This was more of a preschool playground and all the kids were younger than him.  He helped several toddlers on the slide.  He's fast and rough, but he always was careful around the little kids.  I was very impressed.

We continue to gather pieces of Wen Xin's history.  Yesterday he told our guide about his foster family, where he lived until he was five.  Up until yesterday, he insisted that he'd never lived anywhere besides the orphanage.  We learned that he had a foster mom, but no foster dad, and that there were a number of other kids in the home.  We learned he slept with the foster mom and a younger sister.  That makes so much sense to me.  At night, when he's sleepy, he drops the "tough guy" stance and hugs and snuggles.  He loves to sleep next to you.  It seems like he's had experience sleeping in a safe place with someone who loves him.  I would think that a kid who's always slept alone in the orphanage wouldn't automatically snuggle up with you.

Oh, and we learned the family had a dog -- but no chicken.  The guide asked about a chicken to determine if his foster family lived in the city or the country.  Wen Xin said he went to kindergarten and his foster mom dropped him off and picked him up every day.

Now grown-ups know that foster care is usually a temporary solution.  But little kids don't know that.   It breaks my heart to think that in December 2008, Wen Xin was taken from the only home he could remember and placed back in the orphanage pending adoption.  (We began the process to adopt him in August of 09.)  He was moved into an institution with 1000 kids and placed with the "other disabled boys."

That's another thing I've been angry about since I've been here.  We received a certificate thanking us for adopting a "disabled child."  Wen Xin had a hernia repair when he was a toddler.  And he has some burn scars.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with this child.  He runs and plays and is incredibly bright.  He has 20/20 vision.  He's not disabled in any way.  It makes me mad just to think about it.

My "go to" book about adoption and attachment these days is The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis.  Dr. Purvis says, "Adopted and foster children deserve deep compassion and respect for what they may have endured before they were welcomed into your home. . . Certainly, your children may exhibit manipulative or assertive behavior, but instead of faulting them for it, respect that it enabled them to survive and cope in profoundly difficult circumstances."

I have great hope for Wen Xin.  He's already settled down quite a bit from those first few days.  And he's an English learning machine.  We aren't drilling English - no flashcards here.  He just learns it as he needs it.  Here's his English vocabulary so far:
Let's go!
Up please.
Down please.
I'm sorry.
You're welcome.  (But, it comes out more like "You're Wonko.")
Just a minute.

We've learned some Chinese too.  But in the language learning department, he's going to beat us hands down.