When it Rains, It Pours

June 16

Today we made our annual trip to Hong Kong Disney, and at this point we’ve been to HK Disney more than Disneyworld in Orlando. When I’m at home I rarely even leave the house except to go out the door and grab the mail, so I truly go from one extreme to another when I suddenly become a worldwide globe-trekker once a year.

HK Disney – the Cinderella castle is no longer half a plywood painting! Progress!

We’ve all been looking forward to meeting Chad, of course, but with so much going on at the same time this adoption, we’ve hardly had a chance to really reflect on the fact that our family is growing again, and how his arrival will again change the family dynamics. We’re trying to have very few expectations this time as our time in-country adopting Chaela was so difficult, more than we even expected. We hope that Chad will have an easier transition because of his relationship that’s already established with Chaela since they have been in the same orphanage together for 11 years. We wonder if his language acquisition will be more difficult, though, because she might be a crutch for him to not have to learn the ropes as fast as she did- he’ll have a built-in interpreter. We’ve worked to help Chaela keep her first language by putting her in Chinese School on Saturdays, attending Chinese church, and buying her lots of books in Mandarin. Knowing Chad was coming was even more motivating to keep her regularly talking to others using her native tongue, and there have only been a few times where she’s had to think to remember how to say or write something. I hope that the two of them can always keep their first language.

While we were at Disney today, we were reminded of how far Chaela has come. She can’t even remember many or even most of her early experiences with us- that’s what trauma does. She’s blocked out so many of the things that happened, and couldn’t remember most of our time at Disney from just a year ago. Her attitude today was so refreshing because she seems to be in her element. I have been a little nervous about how this trip, going back so soon, would affect her. She is quite a sensitive and anxious person, and without a doubt re-living a lot of her own experiences through Chad’s adoption will be incredibly difficult. Today was a day just to have fun, and thanks to the same friend who gave us free tickets last time, we were able to go again for free. Her connection to adoption because of being a birth mother who put her baby up for adoption makes our story hit home for her, but from a different perspective. And, it’s one I am always sensitive to and think about because my children will one day have to face that aspect of their own stories and I want to be there to help them and paint a largely unknown background story in the most positive light I can. These women whom I have a connection to and am forever grateful to for giving my children life, I will never know, but can never forget. They are a part of our lives and our children’s stories forever.

Chaela knows Garrick loves Pooh Bear, and wanted him to see this picture.

Most of this adoption process Chaela has talked very little about her feelings and of Chad coming home. But since we have had travel dates and started packing, I can tell it has become real to her and for the first time since we initially told her, she’s shown visible excitement. She’s typically a discreet person and can be a tough shell to crack, so to see her light up about something that I know she has given much thought to, even if not a lot of expression, has been relieving to see. She’s been talking more about what Chad is like, what rides she thinks he will want to do at Disney, and has asked about going back to visit the orphanage. I wondered if she’d be ready to go- if you remember she did not want to go back after Gotcha Day because it was too painful. I think she is ready, and if Chad is, too, we will go. I hope it will help her to have even more closure and wholeness in her soul.

Unlike for Carrigan and Charlotte, we have been able to maintain her relationship with the orphanage director, the dear woman who served as a mother figure to the children there. Twice now she has been able to have Facetime calls with “Bo Pin” through one of the missionaries who lives there locally. And, guess what? On both calls we were able to see Chad and interact with him a little bit! He was very quiet, shy, and nervous, so he didn’t want to be front and center in the camera. He talked to Chaela from the background a little bit, and it was surreal to get to hear his voice and see his sweet face knowing this was our son! We sent a care package to Chad, and Chaela included a letter to him telling him not to be afraid, that it was “fun” here, and he would be happy. He has so much more knowledge than she had going into this, since she was the first child in her orphanage to be adopted into an American family, and only the second child to be adopted internationally ever. The director, Bo Pin, has recently retired, but she still visits the children regularly, and she told us she would bring Chad to us on the 19th, with the new director, as well. The new director is a young man whom we hear is a kind man with a heart for the children there, and we hope that’s the case, as he has big shoes to fill.

Chaela is fully ‘All-American’ now. She’s pretty much rejected her Chinese name by telling me that’s not her name anymore (and she doesn’t want it to be), she always chooses the “America cheese” (American) for her sandwiches (which I have to smile about- I wonder if she even likes it) and she takes great pride in her new identity and country. I hope this trip for her will show her that she can love both- both countries, both languages, both names, and both Bo Pin AND me as those mothers past and present who love her and have helped her to become the amazing little girl that she is. She really is the most thoughtful, sweet, compassionate, well-mannered and caring person, and I give a lot of credit to this director who played such an important role in Chaela’s life. She always makes sure others are taken care of before her self, and we go out of our way to never let her feel like it’s her “job” to have to take care of the littler ones, or her “duty” to earn her keep. We want her to understand we adopted her as our daughter, and that can be a hard thing for a child adopted at an older age to understand.

This time at Disney we let her ride all of the big rides that we wouldn’t allow her to go on last time we went. We weren’t sure of her heart condition status then since she hadn’t been to the doctor since her surgery, and we weren’t taking any chances. She also has motion sickness and we didn’t want to have one more reason for her to be sick and upset last year. So, this time she rode Space Mountain and a couple others back-to-back, twice each because we did a ‘Rider Swap’ with the baby so Joey and I could each go with the kids. I could tell by lunchtime when she started getting really quiet and wouldn’t eat that she was either tired or not feeling well- it was both. We overdid it on the fun factor. Between that and jet lag that started hitting pretty hard, we headed out of the park by 3:30, knowing full well we still had to press on several more hours once we got back to the hotel to conquer jet lag.

Chaela was all for wildly whipping the tea cup around. The locals had no such desires.

I was reminded on the taxi ride back what a hair-raising experience driving in China is. Hong Kong is intensified by the fact that the driver is on the ‘wrong’ side of the vehicle, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Add to it that it was raining hard on our way there this morning, I had the baby in the carrier in my lap, and Corin had no seat belt, and all I could do was put my arm over his chest in classic mom fashion and pray. We made it, but I know it’s the first day of many more near death experiences like this. I’ve seen more near-misses on the Chinese highways than I can count, but in all our trips I have yet to see any accidents, so I hope to keep it that way!

June 17

Jet lag is a beast. Add to that, we have a baby who dictates when we can and cannot sleep and it makes jet lag really hard to overcome. We were all delirious at the executive lounge last night, and Chalea was especially fading fast well before 6PM.  We came back to the room and put Gwennie to bed since she had already fallen asleep in Joey’s arms after a full day (awake) at Disney. Joey also passed out on me by 8PM, and it left Corin and I watching some Chinese TV hoping to be sleepy tired at what was 8AM at home. We finally caught a few ZZZ’s, but I was awakened hundreds of times by everything from a nursing baby (3 times), Corin talking gibberish in his sleep, a raging thunderstorm, Joey snoring, and Chaela grinding her teeth, then elbowing me and laying on top of me all night. It’s gonna be a looooooong day again. It’s also supposed to storm every single day we’re here, with today being a 100% chance all day, so our plan is to visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum just two miles away. The kids won’t be too excited about that option, but the pool is closed and we’re in an area not conducive to indoor touristy attractions, and I’m not too keen on another long taxi gamble. We’ll just focus on survival today and prepare for the big day we have coming in just 48 hours!