Report for Taiwan

February 17, 2011

We are approaching 5 months since Evan has been home and our agency requires us to fill out a report giving some examples of the child’s physical, emotional, language, and social skills. I had 11 lines to write a report for the last 4.5 months. . . impossible! There is so much to say about Evan’s development. They also asked for 4-6 pictures that they would be sending to the foster family in Taiwan. Really? How could I choose 4-6? I sent 22 and told the agency to choose.

Through the pictures and the report, I’m just not sure I’m conveying how happy he is and how happy we are. More than anything, I want Evan’s foster mother- the one who loved him like her own son and gave him an amazing start to life- to know how much we love him and that we are taking good care of him. I know she was a little worried that no one would care for him the way she had.

This is the most concise report I was able to give:

Evan is an amazing child who has adjusted very well. He is smart, funny, affectionate, and healthy. He loves playing outside- going sledding, going down slides at the park, throwing balls, and swinging. He can run, jump, throw, stack blocks, and climb quite well. He has a great appetite and is already outgrowing the first clothes we bought for him. The doctor declared he is a tall, healthy boy. We think he is gifted verbally. He already knows more English than a two year old is expected to know. We still use some Mandarin words because we don’t want him to forget all of them. At first he didn’t want other kids to be near him, but now he plays side by side and understands the concept of taking turns. Two days a week we meet with a group of other two year olds and he gets so excited to see his friends. Although he adores his older sister, he was hitting her for awhile before he learned the words to communicate with her. He wants to do everything Ava does, and he rarely hits her now. Evan learns so quickly and communicates extremely well. We are continuously amazed by him. While he is a very independent child- wants to dress himself, buckle his own carseat, feed himself, open doors, get into his chair by himself- he still likes to cuddle and be held, and we LOVE to hold him. He gives lots of kisses and hugs to his family and we all adore him. We can’t imagine our lives or our family without him and we are eternally grateful to his foster family. Their love and attention have helped create a confident, intelligent, lovable little boy.

(Yea, I know it’s a little longer than 11 lines, but it was the best I could do.)


Too serious for a Friday afternoon

January 21, 2011

These pretend games bring tears to my eyes. Ava said, “Let’s pretend you just had me and I was such a talented baby that you decided to keep me forever.” We don’t talk often about the probable reasons her birth parents couldn’t keep her, but maybe we need to. I just hate to think that she might believe parents only keep their kids if they are “talented.”

Then, as I’m typing this, Ava asks, “Mom, did you know Martin Luther King, Jr. went to jail? He went to jail because he was shot and he died.”

So then we had to talk about how unfair it was that he went to jail (and how it wasn’t because he was shot). We also had to talk about guns and how they can kill people.

And then, just as quickly as she started these conversations, she ended them and skipped off pretending to be a tiger.

Naming our children

January 11, 2011

Before Ava came home, we decided that we wanted to keep part of her Chinese name and give her a name from us. I started paying attention to the names of other people from China and realized that almost all of them had an English first name and their Chinese name was their middle name (or they just had an English nickname).

We’ve been going back and forth with a couple possible spellings for Evan’s middle name, and I’m feeling great relief that we’ve finally decided what it will be. It’s actually been holding up our re-adoption process and his social security card as we have to decide his legal name before we proceed.

For both kids, the first step was deciding that we wanted to keep some part of their Chinese name. It seemed like completely stripping them of that would be taking something away that was given to them before we met. When they grow up, they may or may not find their Chinese names meaningful, but we didn’t want to take that chance. So, for both kids, we combined two of their Chinese names to make one middle name: Ava Huasong and Evan Chunyi.

In the orphanage, Ava was given the name Hua Song Chun (written Chun, Hua Song). We believe Chun came from the city where she was born, Yangchun. Every girl in the orphanage had the same surname, so we felt okay not keeping that part. We’ve been told that Hua means flower/blossom and Song means pine tree. There’s a slight problem with Song, though. The character used for this name is the one that would be used for a boy, not a girl. I cannot figure out why they would have used this character, but I am determined to find out. We combined the two words to form Huasong. We gave her the name Ava because we thought it was a beautiful name and I thought I read in a Buddhist book once that it meant compassion (I have not been able to find that meaning ever again, so maybe I never really saw it.)

Evan’s birthfather (whom we know nothing about except his name and age) is the one who gave Evan his name Yen, Chun I. We wanted to keep Chun I for his middle name, but here in the states, it would be hard for others to figure out how to pronounce it. If we combined the two words like we did with Ava’s middle name, it would read Chuni. We thought about a hyphen, Chun-I, but then someone pointed out that the hyphen would be a problem on official documents when Evan got older. Finally, we met a man from Taiwan who actually had the same pinyin spelling of one of his names “I”. He ran into the same problems here in the United States, so he changed it to Yi. One Chinese syllable like “ma” can have 4 different meanings based on the tone when pronouncing the word, and when one writes it out using letters (pinyin), they’re all the same, ma, ma, ma, and ma. It’s the Chinese character and the pronunciation that determine the meaning. The man we met said the meaning would not change, the character is still the same and I is pronounced very much like Yi, so we are going with Chunyi. The same person who helped us with his name declared it to be a good name, meaning handsome and decent. And, like Ava’s name, we chose Evan because we liked the soothing sound of it, not too harsh, not too common, not too different.

We realize Ava and Evan (or “Eban” and “Biba” as Evan would say) sound a lot alike, but that wasn’t the reason we chose the names. In fact, it is a little hard to get the right name out of our mouths sometimes. Both Nathan and I were attracted to the vowel at the beginning and the flowing sound of the ‘v’ that came next. We also did not choose them so our kids could learn how to spell and write their names at an early age, but Ava was quite proud of herself when she could write her name as soon as she new how to write letters.

Ava Huasong and Evan Chunyi. . . it feels good to finally be able to type these names together.

(Evan is sitting in my lap as I type and I just asked him if he likes his name. He smiled and gave me a little giggle. I probably don’t pronounce it correctly, but I think he understands.)

3 month update

January 6, 2011

Evan has been home for three months already and we couldn’t be happier with his adjustment (and ours). In three months he’s learned about 60 English words. He’s not putting together sentences yet, but he was close with, “Come on, Jie Jie, eat.”

He is sleeping much better, but still waking up a few times a night. In the beginning, he would wake up screaming several times a night and then be ready to start the day around 4:30 am. He hated being upstairs and he didn’t like it when I sat down with him, so I spent a lot of time on the computer standing at the counter. One desperate morning, I looked up Sponge Bob on You Tube in hopes that he would let me lay down. Despite the reports from Taiwan that he loved Sponge Bob, it didn’t work. We found that putting his crib mattress on the floor in his room was going to be the best sleeping arrangement. The first time I put him in the crib, he wailed and climbed right out. I have my camping mat on the floor next to him so we can lay by him when he wakes up. He’s now ready to start the day around 6:00am, which is much more tolerable.

Evan still likes to be held a lot and he gives lots of hugs and kisses. He’s a social little guy and likes to entertain when people come around. His favorite activities are dancing, taking a bath with Ava, playing outside, singing and listening to music, playing with toys (especially Ava’s tea sets and his cars), and seeing what he can jump off of without getting hurt.

Ava’s thoughts: Evan has become more dangerous and loud. He falls off chairs and tries to jump off of the couch. He is clever because he can find the computer when mom is not watching. And he is very curious- he really sees lots of things that he wants and tries to get them. After 3 months of being a big sister, I like that he tries to copy me- it’s so cute. I also like that he stopped biting me. And I like when he wants me to hold him. Some things are hard about being a big sister. Evan is very tiring and he screams and hits and throws things sometimes. He is bouncing off the walls.

Ava and Evan have a normal, healthy sibling relationship. The moments when they fight over a toy or Evan annoys Ava to the point of incessant whining test my patience, but the times like tonight when they act like partners in crime by hiding in the closet together or taking off all their clothes and doing a naked dance are precious. I love how they try to make each other laugh even though it’s usually by doing something they know they’re not supposed to do like spit water in the car or blow bubbles in their drinks until they’ve made a huge mess.

I remember on the 5th day Evan was with us, the day he climbed out of my arms and showed me some of his true personality, I was worried I might not have what it takes to parent a daring, active boy. Three months later, I’ve realized that I not only have what it takes, but I actually love parenting this sweet, energetic boy.

A pretend game I wasn’t expecting

December 22, 2010

Ava: Let’s pretend I’m a newborn in the orphanage.

Me: Okay. . .

Ava: And I’m just laying in my crib while the nanny (that’s you, Mom) is doing dishes. And the other boy nanny (that’s Daddy) is playing with another baby in the orphanage and he’s a boy (Evan).

Me: Okay. . . (I guess I was at a loss for words with this pretend game)

Ava: And someone is going to get us and we are only a year apart. Are me and Evan a year apart?

Nathan: Actually you’re 4 and a half years apart.

Ava: Oh, well, I’m a baby. Ga-ga, ga-ga. And let’s pretend that there is one quiet baby and one active baby (wonder who was who in this scenario)

And she continued to lay there sucking her thumb while Evan did face plants off of the couch. I could write another page analyzing this pretend game, but for now I will just let it be.

Evan’s first doctor’s visit

November 27, 2010

Actually it wasn’t his first since he saw a doctor in Taiwan, but it was his first visit with us. We learned that Evan is a tall, thin boy- 75th percentile for height, 20th percentile for weight. He is meeting or exceeding every developmental check point and the doctor declared that he is a strong, healthy boy. Sadly for the kids, it is recommended that they redo all vaccinations and that they be tested for a series of illnesses. So today Evan received 4 shots and had to get blood drawn from both arms since they couldn’t get enough the first time. He cried, understandably, but when they were done, he was all smiles and told everyone in the office, “Bye-bye.” He seemed unusually happy and snuggly at home tonight and I’m sure it was because he was so relieved to be done with that 2 hour ordeal.

Now we have to go back on Monday for a TB test and I’m supposed to take in a stool sample that is less than 30 minutes old. I remember the day I had to take in Ava’s stool sample- somehow it dropped out of the diaper bag and a young man at the doctor’s office picked it up and handed it to me. I was mortified, but he didn’t seem to know what he was handling.

I continue to wonder about and be fascinated in the differences between boys and girls, and first children and second children. For example, it is easier for me to see Evan fall than it was when Ava fell. Is this because he is a boy and I think he can handle it? Is it because I’ve watched one child learn important lessons from falling and I know he needs to learn the same? When we had Ava’s blood drawn a couple months after she came home, I started crying before we even went in and the nurse gave me permission to stay outside the room. I could hear Ava screaming and I was so glad she wasn’t associating me with that painful event. Today, Evan had to have blood drawn and I held him through it all without shedding a tear. Again, is it because he’s a boy and i think he’s less fragile, or is it because I’ve already had one child go through it and she doesn’t even remember it?

The doctor and the lab technicians went on and on about how great it is that people adopt and how lucky these children are. Hopefully they will appreciate the family they are a part of, but truly it is Nathan and I who are the lucky ones. Ava and Evan accept and love us unconditionally. They are affectionate and cuddly, entertaining and full of life. Everyone I know who has adopted says the same thing, but it is incredible how perfectly the children are matched to their parents. I can’t imagine having any other children than the ones we have. I had a lot of anxiety before each child came home- wondering if they would attach well, wondering if I would parent them well, wondering if they would be happy and healthy- and now I see that was unnecessary worrying. They are both doing so amazingly well. I would love to take credit for that, but honestly that’s how they came to us.

Ava went to a Waldorf preschool and on the children’s birthdays they tell a story about how each person starts out as a starbaby in the heavens looking down on the earth. When it is time for the child to come to earth, he/she chooses a set of parents. I love the idea that Ava and Evan chose us and endured the long route to get here. I hope, in the end, they are pleased with their decision.

Life with two kids

October 29, 2010

Twice the fun, quadruple the work.

I’m a chauffeur, a pack mule, a play toy, a comforter
A maid, a waitress, a hair-dresser, a launderer
I’m a cook, a baker, a rescuer, an art teacher
I am a mom to two very different kids and I’m loving (almost) every minute of it

As we approach 4 weeks with Evan, we continue to breathe a sigh of relief that everyone seems to be adjusting very well. He’s finally sleeping through the night (he had a stomach virus that caused him to sleep a lot- let’s hope he sticks with this sleep schedule now that he’s feeling better). Evan loves things that move especially if he is riding in them and they have a steering wheel. I know his dream day would be riding in the grocery store car cart for several hours and then being allowed to play in the car for the rest of the day. Every time we’re in the car or he wants to leave he says, “Mama? Vroom!” Tractors, cars, trucks, and buses excite him more than anything else. We rarely have communication issues with Evan. He seems to understand everything we ask him and he nods yes or no. He’s still saying many words in Mandarin, but when he wants to know an English word, he’ll point to the object and grunt. I’ll tell him the word and he’ll repeat it. Evan loves his jie jie (older sister) but he still gets a little aggressive if I’m holding Ava or giving her more attention. He’s learning how to be gentle and is very proud of himself when he remembers to touch her softly.

Ava is growing up faster than I can type this post. She even asked me if her voice sounds different, more grown up. Since February of this year, she has had some sleep issues of her own. Every night she woke us up at least once, usually two or three times telling us she was scared or she had a bad dream. After trying everything we could think of-“good dream medicine”, a bed on our floor, a unicorn pillow pet for comfort, a gnome to protect her, lavender oil to relax her, music, lots of positive encouragement, bribes, etc- she has slept in her own bed without waking us up for 8 nights now. I hope it’s not premature to celebrate the end of that phase. We had her kindergarten parent teacher conference last night, and other than trying to be the classroom cop occasionally, she is doing quite well. While it’s not part of the kindergarten curriculum, we are all amazed at what Ava can do on the playground bars. She can go all the way across the monkey bars and flip herself over the parallel bars. Considering she was physically delayed at 2 years old, she has made incredible progress.

Nathan and I are plugging away trying to keep up with laundry and dishes, play with the kids as much as we can, and even do a couple of things for ourselves. Life is a little louder, a little more chaotic, and a lot more lively these days.