July 7, 2011


We met our son XiXi in China three months ago. It's a trite expression but truly, I can't remember what it was like before he came. He's blended so seamlessly into our family and community. There are many things I can attribute this to, but one of the biggest is that he observes and then he tries so hard to do what's expected. This summer we've joined our local YMCA and when I took him for his first class, an art class, I explained to the teacher that he's still learning English and that he might have a hard time following directions. From the upstairs track, I could look down into the kids' area and spy on our little man. He was always just a slight step behind everyone else, taking the time to first watch, but then he'd jump in and do exactly what he was supposed to do. The teacher raved about him and said they'd be thrilled to have him back any time.

In the pool, he didn't have such an ideal experience. He loves the pool and is well behaved, but apparently he was leaning on the partial wall that separates the kid pool from the adult pool, and a teenaged lifeguard thought XiXi was planning a move from the little pond to the big. The lifeguard yelled at him, "Do not cross that boundary!" XiXi stared at him, not sure how to respond. The lifeguard said, "Are you listening to me?" and then added, "Where is your mother?" If he'd used the word "Mom" or "Mama" or "Mommy", XiXi would have known exactly what he was saying, but as it was, he just quietly stared at him with tears welling up in his eyes. I was annoyed at the lifeguard, who I felt was on a bit of a power trip, but it was a good reminder that I can't get complacent about XiXi's language. Now that we're past our initial communication issues, it would be easy to let him stagnate. At home, we know what he does and doesn't understand, but that's not the case with everyone else.

He was feeling sick on Sunday and I stayed home from church with him. He was supposed to be the "reverence child" and was sad to miss that moment in the limelight. As his fever worsened through the morning, I brought him some medicine. I told him it would make him feel better and without hesitation he gulped it down. Then he immediately threw his legs over the side of the bed and said excitedly, "Thank you, Mom! Feel better!" He hadn't even put both feet on the floor before he plopped back down with a dejected look and said, "Still sick." I laughed and told him that he would feel better later. He kept me appraised of his progress with updates about every ten minutes, "Still sick, Mom!" or "Oh, dudzuh" (stomach) and finally, "Little bit better!" When he made it downstairs and began playing with his trains, he gave me the sweetest look of happy amazement. "Better, Mom!" A teaspoon of children's Tylenol and suddenly I'm the miracle worker.

While he was lounging in bed, I showed him a book about animals. On the pig page, he pointed and said, "Pig in China." I asked him, "You had a pig in China?" He nodded his head and said yes. I told him that a pig says oink and he looked at me strangely, shook his head, and made the most realistic animal noise ever uttered in our household. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I was in the swine barn at the county fair. I don't doubt for a moment that his foster family did in fact own a pig. XiXi can now understand "China" and "here" and that's been a great advance in our communication. I asked him today if he wanted to go back to China for a visit and he immediately said no. "Stay here," he said. Then he quickly added, "With Mom and Dad and...." And then we went back and forth naming everyone in the family, including the dogs. I thought we were finished when he put his finger in the air and yelled, "And Signing Time!" No, they don't have the show Signing Time in China and apparently he'd miss it.

Sometimes before an interaction, I'll dialogue with him to let him practice. He went to a doctor last week and I told him that the doctor would say, "How are you doing XiXi?" and he practiced answering, "Good. How are you?" When the doctor came in, she said, "Hi, XiXi. How old are you?" Dang it. "Good! How are you?" he said with a proud smile. He was so excited to deliver his answer that I don't think he'd even heard the question! He tries so hard.

In the afternoon, he was lying on a window seat next to me, wrapped in a blanket like a little sausage. Only his arm had escaped the blanket wrap and he kept it on me, making sure I was there. Although I certainly never want my kids to feel sick, there's something I do treasure about sick days--that all of the mundane stuff gets pushed aside and snuggle time and stories take top priority. I think I need to treat more healthy days as sick days..... and surrender to the fact that I'll never be caught up on laundry.


  1. Your son was obviously loved and well cared for. So opposite from our daughters experience from the same SWI. It amazes me to see him. Maybe because he was in foster care or he was just an adorable loved boy. She was 15 months when we got her and she had learned to defend herself. They had never made use of the physical therapy room for her and her hand deformity as she pretty much had no use of her hands and wrists. But by the time we were home she could feed herself with a fork and spoon, stack blocks, do wooden puzzles etc.. She has made amazing strides but the hardest has been breaking her of her need to protect and defend herself. 9 months later and incidents are fewer and farther between. I wish we had the seamless addition of Abby instead it has stretched and challenged all of us to see her through Jesus eyes. To love her inspite of her behavior and to realize how desperately she needed to get out of there. I am amazed at what her sisters ages 3 & 6 have put up with and her 5 year old brother too. Yet if Abby goes to get a book she will likely bring everyone else their favorite book first. When she had surgery on her feet and casts for 5 weeks she took it all in srtide. She will make it and we will too. I am so glad for your son and your family. If you want to see more about Abby's hands her is a link to my daughters blog.http://rachelpeterson-shawshee.blogspot.com/2011/03/abbys-hands.html

  2. Angie,

    I wish I could have been a fly on the wall and really seen what it was like for him in the orphanage. When we visited, he seemed happy to be there and the caregivers seemed very loving toward him. I know that hasn't been what others have experienced. He was with a foster family for 6 months and I wonder if I'd have met a different boy in China if he hadn't had that experience. I hope that as his language progresses we'll learn more about his life there.

    I'm so happy that your Abby (we have an Abby too!) is with her forever family and that she's learning to trust and love and be loved in return. I have a special place in my heart for these Kunming kids.

  3. That's a good reminder for me. I am always more concerned with my to-do list than with other people. I really need to slow down some times and just enjoy my precious boy! Thank you for reminding me.

  4. What a beautiful transition your XiXi has made into your family - you are blessed indeed! And BRAVO for being wise enough to enjoy this precious time with him now, it is so fleeting!
    My sister has two sons adopted from China, both right around the time they turned 3, and they both had seamless transitions into their family, too :)