The Land of the Not Quite Right

The day started off with a bang…literally. We awoke to a loud thump…Charlotte hitting the floor. We had left the side of the crib down so she didn’t get scared by the bars and so far, she hadn’t tried to sit up from a lying down position by herself, or stand from a sitting position- we can basically put her down somewhere and she doesn’t move from it (like Griffin). Or so we thought. It was so startling and scary- Joey jumped out of bed calling for her in the dark since he couldn’t find her and she was totally silent. My first thought of the day was “Oh, God, No! We killed her!” Not a good way to start the day. Once Joey could find her to pick her up (somehow she was not right near the crib), he held her and then handed her to me and ran into the bathroom, thinking he was going to be sick, it was so upsetting. The weirdest part is that she was so stunned, she didn’t make a peep and for the first time she didn’t wake up screaming and crying and cuddled with me in bed. Maybe we’ll think twice about pulling the side of the crib up after all…

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Charlotte is stoked to go adventuring, and she’s graduated from a front- to a back-pack.

 

It seems like Charlotte takes two steps forward, then one step back. Today she wanted little to do with Joey. After the big excitement yesterday and progress he had with her, it was a huge letdown for him. She’s acting exactly like she did the day before when she was afraid of him coming near me- just like yesterday never happened. It’s going to take a lot of patience as she learns to love and trust us. I can tell she is getting much more comfortable with us, though, because her ‘two-ness’ is starting to come out more and more. She’s throwing off her headband, taking off her shoes, pulling on her socks (they were always barefoot at the orphanage in every picture we saw of her there)- very picky about what touches her and feeling uncomfortable. When she’s in a stressful situation (bedtime) she squirms and wiggles like she’s itchy, but we’ve learned it’s just what she does under stress. She’s always very excited to put her shoes on because she’s learned it means we are going somewhere, though she doesn’t want to keep them on once we’re out the door. She has the same “myself” attitude Claire has- I tried to help feed her (since she makes such a mess and then gets upset that she’s messy) and she pushed me away. She wants to get down to walk herself, but then she gets scared and wants me to hold her again. She can’t seem to make up her mind what she wants, but she does want to try to run the show! She less concerned today about being messy since she now knows I am going to clean up after her. Oh boy. Today we made her a cup of noodles in the room while Joey prepared her bottle (it feels more like she is an infant than a two year old in many respects). When she would take too big of a bite and gag I helped dig it out of her mouth, then every bite after that she would try to chew, then spit it out on the floor. I don’t think she actually swallowed any of it. So much for her concern about the messy floor. She doesn’t like the food falling on her bib, either- she just takes it out of the pouch and throws that on the floor, too. I think Flash has found his new best friend at meal time at our house. At least I’ll have help cleaning it up.

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Omygosh, balloons are soooooo exciting!!!

We had hoped to do some sightseeing at Canton Tower this morning since we had a free day not going to the orphanage, but due to both the babies still suffering from colds (especially Griffin) we decided to stay in our room and let Griffin nap. We didn’t have Charlotte take one because it is such an awful process and then she would wake up Griffin with her crying. So, she was up today from 6AM until 8PM. She was pretty happy all day considering. At 1PM we went across the street to a Chinese ‘Fast Food’ place and ate lunch. It’s so funny how people here don’t seem to think anything about staring at you and pointing and talking about you, especially while you’re eating. I think every worker in that place came out of the backroom and there were four of them- three ladies and a man behind the counter watching us eat and interacting with the baby. He’s very popular here, did I mention that? Yesterday at lunch one of the chefs from the backroom actually was filming us and snapping our pictures as we ate. Many places here don’t have high chairs, so I guess seeing Joey carry Griffin in the pouch and eat with him that way is just quite a sight they don’t see everyday. I’m sure there is a meme circulating China with Joey’s and Griffin’s picture in it by now.

Just a random observation: the restaurants here play the quirkiest music. At the Italian place we walked in to American rap music, followed up by Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’, and then some classical Arabic music. At the McDonald’s it was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. So odd.

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Look, a McDonald’s! I’m sure they’ll be playing Mariah Carey Christmas music today.

At 1:30 we met with a local lady (Ann of Red Threads) to take us wholesale shopping for some souvineers for the kids and little gifts we can give Charlotte every year on her ‘Gotcha Day’ from China. As soon as Ann saw us she commented on how young we looked. Since you have to be over 30 to adopt from China, and China is more relaxed about the upper age requirement, there are couples as old as 60 adopting. I took a liking to Ann right off the bat. She gave us some insight into Chinese culture and ways of life here. She couldn’t get over how Gaige looks more like my brother, she said, than my son. I told her I had him when I was 16 and she was astonished- she said that is illegal in China. You have to be over 22 to get married here as a woman, and 24 as a man, and children born out of wedlock is a disgrace to the family. Girls are forced to leave school if they are pregnant and are shunned. She about fell over when we told her we have 7 children. She said that is unheard of in China. In the city, only one child is permitted, and in the countryside, if your first child is a girl, you can try one more time for a boy, but that’s it. If you have more than the limit, or if you adopt and then get pregnant, there are huge fines the government makes them pay that most people cannot afford. So, that explains the forced abortions and orphan crisis here- especially for girls and special needs little boys. Currently China’s International adoption program is only for the special needs children- if you want a “healthy child” the wait is 4-6 years! Most of this we knew from our reading on China (especially Xinran’s “Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother”), but it is more interesting and personal to hear it word of mouth on the street here from a local.

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However, a man carrying a baby is still legal.

 

We took the subway to a very non-touristy area and went to the ‘underground shops’ she knew about to get us the best deals on some items we wanted to bring back with us. Our tour group will take us shopping, too, but only to the most expensive tourist stops. We’ve realized that nothing we have been to around our hotel- including food- is much cheaper than back home. For $35 US currency this lady takes you shopping and gets it done quickly and inexpensively. We were able to get traditional Chinese dresses for each of our girls for $3 each, Chinese fans for $1.50, tea set for the girls (our hotel sells them for over $100 and we got it for $8) silk scarves, pearls- things traditional to China for a fraction of the cost. We bought a Chinese Lego set at the toy store for Corin, but passed on this:

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A nice gift for Grandma.

Griffin continued to be the main attraction on our outing, and having Ann with us to interpret what people are saying to and about us confirmed that people are indeed, very fond of him, and that he is indeed, cold and not properly bundled according to Chinese standards. It helps that he hams it up when people pay attention to him. In one of the stores, despite my uncomfortableness with it, a group of ladies passed him around and adored him. He even got a free gift at one store. A group of Chinese ladies were telling Ann, and she interpreted for us, that they couldn’t believe how young and beautiful I looked “for having 7 children” (it’s always followed by that, but hey, I’ll take it!). I have decided I really do love China!

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Griffin is quite popular in China.

Oh, and we found out why Charlotte is giving us blank stares when we try to use some Cantonese words with her. Ann and some of the ladies in the stores today were trying to talk to her, and when she didn’t respond, they asked where her orphanage was. I told them Suixi, and they said it is a local dialect spoken there that even Cantonese speakers cannot understand. They told us how beautiful Charlotte is and how nice her ears are (apparently that’s a feature that is prized here) and asked what her special need is. When I told them “developmental delay” they laughed and said, “I don’t think so!” You can tell how smart she is just by spending a few minutes with her.

It was drizzling outside when we were finishing up, and it was neat to see Charlotte’s reaction to the rain on her face. Remember the bubbles picture where she was squealing with delight? She had the same face when the rain splashed her. It’s like she’s been locked up in a prison her whole life and is just seeing the outside world for the first time. She is fascinated!

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Rain just makes the shopping crowds smaller.

When we were done shopping, we decided to stay and eat at the warehouse mall at a place Ann said was very good. She walked us there and told the waitresses we would need two high chairs. However, what she failed to do was order for us. We sat down to this:

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We can totally read this.

 

The waitress came by and asked us something in Chinese, to which we replied in English that we wanted the beef noodles and fried rice (what Ann told us to order). She pretty much ran away with her hands over her face, really embarrassed and went to another waitress who shook her head like “no way, I’m not going over there to talk to them! You go!” and they bantered back and forth. We soon realized we were going to be ignored. We gave it about 10 minutes while we tried to decide what to do, and then the first gal came back with a picture menu, featuring this:

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It’s…it’s smiling at me!

We were outta there, and the waitresses couldn’t have been happier!!

We were really strangers in a foreign land in this part of the city- no one spoke English anywhere. Thankfully Ann had written the name of our hotel down for us in Chinese so we could get a cab back or we’d still be there. We were all hungry at this point and when our first dining attempt failed, we were thrilled to see the glowing golden arches on the horizon. I really was ‘lovin’ it’ today. There’s nothing that can make you feel at home faster in a strange place than that. Charlotte actually nibbled on her chicken nuggets this time, but most of the dining experience, surprisingly, she rubbed her sweet & sour sauce all over the table like finger paints. We’ll work on manners later, for now I was just shocked that she would actually touch it and seemed happy to be playing with it! That’s not what the textbooks predict for kids with sensory processing issues. I’m still trying to get her figured out.

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America!

 

Getting a cab home was a challenge. It seemed like people were scared to have to deal with us- or maybe the cab drivers were just smart in not wanting to ride with two babies in the car, I don’t know. But, several passed us up and it was about half an hour until we could get one that would take us. I was about to cry- in the rain with two babies nearing dark in Crazy Town and far from our hotel. It was rush hour, so it took us 45 minutes to drive the 6 miles back to our place (and only cost $5!). Joey sat in the front seat with Griffin and no car seats here. I was a bit nervous, so say the least. It’s certainly not “safety first” like at home!

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What??? We’re buckled up.