Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ruthie Update

Hello Everyone,

I apologize for not updating you all on how Ruthie is doing sooner. She is doing just great. She is adapting so well to everything. She has a great sense of humor, always wants to help and is just so happy.


Making a gingerbread house with her grandma, above.

She had a wonderful first Christmas. Since Christmas is really just a festival in China, we did not expect her to understand how the whole Santa Claus thing worked. Well, either she knew something about it from China, or had watched enough Christmas shows with Kai & Gracie that she had it all figured out on Christmas Eve. She kept coming up to me and telling me that Santa was going to come down our fireplace and burn his bottom on the fire. She kept jumping up and down, she was so excited. Our Christmas morning tradition starts with everyone coming out at the same time from their rooms to see what Santa brought them. That way we are ready with the camera and get to see their excitement. So, usually the younger kids sleep in our rooms with us and we all go out together. Kai & Gracie slept in our room and Ruthie slept in Rachele's room. At 6:00 am, Ruthie woke up Rachele to tell her that she heard Santa Claus - she had her ear to the door and said that he was in our house. She was so excited, she could hardly keep still.

Our daughter, Brittney and her husband came over early so we could all watch the kids open their Santa gifts. It was so wonderful to see how happy Ruthie was. The rest of Christmas day with spent with her grandmother, more aunts, uncles & cousins, including Sofie - her friend from the orphanage and now cousin. It was a very special time for us all.

*The day before, we had spent the day at her grandparent's house with her aunt, uncle & cousins opening gifts. When she received her first gift, she opened it slowly and was so happy to see her new toy. A little while later, she asked me if she was allowed to bring it home - it was so sad and sweet at the same time.


This past Sunday, Ruthie began taking a class at our local Chinese school, which is run by the local Chinese church. She is actually taking 2 different classes there on Sunday afternoons. The first class is a Chinese class with kids her age that have come from China & Taiwan. She is continuing to learn Mandarin & her Chinese characters (writing). We do not want her to lose her language and this way she can continue to increase her Chinese vocabulary and writing along with reading. It is also so great for her to be with other Chinese people, especially kids her age.

After her first class, she couldn't wait to show me her workbook and all of the work she had already done. Everyday, she sits and reads aloud her Chinese lessons. I love seeing her write & speak in Chinese. The other class she is taking at the school is a Chinese drawing class for kids her age. She loves to draw and so we hope she really enjoys this class as well.


Ruthie started school this week at our local elementary school where she is in the third grade. The days before school started, she was looking forward to starting school. The first morning, she was nervous. I felt so bad for her. I can only imagine how scary it is to start a new school, but imagine starting a new school in a new country, where you don't know the language and all the kids look different. One of the many things that I like about our school is that there are kids of many different races; white, Hispanic, black & some Asian kids. I think it is so much easier for Ruthie because she does not stick out just by being Asian.

Todd took her on the first day and she was nervous, but he walked her to the classroom and the teacher was ready for her to start. Her desk was ready and the teacher had assigned another little Chinese girl to be her special helper for the first few days. When we picked her up at the end of the day, she looked tired, but happy. We asked her how it went and she said it went well.

Yesterday, was her second day of school and she was not nervous about going. The teacher started her on her ESL (English as Second Language) curriculum. When Ruthie came home, she couldn't wait to show us the work she had done in school, learning English. She also had a handout regarding a fund raiser where she earns money for the American Heart Association by jumping rope. She was so excited about the fund raiser - she is a great jump roper. She also had to show us the prizes she could win dependent on how much money she raises.

At home, Todd and I speak to Ruthie 50% Chinese (Mandarin) & 50% English. She communicates back to us in both Chinese & English. The amazing thing is that after only 2 days of school, she is already speaking more English at home. I can't wait for her to learn more English, because it will allow us to get to know more about her, and she about us. Our Chinese speaking/comprehension is pretty basic, so there are definite limits on the level of conversations we can have with her.

Ruthie (with Kai), lying inside of her Barbie Dreamhouse box - she really is silly.

Ruthie loves our cats and our dog, Missy. She loves to help me cook, she likes to make you laugh and loves to help Todd and I. The other day, I was doing laundry and for the first time, I had her fold her own clothes. Well, she folds her clothes in a totally different way than I do - she rolls them. She then took her clothes to her room and then proceeded to empty her dresser drawers and roll all of her clothes. I just sat there and watched, I was so thrilled to have a child that was neat and organized, (actually, Kai is pretty organized too). *Rolling clothes actually makes sense, because you can view all of your clothes in the drawer when deciding what to wear, instead of having them stacked on top of each other.
Kai thought it was cool and proceeded to empty all of his drawers and roll his clothes too.

Thank you all for all your prayers and support. I will periodically update you all on how she is doing, when I get a chance. Life is great, but busy and I can honestly say that I am so happy.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Getting Ready For Christmas

Hello Everyone,

Things are going great with Ruthie. She is adapting so well to life in our family as well as in the United States. Because she was raised in an orphanage, she learned at a early age to be independent and take care of many of her needs herself. We are affectionate with her and she enjoys that and she gives us hugs in return.

Earlier this week, she had her first appointment with our pediatrician. It went very well and she is right on target in regards to weight & height. Unfortunately, she did have to have 3 vaccinations, but she did very well. While she was getting her vaccinations, I held her and for the first time, she held on to me very tightly as she cried a little. It was the first time that she held me seeking comfort, so even though it was no fun getting shots, it was a nice bonding moment.

Last Friday, we went to our local elementary school and met with the principal to talk about Ruthie's placement and integrating her into the school. Our meeting went very well. Since Ruthie was in 2nd grade in China, which is equivalent to 3rd grade here, the decision was made to put her in a 3rd grade class even though she is the age of a 4th grader. Since she is small, she looks like a 3rd grader, which helps. The principal introduced us and Ruthie to a little girl that will be in Ruthie's class who is Chinese and came to America 2 years ago - she spoke no English at the time and now can speak English so well. Unfortunately, the little girl does not speak Mandarin (Ruthie's language), but speaks Cantonese. We also met her new teacher who was very nice and visited the classroom. The classroom is made up of 60% native English speaking kids and 40% who are learning English. Another welcome surprise was that there is a kindergarten teacher at the school who is Malaysian and speaks fluent Mandarin, who will be able to help with translation, etc. She spoke to Ruthie and offered to help her with anything, homework, etc.

Ruthie seems excited to start school. She will begin once winter break is over. She gets a little bored when her siblings are in school, but she and I do something special together each day. Yesterday, she helped me to wrap Christmas presents. Then we went Christmas shopping so that she could pick out gifts to give to her siblings and her dad. She had so much fun picking out things. It was amazing how quickly she has come to know each of us and what we like. She was very good at selecting things that each person would like. She needed very little guidance from me.

Each evening, she helps her big sister with the dishes. Ruthie is now eating more American food, but always sprinkles tons of crushed red pepper flakes on top or adds spicy Hunan sauce. She doesn't like cheese or butter. Chinese children are not raised on milk, so oftentimes, they do not like dairy products. We are gradually introducing milk into her diet since it is so important. Our food is so bland for her compared to the really spicy food she was raised on. Todd loves spicy food too, but he is no match for Ruthie - while she can eat a whole meal of really spicy food without taking a drink, he needs to take a drink after 2 - 3 bites of food to cool off his mouth.

This week, Ruthie has wanted to help me cook dinner. She loves to be helpful. She is a good cook too. The other day, I told her we were going to her Grandma's house and would be seeing her cousin and aunts & uncles and she got so excited. She clapped her hands and jumped up and down and couldn't wait until it was time to go. She is so happy to belong to a family.

She is learning English just by being with us. She still speaks mostly Chinese and we communicate with her using both Chinese & English. Todd and I are so thankful that we took time to learn basic Chinese. It has helped so much.

Last Saturday, Santa Claus came to our house to visit the kids. Ruthie knew about Santa Claus from China. She laughed when he came through the door. She did try to pull down his beard, but we stopped her :) The kids and I are putting together a gingerbread house tomorrow and making Christmas decorations. I'm not sure what Ruthie thinks about all of the things we do in preparation for Christmas, but she happily joins in. The only Christmas song that she knows is "Jingle Bells", but she does not know the whole song, so she sings "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle, Jingle, Jingle". Too cute!

Well, that is about it for now. I will update you after Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you all!


Monday, December 10, 2007

An An & Sofie (Kai Kai) Meet Again

Hello Everyone,

Today Ruthie met her best friend, Sofie (Kai Kai) again for the first time in a year. Sofie was in the orphanage with Ruthie and was adopted by my sister and her family last December. We heard lots of things about Ruthie from Sofie, who was so excited to see her again.

The girls were a little shy at first, but that soon passed. They started playing "Go Fish" and that broke the ice. They converse both in Chinese & English. They have been hanging out all afternoon, jumping on the trampoline, playing video games, etc. They look so happy together. I had been looking forward to this day since we first decided to adopt Ruthie back in late January.

This evening, we were on our way to my mother's house for dinner and I had Sofie (Kai Kai) in the backseat of my car along with Ruthie. I asked Sofie if she would tell Ruthie that we were going to their grandmother's house. I assumed that she would tell Ruthie in Chinese. Well, she turned to Ruthie and said in English "We are going to Grandma's house". Too funny! So, I thanked Sofie and then proceeded to tell Ruthie the same thing, but in Chinese.

Ruthie continues to do very well. She is calling Todd "Daddy" and she calls me "Mommy", which is interesting because none of my other kids call me "Mommy". I love it that she calls me that. She is adjusting very well. She and Todd went to sign her up for her drawing lessons at the Chinese school, which will start in January. The class is held both in Chinese & English since the kids speak one or the other language.

She passed by our local elementary school with Todd, who told her in Chinese that that will be her school. She was excited to be going to school soon. She will start school once the Christmas break is over. Her English is growing and hopefully by then, she will be a little further along which will help with her school.

Well, I need to get going now. I will post more later.

Thank you for your prayers and support.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

We're Home!!!

Hello Everyone,

Well we made it. We are finally home!

It took about 25 hours from the time we left our hotel in China to when we arrived in the US, which includes layovers, etc. Ruthie did very well overall on the flight. However, we did have a lot of turbulence over the Pacific Ocean and Ruthie got sick a few times. When we landed in Los Angeles, we had a 3 hour layover. We told Ruthie that we were in America, but I think she had trouble believing it because LA is such a multi-ethnic city and there were people of all colors there.

As we were flying over Phoenix, she looked out of the window and asked Todd where our house was. Once we touched down in Phoenix, she finally believed that she was in America and was very excited. I couldn't wait to get off the airplane to see all of of our family that had gathered to meet us. We had prepared Ruthie for meeting the family when we were in China by showing her photos and explaining who was who. She was not too shy when she met everyone including her two older sisters. Pretty soon, her uncle was chasing her around the airport and she was laughing so hard.

The only glitch was that one of suitcases did not make it to Phoenix. It made it to Los Angeles because we had to go through customs with it and then recheck it, so the airline is searching for it. Ruthie's clothes were in it along with some souvenirs. Kai's special stuffed dog, that he always sleeps with, was in it as well. I hope they find it, but if not, we are okay.

We all collapsed into bed and slept great. One of the most wonderful, simple pleasures in the whole world is sleeping in your own bed after a long trip of uncomfortable hotel beds. Ruthie loves our two cats. She is always petting them. She is scared of our dogs, so we are taking it slowly with them. Yesterday, we went to Target (my favorite store), and bought her some clothes to replace the ones lost in the suitcase. We then went grocery shopping. She is a wonderful helper. She pushed the cart and brought in the groceries with Todd.

Today our Chinese teacher came by to meet Ruthie and see how she was doing. Ruthie was shy, as she usually is at the beginning, but then started to talk to her. She let Ruthie know that she will be stopping by and will be available by phone if she needs to talk to her or help to translate. Ruthie told her that we were good parents and that she was happy.

We asked our teacher to explain to Ruthie that she needs to tell us if she does not like something and to also let us know what she likes. Ruthie said that she did not feel comfortable doing that. In the orphanage, they are told to be happy with what they are given and not to ask for anything. So, that will take some time to change.

We are signing up Ruthie for a drawing class in our local Chinese school, which is run by the local Chinese church. It is held every weekend. There will be both Chinese & English spoken in the class and the majority of the students are Chinese. Some have been born here, but many have emigrated from China or Taiwan, which will be so nice for her. She will also be able to continue learning Chinese through the school.

Another blessing is that the Chinese church has a library that carries children's books in Chinese. That is so wonderful, because the Chinese books that Ruthie had picked out in China, were in the lost suitcase.

Todd has taken Ruthie to a wonderful Chinese market in Phoenix to pick out some foods that she likes. It is hard to find the right food in our local market and the food at this particular Chinese market comes straight from China, so she will be familiar with the brands.

Ruthie's best friend, (and now cousin), Sofie is coming out this Monday. I can't wait for them to see each other. I will be sure to update our blog to show pictures of their meeting.

We are so grateful for Ruthie and how wonderfully she is adjusting.

We will post more soon.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Last Day!!!


Well, we finally made it to our last full day in China. Our trips to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City seem like they happened a month ago. We have had a wonderful time and always enjoy coming to China. The first time we came here, when adopted Gracie, I viewed China as just a place to go in order to adopt our new daughter. However, China soon became so much more to me. It is a fascinating place with a lot of beauty. The culture is so different from our European/American roots that there is always something different here whether it is the way things are done to the beauty of the landscape that catches your attention. I highly recommend coming to China to visit.

We spent our morning in the park so the kids could play on the playground. I sat and watched, sipping my Starbucks while Todd walked around the island taking photos of the beautiful architecture, the people & the landscape. We then came back to our room to finish packing. Kind of a boring day.

This afternoon, we got on a bus and drove over to the US Consulate. Although, I have been there twice before, it never ceases to amaze me that as soon as you step into the Consulate, you instantly feel as if you were in any government building in the US. It is kind of surreal when you step back outside into a totally different culture. Anyhow, we took our oath and then received our visa which allows Ruthie to enter the US. Once we land in the US, instead of heading towards the line where the US citizens are to go; we have to go to the line where the foreign passport holders go, because Ruthie has a foreign passport. We then hand the immigration officials her visa packet and then she officially becomes a US citizen. How cool is that?!

As wonderful as this trip has been, we are so excited about coming home. I actually can't wait to step on the plane tomorrow (actually there will be 3 different planes). We leave from Guangzhou tomorrow morning at 11:30 and then fly to Hong Kong, where we will have a 3 hour layover. We will then fly from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, where we will have another 3 hour layover. Then we will fly to our final destination - PHOENIX!!! *From the time we leave our hotel tomorrow morning until the time we arrive at the Phoenix airport, 25 hours will have elapsed.

Ruthie is such a joy and each day she fits in more easily with our family. We had our guide tell her that her friend "Katy" will not be coming with us, as she lives in a different state. That made Ruthie a little sad, but she will be blessed to have two girl cousins close to her age (one of them being her best friend Sofie, who was adopted from the same orphanage last year).

My last "Chinism" is actually kind of sad one. The gender imbalance, while improving in many areas, still exists. China's "One Child Policy" (one child per family), unfortunately means that boys are favored over girls. Because of this, the orphanages are filled with many more girls than boys. Many girls are abandoned at birth and then the parents try again for the much coveted son. Below, is a photo of a preschool class that we saw walking by while we were at the park. I counted a total of 15 children, 6 of which were girls. However, we have seen many more little girls with loving parents around the cities that we have visited then during our previous visits. The old way of thinking is slowly changing, especially in the cities.

Well, I would like to thank you all for "taking" this journey with us. Your prayers, support & comments meant more to us than you will know. I will update our blog periodically, especially during our first days at home to let you know how Ruthie is doing.

We are so grateful that God has blessed us with 5 wonderful children (and a new son-in-law).


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Party

Hello Everyone,

We hope all of you are doing well. We are looking forward to seeing you when we return.

This morning, our guide went down to the US Consulate to turn in all of our paperwork. Every family in our group had to stay in their room from 9:30 - 10:30, so if there were any problems with our paperwork, we could be contacted and go down to the consulate. Thankfully, everything was fine. We then met at the White Swan Hotel where we all took a group picture, which is a tradition with adoptive families. The White Swan Hotel is a beautiful 5-star hotel that houses many adoptive families while the US Consulate is processing their visas.

Ruthie with John Blake & Wylie, both newly adopted. The other little boy, Zachary, did not want to pose for the photo.

This is our travel group, (sorry for the fuzzy photo).

Afterwards, we all went out to lunch together with our travel group. We had a really great time together. I did a little shopping later and found a little art gallery/shop, which had some very nice items (not the typical souvenier stuff sold at most of the other shops). It turns out the the shop is a charity shop that donates a portion of their proceeds. I asked them what their charity and they told me that it was the Chenzhou Orphanage in Hunan. Well guess what? That is Ruthie's orphanage. There is a large certificate from the orphanage thanking them for their regular donations. I found some unique items that were very nice and affordable.

Later, we spent part of our afternoon, beginning to pack up for our trip home. We needed to check whether or not we needed to buy another suitcase for our souveniers/gifts. But, it turns out we didn't need too.

Traditionally, travel groups meet for one group dinner at a local Thai restaurant on the island. Well, our group opted to have a little Christmas party. We volunteered our room, since we have a mini-suite. We ordered Papa Johns's pizza and the parents were all in the living room & the kids were in the bedroom. The kids watched "Rudolph" & "Frosty the Snowman" on our DVD player that was hooked up to the television in the bedroom. Everyone had a wonderful time and it was so fun to see all of our kids having so much fun together. The photo below, was taken just before the kids got up and really started to have fun :)

Ruthie had a great time with her friend Katy and the other kids. She is already acting like a caring big sister. The kids were all playing with Gracie's new ball, which was hard for Gracie. So, Ruthie got the ball for her. She also loves wrestling with Kai. Ruthie also had fun holding the new baby of one of the family's. She will be great with her new little cousin, Finley.

Tomorrow, we go to the US Consulate to take our oath and then will receive our visas. That is the last & final step. Yeah! We will then finish packing up and will leave our hotel at 9 am on Thursday morning, (6 pm Wednesday evening AZ time). We are so looking forward to coming back home.

My "Chinism" for today is in regards to elementary school. There is an elementary school right across from our hotel window. We can see the children in their classes; they are so cute in their royal blue pants, white shirts & red scarves around their necks. School is compulsory for all Chinese children, but parents have to pay out of pocket for it. The government pays for a little of it, but the rest is very expensive according to our guide. Anyhow, school begins at 8:00 in the morning, the kids are let out for a 2 - 3 hour lunch break, where they go home. Then they come back and some of the classes go until 8:30 at night.

Well, Ruthie just fell asleep on my side of the bed, next to Todd. It is so wonderful to see how well she is bonding with us. We told her that we will be leaving for the US in 2 days. It is important to us to build her trust in us, so as much as possible, we want to let her know what will be happening ahead of time so that she can prepare herself. When we told her we were leaving in two days, she jumped up and said "Yeah". However, there is no way for her to know the total reality of how much her life will be changing. When I think that it took only about 9 days for me to get a little homesick for the US, knowing that I will be going back. But, I can only imagine after the "newness" of her new home in the US wears off, that Ruthie will get homesick for China and more familiar surroundings. Her journey is just beginning. We are only coming to the close of "Chapter 1".

Thank you again for taking time to read our blog and your emails of support.

I will be "talking" to you for only one more time from China - tomorrow.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Shamian Island


Today, I thought I would talk a little bit about the part of Guangzhou we are staying in. Guangzhou is a large Chinese city that used to be called Canton. We are staying in a section of Guangzhou, known as Shamian Island, which was a very important area in terms of the Chinese trading during the 18 & 19th centuries between the British & French. Both Great Britain & France built trading houses and grand residences here during that period. There are now, old colonial residences from that time that emanate a sense of former granduer - think of Pirate of the Caribbean with large, old trees with moss hanging down. The island is bordered by the Pearl River and a man-made moat.

It is popular for the local people to practice dancing, Tai Chi, badminton (it is huge here), and also for wedding photography. Today, I saw 3 brides with rented dresses with jeans and tennis shoes on underneath. There are beautiful hotels, small shops and a elementary school. There are also two 7-11 stores and a Coca-Cola store.

Our schedule today included a visit to the medical clinic for Ruthie's physical, which is required for her visa to the US. That was an experience in and of itself. The clinic run by China. The first thing you notice is that the doctors wear the old-fashioned band around their heads with the circular mirror in the front. The nurses wear the old-fashioned caps. The examination lights and the chairs are very old looking (like from the 50 & 60's). But, some of their equipment is very modern - for measuring height and weight, they have you stand on what looks like a scale. It reads the height & weight electronically without the nurse having to do anything other than have you stand on it. It gives the reading out loud.

Ruthie had a basic physical today at the clinic, along with the other kids in our group who are being adopted. The doctor spent a lot of time giving her vision tests. They used a variety of corrective lenses to help to improve her sight and had her retake the vision tests. I am looking forward to having her vision tested back home to see what kind of treatment she will need.

Once we finished at the clinic, we all went to the playground. You form a special bond with the families you travel with on an adoption trip. We have been blessed to be traveling with 3 great families. The adults had a great time talking while the kids played together on the playground. Ruthie has really enjoyed playing with Katy (the other 9-year old in our group). Katy gave her a traditional red thread bracelet and Ruthie just loved it.

Ruthie is doing very well in fitting in with our family. We are careful not to make too many demands right away because there is such a steep learning curve for someone who was raised in an orphanage and totally different culture from ours. We are gradually introducing social norms and rules to her, but realize that we need to be patient and do it gradually. She is watching us closely and learning so much.

She really likes playing with Kai and they have a lot of fun together. She is helpful with Gracie as well and they have some fun together as well. We spend time each day doing some homework. Below is Ruthie practicing her name.

*For those of you who know Gracie - she loves the wooden snake she bought last summer in Williams, AZ. She spends a lot of time just playing with it on hard surfaces. We brought it with us and it was so nice for her to have it while we are in such a different place. Well, Todd accidentally broke it 2 days ago. Gracie was very nice about it. I was going to have to try to get another one from the little store in Williams, BUT, while shopping this evening, I found another one in a shop here on Shamian Island. YEAH! Gracie was beside herself, she was so happy.

There are many other families who are adopting and it is fun getting to know some of them. We met a family from the US who are adopting a precious little 9-year old girl. She is from Kai's orphanage in Hangzhou. She is very small for her age, she looks about 7 years old. She has a severe heart condition and cannot walk far distances, so her new parents push her in a wheelchair. I found out after speaking to her father today that she may only have 2 years to live. They are hopeful with surgery, that she will be able to live, at the most, 10 more years. At that time, they are praying that there will be new cardiac procedures so that she can survive longer. I was so touched by this. This little girl is so friendly and so fragile. It is obvious that she has bonded so well with her new parents. Her new dad carries her on his shoulders all around and he is such a proud dad. Please include her and her family in your prayers.

Tomorrow, we are all going out to dinner at the local Thai restaurant with the rest of our group. The next day, we travel to the US Consulate to take our oath regarding our adoptive children. We then will be leaving on Thursday morning.

"Talk" to you all tomorrow.