Monday, December 27, 2010

To Be By Your Side

Here we go again...

Monday, November 1, 2010


Zebras are African equids best known for their distinctive black and white stripes. Their stripes come in different patterns unique to each individual. They are generally social animals and can be seen in small harems to large herds. Unlike their closest relatives, horses and asses, zebras have never been truly domesticated.

It's our second halloween with Jingju. This year she chose to be a zebra. Well, she had really wanted to be a snow leopard so she could wear a mask that we'd gotten her at the Bronx Zoo, however, snow leopard pajamas were no where to be found... well, not until after I'd found zebra leggings and had commited to buying a zebra tail online. In the end, she was quite happy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ups and Downs


It's hard for me to believe that Jingju has been with us for only 18 months.  It's as if at the last moment I slipped under the wire to become a mother--grabbed my last chance, and somehow was given this incredible child to love. My life has changed immeasurably, with a consequent shifting of priorities, with attention turned outside myself, with a daunting sense of responsibility to provide for Jingju on so many levels, and the hope that I  don't mess it up too badly. I've noticed time is also changing, moving more quickly, reminding me to live as well and thoughtfully as I can. I find myself thinking about mortality and catch myself doing math on my fingers...I'll be 60 when Jingju is 18... or, yes, I could live to see Jingju turn 30... and running down the list in my head of people who will be there for her to support her after I'm gone. My husband's Multiple Sclerosis refuses to take a holiday, and he's had two surgeries in the last month. So, the role I play of Mother is always sharing the spot light with my other role as a well spouse. Of the latter role, I could devote a whole other blog to the subject, and perhaps I will at some point. But this is about Jingju, and I bring it up now to reassure readers here, and more importantly myself, that I am mindful of the impact Kevin's illness has on Jingju, in the now and months and years to come.

Last weekend we went to a festival at a local park. On this day, this family outing felt like something of a small victory. That we got to the park at all, and that Kevin was able to come with us was no simple feat. But we made it, and seeing Jingju having so much fun was worth the strain and stress it took to get us there.

I like this video because it shows how fearless and strong Jingju is. She has already had to cope with so much in her young life, and yet, she has such a resilient and brave spirit. I have no doubt she will get herself through her life no matter what the challenges.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Little Sisters

Yanni, one of Jingju's little sisters from her orphanage, came to visit with her mother this weekend. Yanni has been home just a year and hasn't seen Jingju since last December when Jingju, Yanni, and Tessa had a reunion in New York City. These photos are of Jingju and Yanni building boats and then launching them at the museum where Jingju has been going to camp this summer. I've never seen Jingju so relaxed and natural playing with another child. There it was, the bond of sisterhood that held these girls together and defined their first family. How hard it must have been for them to say goodbye in China--to leave a family of sisters to follow a wish to have a family in which they would be daughters.

What joy, to see them today, sisters still, daughters now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Kevin was in the hospital again.  He's OK, and now he's recuperating at an inpatient rehab facility getting physical therapy. We thought he'd be there only a week, thinking our insurance wouldn't cover a longer stay, but surprisingly, he's getting more time, which he needs. It was hard for Kevin to make the decision to stay and work on building his strength back. He so wants to be home for Jingju's birthday celebration tomorrow and our anniversary today. But if he doesn't return to his previous level of ability through physical therapy, we will then be living with a new level of disability.

Jingju seems to be holding up pretty well. And of course now she's completely focused on her birthday. Her behavior has been a little regressed... baby talk mostly. Jingju has never really liked to play with dolls, but ever since baba went into the hospital, she's been carrying her American Girl doll with her everywhere we go and my bed has been taken over by Jingju, an owl, 2 bears, and one of the Pleasant Goats. I'm trying to keep us to a schedule, but with visits to the hospital, karate classes, camp, my work schedule, not to mention grocery and birthday shopping, and general household maintenance, it's been a challenge. If I've learned anything in the 16 months since I became a parent, it's the importance of a routine. I think both Jingju and I are running on empty right now. I have also renewed my vow to limit Jingju's sugar intake! 

Jingju has been able to get some quality time alone with her baba because he's staying on a hospital floor of a hotel that's linked to a medical center. I was able to leave her with him for a few hours the other night so I could go off and order the birthday cake. They had dinner together, read some stories, and watched a movie. She'll do the same with him today so I can get more secret errands done, and on Sunday after Jingju's party, we'll bring mama and baba's presents to the hotel so Kevin can be a part of the celebration. Right now, I'm plotting to figure a way to sneak her big surprise present into his hotel room. Stay tuned...

And I want to say thank you to Wanda, Jingju's camp counselor, who basically planned Jingju's party for me. Last week I had only told Jingju that we were celebrating her birthday on Sunday, August 8th (her b-day is Aug 10th). I had no idea at the time what I was going to do. I picked her up from camp on Monday, and Wanda asked me what time the party was. Party? What party? Yeah, she says, "Jingju invited me, and she invited Josh and Anthony too." With that, a party at a local bowling alley was conceived, with Wanda guiding me on all the finer points of planning a party for 6-8 year-olds. The next day when I picked Jingju up from camp, she handed me invitations that she and Jingju and other staff had hand made. "And you'll need grab bags, go to the dollar store," says Wanda. Now, I have always been a party thrower extraordinaire, but the current amount of multi-tasking I have on my plate has really got me beat. So Wanda, thank you, thank you, I think Jingju will have a great birthday. Thank you too, to my friends and family, for caring about me and checking in with me. I woke up today thinking for the first time in weeks, I can get through this, and I can get Jingju through this too.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Goodbye Peru

We had to make the very difficult decision to end Peru's life yesterday. He'd battled Chronic Renal Failure for six years, and yesterday, he survived a very violent seizure. We didn't want him to ever go through another one. Kevin and I were with him as he went very gently and peacefully out of this life. He was my sweet and constant friend for 20 years. He was my katze, my Peru. I miss him terribly.
January 21, 1990 -- June 25, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Art-a-Thon for Half the Sky

Jingju and I are participating in an Art-a-Thon for Half the Sky. Jingju will be drawing a picture to raise money for the children still waiting in welfare institutions in China.

You know how much I care about Half the Sky. I've been involved with Half the Sky now for some time and together we are enriching the lives and enhancing the prospects for orphaned children in China. Half the Sky establishes and operates infant nurture and preschool programs, provides personalized learning for older children and establishes loving permanent foster care, medical care and guidance for children with disabilities.

I believe that every orphaned child must have a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future. I know this is something you care about too.

In celebration of International Children's Day, I am participating in the Art in our heARTs: Art-a-Thon for Half the Sky. This month, Jingju will be creating an art masterpiece to raise money for the children still waiting in China's welfare institutions for their forever families.

I have set a personal goal to raise $600.00 in donations. I need your help in order to reach my goal! Please join me in supporting this very important cause by sponsoring Jingju's unique artistic efforts. You can sponsor her in just a few minutes on my personal fundraising page. It's easy and secure and you can see my progress towards achieving my goal.
Please follow this link to make a contribution to Half The Sky

Here's a slide show I posted over a year ago when we were waiting for Jingju

We are forever grateful to Half The Sky for the quality care and education that Jingu
received. Please follow this link and give to this organization that is making an incredible
contribution to the lives of waiting children. Thank you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohhhhhhhh

My World 2.0
It all started when Jingju asked me if she could go to his house.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Skateboard Girl

Well, it was love at first sight. Jingju met an older girl with a skateboard at CASPY a few weeks ago and fell in love with skateboarding. I'm learning that Jingju has no fear, and is probably going to give me years of worry. When I found out that Jingju's new friend was coming again for a visit and wanted to see Jingju and give her one of her old skateboards, I immediately went out and bought enough padding to cover every vulnerable inch of her body. She now has the skateboard, and couldn't be happier.

Jingju at CASPY with her new friend on a skateboard for the first time.

Jingju with her new friend and her big sibling (right) at CASPY

Jingju & Co.

Last weekend, flying solo. 
I did ask Jingju's friend to teach her how to stop the next time she visits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dumplings Play Group

Jingju had a wonderful experience this year going to her Dumplings play group. Dumplings was developed by China Care for adopted Chinese children and their families. It's run by a wonderful group of student volunteers who put together activities to raise our children's awareness and appreciation for their Chinese language and cultural heritage.

This is Maylene, playing the Chinese lute with Jingju and her little friend. Jingju is so good with younger children. Maylene has also been Jingju's big sibling at the Chinese Adopted Siblings Program For Youth-- CASPY,
which is a biannual cultural day for families with Chinese adopted children.

The students cooked a delicious goodbye dinner and hosted a banquet for us in the dining hall of their dorm to end out the year. After dinner, Jingju wandered outside to the court yard where some students were playing volley ball. Leave it to Jingju to put herself right into the middle of the game. The students were so generous and kind to her.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Half The Sky (again)

In April, we received the completed translation from Chinese to English of Jingju's Half The Sky Memory book. We are so, so thankful that Jingju was in an orphanage with a Half The Sky program. For those who don't know about Half the Sky, here's a program description from their website:

In the Little Sisters Preschools, Half the Sky-trained teachers use a unique and progressive curriculum that blends principles of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education with contemporary Chinese teaching methods. The program is designed not only to prepare the children (2-7years) to succeed in Chinese schools, but also to help develop the “whole child”, to help her attain the positive sense of self so often missing in institutionalized children.
Special areas are designed for art projects, music, reading, imaginary play and developing motor skills. Teachers build on the approach fostered in the infant nurture program by getting to know each child’s individual interests and developing curriculum and projects based on those interests. 

All Half the Sky preschool teachers are university or normal school (teacher’s college)-educated in China and also undergo Half the Sky training which includes an emphasis on documenting each child’s progress – creating a personal history and permanent record for children who do not have a family to mark their milestones and achievements.

Here are some examples of pages from Jingju's book:

November 24, 2005
The walls of the classroom are plastered with many pictures of the children doing activities. Jingju really likes to look at them. Every time we put new pictures up, she would excitedly look at all of them and talk about them. She can name all the people in the pictures. But she still lacks the ability to express and communicate what people are doing in the pictures. One day, Minqin and Jingju were looking at pictures together. Jingju named all the people in the pictures.
Minqin: “Here. Juju is in the picture. Look, what were you doing here?” (She couldn’tsee the picture too clearly)
Ju: “Shi de. Juju ah! Juju.”35 (She pointed at herself in the picture and repeated her name, but couldn’t say anything else).

35 “Yes. Juju Ah! Juju.”

November 16, 2007
Today was Ju’s first time playing in the inflatable palace. She was very excited as she quickly took off her shoes and climbed into the palace. She bounced happily inside, and played with all the different stuffed animals. Ju took great advantage of every corner, and had a blast. In the end she made herself collapse onto the cushioned floor of the palace,which made her bounce back up. She laughed out loud and continued playing. She was in such good spirits.

Here's a great story from Half The Sky about one of Jingju's teachers. 
Can you pick Jingju, Yanni, and Tessa out in the picture?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gotcha Day


A year ago today, I woke up in a hotel room in China, thinking about how in a few hours my life would be profoundly changed. I remember wondering, where is Jingju right now? Is she scared? Does she understand what's happening? How will we understand each other? What if she doesn't like me? I had until 3 o'clock to wonder and worry about this decision I'd made to adopt, become a parent, be responsible for another human being in such an irrevocable way. I spent the morning wandering around the People's Park with butterflies in my stomach.

In the afternoon, we drove to another hotel to meet Jingju. I walked into the lobby, and right away spotted two young women with a scared looking little girl in clothes I vaguely recognized because I had sent them in a care package weeks earlier. Hannah, my guide, kept walking and I followed her into the elevator. I didn't look back at the little girl and I wasn't sure if she had realized that I was the woman she was coming to meet. I had to wait in a room with Hannah and my travel companion for only a few minutes when Jingju walked in with her nanny. I've decided to show the video of our meeting because I remember how helpful it was to follow the experiences of other families while I was waiting for Jingju. I had so many questions and fears about adopting an older child. Jingju was 5 1/2 years old and had lived in an orphanage her whole life. I couldn't fathom the changes and losses she was about to face. As the video shows, Jingju seemed dazed and unsure. Yet she seemed to be surrendering herself to her future. She was so brave. The moment when her nanny said goodbye and left was heartbreaking. At the same time, I was relieved to see Jingju cry because it meant she'd had an attachment with her nanny, which meant she was likely to be able to make an attachment with us, her new family. I was also relieved to see that she had clearly been loved.

My bonding with Jingju was a slow and gradual process. It felt so odd to me each time my guide instructed Jingju not to refer to me as "her" in Chinese, but to call me "mama." I understood why Hannah was working on this with Jingju and I appreciated that she enabled Jingju's understanding that I was her caregiver. Still, I kept thinking, "why should she call me "mother?"  We soon started to laugh and play together, and after the first few days, Jingju started to make a real effort at learning English. We had our routines like having breakfast together and washing up for bed, and games, like counting the elevator buttons. Jingju was the keeper of the room key card and she loved to run ahead to open the door. Little by little, I think these activities helped us to form the beginnings of a connection between us.

Jingju's baba and I had had some worries about her bonding with him because he was unable to come with me to China. Kevin has multiple sclerosis and he uses a power wheelchair. Jingju and I Skyped with him daily, which helped her to begin to make a relationship with him. We also had concerns about how Jingju would react to his disability and seeing him in his wheelchair. I had our guide in Guangzhou explain to Jingju a little bit about her father's condition. Kevin was at the airport to meet us upon our return home. When Jingju approached him, Kevin asked her, "can I have a hug?' and she climbed into his lap and hugged him. My first hug from Jingju didn't come until a few weeks later at Easter, but boy was it worth waiting for! Jingju and Kevin have a lovely relationship now and she is so funny and sweet with him.

When I think back now to those first days, I think how incredible and mysterious it was, the mutual unfolding of our trust,  and love for each other. We are still in that process, but now we have the ability to know to some degree what Jingju is thinking and feeling. She is starting to have conversations with us about her adoption. She still has night terrors from time to time, and moments of regressed or testing behaviors. Overall, she is doing beautifully. She's in Kindergarten and loves learning and does very well. She's making friends, and she seems genuinely happy most of the time. I am grateful for her every day.
 Happy Gotcha Day,  darling daughter.


I will never forget the muffin. Hannah brought Jingju this banana nut bread muffin.  I don't know if Hannah knew it would be soothing for Jingju to have something to eat, but it was genius. The muffin was quite large, and Jingju held it in her little hand, and nibbled it for hours.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Easy Rider

I woke up this morning with the idea to take Jingju to the park to try riding her bike without the training wheels. The sun was finally out and we'd all been cooped up indoors for far too long. Jingju wasn't sure at first if she was ready, but brave girl that she is, she agreed to give it a try. I removed the wheels and we practiced for about fifteen minutes with me running along side her holding her at the waist to keep her from tipping. She was giggling a lot and struggling with staying balanced, and I was beginning to think that she wasn't going to be able to collect herself to pedal on her own. Then at once, she seemed to be leaning less on me and I lightened my hold on her. "OK mom, let go" she said, and so I did, and so she went... and went... and went. It was really quite a magical moment when I realized she wasn't going to stop and she wasn't going to fall. There had been an elderly couple watching us from a park bench and I could hear them cheering and clapping, and Jingju was squeaking with laughter. I stopped running after her and just watched her knowing that she was going to be OK. I had a fleeting moment of the awareness of the thought, "she doesn't need me," a thought I know I shall experience again and again as my amazing girl takes on her life.

I've been struggling in recent months with a kind of low grade melancholy. I think with Jingju's arrival I've been brought back through an accounting of my own childhood and am grieving time lost. I've come a bit late in life into the role I've always wanted most for myself. To be a mother. It almost didn't happen at all. And now, here's this child, who thankfully, radiates with self-confidence and courage, and I am so relieved for her. And then there's another awareness I have--that for the first 5 1/2 years of her life, Jingju had no mother or father to applaud her or encourage her or console her. When Jingju first came home and I would say, "Wo ai ni" (I love you), I was speaking her native language, but I had the sense that the meaning of the words was foreign to her. When I kissed her goodnight tonight, I told her how amazed I was that she was able to ride her bike so well today. She responded with, "I love you mommy," which I interpreted as "I love you for loving me," and that seems just right.

I don't know why my videos are showing up black, but click on them, they do work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Home 10 Months

Jingju has been home ten months now, and in that time, she's grown almost 4 inches and 3 shoe sizes. She's lost 4 baby teeth. She can count to 100 by ones, fives, and tens. She's learned how to interact with dogs and cats. She's made friends. Every now and then I find myself just marveling at Jingju's progress adapting to her new life; the subtle ways she's caught on to American culture, claimed her environment, and to my relief, she's making attachments with me, her baba, and her family.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ant Farm

This is the coolest ant farm. We got it for Jingju for Christmas, but just set it up yesterday. It's based upon a 2003 NASA Space Shuttle experiment to study animal life in space and test how insects-ants, successfully tunnel in microgravity. It's filled with a gel that's complete with nutrients to promote healthy growth in the ant colony, and means you never have to give the ants food or water. It also lights up! It's available at Amazon.