Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Older Child Adoption -- Part 1

In the past week we've had 7 families contact us regarding older child adoption. Some are getting ready to head to China to bring their newly adopted son/daughter home and others are considering adopting an older child. We are so happy to hear from these families!

We're being asked lots of questions and are more than happy to try and offer thoughts as long as everyone remembers that we are not experts on ANYTHING and are simply offering suggestions or relaying information we've encountered or heard about.

Thought I'd start by reposting a few entries from a year or so ago and then I'll try to do some new posts as well. We've been fortunate to meet many families who have come home with their older adopted child/children and have learned many things that perhaps we can share.

Here is the first repost:

One family who contacted us commented that they know others who read our blog and were wanting to ask us questions but who "didn't want to bother us" by doing so. Please don't feel it's a bother to ask questions as I remember back to how much information we craved and how few places were available to find answers. We'll help with what we can as long as people understand that we are not and do not claim to be experts at ANYTHING!!! LOL.

You can always reach us by using the "email us" link on the right hand side of the blog.

So, I thought maybe I'd just list a few of the questions we've been asked and post some answers. I'll do a few today and try to do some more over the next few days. These are in no particular order.

1. On your blog your life seems like "roses and cotton candy" all the time! Is your life really that GREAT?

Yes and no! The purpose of our blog is to "burst with joy" about our daughter! As most of our family is in another state, we use the blog as a way to update family and friends on some of the more interesting and fun things going on in our lives. In a small way, we also hope that by giving a glimpse into the life of a family with an older adopted child that maybe others will find that adopting an older child might be a great fit for their family as well.

One thing we are trying to do as parents is to emphasize that life has it's ups and downs -- and always will. But we (all three of us!) are working on ways to minimize the impact stresses have on our lives in order to have more "flower and candy" days. Do we have days that we struggle with life, cry our eyes out, stress-out, flip-out, wig-out and generally freak-out? You betcha, baby! But, I'm not going to put that stuff on the blog. It's private and it's stuff every family goes through.

2. Was the language barrier a problem?

If I had to pick a "yes" or "no" answer to this question I'd have to pick "yes" -- but not to the point that it was an insurmountable problem. There were so many things we wanted to ask her, to make sure she was comfortable, to see if she was sleepy or hungry or scared. But with the language barrier we weren't able to do that with certainty and it weighed on us.

When we met Sarah, she knew just a handful of English words such as "water, mom, dad, number." Communication was through lots of hand gestures, facial expressions and "trial and error." It wasn't until much later that we realized how much Sarah was "reading" from our body language and interpreting from the tone of people's voices, the "look" in their eyes, etc. Because she didn't have the luxury of language she used other means to try and understand what was going on. So while your child may not "get your words" he/she is getting your meaning (whether you want him/her to or not!)

Our understanding is that the older a person is, the harder it is to acquire a new language. For Sarah, spoken English came first. Now, reading and writing are coming along -- with reading coming along faster than writing. And she's maintaining her Chinese as well so in her brain it's kind of a fight between Chinese and English!

Last year and the start of this year when I would sit with her and help with math homework, she would talk with me in English but when she was doing the math problem and more "in her own world trying to figure the math out" she would be saying the numbers in Chinese. A few months back it "clicked" over and now she says everything is in English -- even to the point of saying "of fudge!" when she drops her pencil! So I think in a way her brain is transitioning to putting Chinese in the background and English is taking up the foreground.

Also, when she talks with friends in China I hear so many English words peppering her speech now that sometimes I can tell the person on the other end of the phone has said something like, "what the heck are you saying?" because she'll get all flustered and then go back and say the phrase in Chinese.

3. What does Sarah think about US food?

Now, Sarah loves US food! She digs Lean Pockets, hot dogs, onion rings, Pringles, pizza and Easter Peeps! At the beginning, not so much!!! When we first came home, she pretty much wanted Chinese rice, meat, eggs and noodles.

For rice, she loves the Cal-rose rice. And you don't need a rice cooker to make it. Simply use a non-stick saucepan or pot, put 3 cups rice, 4 cups water and a dash of salt in. Put a lid on the pot, bring it to boil over high heat and as soon as the bubbles are showing turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook with the lid on and undisturbed for 20 minutes. That means no stirring and no peeking under the lid!!! Sarah actually likes me to cook it a bit longer sometimes as she loves there to be a thin crunchy layer on the bottom!

For noodles, it was nothing fancy. The block-style ramen noodles were very familiar to her. I did order some online to get an extra spicy version as she loves spicy food. Her favorite way to eat them was for me to boil the water, add the noodle block and then along the outside of the pan away from the noodle block I would break two eggs into the water. I wouldn't stir the noodles or anything until the eggs had firmed and then I added the seasoning packet. She stopped eating these after about a year and hasn't wanted them since.

About eggs, Kevin and I both like over-easy eggs where the center is runny. The first time I made these her eyes became huge and she absolutely wanted nothing to do with them! She wanted to make eggs and so she cracked them into the pan and cooked those eggs until they were browned on both sides! When they were done she pointed to them and smiled at me and I got the idea! Since them I've called them "crunchy eggs" and to this day she say, "Mom will you make me crunchy eggs?" But, she also likes runny middles now too! And she loves hard boiled eggs.

Also, we had several kinds of chop-sticks and Sarah always picked the cheapo bamboo kind that you can get in bulk packages at any Asian grocery store. She wanted nothing to do with the fancier ones because she just wasn't used to them. And for the older children, they may not have used a fork and knife before because in China most of the food is made in bite-sized pieces so chopsticks can be used or eaten by hand. She won't mind me telling you that we laugh now about the first few times we had pizza because she kept trying to pick it up with her chopsticks until finally she gave in and just used her hands! And now the chopsticks are packed away in a drawer because nobody uses them anymore.


Heather said...

Great post. I posted on my blog s little about your darling girl and linked to your blog. Just wanted to let you know!

connie said...

Debbi, great information! Thanks for letting us be one of the families who 'bothered' you - lol! Seriously, we've had a great week! I don't know if Sarah was able to help Kooper understand things we've wanted him to all along, but it's been a great week! He seems to be past the 'if I don't try I can't fail' philosophy!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! I've so enjoyed reading your blog over the last few months as we wait to bring home our 12-year-old. We are hoping to travel in the next couple months!

Leanne said...

Hi! I read your posts about receipes and how culture differencs here and in China as far as bedsheets post, I would like to ask, would it be alirght If I copied those posts and put them onto yahoo groups so families who are adopting from China can read them too?
Please email me at smileybear36@hotmail.com Thanks! Sarah is beautiful girl!

Leanne H