an odd and jarring encounter

“If you show me that again, I’ll throw up! It’s so weird!” she shouted, while her hands grasped her neck and she made exaggerated puking gestures.

It was Saturday morning at the McDonalds playground, and this little 7-year old girl didn’t seem to know how to cope with my 1-year-old son’s missing left hand.

After a few more puking gestures and shouts announcing Josiah’s difference and proclaiming its “weirdness,” the girls and I made our exit.  Josiah, blissfully unaware, remained happy in my arms.

The encounter had started as a really positive one.  The little girl was initially enthralled with 小弟弟 xiao didi (little brother) and made a big deal of how cute he was.  Because his sweatshirt was covering the end of his arm, his difference wasn’t obvious at the start.  But when she grabbed for his hand to help him up the stairs to the slide, she realized something was up.

“Grace mama!”

“小弟弟的手指怎么了 Xiao didi de shouzhi zenme le?”

“What’s wrong with little brother’s fingers?

Many of the children in our circles refer to me as “Grace mama” or “Rose mama.” (Cute, huh?)  This particular little girl knows me as Grace’s mom, as she and Grace were preschool classmates a number of years ago.  She was also part of an enrichment class where I taught English and has been to our home with her mother a couple of times for holiday events.

In response to her question about Josiah’s fingers, I gave her what is now becoming my standard explanation for children:

“He was born missing his left hand; it just didn’t grow in his birth mom’s tummy. But he’s ok – he’s healthy and smart, and he can do the things other one-year olds can do.”

I’ve had the opportunity to have this discussion with curious little ones a few times now.  At this point they are usually satisfied, unphased, and ready to get back to playing.  But this little gal considered my words, and then for whatever reason began to shout repeatedly:

“小弟弟没有手 xiao didi mei you shou! 太奇怪了 tai qi guai le!”

“Little brother doesn’t have a hand!  It’s so weird!”

After a few such shouts, and when it was clear she had no intention of calming down, I pulled her aside and said: “Yes, little brother was made a little differently, but shouting is not polite.”  And then in a rather serious tone, I told her firmly, “That’s enough.”

I really thought that would be it.  But around this time, one of my girls pulled up Josiah’s left sleeve so that the girl could see for herself that all this was really no big deal.

That’s what brought about the puking gestures and the rather over-the-top behavior I described at the start of this post.

As I reflect on this experience, I have a lot of compassion for this little girl.  I imagine that she has her share of social struggles, and it seemed clear that her mother (who I spoke with later) didn’t know how to handle her.  Thankfully, as the girls and I began to pack up to go, the little girl became more subdued.  She seemed to realize that her behavior had chased her playmates away.  Her demeanor allowed me to have a more positive goodbye, and I had a chance to talk with her about not needing to be uncomfortable around those who are different.

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an apple a day . . .

I mentioned in my last post that our little man loves to eat.  But sometimes in all that eagerness, he goes a bit too fast, swallowing things whole and forgetting to use those 8 little teeth.

Earlier this week, a friend mentioned that giving Josiah a whole apple might be a great way for him to practice some of those biting and chewing skills, AND a great way to keep him busy for a while.

So on Tuesday, I peeled an apple and sat him in his booster chair, hoping he’d be entertained for 10 minutes or so – enough time for me to do a few things in the kitchen.

It took some time for him to master picking up the slippery apple and getting it to his mouth.  This was clearly the first time he’d had the opportunity for an independent apple eating experience. This test of motor skills kept him busy and focused for a good 5 minutes.  And then . . . he did it!  That first tiny little bite of apple brought a huge grin, and he was off . . .

And not for just 10 minutes, either.

When I looked at the clock and realized he’d been busy at work on that apple for THIRTY minutes, I went to grab the camera.

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Oh – he is so funny!

He looks like he might be nearly finished here . . . but oh no . . . he was just taking a little breather!  When it was all said and done, Josiah worked on that apple for one hour and 15 minutes!

HA!

A healthy snack, practice in motor skills and biting and chewing, and I get uninterrupted time to do the dishes and start dinner.

A grand success!

just when you think you’ve heard it all . . .

Recently I saw a humorous video on facebook highlighting ridiculous comments made to adoptive families.  It made me laugh, but I didn’t add it to my page.  (though if you’re interested, you can check it out here) I was afraid it might give the impression that people have to be careful with what they say around me regarding adoption.  But let’s face it, we all say stupid things sometimes.   Sometimes when we want to show interest or find common ground with others, we don’t know what comments to make.  Sometimes we want to understand something, but we just don’t know what questions to ask.

Since our family is living and working in a culture that is not our own, the questions and comments we receive seem to multiply.  That makes sense, and I can accept it.  People are so kind to us, and because I know the intentions are good, I usually don’t mind the comments we receive on the street.  Almost each and every time I go out of the house with the girls, we have an exchange with someone regarding their adoption.

“She looks like a Chinese girl” 

“Are those girls yours?”

“But they have black hair.” 

“They don’t look like you.”

Or to the girls,

“Why are you speaking English?”

“Is that your mom?”

Once when Rose was riding her bike ahead of me, a passer-by called out:

“Ni you waiguo de mama ma?” (You have a foreign mom?)

“Shi de!” (Yep!) Rose called out happily, while racing by.

That girl doesn’t miss a beat!

It’s these questions that are the most common.  We hear them enough that the girls can pretty much navigate these conversations on their own.

We also get questions on language acquisition:

“What do you use to teach them English?  Can they speak Chinese, too?”

And on multiple occasions I’ve been asked whether I plan to tell the girls one day that they are adopted.

“Don’t tell them” I have been advised.  Oh my.

When I’m out with the girls, seldom do I get a comment or question I haven’t heard before.  But I know that when Josiah arrives, this will be different.  I’ve imagined what some of the new comments and questions might be, and have begun to formulate responses in my mind, both in English and in Chinese.  Words are powerful, and I think it’s important to get it right . . . not only for the one who posed the question, but for my daughters, and for Josiah, listening in.

But such things are hard to predict.  And even in these months as we wait for him to join our family, some comments and questions have been different from what I imagined.

“Do you think he’ll be able to get a job when he grows up?” asks a very sweet and concerned Chinese friend.  She was so relieved when I said ‘yes’ and was so thankful when I explained that he would be covered on our insurance.  This question reminded me that some of the people posing the questions live in a very different social, cultural, and economic reality.

I also never could have predicted this strangely thoughtless comment from my own culture:

“He’ll need a prosthesis when he’s older, or else he’ll just be walking around without a hand.” says the receptionist at a well-respected medical center in the US.  (In all fairness, I imagine she might have hung up from that phone call thinking, “What on earth did I just say?”)

Then today, at the local orphanage, I received two more comments I wasn’t prepared for:

“Ta shi zhengchang de ma?”

“Is he normal?” she wants to know.

Since my thoughts and emotions on that question go beyond the scope of this post, let’s just move on.

After sharing more about the girls and explaining that Josiah will be joining our family soon, I also mentioned that he is missing his left hand.

“Ah . . . zhe yang de hai zi congming”

“That kind of kid is smart.”  she says.

Let me just say that this is NOT one of the comments I had imagined, so I hadn’t given any thought to the comment at all, much less how to “get it right” in my response.

So I just laughed.

“Really?” I said, while laughing, with what I’m sure was a questioning, raised-eyebrow kind of face.

“Yes, really.”  she says.

So as soon as I got home, I shot Mark an email to let him know.  I couldn’t help but laugh even more when it occurred to me that Mark and Josiah will have this in common.  You see, here is another conversation we have now and then:

“You look Chinese” someone will say to Mark.

“My mom is Japanese, so I’m half Asian. I’m bi-racial”

“Bi-racial people are smart.”

Ha! And so, father and son will have this in common – this quirky and randomly ascribed inherent intelligence.

Like I said, “Just when you think you’ve heard it all . . .”

our favorite little guy

Meet our new favorite little guy, 濮福资 (Pu Fuzi)!Image

Don’t you just love that smile?

This morning we received pre-approval from the CCCWA to adopt this little charmer.

He’s nearly 9 months old, clearly adorable, and is waiting for us in Henan, a province in central China.

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We’ve chosen to name him Josiah.

We met Josiah through our adoption agency’s waiting children’s list.  As you can see above, he has the special need of a missing left hand. Image

From his file we have learned that he loves when his caretakers move his arms and legs to make him dance.  And that when he sees his milk bottle he is very excited and dances for joy.  If his height and weight measurements are correct, he’s quite a chubby little guy.  (Look at that thigh!)  I’ve been affectionately calling him my “chunky monkey.”

Now we wait for our Letter of Acceptance (3-4 months) and then Travel Approval (10-14 weeks).  So that means we’ll welcome him home sometime in January . . . or February . . . or March.

We’re so thankful to have the blessing of calling this sweet boy our son.  And Rose and Grace couldn’t be more excited to meet their baby brother!