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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Fish

It is so hard to believe that only a little over 4 months ago both Hope and Amanda had never been swimming. To look at them today…WOW! Amanda has officially graduated off of the arm bands and is swimming both on top of the water and under water. She dives for toys on the bottom of the pool, does somersaults in the water, jumps in going frontwards, backwards, and doing “twisties”, and goes down our pool slide dozens of times a day. She is quite a fish! Both she and Hannah are going for swim lessons next month to learn the strokes properly so they can join the swim team this fall.
Hope is not as advanced as Mandy but she has come such a long way! Only 1 month ago she wouldn’t enter the pool without me. Just 2 weeks ago I had to jump in to save her because she didn’t know enough to reach out for a reaching assist. Now she swims regularly with a life vest on but will also take it off (with permission, of course) and attempt swimming in the shallow part of the pool by herself. She has tried to dive for the toys at the bottom of the pool but hasn’t succeeded yet, but she TRIES! Just 2 weeks ago she couldn’t stand up without help—now she goes down the slide, jumps in, and uses a snorkel and goggles to swim around. She has even kicked across the pool while holding her breath without ANY floatation devise…WHO would have thought it possible? She also is signed up for swim lessons next month. Hopey definitely won’t tell you that she is excited about it, but if you look closely, she gets a glimmer in her eyes when she talks about it!
My eldest two are in swim practice every day and lifting in a swim-specific weight program 2-3 days a week. Hailey is determined to place at state this year and Austin has been uncomfortable since getting a 2nd in state last year in his 100 free. He is determined to take first in both the 50 and 100 this winter as well as entice any scholarship offers from universities.
Andrew is not swimming but is in a diving camp. He has been known to have a knack for dancing and has been invited to be on a traveling competitive team before. Our trip to Shanghai derailed that endeavor but he is finally finding a way to use his God-given talents. For someone who decided last year to give diving a try, he is holding his own against high schoolers! He likes to go to practice early and stay late which speaks volumes about his heart. It makes me nervous to watch him dive because he gets closer and closer to the board the better he performs.
Between the school’s pool and the one in our backyard, ALL of my kids have a very healthy diet of chlorinated water. It seems to be a wonder-drug for acne but is hard on the hair, causing it to either break off or turn green! It can be said that the aroma of “Ode de Chlorine” permeates our house at any given time.
The joys of summer!
All my best,

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today’s Friends, Yesterday’s Family

Saturday night was a long one for us! Our dear friends who are missionaries in Bangkok came home for summer furlough. They arrived at the airport at 11:38 pm, family complete and bags accounted for! The sheer enormity of this task is remarkable: two and a half years ago they “rescued” a girl being sold to the slave market and started proceedings to adopt her. Being that they bought her (which is illegal) put huge barriers in their path, especially with the Hague in place now. They had planned on returning to the states last summer but their child wasn’t granted a travel visa at the last minute. Even this year they climbed sizable mountains, completing her adoption and obtaining her visa only days before travel. (sounds vaguely familiar…) Three of my kids went to the airport with me to greet and deliver our friends to their house for the summer and everyone got to meet them Sunday night in an impromptu dinner party. Hope and Amanda were very uncertain about the new people and clung to each other and to me for a long time. By the end of the night, however, Mandy was hugging Liz’s neck, not wanting to let her go! Hope asked when they were coming back before they left the driveway and started to dance a jig when I mentioned an impending sleepover later this week. I am glad that everyone meshed so well since I plan on having this other family be a part of our daily lives for the next 2 months!
WELCOME Dave, Sonja, Liz, Elliot, Grace, Elliana, and Ammie!

Saturday night Hope decided she wanted to call her teacher from China. It took several attempts but we found out that her teacher’s cell phone number was no longer in service for her. Determined to make contact with someone from China, Hope then called her foster family. Her father answered, but Hope locked up and wouldn’t talk. She started to cry, not wanting to answer his questions of how she was, etc. How could she answer “fine, good, I am doing well,” etc without hurting his feelings?  He then became frustrated with her for not talking and started yelling at her. At this point she hung up and really cried. HARD. Dave was there and comforted her by hugging her, stroking her hair, rubbing her back, just repeating over and over that he loved her. I also hugged and loved on her until the tears subsided and encouraged her to talk to Minnie. Through Minnie we found out about Hope’s conflicting feelings and frustrations. We encouraged Hope to call her foster parents again, but she definitely wasn’t ready.

Sunday night, soon after our friends left, Hope decided she wanted to call again. After coaching her on what she could say and talk about, we got her on the phone, this time with her China mom. It looked like there was going to be a repeat performance as she immediately started to cry and refused to talk when I grabbed an extension and gave it to Minnie, saying “Talk!” Min got on the line and started talking to Hope’s foster mom in Mandarin and continued to do so for quite a few minutes. Min explained Hope’s feelings and told her foster mom about us, Hope’s accomplishments, etc. Soon Hope was able to supply an answer to a question and then picked up the conversation. Min stayed on the phone, trying to let me know what was being said and trying to officiate, making sure that what was being said was appropriate. I say “trying” because Hope and her China mom were talking in a dialect of their region in Kunming and Min could only make out bits and pieces. Hope also asked her foster mom for a recipe for some kind of rice dumpling that is eaten for the up-coming Dragon Boat Festival next week. Hope’s foster mom first said that we wouldn’t be able to get the ingredients here but Hope proudly told her that we already bought the sweet rice (a 50-pound bag!) for it, so her other mom told her the directions. Hope finished the conversation SO happy and SO eager to make contact again! She had worried about making contact with her foster family for the past 2 months…she even wrote and ripped up letters to them. She was certain that they forgot about her! Her foster mom is going to ask her uncle for his e-mail address so Hope can make more frequent direct contact and send photos online. She found out that the letter she sent to her classmates over a month ago DID get delivered, even if they didn’t write back. Hope is now beaming, eager to write, eager to call, eager to e-mail her foster family, her friends in China, as well as her friend here in NY who was adopted before her. It seems that she has the internal strength to do ANYTHING right now!!!

When the noise of the day faded away with the last child going to bed Dave asked me if I had mixed emotions about Hope being so happy to talk to her China mom.   I must admit that although the question was a valid one, it had never crossed my mind or heart. I am SO HAPPY that this family loved and supported Hope for so long! They surrounded her with extended family: grandparents, uncles, cousins, as well as numerous foster siblings. They taught her the value of hard work, the importance of family, and the worth of education. I certainly don’t feel threatened by her—at the end of the day, Hope is HERE, learning that her significance to me is not dependent on her usefulness but based upon my love for her which stems from God’s love for me. Hope is who she is today largely because of her China mom; for that I am very grateful.

Xie xie, Zhong gua ma ma!

All my best,