We had a wonderful time celebrating Yana’s first American birthday with special friends! She really enjoyed it and seems so very happy! We could not be happier with her! She is just such a joy to our family and I am SO very thankful to God for this blessing in our lives!
I wanted to go ahead and post these pictures- We had a wonderful Christmas celebration with the kids this year! Especially with Yana added to the mix! We were able to take a little trip just before Christmas to show Yana what Dollywood was like- and to take her swimming. We had taken her swimming in China and she LOVED it! We swam each day that we were in Pigeon Forge, TN. She met her Papa Watts (My dad) for the first time and she already loves her new family. When I look at her and think of how many new things she is experiencing and how much she has to trust us,–I see the hand of God working- she is so well adjusted and seems so very happy, as are we. Of course, you will see in the pics, she also had her first Krispy Kreme Doughnut! She said “Hen How” which is “very good!” – Her favorite Christmas gift was the Slinky, a doll that made sounds, a pocket book filled with girly things and puzzles! She is also playing with a guitar that my dad had gotten for her, she is eager to learn anything! She is extremely bright (I think I have said that before, but she really is, it amazes us all to just watch her!)
I really tried to get this update out at our 1 month date, but you know how time can get away from you? right????
1 month Update
Wow! What a month it has been home. Yana is adjusting so well… We have had some bumps, but overall it is going VERY smoothly. She is learning English so quickly. She can now count to 100 in English, say things like : more, hot, cold, yes, no – she can recite some of the Lord’s prayer, she can sing “Itsy bitsy Spider” and “Hush Little Baby” – she loves to sing during Church and does her best to stay on pitch – she is VERY bright! She knows all of her alphabet and can sing the song for you. She loves to play on Starfall.com and work with numbers and shapes. Her handwriting is doing very well – however I am holding off on “official” training for her till she gets her eyes fixed. She went to the eye doctor when we first got home because we have noticed her eyesight is not very good. The Dr. said her eyes are completely healthy, however her vision needs glasses and it will require surgery to fix her crossed eye (strabismus) issue. We needed to see both an optometrist and ophthalmologist- and they both agree that her eye sight needs correcting. She is so excited to wear eye glasses and cannot wait for them to come in. She thought when we were picking them out that we could just take then ones off of the shelf with us – and of course they have a little “bling” on them! I tried to explain that they had to order her lenses and they will call us when they are ready – she has asked me at least 100 times about her eyeglasses – I just keep saying “they are coming”-
Abby is doing so good with her. She helps her take a bath and dress for bed each night- She is a big help in looking after her little sister. I am very happy with the way she loves her. I know it will only get better as Yana acquires language.
Yana has been to church and is adapting to that very well also. Lauren helps me with her during service, and can I just say Lauren is going to be a WONDERFUL mother – she knows how to treat Yana and love her and manage her. She is also loving a little more on Abby, which Abby needs right now as she assumes her new role as “middle sister” instead of the “baby” of the family. I am so proud of her- I know I can trust her with both of my smaller girls and that if anything ever happened to me, Lauren could just step in and take my role with no problem. I love seeing her grow into a godly young lady! I cannot wait to see her become a mom of her own children one day!
We decorated the Christmas tree and Yana just loved that. She thought the tree was pretty with just 1 strand of lights turned on and no decorations on it. I know she does not understand the “why” of Christmas yet, but she will learn. I love having the opportunity to tell her the story of Jesus. Not just a story, but the Truth of Life, Life’s purpose, God’s plan for our Salvation… so many things….
Yana is learning our family routine—the food has not branched out much, but we are working on it. I am tired of feeding her the same things over and over… but as she wants to add new things, we will. I just try to imagine myself in China and someone making me eat things I was not familiar with – so that gives me a little more patience with her. (and of course with God’s help, the patience is there!)
She is excited to learn Piano- and everything else. After the first of the year, I will work on reading with her and the basics. Since she already knows the alphabets and their sounds, I don’t think it will be difficult. She will learn words as we use them. Then we will work on writing, spelling and the basics of math. She is such a quick learner and has such a desire to learn, I think she will be very easy to teach! With Christmas here, I am just trying to wait till January to start anything “formal”.
She looks at pictures on the Ipod of when we were in China and always stops at the picture of the swimming pool and asks to go there. So, as soon as Bob, Lauren and Brian finish Lee for the semester we are taking a little trip to Pigeon Forge for 2 days to go to Dollywood and see the lights and stay at a hotel with an indoor pool. She is so excited to do that, she just doesn’t know when we are going and I can’t seem to understand if she understands concepts of time yet. Our family already had season passes to Dollywood and a neighbor friend of mine blessed me with a pass for Yana that she had- so the trip won’t cost a fortune! I am looking forward to some “down time” away from Cleveland with my family of 6 doing things we love to do, together!
I cannot tell you how attached I am to her and I can tell she has attached to our family- it is amazing to see how much she trusts us with only knowing us for such a short time. God has been working in her heart and I can tell that. I can’t thank Him enough for what He is doing and going to do for and through her and for us-
Yana now has her eyeglasses — her patching is going well also, she does not like it, but is very obedient in keeping it on for the 2 hours each day. She will do what we ask her to do, sometimes with resistance, but if she “understands”, then it usually isn’t a problem. She loves to negotiate things – i.e. if I say finish your chicken, she will say 1 more bite, I say – no, 5 more bites, she counter acts with 2 more bites… till we reach an agreement! It is the Chinese way, they do that most everywhere in China in the tourist shopping areas…
She is so excited about our trip coming up to Pigeon Forge as a family — I can’t wait to show her the lights and Abby is ready to get her on the rides at Dollywood! Abby went to check out all the height requirements to see what she can actually do — It is so fun to have these “first experiences” with Yana — everyone loves showing her new things… I know she had good experiences in China, but this is our first with her… and a lot of t hem are new to her –
As Christmas gets here… I think I could not ask for anything for Christmas… I have all I want… a wonderful husband, a wonderful church family — and 4 WONDERFUL children — My family has grown, what more can I ask for?…. Feeling very contented – and blessed!
The girls are bonding together! It has been a slower process than I thought it would be, however, it is happening little by little… language being the biggest barrier! This is a video showing the girls using music to communicate! Yana knows many of our nursery rhyme type songs and Abby will play them for her… She really loves “Jingle Bells” — (Just in time for Christmas!
Things are going really, really well.. we are finding our “groove” with our new family dynamic… it is a beautiful thing! Yana is such a precious, smart, lively young lady!
We have been home for 2 days now! Things are going wonderfully! Yana seems to love her new home and new family! She loves her Jei Jei Abby and Lauren and Big brother Brian! It feels as if this is exactly where she should be — it really is a good fit!
During our last day or so in Guangzhou we returned to Shaimen Island and did some last minute shopping. Things are much more relaxed now that we are home. Now the real work begins in integrating Yana into American culture and our family. I am so thankful to God almighty for every step He has provided for and allowed us to take.
Yana is extremely interested in playing the Piano — the Lord provided me with a wonderful young lady that is fluent in Mandarine to help teach Yana — who is also a wonderfully trained pianist. God is at work… it will be amazing to see what He does for her and us with this new life.
We spent today going to the Safari Park of Guangzhou — it is China’s largest zoo- It was so nice. They let you get up close with the animals- The girls got to feed the elephants, giraffes, tigers and Abby even fed a baby tiger — it is amazing how close they let you get. Bob was feeding the some raw chicken to the tigers — and 2 of them were “roaring” at each other over the food — it was “bone chilling” — I think it kinda scared us all… wondering if they were going to jump the water/gulf that was between us or not– Abby had a ball feeding the baby tiger– The zoo had a small carnival type area and the girls were able to ride some kiddie rides — Yana really seemed to enjoy herself. They also had a “Jurassic Park” section of animated/mechanic dinosaurs - Yana tensed up just a little.. but she is fearless and very brave (a little too brave
There were several middle/high schools there with students — it was so funny — several would try their English out on us and ask us to pose for pictures with them — when they asked where we were from and we just said “America” — they just awed and giggled– and were so excited about meeting someone from America — I think we were more interesting to them than the zoo animals! They thought Abby was the cutest thing they ever did see… That was probably the funniest event from this whole trip — at how people are just enamored with our looks – there is not a lot of diversity here at all… I mean… AT ALL! With 17 million in this city alone, you would think there would be.. but it is all Chinese/Asian–
I took a picture of a typical apartment building — this one is actually a little above average and most look a lot worse — it is the normal living here — there are no “sub-divisions” of houses and yards and the like… it is apartment building after apartment building, then after that there are even more apartment buildings! and people crammed in every nook and cranny! On the buildings most everyone hangs out their laundry — and most buildings you would think “is it condemned” — but it is not… there are just thin little ally’s between the buildings and some have “tin” roofs on them — I have seen the most modern of Sky scrapers here… but the living of the people would be considered “slum” living in America — just a weird dichotomy .
We took the girls swimming tonight- Yana is fearless in a pool — Remember this is only her 3rd time in a pool — I would count to 3 and dunk her under— she would come up giggling — and wanted it more and more– One little girl who was adopted from China over 9 years ago was in the pool with us– she told me she did not like her momma– and I said.. no surely you love your momma — she said no, I hate her– The little girl begged for me to spend time with her like I was doing with Abby and Yana– I looked over and the mom was drinking alcohol and smoking– and not spending anytime with her daughter– they were there on another adoption– It was sad to see…
We are all so ready to be home! Tomorrow (well actually today – it is 2 a.m. as I am writing this) we go take the US Citizenship oath with Yana — and have her Consulate appointment for her Visa– When we actually get the Visa, we are free to go home– All the families are just SO READY to get home to a normal life– I hate living out of a suitcase– the stress of being in a country where hardly anyone you can communicate with — uhhgg!!!
Enjoy the zoo pics– again, that was amazing– and worth the trip!!! God is so good– and Yana is very attached to us already– she is a little behind “socially” but is doing great… They told us adopting an older child was not the easiest route to take, but we did what we felt God would have us do– and her heart is already being shaped and molded into His image– which is the whole point of this adoption– to disciple one more soul for Christ! I am so thankful for His provision of not just the funds to be able to do this– which was great in and of itself, but the grace He has give to us in building relationship with this little girl – the insight to the world of adoption and the reason we do it– and seeing more clearly our own spiritual adoption — our lives are forever changed– for the better.
It was a very good day! We went to Shaimen Island and shopped a little – we just had dinner with our agency and other famlies — Yana has had a very good day — she is learning so quickly — it will be amazing seeing her learn our language. Just in the past 6 days she has learned how to count to 10 (in English) and say the parts of the face and hands — she knows “thank you” and “your welcome” — she will spontaneously say something in English that we don’t expect.
Yana loves ‘bling” — she wanted to wear my sunglasses and watch — but would complain that they were too big for her– so while shopping I got her a toy watch and a pair of children’s sunglasses — she looked like Ms. Hollywood– Abby thought it was over the top — but she truly got joy out of wearing them –
You will see a pic of her in a stroller… yes, she is way too old for a stroller… but she is not too old to be contained! It was just a matter of pragmatics and containing her for the day — she is over stimulated and gets hyper when that happens — I don’t think she has been “shopping” much and it was just easier to handle it that way (plus it was free to use the stroller!) –
Also, we took she and Abby to McDonald’s for an ice cream… she did not know what to do with it and was surprised it was cold… she watched Abby’s every move… she got it all over her mouth as she licked it.. then decided she just wanted the cone mainly — it was fun to watch her.
Abby has off swimming with one of the other “sisters” (Jei Jei’s) and their family — Yana cannot swim right now because of her TB test — but she is happy watching Tom and Jerry on the ipod- She will go to bed around 8:30.
Tomorrow is the Zoo to see the Panda’s. Yana is learning better behavior everyday — and we are so impressed with how quick she is catching on — and I think we are just all amazed at how extroverted and bright that she is — I think we expected a lower functioning child — but we got the exact opposite — which is a good thing… I think it has thrown Bob for a loop — he is so introverted and organized — and this little Asian princess is rocking his orderly world! It is fun to watch her love on him –
Abby has had a very good day today — being on the island was nice and relaxing — it felt like you were in New Orleans instead of China– we even had sweet tea at the restaurant — it came in a quart jar with a whole lemon sliced up in it — it was un-sweet with a side of a simple syrup to add to it… kinda felt like home. Abby loves hanging out with the other little girl named Lauren — she is very ready to come home — but is doing much better– even more bonding with Yana.
Enjoy the pics… tomorrow night we will have pics of the Panda’s — I am excited to see them –
We have had a good day today — we went for Yana’s medical check up (which is a joke by our standards) — she did extremely well.. even when they poked her to give a TB test — she just said “owie” and did not cry or anything. She did try to “cheat” on the eye exam — everyone thought it was so funny — Her eyes have to be looked at first thing when we return… she has crossed eyes and she tilts her head a lot to focus on things…. she can see, but she has to hold things very close up to see them- I have painted her fingernails and toenails (which she LOVES and showed them off to the Dr.s at the medical exam) – but if one gets a little nick on it, she wants it fixed a.s.a.p.!! Her fingers are so tiny — but she notices a flaw!
We are having discipline issues — and really just need structure back home– Abby doesn’t understand a lot of it — and it causes her stress. However when we went to dinner tonight – Abby saw somethings that let her know the world is not a “safe” “nice” place — she feels unsafe here – I told her we are rescuing Yana from this type of life…. she just cried herself to sleep last night and begged to go home — We are doing all we can to help her through this transition and to help her “feel safe” here — but we can only do so much and we just spent time in prayer for the Holy Spirit to comfort her in her heart and mind.
We took a taxi to a place where the Holt staff told us was “western style” food — but when we arrived, we could not recognize anything. The streets were packed with people – the only thing we did recognize was Pizza Hut — so we ended up there. It wasn’t your typical PH- It was nicer and the menu was extensive — Everything from pizza’s to Chinese food and specialty coffee’s and more — Yana told the server what she wanted — which was spaghetti — it came with “meat” and she picked every last crumb out… she does not eat anymeat except fish and chicken! It was so frustrating finding somewhere to eat — we were hoping not to eat fast food and have “real western food” — (I need Cracker Barrell or Chick Fil A when I get home!!!) — When you don’t speak the language and can’t read Chinese Characters — you are left with just making your way off of pointing and gesturing — We were all just stressed during dinner –
We returned back to the room and the girls took a bubble bath and shower. I used Google translator and told Yana we were going to do family devotions and explained what that was… and told her she had to be quiet and listen to baba as he read Scripture to us. She was as still as I have ever seen her (of course I had just touched up her nails and she did not want those to get messed up!) – she just looked around while we prayed — she will learn– it will just take time… she doesn’t understand what we were saying, but I prayed that the Holy Spirit would interpret it for her and minister to her heart and mind –
She goes to bed really nicely — I laid with Abby as she cried herself to sleep — she came and tried to comfort Abby — then Bob laid with her and she went right to sleep — no problems.
Yana is so anxious to play piano or music of any kind… she is begging for it — I would like to find a Chinese teacher maybe at Lee that could start her — (they will have to be able to communicate with her) — I know we have several students and faculty who can do that… Yana is begging to be challenged — We will write her name on paper and she copies it really well… even when we do it in cursive, she does her very best — I just don’t think she was challenged at all at the orphanage — and when she gets her glasses/surgery or whatever it will take to help her eyes, her world will open up even more! She can name the parts of the face and count to 10 in English – just since we have had her…
This city is so empty of the presence of Christians — Well… every place we have been in so far — there are no markers of Christianity anywhere — we take that for granted in the U.S. — however I know our country is quickly turning its back on God — I am ashamed of that — There was a song that the 80′s group TRUTH used to sing — “There is a Hope” — which goes something like: (I can’t remember all the words)
Do you see the people in the street
Begging for a piece of bread
THey have no place to call their own,
No place to rest, to lay their head
Do you hear the voice of millions
Crying out in lost dispair…
THere is a hope, through all of life’s changes
There is a God,who’s always the same –
HOpe is found believing in His name
As we walked the streets looking for dinner — there were badly lame people just lying in the middle of the sidewalk, begging — someone had to lay them there – we had to have Abby close her eyes as we walked by, it was just too hard to look at- while a modern city just kept its pace – There were prostitutes that approached Bob (3 times so far and we have only been here 1 day!) and the people are moving around like it is so “normal” — Just such an empty feeling here– Muslims are very present here also… That song just kept playing in my head… I just wept for these people who do not know Christ — and the life He can give — my heart grieves for them.
Have to go get ready for the day now — and get my shower before the girls get up– I am ready to come home.
We are now at the China Hotel in Guangzhou — this is our last destination before we leave for home! We will be here till Oct. 31- we begin our day tomorrow with our medical check ups and Visa applications for Yana.
She did remarkably well on her very first plane ride! She is not afraid of ANYTHING! She talks to anyone who will talk to her — in Chinese of course! She has told everyone she has met – “I am going to USA with Baba, Mama and Jei Jei” – She is so social! No problems there! Bob says she has his eyes and my personality on steroids! He says she makes me look introverted! lol!!!! She has some major social skills to learn — and behavior as well.. and cultural norms she needs to “re-learn” — she is a sweet child — but the Adamic nature is very present… no doubt! Considering all the changes she is experiencing and the life she has lived… I think she is doing extremely well… For instance… here in China — they don’t typically diaper babies/toddlers… children are held over trash cans or on the street to relieve themselves… Yana told me she needed to go potty while we were on the bus to the airport — I had taken her just before we left (she does drink TONS of water… I have to keep it with me – that is a good thing!) — however while we were gathering our luggage off the bus, she just squats right there on the curb and goes at it…. our guide gathered her up and hurried her over to the shrub area to finish the job…. she had no shame in it… so lesson for me is… take her every moment you can.. because you never know when she will just “drop em’” –We have even seen adult males relieve themselves along the street (as discreet as possible, but still… we don’t do that in America!)
I need to invest in Ramen noodles and rice — to her, that is much better than steak or lobster! We are having McDonald’s for supper right now — she loves fries and ketchup — along with some Ramen noodles I made her.. I put it in front of her and she just smiles so big and says “shay shay momma!” — such a happy little girl –
We will be with families this week who have adopted older children as well.. Yana will have other kids to talk to– and we can share stories with the parents– and maybe get some insight to some of their experiences– What an experience — what a blessing — what a task before us… what an opportunity!