It ain’t all sunshine and roses, but it works.

Doing the thing for the G.

Yesterday was the last official appointment needed to complete the adoption process, held at the U.S. consulate. Children over the age of 10 must give consent to be adopted, and we had an “interview” with Chad where he was asked three questions before his visa is issued so that he can emigrate into the United States with us. First, he was asked if he knows who we are (to be sure there is no child abduction involved), to which he replied “Mama and Baba”. Next, he was asked if he wants to come with us to America, and last, if he knows his biological parents, and where they are, to which he replied he does not know. That’s always a tough one that we know is coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. There are cases that the child refuses to be adopted at this stage, and they can be returned to the orphanage, so everyone breathes a sigh of relief with an older child to get past this point of no return, literally. Some people I have talked to about adoption are under the misconception that children are happy and eager to be adopted- that somehow they should be thankful or grateful for this opportunity. Our experience personally and from talking with other families is that this is rarely the case, nor should it be. No matter how much a child claims he or she wants to have a family or what their file states about their willingness to be adopted, they really have no point of reference for what that actually means. It is a process and decision that is largely out of their control and it means giving up everything they know (even if it’s bad, at least it’s familiar) to go to a place and with people they know nothing about. Often the child is told horror stories about what awaits them in America, and they come ignorant and understandably frightened. It is typically not a joyous event initially, even though we know the end result will be better than their present situation, they do not. These children are so incredibly brave. We had a very nice man who did our interview and he was intrigued by the story of Chaela and Chad growing up together in the same orphanage. He gave us his e-mail and asked us to keep in touch and send photos. He said he loves seeing the happy endings in his job here, and that this is what America should be about. Us bringing home and welcoming in the orphan, stranger, poor, refugee and widow- and I couldn’t agree more!

One thing I always love about these trips is meeting the other families who are here for the same reasons we are. Many of them are returning for their second and third adoptions, and it is always faith- building to see the sacrificial love these families display as they welcome into their families those outcast by the world. A family with only two children, the classic all-American one boy/one girl family is here adopting a 13 year old boy with Dwarfism. An older couple is here, and instead of enjoying retirement in their 60’s as is the common practice, they are bringing home their 3rd child from China- a 13 year old boy with a cleft lip. The family we have gotten to know the best here was with us on Gotcha Day. They are bringing home their third child from China, this time a 2 ½ year old who reminds us of our first time we were here to get Charlotte. This little girl has an amazing vocabulary and amazes us with her fluent babbling in Chinese. A few times the parents have had some of what she says translated, though, and it’s quite disturbing. She continually talks about hiding from the scary man who wants to hurt her and she has had a very difficult adjustment. She wants nothing to do with the new mother and will not let the mother hold her or get near her. Charlotte was this way with Joey at first, so we are remembering an entirely different type of difficult with a toddler adoption. There is just no easy way around it- no matter the age, it is just hard. With the little ones you will deal with night terrors, fits of rage, and sleep issues, and with the older kids the grieving looks different. The effects are often long-lasting as the trauma runs deep. Carrigan, adopted at age 5 from an orphanage with 600 special needs kids,  has been our most difficult child. You would never know from the happy pictures posted or the quick updates via Facebook what a difficult two years we’ve had with him. The initial night terrors and impulsive behaviors have now evolved to never-ending food issues, developmental delays, and ADHD behaviors that are trying even on his best days. Institutionalization has far-reaching effects that don’t go away overnight, and add to that early hospitalizations and special needs, and you have daily battles to fight through with a child who is very different from what you imagine when you first see that cute little picture in a medical file.

Our group this time around -we have been to the Chen house so many times that we don’t even take pictures there ourselves any more.

Our past two days have been uneventful, which is a nice change of pace in some ways. We haven’t had a whole lot to tell about,as much of our time in Guangzhou has been spent in the bathroom on the toilet. I could tell you all kinds of details about the incredible functions of a bidet and this life-altering device. I never really understood the purpose of this luxury, but now I understand that it can actually be quite a necessity in times like these. Gwen has also come down with a cold, making daytimes more fussy and sleep harder to come by for all of us.

We have rocked some Jenga, though.

We continue to stress Chad out with each shopping experience. He can’t understand why we “waste” money on souvenirs such as getting his name done by a calligrapher. All of his worldly possessions fit into one backpack, and he can’t relate to money being spent on anything but what is absolutely necessary. He also takes extremely good care of the few things he owns- he’s been washing even his sneakers in the sink, hanging out his one washcloth very carefully to dry, and folding and re-folding the few items of clothing that belong to him. He got very upset with Corin one morning for using his washcloth to dry his hands, mostly because after watching Corin for several days now, he knows that Corin does not take the same care with things that he does. We’ve had several frustrating times with Corin where Joey and I shake our heads and nod to each other in a knowing “parenting fail” glance as our two children raised with no parents display more courtesy and helpfulness than he does while he stands around with his hands in his pockets staring off into space as they scurry to look for ways to be helpful. As I’ve said before, we’re humbled and convicted of how easy our privileged Americanized kids have it.

The limited selection of English-language music was…eclectic.

We saw a side of Chad today that reminds us that he is still grieving, he isn’t always a perfect angel, and he’s just as much human and sin-filled as we are. Patience does not seem to be his virtue, and I’m starting to wonder if Carrigan is the best choice for his “buddy” partner back home. He gets pretty easily angry, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is his personality, and how much is just circumstances in these early, trauma-filled days of grief. Joey and I were in the bathroom and the baby was sleeping while the three kids were playing a game of pillow fights and Nerf guns and seemed to be laughing and having fun in the other room (we have a suite with several “spaces” or rooms sectioned off). When I came out of the bathroom, I heard their faint voices in the hallway and noticed a light knocking at the door. They had locked themselves out by accident. I opened the door and Chad, with “poopy face” stormed inside, clearly upset about something that had happened. Chaela tried to talk to him and he blew up at her in anger, showing he can have quite a temper when upset. He basically told her to “shut up”, and proceeded to go into the bathroom and lock himself in…for over an hour. I talked to Chaela about how in the beginning he would likely take out his anger and feelings of sadness that might express with that emotion on her because she is the only one he feels safe enough with yet to show those feelings. She tried not to take it personally, and her description of what happened in the game that made him mad did not fit with his extreme reaction. We know it runs deeper than that. Nothing I could say on the translator could get him to come out of the bathroom, and we decided the best thing to do was just give him space. Chaela said he has done this before at the orphanage when he was mad- he would go off by himself for a bit. But, never for this long, and never with an option of locking a door behind him. It’s not shocking behavior for a teen, especially given all the huge range of emotions and stress he has been under the past week. Finally he emerged, his eyes red, and still visibly mad. I told him that I loved him even if he’s mad and we decided to take our chances on possibly having to use a squatty potty out in public and just get out of the room for a bit and change the scenery. We took a taxi over to the “Venice of China” where we walked around a beautiful park and canal path with shops and restaurants. If the boats would have been running and it weren’t a zillion degrees outside with the humidity to boot, we might have stayed longer.

When you ain’t wearin’ shades, you gotta squint.

The “Supreme Great Bridge” in Linwan.

This beautiful area of Linwan Park thankfully also contained a Pacific Coffee, which has saved our bacon a couple of times with surprise-free sustenance.

This motto goes right with Joey’s bayonet training motto’s: “When the bullets are all gone, the bayonet is still on”, “blood makes the grass grow greener”, and “at combat zone, lightning speed, whirl!”

Tomorrow morning we will pick up Chad’s Passport and visa, giving him permission to come home with us. As soon as his feet hit U.S. soil, he will become a U.S. citizen, forever revoking all his rights as a Chinese one. Tomorrow we leave mainland China to head back to Hong Kong. I have no idea when we will be returning to this home away from home. Each time we are here, I leave more of my heart behind. Oh, China, how I love your quirky ways, your hospitable people, your beautiful land. I feel closer to the heart of God here as I enter the world of what is near and dear to Him up close and personal. Each time I am here, I can more fully appreciate how difficult it is for my older children to live torn between two places- their past in one place and their future in the other, but for the present, having one foot in each and wishing they could stay in both. Zai Jian…see you again, China. It’s goodbye for now, but not forever. Until they all come home…

We’ll miss the translations, too.