Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breakfast Veggies

Yep, my sweet girl prepared breakfast in bed for me on Sunday morning.  Scott was on an early morning bike ride and the other kids were all sleeping.  She got up on her own and peeled and sliced a cucumber, put the slices on a plate, put the plate on a tray, and carried it all to my bedside.  What greater act of kindness could a mama ask for?  Glad my phone was right there so I could capture the moment. 

Guess you know now what Gwen's favorite food is.  :-)  After I took the picture I invited her to climb in bed with me for a cuddle and some breakfast veggies.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Orphanage trip

Wow, I haven't posted for a while.  Suddenly, or not so suddenly, life is getting busy as we make our way to the finish line here in Shanghai.

One of the items high on our list to do before we leave China was to visit the social welfare institute in Yibn, Sichuan province, where Gwen lived before God brought us together.  Last Sunday, Gwen, Scott and I flew to Yibin.  Here we are at the hotel... no English, Scott trying to enlist Gwen's services as a translator while the abundant desk staff girls look on in amusement.  Yibin has far less western influence than Shanghai... we saw no other westerners, so we were a definite spectacle, especially with our Chinese daughter. 
 Gwen and Scott waiting at our hotel on Monday morning for our guide and driver to arrive to take us to the orphanage. 
We were so pleased with the warm reception we received at Yibin Social Welfare Institute, which was Gwen's home for nearly two years.  The director of the orphanage, pictured below, along with the director of all the caregivers, Nanny Chen, was waiting outside in the courtyard for us when we arrived, and led us into a meeting room.  We had met both of these people when we adopted Gwen.  Director Zhu had Gwen's original file out, complete with a copy of the adoption decree with a picture of the three of us, taken in December 2005 when her adoption was completed.

Here Gwen is showing him a photo of her with Caleb, Seth and Madelyn. 
 Gwen was born in the Year of the Monkey.  Director Zhu remembered this and had this necklace with a stone carving of a monkey on it as gift for her.
Checking out the necklace... I love the Director Zhu's smile in this photo!
We chatted with the director and the head nanny for a while, mostly with our guide translating.  Gwen was able to tell them a few things in Chinese, which they were pleased about.  She took a little woven potholder she had made as a gift for them, as well as some baby clothes to donate. The director expressed how happy he is to see Gwen doing so well- he used her Chinese name, Wang Yu. He told Gwen that if she ever needs anything, they will help her, they are also her family.  So sweet.  Then it was time to go see the babies and children living there.  Gwen happily held the Nanny Chen's hand as we walked up the stairs! 
We first went into a room with mostly babies.  There we showed photos of Gwen as a toddler to the caregivers who Nanny Chen said had been there when Gwen lived there and had helped care for her.
These are the two that had cared for Gwen!  They were so happy to see her all grown up! 

Sweet little one in the crib room.
We held babies for a little while and played a bit with some of the toddlers.  Most appeared to have special needs of some sort.  Maybe fewer healthy children are being abandoned?  We encouraged Nanny Chen that Americans will adopt these special needs children... it seems they don't even process files for many of these children, assuming no one will want them.  This sweet one gazing at Gwen has a heart condition.
The next floor up we encountered this wonderfully fun art project in process.  The kids, a variety of ages and all with special needs, were painting the tiled walls of the hallway with water paints and having a great time.  We noted that several of the caregivers were wearing Half the Sky shirts... we were aware that this foundation had been helping Yibin SWI.  It was so good to see the results of their efforts. 
This little one in yellow had several fused fingers.  Isn't he cute?

The colorful classroom is a big change from what Scott found here six and a half years ago, when he visited days after Gwen's adoption was complete.  So happy to see photos on the walls of the enriching activities that are being done with these kids.
While Gwen and Scott watched the kids' painting project, I wandered a little, poking around a little and peeking into rooms.  Here workers are hanging laundry, institution style.  They have this permanent blue structure erected so laundry can be hung to dry even in rainy weather.
Sweet little guy, has one short leg and one longer.  He managed quite well, balancing up on the longer leg when he needed to reach higher.
Slippers lined up inside a classroom doorway.
Sleeping rooms for older children... probably school age kids.  Most of the children who live at Yibin SWI were in school while we were visiting, so we only saw the younger ones and the ones whose disability prevents them from attending the local school.
Cleaning brushes from the painting project.
Scrubbing the walls when the painting project was finished.  The kids seemed to enjoy cleaning the walls off as much as they had enjoyed painting them!  Laundry structure in the background.
Note the Half the Sky shirts below.  This is a wonderful foundation started by an adoptive parent in the late 90's.  Half the Sky has made a significant difference in orphanages across China.
Back to the baby room before we left... this little one captured our hearts!
We watched him get a bath in a bucket... so cute!
Outside before we left, Gwen climbed around on this play structure for a little bit.  This is also new, I think only a couple of years.  Don't think it was here when Gwen's China sister, K, visited Yibin in 2009. 
This same grungy hoop is still standing, though!  Nanny Chen is taking Gwen's picture. 
Lots of these cute and colorful murals painted in the stairwells.  Maybe also the work of Half the Sky?
Overall, it was a really positive experience for us all.  We were really hoping and praying for Gwen to be able to process all she saw at her orphanage... to be able to feel that it was a good place and that she was loved there.  It's been interesting to see her different levels of understanding about her adoption as she grows into them.  We are believing that having seen this place will help her as she thinks about her life and God's plan for her. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Hold

"Mommy, when you were waiting around for Daddy to come marry you, what did you do?"

Gwen's question at bedtime tonight.  :-) 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friends and Moving Forward

 So our dear, dear friends the Stevensons were here in Shanghai with us last week.  I had looked forward to their visit, making plans for it both in my head and on paper.  I sketched out some meal ideas and listed some places in the city I wanted to take them.  Then they were with us and it was a wonderful time.  In our twenty plus years of friendship, we had never spent this many consecutive days together.  So good, so, so good to be with these people that we love and have them see a slice of our life in China.

Now they have gone home, and suddenly it seems that the time we have left in Shanghai has grown short.  Caleb tells me every few days how many days there are left until his graduation.  The number is somewhere around 70 right now.  I think of the weekends we have left until school ends, and the events that have already claimed many of those weekends.  It leaves me a little breathless.  I haven't done everything I was going to do in China...  you'd think five years would be enough, but it seems daily life has gotten in the way of all the things there are to see and exploring there is to do.

I feel myself looking ahead much of the time now.  We asked the family who is renting our home in Chicago if they would be willing to leave a little earlier than the end of the lease... they are willing, and so now we will be able to get into our home a week earlier than we thought we would.  Guess it's time to purchase the last flight back to the States.  I thought years ago about what it would feel like to be on that last flight moving back from Shanghai.   I'm not sure what I'll be thinking, but I remember pulling away from my childhood home with my dad ten years ago, on the day my parents moved out of that house into their current one.  My dad pulled out of the driveway, backed up into the street to and stopped in front of the house for a moment.  "This place gave us quite a ride" was his comment, and it encapsulated all the memories and all the years my family spent there.  I think that last flight home will feel a bit that moment in front of the house we all loved.  Quite a ride we've had here in Shanghai.

Now we're all about figuring out schooling for next year (this week Caleb sent in his housing deposit and dorm selection for Valpo, Seth had a phone interview for Aurora Christian School), getting two cats and a dog from China to Chicago, air and sea shipment packing dates, finding a painter for the interior of our Chicago home, etc.  Lots of little things and big things to take care of.  I'm excited about these things that move us forward towards leaving.  I guess I am feeling ready for that last flight, for the next step, the old house waiting for us, new school routines and even for a boy to graduate and leave home.  He's certainly ready, or at least thinks he is.  Ready for a new environment, meeting new people, growing up.  I think leaving Shanghai will be the easiest for him out of all our children, with graduation providing a built in transition for him.
Next weekend Scott and Gwen and I will do one of the things we felt we needed to do before we left China.  This thing is one we couldn't let slide, and thankfully have been able to squeeze into the weekends we have left here.  We'll be making an overnight trip to western China, the Sichuan province, where Gwenny was born and where she lived until God brought us to her.  We'll see her orphanage, the rooms where she slept and played.  She's looking forward to it...  I'm wondering how she and we will process this.   I'll let you know how it goes, and if you think of it, please pray for her as we take this journey back in time.

Going back in time next weekend- part of the process of  moving forward, moving away from Shanghai... it's good.  

Thanks, friends, for coming to share our Shanghai lives for a week.  We needed you to see it.  Now you know us a little bit better.  :-)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Street Barber

Having a great time with the Stevensons this week, despite the cold and rainy weather.  Hard not to have a wonderful time with these friends!  We came across this typical China scene the other day when we were out and about with them- a make shift barber set up for business in an alleyway.  I'm starting to feel the time our family has left here in Shanghai growing short now, and so moments like this are especially sweet for me.