Two China Dolls and a Prince!

This blog chronicles the story of 2 of our adoptions, both older children when they came home. It begins in 2008 and will continue in the hopes we can be of encouragement and information to anyone thinking of older child adoption.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Picture-Populated Post!

I was thinking of the secretary in the movie Mr.  Popper's Penguins , the one who starts almost all her words with the letter "P".  We are counting down to the Christmas program on the 20th.  For those who haven't read my earlier posts, NingNing's got a Xmas concert coming up.  He doesn't/didn't want to do it when he found it and got very mad/afraid/upset.  He "disappeared" inside himself for a few days, but has made a comeback :).  I had to bring it up again Friday to let him know we had to buy dress clothes for him, whether he chooses to sit with us in the audience or participate.  In any case, he will look good doing it, as we got shoes, pants, and a shirt (the nice shirt was his request, so maybe, just maybe there is hope ;).
The last few days he has been making a huge effort to communicate more with us, trying to actually tell us something or join in conversation with some carefully placed phrases, timed in such a way as to crack everybody up.  He has said "I don't like it",
"I don't know" (with a shrug and wide-eyed innocent look), "crazy" (referring to Dad and little sisters), "Mom", and "Ewwwww" (in reference to seeing his brother kiss his girlfriend, lol!).  We caught him out twice today also much to his amusement.  We were talking about something in Taco Bell, and he had the "I don't understand" look on his face....I said  "he knows what we're saying"....and he chuckled and nodded.  Then tonight, Jr says "Do you understand English?" to which NingNing says "No!" (see it yet?).  Jr says "If you don't understand English, how did you know to say NO?!"......NingNing grinning, dropping and shaking his head...he walked right into that one!  Too funny.......but we know he can understand A LOT now, so if we need to talk about something to do with him, we have to leave the room so he can't hear us!
Two of my special girls

My littlest special girl (who is an electronic whiz)

Teenage boys....need I say more?

NingNing loves our cat, Tux.  Here, he is trying to get Tux out from under the table!

Opening his first Christmas present (while keeping tabs on his computer game).  My aunt sends Christmas ornaments every year and the kids always love them.  NingNing was no exception.  When he opened his to find a jumbo jet, he got the point right away and laughed and laughed.  She wrote him a beautiful note, welcoming him to the family, which I read to him. 

Here it is...look right in front of his hand..it's a jumbo jet, symbolic of his journey across the ocean!

At one of James' basketball games

Same game...what a cutie (wouldn't he be embarrassed to read this?!)



Teaching the cat, Tux, and NingNing to play Phase 10

Jazmin's sweet little beagle, Brownie

Monday, December 10, 2012

4 months since Gotcha

4 months has passed.  Such a short amount of time, but when I think about it, it hardly seems we were ever in China, except that now we have our second son.

So where are we after 4 months?  Let's see.......
English........not happening as we'd hoped.  Ok, so I had SOME expectations that there'd be at least a measure of rudimentary communication by now.  I didn't take into account one's refusal to use English.  Now whether that is a reluctance to a)either draw attention to himself or b) a simple lack of desire to communicate with us (meaning attachment issues?), I don't know.  Teen adoption is a constant guessing game, because they've learned to hide and hold in their feelings.  I wish I could say NingNing trusted us, but the truth is I really don't know for sure.  Is he attaching/bonding?  I can't say yes and I can't say no.  How do you tell in a child who won't share any feelings?  Who tries to be so complacent (though that is changing a bit) so to be as unobtrusive as possible?

School.....it WAS going ok, until NingNing found out they wanted him to do the Christmas program with the other 8th graders.  The very idea sent him into a tailspin, so the school requested at the very least that he be present, but that he could sit in the audience with us.  We brought an interpreter in to try to understand his fear about the program.  We didn't find out a lot, just that the idea of having to perform in front of so many strangers has him completely stressed out.  He's just not ready for something like that.  After "disappearing" into himself all weekend, we saw some smiles tonight when we went to a friend's party. It's great to see when he relaxes and allows himself to have fun and let his guard down.  Most likely, we will go long enough for him to watch his classmates from the audience (unless he surprises us and agress to stand with his class), and then scooch out of there.

Siblings.....ok there, except that I think that James still intimidates NingNing somewhat.  Sometimes Ning is ready to take him on and wrestle and other nights, not.  Like most teens, Ning runs hot and cold.  What I mean is, one time he'll be smiling and having a good time, the next it's like "whoa, what happened?"  His and James' relationship will have to evolve in it's own way.
   Jaz used to be more standoffish with Ning and he with her, but not so much anymore....they are becoming closer with time.
   Judi continues to be his favorite......don't know if it's her spunk or size that draws him in, but they act the most like a "true" brother and sister (complete w bickering/squabbling).  N does think Judi talks too much, and sometimes, we agree!

Christmas.....he's not too interested at this point.  Have no idea what the holidays were like to him in China, if he had any at all.  I'm just about positive he had no Christmas there, so we wanted this first one to be special.  But as he seems more stressed out, we are keeping things pretty lowkey and relaxed. We have explained the idea of Santa Claus and that we keep the idea alive for our girls, and what Christmas day is about.  We also explained presents, but when asked what he might like as a gift, he says "I don't know"....a very refreshing comment from a teen!

Since we are pretty much out of the honeymoon phase for sure, we're learning to roll with the changes and taking things one day at a time.  Ning's pushing a few more boundaries to see what we'll do; what he can get away with.  More of his emotions are coming to the surface; we hope that means he's feeling safe and secure enough to express even those small amounts.  We know he is a pretty sensitive kid and there are deep emotions running through that quiet exterior, but he's very skilled at presenting an unruffled appearance.  He doesn't like to be blindsided; likes to know what's coming up...seems to work better if he knows what's coming and has time to process it in his mind.

It's like a ballroom dance, with no one real sure of the steps.  Sometimes we step on each other's toes, but the important thing is to keep dancing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'........

keep those wagons rollin'...Raawhiiiide!  I think this should be our motto for life......just keep those wagons rolling, up hills and down, through the valleys, fording small streams (the little problems of life) or the deep rivers (bigger issues), to come out on the other side ready to continue the journey.

Basketball games have begun, so our evenings are full fitting in dance, games, Christmas events, etc.  James is starting varsity this year as a sophomore and Jr and I love to watch him play; it's always great to watch your kids do well at something they enjoy.  We hope to convince NingNing to play baseball, basketball, or even both, if only to get him out doing something and off the computer.  I think I've lined up a piano teacher, so that will add to the mix in January.
Judi's doing great in her basketball and has finally grown enough to make baskets with no trouble.  Amazing what a year and a couple of inches make!  Jazmin is also doing basketball this year and has started practices with games in January. 
Jessica's been accepted to State Fair Community College and will use the A+ program to start her college career there; in her words, she is "looking forward to getting out of the house"!    And Jaz has decided she will "move" into Jessica's room when she is not there, lol!

Still can't figure out what really happened during Thanksgiving to NingNing, but he's back to "normal", so to speak.  As December gets into full swing, he's not really taking an interest in Christmas so far.  We went to get our tree this last Sunday (we go to a tree farm) and got it set up in the living room, but all he really seems to want to do is play on the computer lately.  At least we got another family picture that I will post on the blog once I get it uploaded.
Sunday night there was a Christmas event in our small town I wanted to do with the family.  Ok, so there wasn't anything for the boys to do, and yes, they were bored, but still........it's family time, right? 
James is more vocal of course and made his opinion clear, while NingNing demonstrated his feelings by playing in the syrup from his pancakes and having the most hangdog, dreary expression on his face.  This is his version of "pouting".  He doesn't act up, doesn't have tantrums, doesn't get angry, just "suffers" through whatever it is until he can return to his beloved internet.  Finally, I got sick of looking at their glum faces and just told Jr to take them home.  I try to keep in mind that NingNing is not used to doing things WITH family and AS a family (a foreign concept to him), but as time goes on, we do and will expect more of him in this respect.

The next afternoon, I sat him down and had a "discussion" with him (I had the same talk with James).  I asked him if he knew why I was unhappy the previous night when I got home and he knew (James had warned him that they were in "trouble", lol!).  I told him exactly how I felt, that my boys tended to lend more importance to their computer and video games than family/family time.  I made it clear that family time is very important to me and I want to spend time with my sons because I love them. And while I understand that they are boys and love their electronics (he agreed with me that we allow him plenty of computer time), family comes first and families spend time together.  I also told NingNing that I love the Christmas season and want to make his first one special. 
Basically ended up by saying, if I get my much-needed family time...with NO pouting or fussing....then boys get their computer time; everyone's happy!  Remember, the old saying "If Mama ain't happy, NO ONE is happy!"  James, ever the quick wit, amended that to say "but the reason Mama isn't happy, is because the kids aren't happy, and their griping is what makes Mama unhappy in the first place!"  Found out later that Jr had a scaled-down version of the same talk with the boys before I got home with the girls that night, so they were "primed" for my talk,lol!

One thing that was sweet though, no matter what caused it...that night, after I came home, I was sitting at the kitchen table just thinking with my head on my arms.  NingNing passed by me, reached out, and rubbed my back as he went by, finishing up with a little pat; the first truly spontaneous (unasked for, unsolicited) gesture of affection and empathy.  And as a mom to teens, who dispense hugs, kisses, and affection as rarely as my chances of winning the lottery, I soaked it up.




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Not fun and games anymore.....

For our detractors, who said "you're crazy", when we announced we were adopting a teenager, this post will probably make them smile, pat themselves on the back, and say "I told you so".
But neither will I paint sunshine and roses all the time, when it's not.
At some point since my last post, things have changed.  Not horribly so, but enough so that I, at least, am concerned about NingNing (even more so than before now).  After the initial jump start of using English, that I posted about on the 12th, he quit again, for no apparent reason.
Then this weekend, he's acting like he's totally detached from us; won't engage, won't respond verbally at all; basically doesn't want anything to do with us.  And it all started apparently because Jr got on his case a bit about deleting pictures from my camera (a BIG no-no).  Now, if one of the other kids had done it, we probably would have yelled at them, because they know better.  We know NingNing does not necessarily, so my husband simply asked him not to, but didn't smile as usual when he said it, so N would know he was more serious this time.
Since then, we've had this "detached" behavior.  I discussed the incident with him last night and thought we resolved it; I told him I love all my kids and like to take their pictures so I will have them to look at when they are all grown up.  Perhaps it upset him to be reminded of when he would be on his own someday?  Perhaps the idea frightens him?  Certainly understandable, but it's a fine line between allowing him some "space" and condoning rude behavior (ignoring us as much as possible all day).  Is he a typical teen?  Oh yeah!  Teen attitude?  Yeah, it's there!  Are the rose-colored glasses beginning to crack?  Definitely....
So here I sit, at 4am, typing, worrying, considering,thinking, worrying some more........if our bio son were acting this way, we'd let him have his space, but eventually demand at least a minimum of respecful behavior.  We expect no less of NingNing at this stage of the process.
The biggest challenge is figuring out what the problem is when the person in question is not sharing their feelings; is he mad at us, mad at himself, both?  Or is he depressed; sad; maybe missing when he celebrated holidays in China (though we know they didn't do much where he was).  Or just maybe the whole family togetherness was too much; maybe he felt (even now) that he still didn't quite belong when we got on to him about the camera.  It's like playing 20 questions, but with no real solution, and a lot more at stake.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our son said "I love you".......

to the INTERNET GUY!!!!!
Let me explain.....the kids got home from school and lo and behold the internet wasn't working.  NingNing and our 7-year old didn't know what to do with themselves.  It turned out to be the best thing, because he and Judi and Jazmin all spent the afternoon wrestling, playing, tickling, and rolling around on the floor together.  Then the girls latched themselves each onto a leg and NingNing was trying to walk with 100 lbs on his legs!  He was in rare form tonight, bouncing around, playing with everybody...even Mom got in on the tickle fest (side note....this boy is getting strong!  Mom won't be his wrastle partner too often, lol!).
Then Dad comes home from hunting and says "I'm hungry!", whereupon NingNing says "Me, too!".  After we ate, our internet guy came over to see what was wrong.....he got it fixed and as he was walking out the door, NingNing says "yay..I love you!".  I shut the door and headed right for the boy!  I said, "NingNing!  The INTERNET guy?  I love you?  Seriously?!!?  What about Mama??!!"  He laughed, looked at me, and said "I LOVE YOU!"  This kid is hysterical.

Now on to an amazing development....NingNing can read English!  A few nights ago, I was typing into Google Translate and he began to read some of the words, so I kept going...but this gave me an idea.
The next night I got out some Dr. Suess books, "Go, Dogs, Go" and "Hop on Pop".  I gave the first one to NingNing, then I logged onto Google Translate.  My intention was to type the words on the pages, translating them and providing instant comprehension.  However, as we began, NingNing amazed me by reading a good deal of the words on his own!  I wound up only typing the harder words to help him along.
Tonight we did Go, Dogs, Go again AND Hop On Pop.  He had us laughing so hard because he uses this squeaky, high-pitched voice to read the words and it. is. hysterical!  The video is of him reading one page....that's all we could get him to sit still for because he was chuckling so much!

And in other happenings.....
This is what happens when two skinny boys wrestle..they get tangled!


James (our 15-year old) and a friend at their NHS induction ceremony...he is growing into a young man before our eyes.


Our sweet babies playing in the leaves at Grandpa and Grandma's house

NingNing enjoying a fire engine ride on Halloween

Jessica at her college visit

I missed blogging on a couple of interesting and fun events....Oct. 20 we got together with the two other families of NingNing's friends, Zane and Seth.  We were at the park for 5 hours!  But it was such fun, and now that I think back, it was around then and after a sleepover at Seth'[s house the next weekend, that we noticed a  change in NingNing.  We think we are finally seeing the "real" NingNing; there is a noticeable change in his demeanor.  He smiles more, laughs with us, is talking MUCH more, in Chinese AND English, and really engaging with all of us more, especially Jr.  They tease each other and wrestle and are establishing a good bond; he just seems so much more relaxed.  It's hard to explain; I mean, we thought he was doing well before, but now we see just how much more at peace he seems.
Lately, we were talking about China....he was showing us some pictures of his classmates and he was describing some of his life before.  The conversation led us to the point where I felt comfortable asking him why he chose to be adopted and leave China.  He stopped and thought a moment and then said...."I just wanted a home...."....after I gathered myself, I told him he had one now.....forever....and we are so glad he made that choice.
Hangin' at the picnic (ok, I stole these pics from Seth's mom's blog-Richard takes awesome pics!).  The soccer one they sent to me...it's my favorite!

This is what NingNing is really like....a comedian!




I love this picture!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween, school, and sleepovers

It is November...where has the time gone?  3 months will soon have passed since Gotcha Day.  Soon we will explain Thanksgiving and Christmas to NingNing.  We plan to approach these holidays from a Christian standpoint, that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the blessings in our lives and Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, but that we celebrate God's love for us by giving presents to those we love.  We'll also talk about Santa but in the vein of a mythical figure the girls still believe in as I can just imagine what NingNing might think about a fat man with a beard squeezing down a chimney (and what is a chimney anyway, he'd probably think) and leaving all these gifts.  He would think we'd gone off the deep end for sure.

Over the almost two weeks since I've posted, we've continued with soccer practices and games, watched our son, James, be inducted into the National Honor Society, sent NingNing off on his first sleepover (at Seth's house), got Jessica signed up at her community college for the fall,  saved one of our dogs from certain death (me getting in the middle of a dog fight-stupid, I know-but I saved our dog), and introduced NingNing to Trick or Treating.

One of my concerns over the last couple of weeks is how quiet and almost emotionless at times NingNing still seems with us.  He is so animated around his friends, which is understandable, but as soon as he's back with just us, it's like a switch is flipped.  He will still interact, but just very self-contained and quiet.  I was beginning to fear attachment issues......I mean, unattachment doesn't have to be blatant, does it?  Then something would happen; he would laugh or play a game with us, or wrestle with Jr or James, and I'd think, well, all is ok then.
One thing I've learned through (our) older child adoption experience, and perhaps it's just the worrier in me, is the roller coaster of wondering about the effect everything we do has on NingNing.  In October, this was particularly bad for me as I second-guessed everything we did and said; I analyzed it all and would rehearse what I wanted to say if we needed to talk with him. 
In the last week however, we've noticed Ning using much more English at home.....just single words or two strung together, but it's progress!  It also has made things easier to communicate as he understands so much of what we say directly now.  I have also made a conscious decision to just relax and let things unfold and work themselves out, which seems to be helping my ability to sleep!

Halloween night was the first time I think Ning opened up almost totally to us and showed us how silly he can be.  We were at our church event and he catches my attention and says "go hoooooome!"(his current favorite phrase).  Finally we head for the door and he's bouncing and skipping out the door, so I decided to have some fun and show MY silly side a little.  So I said to him, "NingNing, I think we should go.......SHOPPING!".  He stopped dead, grabbed his head with his hands, and in a hysterical voice I've never heard before, says "NOOOOOOOO".  Then Jazmin gets into the act and says "let's go to.......SCHOOL!", whereupon he repeats his act.  As we pulled away,we were all laughing our heads off by this time.  We then stopped at a subdivision real quick to do some houses, and he goes. "NO......GO HOOOOOME!" in that same funny voice.  Judi and Jessica got out to T&T, and Jaz talked Ning's ear off so much, he finally bailed from the car and went with the other two!  I think he really had fun, but probably wouldn't admit it.  He didn't want to dress up and wouldn't take any candy for himself.  Not a big candy eater, but put a package of cookies or marshmallows near the boy, and they will be gone in a New York minute!

He had his first sleepover with his friend in the city (how come friends' houses are always more fun than home???) and had a blast, of course,complete with a pillow fight. However, I love the fact that when he wants to "GO HOOOOOME", he means our house, with us.  How can that not make a person feel good, that this young boy, who didn't know us from Adam 3 months ago, now thinks of us as his family and our house his home? 

School is going ok for the most part; one thing NingNing has had to learn is that what was ok in China is NOT ok here.  For instance, one kid at school tries to be TOO much of a friend, and NingNing wanted to handle the situation as he would have in China....he would have punched the kid out.  We trotted out the well-used spiel about how that is not acceptable and that HE would get in trouble and then MAMA would not be happy!  Where he went to school, there were around 3,000 students.  Fighting....oh, yeah.....bullying.....of course.....fend for yourselves?.....basic survival 101. Now he has to learn to turn the other cheek and also (and this is the biggie) trust an adult and/or authority figure to take care of the problem......he is making great strides in this area.

Another area we've had some progress is clothes.   NingNing is now wearing sleep pants to bed...MUCH more comfortable than jeans!  Then we took him to a happenin' store called Rue21; they have really hip clothes.  I showed him some plaid shirts like the ones he brought from China, but he said no to them (puzzling).  As kind of a joke, I pulled out a psychedelic black shirt with a huge ornate white cross on the front and back.  To my utter surprise, he liked it and THEN picked out a white hat with a red cross of similar design (interesting that he picked a cross symbol) and has ACTUALLY worn them!  Now to just work on new jeans :).

More pics will be coming soon!

Friday, October 19, 2012

School pics!

It's been a bit since I posted, but life has continued as usual.  NingNing is continuing to do well both at home and at school.  He is already so different from when in China.  Whereas in China, he didn't seem to be able to perceive situations where help was needed, now he willingly jumps in.  He keeps himself organized and has a good standard of personal care.  I just spoke with his math teacher yesterday and she said he is doing well in class and participates willingly...it's apparent he really enjoys math and though he said he wasn't good at it, neither I nor the teacher have seen evidence of it.  The only thing he's struggled with so far is integers, positive and negative numbers.  He's a voracious reader and we've managed to find several books in Mandarin for him for Reading class at school; he's even started on the Bible a little thanks to an app I found for my Xoom that shows the verses in Chinese and English at the same time.

Jaxon (NingNing) - 8th grade

Jazmin - 4th grade

Jessica-senior

Judi - 2nd grade

James - sophormore

Seth and Jaxon taken about a month ago.....ornery, but happy, boys!
He still prefers computer time over outside time, but we're working on that. We visited his friend SongSong last weekend and our families had a great time.  We stayed outside all afternoon, playing washers and watching the "older" fellas take on James, Jaxon (NingNing), and Zane (SongSong).  Tomorrow, all 3 families are getting together at the park to play and cook out....here's hoping for beautiful weather.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two months ago.....

I met my new son for the first time.  I remember being so nervous walking up the stairs to the office at the orphanage.  My thoughts centered around "what if he doesn't like us?"  "What if he changes his mind about being adopted?"
As we walked in, we saw a lady first and then from behind her stepped NingNing.  My first two thoughts?......how handsome he was in person and how tall!

James and I smiled at him and said hello, but our guide rushed us into the paperwork, so there was no time for anything other than awkward smiles and trying not to stare at each other in fascination.  NingNing was so nervous; my heart just went out to him; what an overwhelming position for a teenager to be in and to make such a life-changing choice!  He knew he might never see China again and that life with us was a complete unknown, but he still bravely walked out the door with us.

I remember sitting crammed shoulder to shoulder in the back of the taxi on the way back to the hotel; me reveling in the nearness of him and he, I'm sure, wondering what lay before him.  What was he thinking as we drove away from all that was familiar and safe?  Was he thinking ahead to what his life would be like here or was he just taking each moment as it came?  Someday I hope to ask him these questions.......

In just two short months (has it really only been 60 days??), he has left his homecountry, traveled to places he'd never been in China, climbed the Great Wall, flown on 7 airplanes, flown across the ocean, seen a beach in HongKong, became a United States citizen, gained a family complete with one brother, 3 sisters, grandparents, cousins, and a multitude of animals; started school (4 days after arriving home); discovered he likes ice cream, chocolate cake, spaghetti, and much more; began making friends at school; wore "official" pajama pants to bed; signed up for a soccer team, learned what an "alarm clock" is, and much, much more....

Could you have made such a momentous life-altering decision at that tender age?  I'm not sure I could have...

Monday, October 1, 2012

A post from NingNing (what I imagine he might be thinking).

So.....I've been here for what seems like a long time, but really it's not even two months!  Everything is so different.  The food is ok, but kinda boring after the hot stuff I'm used to.  The lady my brothers and sisters call "Mom" tries hard to make Chinese food many times and she has a list of foods I don't like.  I'll try any food once; we had something called "Taco Bell" yesterday.  I ate everything because I was hungry but it's not my favorite.  People in America eat a lot of sweet stuff; some of it's ok, and some is just too much.  The chicken sandwich at the eating place with the big yellow "M" is good and I really like chocolate-flavored things!  "Mom" sticks these things called "chocolate chips" in something called "pancakes" and they are good.

People here change clothes every day!  No wonder they are always stuffing clothes in that big white thing that washes them!  I like my clothes from China, they make me feel more comfortable.  "Mom" and "Dad" don't make too much of a fuss about it except when "Mom" wants me to dress nicer for church or something.  A few weeks ago, we had pictures at school; talk about embarrassing! 
  The father of the family, who they call "Dad", is goofy a lot and so is my brother.  Sometimes it can get pretty crazy and loud around here, but my family laughs a lot, so that's good.  My little sisters are cute and sweet, but can be kind of annoying too.  Oh, did I mention the LOUD thing??  Those two little girls get going and even having earphones in doesn't help!

Don't know what to think about school, still working it all out.  I'm trying to learn English as fast as I can, but sometimes it feels as if my head will explode! Everyone seems very nice, and have helped me a lot.  Some days though, I just can't wait to get home and talk to my friends on QQ or watch a movie in Chinese to give my head a rest. When my parents told me there was no school today, I was soooooo happy!

On Sundays, we go to a place called "church".  It's confusing. They sing a lot and then a guy gets up and talks for awhile about someone named God and Jesus and then we sing again (I don't; NOT a good singer!).  I was pretty much lost until "Mom" (still not ready to say that out loud yet) got a function on her little internet tablet that has a Chinese//English bible; it shows both languages at once; she had it up while the guy up front was talking and it was kinda cool.  At least it kept me from falling asleep!

My family is busy; we are always driving someone somewhere it seems.  That includes me, since I'm playing soccer now.  It's ok, but I'm not used to so much running and my legs are so sore after some of the games!  Like tonight, we played against this really fast team and we just couldn't score against them.  I almost had a goal, but it went just a little wide; I hate it when I do that!

A couple weekends ago, my best friend, ZhangYun,  stayed the weekend with us; that was great!  My parents asked if I wanted to spend the night at his house in November; of course I said YES!   Then this last Saturday, SongSong and his family came to watch my soccer game and then came to our house for dinner.  We had a good time watching Chinese movies while SongSong's sisters played with my sisters on their video game system and our parents talked (probably about us!).
I thought SongSong's new family was very nice.

It is so great having my friends close to me.  They are the only people in my life who have been there for as long as I can remember.  I couldn't believe it when ZhangYun's family came to get him; it kind of scared me. I mean, yeah, we had all 3 said yes to adoption, but I guess we really didn't expect it to happen because we are older kids and people usually pick the little, cute kids.  I knew both ZhangYun and Songsong had families, but it wasn't until ZhangYun's family Skyped with him that I found out I had a family too!  I still worried that something would happen and when ZhangYun really left, I was afraid I might never see him again.  I don't usually cry but I did when he left.

By the time SongSong's family came, we knew my family was coming right after them, so I wasn't as sad knowing I'd see him soon in America, but it still seemed like forever until they came and then, there they were! 

Better go, "Mom's" telling us to go to bed because we stayed up too late last night :)!

For more older adoption stories, click on the link below....
http://www.deathbygreatwall.com/

Monday, September 24, 2012

Soccer Pictures!




Isn't he such a handsome kid?  I am so biased!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One month....almost

Wednesday marks our first month home with NingNing.  Such a short time in the "big picture", but it already feels like China was so long ago.  Except for the language barrier, it feels as if NingNing's always been here.  He has filled his "space" in our family nicely.

Bonding.....the member of our family he is most bonded to and shows the most affection to is our youngest, Judi, 7 years old.  She has the demeanor of an older kid, but is small enough to trigger protectiveness.  While teasing each other as brother and sister will do, NingNing has appointed himself her protector.  If she gets hurt, he's right there and she wants him.  I thought I had been replaced, but she still wants her mama, she just wants NingNing to bring her to me!  He and Jazmin are warming up to each other, and of course James and he have their own "brother" stuff going on.  Physically, the only thing we kind of still dance around is hugs and kisses which is understandable. He accepts affectionate gestures just fine and will sit or stand shoulder to shoulder with no qualms. 

English.......is coming along.  Today was actually the first day ever when he responded almost entirely in English!  Just small words, but progress is progress.  Judi asked him something, and he said "no".  Then James bought him a Sprite during Jessica's softball game.  When NingNing went to take it, James asked "what do you say", and N immediately responded "Thank you!".  Later, we ran by Grandma and Grandpa's house, and he said "Hi!" first thing.   He copies Judi quite frequently and since she talks like a mini-adult, it works out well!

First Sleepover........with Seth, one of his friends from Independence; Seth stayed at our house for 2 nights.  We went up to watch Seth and Zane's soccer game, then Saturday, Seth was here to watch NingNing's game.  When we took Seth home, he showed NingNing their house, piano, and the bedroom where they disappeared to yet again do the "net".  It still amazes me how much all these kids rely on the internet to pass their time; they came out of Chengdu with little to no English, but they can manipulate a computer like a pro; go figure.  We have NingNing go with us most places and got him in soccer for some exercise and fun; otherwise, he is content to read books, play Farmville, QQ, and watch Chinese movies or cartoons on the net.  I don't know if it upsets him to stop what he's doing when we go somewhere, but he never gives us any trouble over it and does what we ask right away.  He also likes to be near us (and people) and has his spot on the couch where he'll be doing his thing, but still pretty tuned-in to what's going on around him.

School........first week of full days.  He's tired when he gets home, and understandably.  He gets 3 hours a day of intense ELL instruction, and then is mainstreamed another 3 hours for PE, Choir, Math, and Social Studies (alternate days).  An ELL specialist told us that with that much one-on-one intense learning and the effort of being in an all-English environment all day, he needed to "decompress" when he gets home.  In other words, let him do QQ, watch his movies/cartoons, and basically chill out.  We also got him on a recreational soccer team to give him an opportunity to have some good ol' fashioned fun; at least it is two days a week I know he's getting some fresh air; he definitely is not used to regular exercise and activity!  His first game went well, he's working on figuring out where the coach wants him on the field.  He is understanding  a good bit, I think now, of spoken English.

Food.......is coming along nicely. The "like" list is surpassing the "don't like" list!  Things he likes: chicken nuggets (a fave), potstickers (WalMart-LOVES them), Spicy Honey Kraft BBQ sauce, pigs in blankets, chocolate chip pancakes, corn, McChicken at McDonalds (appears to be a Chengdu kid favorite),Sunny D, the chocolate drink YooHoo (found a way to get vitamins and calcium into him), Little Debbie Nutty Bars, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, any rice or noodles of course, pork, chicken, granola bars, fruit snacks, grape/cranberry juice, potatoes, Hawaiian punch. marshmallows, and Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Dislikes............anything to do with milk which is why I'm glad he will drink YooHoo, regular ice cream (likes Rainbow Sherbert), burnt hot dogs (discovered this weekend), cheese,  eggs of any kind (won't eat fried rice with them in it), Cheezits (sacrilege!),and root beer just to name  a few. 

Will post some pics later in the week.......stay tuned!



Monday, September 10, 2012

Schooltime!

NingNing begins full school days this week!  Last week, on Thursday, our school called; they had a plan for NingNing!  Our school has alternate days of classes, 4 "blocks" a day.  For the 1st and 4th blocks he is mainstreamed, and receives ELL instruction during 2nd and 3rd blocks, or 3 hours.  The school worked hard to get this in place quickly as I have to return to work soon, so that is a huge relief for us.

NingNing continues to make strides.  With his program beginning at school, the other kids getting into the "meat" of school, and after-school activities starting, things are revving up.  I also go back to work fulltime at the end of September, so JR will be taking over the morning duties.  We are having some problems getting the boys up for school, so last week, we moved bedtime for them back to 9pm.  Neither boy was very happy about that, but it's a done deal until they begin to get up on time.
NingNing tends to wait until James gets up (and James is NOT a morning person) and I realized today that perhaps he has no sense of WHEN he needs to be up!  So tonight I am going to set their alarm clock up and let NingNing know that when it goes off, it's time to be UP!  With 5 kids to get ready for school, we can't have two lying in bed until 15" before the bus comes.

As time goes by, it's apparent that NingNing and our youngest, Judi, have bonded amazingly well.  While still teasing her like a brother will, he is very concerned when there is something wrong or she is upset.  She gets nasal congestion everytime the weather changes and he told us on Google Translate that she was sick, so we had to explain that she has medicine for that and will be ok.  Then last night, she was upset about a friend at school and he sat on her bed consoling her.  They are usually never far apart.

With the rest of us, the touchy-feely stuff is about where I'd expect it to be.  We kiss our kids goodnight, but so far it's a no-go with NingNing.  We make it a point for everyone to say goodnight to each other and I'll say "I love my boys!" as we turn off their light.  NingNing'll sit next to us on the couch and has no qualms about being squashed together there or in the car or the occasional shoulder hug or casual touch.  The rest will come in time and we are thrilled with the progress he's made.

The one area I'd like to improve on is NingNing's desire to do physical things.  We know they weren't used to a lot in Chengdu, so we try to get the kids outside when we can.  Saturday, I had the girls and NingNing take a walk with me, just to get out of the house for a bit.  Then Sunday, after church, Jr, James, and NingNing went out on our deck and he was introduced to target shooting.  I think he really enjoyed himself and looked very interesting with goggles and earmuffs on!  Then we went off to Grandpa's where we have discovered he can ride a bike!  He did that for quite awhile and just hung out with the kids watching "ICarly".  He really seemed to open up Sunday and smiled and laughed more than I've ever seen him do up to now.

Everybody likes their electronics!

Brothers

NingNing started it and this is how it ended!

Setting up the "targets"

Dad and NingNing

Hangin' out
Tonight we are going to the library to try out the "ESL cafe" they offer for free, to see if it would be a good supplement to school.  NingNing also indicated he wants to take piano lessons, so we're working on finding a teacher with an opening. 

Backing up a bit.....

http://sandersadoptionjourneytochina.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-three-amigos-reunion.html

On August 22, we returned home.  The blog above belongs to Seth's family, the first of the 3 Amigos and NingNing's best friend.  There are pictures of the boys' reunion at the airport and as official Americans.
Both of NingNing's friends were there and their families, as well as our family and my dad and stepmom. It was a wonderful homecoming!  Later at dinner, it was fun to watch the boys talk a mile a minute catching up. Two of the pictures show them in China and then here; just look at the difference in the boys' faces!

We set up a surprise visit on Memorial Day with NingNing's friends and plan to get the boys together as often as we can.  NingNing even talked on the phone with Seth just yesterday (because we were trying to figure out what "palm the ball" was in reference to a sport!).

Will blog again tomorrow regarding more current happenings!




Saturday, September 1, 2012

First week of school behind us

Well, NingNing survived his first week of school.  He gets on the bus with his siblings and I have been picking him up at 11:10, before lunch.  The idea was that next week he would begin fulltime with support from an ESL teacher.  However, we heard today the ESL teacher might not be able to do it after all because it is only part-time.  So still trying to work that out.  My biggest concern is him going to school and having to sit through Reading, English, History/Social Studies with nothing to do and no way to understand.  I created some basic English worksheets for him, word searches, and math sheets, since we know now he does know the English alphabet and can say it and of course, you don't need English for math mostly.
I could keep him home another week, but here he watches Chinese movies and QQ a lot, so we want to limit that somewhat so he's not using it as a crutch, so in the long run, I think he'll be better off in school as the more he's surrounded by English with kids his own age, the quicker he'll absorb it.

He seemed very comfortable by today about zipping off to his locker (got his combination down now) and getting his things; he was smiling again today when I picked him up; always a good sign.  Don't think he cares for getting up so early, but what teenager does, seriously?

We've started introducing him to chores and helping out.  He holds the door for me now, carries groceries in, learned how to empty the dishwasher, and set the table.  I know this may not last, but I am so enjoying having ONE teenager who does what we ask immediately with no fussing :).  All our other kids have been great with NingNing and treat him just like any other sibling.  We are starting to see a spunky, mischievious personality emerging, especially when he's around our youngest, who has always acted like a teen herself.  She gets right in there, tickling him, taking his computer, snuggling with him, and even taking one of his earphones so she can watch his Chinese movies with him!  Being adopted only 3 1/2 years ago herself, I wondered if she would bond to him the quickest.

The one thing I've been glad to see is that the younger girls don't exclude their older brother, James, from their attentions, in favor of the "new" and "fascinating" brother.  I was a bit afraid that might happen, but our house is small enough, we all HAVE to interact with each other!  Even if NingNing's watching his shows or doing QQ, he's still out in the living room with us; he seems to like being around our frenetic activity levels!  Tonight, at dinner, James was doing one of his funny impressions (he is quite the comedian sometimes), and NingNing was trying not to laugh so hard he choked.  It was fun.

Last but not least, he had an eye exam today.  He has great eyes and doesn't need glasses; the doc said if he doesn't by now, he may never need any.  He went through all the machines like a champ, after we explained what he needed to do on Google Translate.  Funny how he seems like a little boy when he sees something new and is so curious about how it works, and then I see the man in him when he greets people with a handshake.  I wish so much we had found him when he was younger, but I'm so glad we have him now.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Happenings for NingNing

NingNing's last 3 days have been eventful.  I alerted him in China that we were a busy family :).  Saturday was haircut day.  NingNing has shown no signs of grieving, but when we talked about hair, he put up huge resistance.  We finally convinced him to accept just a "small" haircut.  When we watched James get his buzz cut, you'd have thought he was going to pass out right there!  But he survived and at least he can see now! Then we went to Grandpa and Grandma's (Wai Po and Wai Gong) to celebrate our August birthdays; Jessica's, Jr's and NingNing's of course.  NingNing actually picked the cake he wanted and then  we opened a can of chocolate frosting for him to try; he liked it!  So marble cake with chocolate frosting went on the "like" list.  On the "don't like" list are milk, eggs, cheese, Cheezits (is that possible??),  syrup, ice cream, spaghetti noodles (too bland).....
We gave him a small carved chess set I had bought in China, and the grandparents gave him a card with $10.  He opened it and said "Wawww", which apparently means "wow!"  When we got home, we asked him what he thought on Google Translate, and he said "he liked".  He also got a chance to meet my cousin (bao jie) and her boyfriend.

Sunday was church; I had bought silk shirts for the boys and had hoped they would wear them; both my boys looked so handsome!  NingNing won't believe he is nice-looking; always putting himself down, avoiding pictures if he can.  Even though I know he couldn't possibly understand a lot, he really seemed to pay attention when the sermon was going on.  For lunch, we met with a Caucasian friend who speaks Chinese.  He came out, said Ni Hao to NingNing and proceeded to converse in Chinese; NingNing's eyes got huge and he was speechless for a minute, then he joined in.
The conversation turned to sports and NingNing said he wasn't sure about doing basketball because he really wanted to concentrate on his English and doing well in school.  I thought it would be really good for socialization, but we won't push it if he really doesn't want to.

Handsome Son #1
Beautiful Little Ladies!

Handsome Son #2


Now.....school.  Today was the red letter day.  NingNing was tested for English proficiency, which demonstrated Level 1, which we knew.  Then a lady came in and evaluated him some using Google Translate; that took about an hour.  We then had to return at 1:30 to discuss what the school had decided to do.  There was an interpreter who helped us "talk" a little more in depth; found out he is doing ok, and there wasn't anything different he wanted or needed from us.  The translator said his name was "cute" and  I thought he would melt right through the floor; first time I saw him blush, lol!
Basically, it was decided that for this week, NingNing will go halfdays starting tomorrow, and will be "buddied" with another 8th grader.  They told him through the translator he's expected to do nothing but observe, watch, listen, and absorb English; they are absolutely doing their best to ensure his transition to our school goes as smooth as possible.
I had the translator (a senior Chinese student at UCM) ask NingNing how he felt about tomorrow and he said he wanted me to be there.  I was so thrilled that he is already bonding to the extent that he wants Mom nearby; so he will ride the bus with his siblings and I will follow behind and hang out in the library until time to go home.  He seemed happier knowing I would be close.

Later, our oldest, Jessica, had a softball game.  She's a senior, so we're trying to go to as many games as possible.  She got two great hits, and a couple RBIs.  NingNing enjoyed it, but started yawning, so we headed home once we knew the outcome (we lost) and got all 5 kids in bed by 9:15!  That's pretty much a miracle for us.

 

Friday, August 24, 2012

NingNing's first days

I know it's been only two days since we've been home, but I just had to post what's been going on.  Yesterday (Thursday) we just hung around basically sleeping.  NingNing got up in the morning, took a nap partway through the day and then went to bed when we did at 10:30.  James said he was up during the night playing on the Ipod and sat on James's bed showing him because the Ipod was dead!  They both got up at a decent hour this morning and neither one has taken a nap today, so hopefully they will sleep completely through the night (kinda weird that i'm saying that about a 15 and 14 year old).
NingNing spent part of yesterday and today getting acquainted with his two younger sisters.  He has learned more English in the last two days from our youngest, Judi, than our whole 18 days in China!  Judi knows no strangers and glued herself to NingNing since the moment they met.  They tussle and mess with each other, but I think she fascinates him, just because she talks non-stop.  BUT, it has served to cause him to begin copying her, which is wonderful to hear.  He copies her exactly and since she talks with such expression, it's hilarious to hear a 14-year old boy copying a 7-year old girl.
For instance, at this very moment, they are all sitting on the couch; he is playing a farm game, and the girls are telling him what the items are in English and he's repeating it softly.

Today we took NingNing to Walmart as he has begun to express specific opinions on foods he doesn't like; quite the change from China, let me tell you!  So far, he hates milk and cheese or anything that tastes like cheese, didn't like spaghetti noodles (too bland), ate scrambled eggs in China, but not here (again too bland).  We got on Google Translate today and figured out he likes Sunny D, grapes, and toast with jam, so at least we've found something he can eat for breakfast before school.  We also told him we understand if he doesn't want to eat a lot, but he needed to eat something once he's in school full-time.  And for dinner, thank goodness for stir fry in a bag until my culinary skills improve! We bought more noodle bowls to send to school with him until his tastes adjust a little more; they are easy to make and only 3 minutes to microwave.  Not the most nutritous, but we're talking school lunches as an alternative, so which is the lesser of two evils, really?  Also found another plaid shirt and a hoodie he liked, as well as underwear and socks.
NingNing was a bit taken aback by the amount of food and drink we bought; he gave over pushing the cart to Jr after it was about half full!

Then, at 3, we visited the school.  We met with the ELL coordinator and just walked him around the middle school area.  We had the boy who's offered to be his "buddy' for awhile there and his mom, who is herself an ELL teacher and has offered her services for free.  Even if the school doesn't use her, she's offered to have NingNing come to her house as often as needed after school to work on English.  She's recommended the Pimsleur method for us to purchase, which teaches based on phonetics and breaking down English phrases piece by piece.  NingNing listened to a sample audio lesson and seemed to like it.  Now the girls are on Google Translate "talking" to him; he's said more English in the last hour than I've ever heard and everything he's said has been perfect pronunciation.  Monday, he will be tested to assess his English level and then they will devise how much ELL instruction vs. mainstreaming he will need.  My guess is he might go half-days next week and then fulltime the following week, but we'll see.
I was a little afraid that might have been too much for one day, but he seems to have handled it all well. 

Newsflash:  just this minute, NingNing showed me what he wrote on Google Translate...he said our youngest talks a lot and has ADHD!!!!  Now, how on earth would he know that term?  We're finding out there are amazing depths to NingNing.

We also told him today we go to church on Sundays and that we believe in Jesus; he seemed to understand that pretty well; we mentioned his friends go to church now as well too.
Well, I could write all night, but will save more for later. 



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NingNing's birthday present was.....

American citizenship!
We landed in San Fransisco at around noon yesterday on Tuesday, August 21, approximately 4 hours BEFORE we left China almost 18 hours ago!  Losing 13 hours time difference can really mess with your head.  NingNing had the longest birthday in history, about 37 hours total :) and is officially 14 now.
We were starved by the time we got to our hotel for the night and went to an Ihop.  James dove into the pancakes while NingNing ordered a burger and fries.  China portions are pretty small, so you should have seen his eyes when the burger came; the meat itself was 3 times as thick as anything we had in China, but he demolished it all!  This boy can certainly put away the food when he is hungry and is not overly picky. 
Also at the Ihop, I FINALLY got my first Diet Pepsi in 18 days!  Apparently Coke has overtaken China and all one can find is Diet Coke (only in Beijing) and Coke Zero (everywhere). 
Headed back to the hotel for some R&R; James finally zonked (he didn't sleep during the 4 hour or the 9 hour flight), but NingNing and I made it to about 9pm.  But the boys were awake about 4am and I finally gave up trying to sleep at 5:45a.  This was probably the only morning I haven't had a hard time getting these boys out of bed!

NingNing seems a little overwhelmed by all the English he's hearing, so we just stayed in the room to keep things low key.  He was on QQ with Seth while I was texting Seth's mom; we were talking about the boys and they were talking about us, I'm sure!

One more flight to KC, and then real life begins again, along with the work of learning English and making sure NingNing gets settled in school with the help he needs to have a good transistion.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beijing and Hong Kong

We're in Hong Kong, Tuesday morning, getting ready for our longest flights of the trip.  I think today will be the toughest day for NingNing.
Saturday we did the Forbidden City, Tianneman Square, and the Olympic Parks.  The boys were really impressed with the Bird's Nest.

We spent our last day in Beijing on the Great Wall.  It was awesome!  The guide dropped us at this section called the Mutianyu section and there was a ski-lift to the top which we took.  Coming down we opted for the "chute", a toboggan ride all the way down the mountain!  Now that was fun!  We were going to see the Ming Tombs, but we overheard some people at our hostel say it was boring and not interesting, and we were exhausted from the Great Wall anyway, so we came on back and rested up for the trek home.
In Hong Kong, we're staying at the Silvermine Beach Resort.  Got here and just hung out, went to the beach for a bit, and then hung out some more.  Ningning enjoyed looking for mussels and looking at the other small animal life we found in the water.  The view driving in to our hotel was amazing.  I will post pictures the next chance I get.





We're back to no English again; I feel it's either stubborness, fear, or a mixture of both.  When he does say it, he speaks it perfectly, but last night, he refused to say even one English word, not even "James" or "Mom".  He's understanding a lot of what we say, because he either responds or laughs when I say something to James. Oh well, in one day English is all he's going to hear, so we'll see how it goes once we're home.  He's already out of his element, so I'm sure today is going to be difficult; we will be on American soil by the time I blog again

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lost in Beijing

We got lost in Beijing our first night here.  Our guide dropped us at our hostel and we were supposed to meet at 4; it was 230p.  We walked out our street to find a bank so we could eat.  We asked directions and headed that way.  Kept on and finally realized we weren't finding such a creature, so we stopped to ask a rickshaw driver with the Ipod.  He took us to one...great, right?  We hopped back in and asked him to take us to the McDonald's right by our hostel.  He took us to one waaaaaay far away; James and I were looking at each other like what the heck?  With no other choice and being really hungry, we grabbed food to go and flagged a taxi.  The driver looked at my map and couldn't figure out where to go.  FINALLY, NingNing spoke up and showed the driver where the address was and told him where we needed to go.  This is one of the first times NingNing has helped us out like that; he doesn't even speak up to order food; he points to what he wants and wants me to do it.  I've said it before; NingNing has big confidence issues; our guide in Guangzhou said no one gave him any direction at the orphanage; they just let him be and do what he wanted as long as he didn't cause them any trouble.  He also helped out today by speaking up and asking a couple of strangers where a bank was.  Just a few days ago, he never would have done that!

Met the guide on time (thanks to NingNing) and went on the famous Hutong tour by rickshaw and got to go in a family's home; I've done this back in 2004, but it was neat to see again.  Then we headed back to the hostel and the boys played badminton in the room (don't ask), and then watched a movie together.  Good times..........

Thursday, August 16, 2012

First spontaneous English word!

"Eeeeev-a!"
Ok, what the heck?  This was NingNing's word today!  I've been waiting for 9 days for anything, like "Mom", "James", "hello", "goodbye", etc. and it's "Eva".  So we were waiting for our guide to bring his visa and Wall-E came on.  Apparently NingNing has never seen this before and thought it quite hilarious.  When Wall-E and Eva introduce each other and say each other's names, all of a sudden, NingNing says "Eeeev-a".  James and I wanted to crack up, but we didn't want him to think we were laughing at him, so we just grinned at each other.  Oh well, at least it's English!

Last day in Guangzhou and in three trips, I never realized that beyond Lucy's there's a little walkway right next to the river and even another restaurant!  The boys went to play badminton again while I ventured back to take pictures of the river scene.  Yesterday I also got stopped by the police; they asked to see my passport and wrote down my information.  I kept the boys away from that area as we didn't have NIngNIng's passport back yet; not taking any chances.

Had smoked duck's breast at Lucy's (yum) and the boys went to play pool again.  Our guide showed up at 830 saying our travel agency, SSIT was demanding the rest of their money NOW and would not let us leave Guangzhou until we did.  To anyone whose agency uses SSIT, beware; this would have been a perfect trip except for certain things they did and didn't do.  It's a long story that didn't end in Chengdu like I'd hoped but I won't waste my blogging on them. 

Thankfully, they are not involved at all in our Beijing days, so here's hoping for a happy ending!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Too many days in Guangzhou

Six/seven days is officially too long in Guangzhou.  Nothing much to do when you have kids who hate to shop, couldn't care less about the architecture, and just want to sit in the hotel room and zone out.   And let's face it, unless you want to spend money in the millions of stores there are around here, there really isn't much you can do once you've seen the typical sights.
  Yesterday we met up with the Gerbers again and a couple other families, one also with a 13-year old boy who has quite a history.  I find it interesting that the Chinese kids will not speak to each other from different families.  Don't know if that's just their way not to talk to people they don't know, or what.
   We rode back to the China hotel with them on their bus, and went to MacDonald's for supper, then hopped a taxi back to our hotel.  I'm sure there was one closer to us, but it gave me an opportunity to talk with other families.  I crave that adult interaction, as my two boys would prefer we sit in the room all day and do nothing but watch TV.  I thought NingNing would be interested in being in a different city that he's never been in, and I thought James would be more interested in China in general.  But where we are is so modern, and crowded, and urban, it's been "underwhelming".  If I could just get the boys out to the countryside, where people scrabble for a meager living, then it might make an impression, but then again, maybe not.  I think it is very hard to impress today's teenagers at all, no matter where you are, and have them appreciate what they have. 




We did go out and buy badminton rackets though, and played for about an hour on the courtyard behind our hotel.  Try playing badminton in 100% humidity; you will lose at least 2 lbs of water instantly!

Last night, we had a conversation on Google Translate.  NingNing typed that James was bullying him, YET when they settled down from their daily evening wrestling fest, NINGNING started things up again by whacking James with a pillow!  So he is NOT a total innocent in the byplay!  Not only that, but he still sticks to him like glue whenever we're out.
Our conversation went on and I explained about school, that it would be schooltime when we got home (not sure what he expected; I think later because they don't start back here until Sept. 1).  He was slightly taken aback by that.  I went on to describe the school day and that the school was hiring someone to help him out.  He considers himself very stupid and told the guide this; how very sad.  His teachers here must have really done a number on him, because he doesn't consider himself smart at all and doesn't think he can learn English.  He can repeat things just fine, but will not spontaneously use English still, even to express a need.  I have to ask him if he's hungry or thirsty or tired, etc., or just doing ok.  I never thought I'd say that having a completely compliant, non-needy child was a little frustrating, but it is, simply because you don't know what they want or need, and have to guess all the time.
I feel like there's something I should be doing different so that he will feel better about trying English, but don't know what.

    This morning we had our Consulate appointment, so that's the final step.  All that is left is for our guide to pick up NingNing's visa tomorrow, so he can leave the country.  Not only do you need a visa to enter China, you have to have one to leave as well.  We were in and out pretty quick; they asked NingNing one question, if he still wanted to go to America, and he said yes, so that's good :).




    Then we went to the Electronics market.  This is a huge area where, you guessed it, they sell every kind of electronic item imaginable, Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, video games, DVDs, etc.  I went looking for  a little movie shop we went to last time where we bought 92 DVDs.  Found it, and this time I was conservative, and bought only 29.  They were 8RMB apiece, or about $1.75.  Some of the movies are not even out of  US theatres yet. Then James found some XBOX 360 games for 5RMB, or .90 apiece.  The really weird thing is, though, that the Ipads and Ipods are MORE expensive than in America or on Ebay!
   By this time, NingNing was making it somewhat apparent that he doesn't like to shop AT ALL!  Nothing major, just facial expressions, yawning, and sighing.  James is more vocal about it unless of course he's finding something he's interested in.  On our way out, we lucked into a counter that was selling translators.  The one I've been looking at on Amazon was $130.  This one was $50, so we had NingNing try it out (he did so reluctantly).  The guide explained it was for school and he typed in "do not go for a stroll".  Ok, point taken.
Back to the hotel room for another rousing afternoon of electronic stimulation.  Later, however, I'm dragging them out and walking to the pedestrian street for dinner at the Guangzhou Restaurant; want to eat there at least once.
Probably won't blog until Friday night when we're in Beijing.  I don't anticipate any major outings tomorrow and we have to be in bed very early for the flight on Friday.  Will be very glad to get there, do our whirlwind sightseeing and then start home.