Monday, November 5, 2012

Our first day with Hannah Ershu!

We woke up early again…Mateo is still very much on Alaska time.  We had breakfast at the breakfast buffet that is included with our room.  It is always such a fun adventure to look at all the different foods and try them (and use your best judgment on food intolerances) So far we have not been too sick.  Once in a while my stomach feels a little shifty after eating, but nothing major.  That in and of itself is a huge answer to prayers.  (Not that Mateo and I are going out and eating noodles and steamed buns (gluten intolerance), though we did find a steamed sticky rice dumpling with pork inside wrapped in a bamboo garnish (only after we spent a lot of time chewing and paper cutting our tongue did we figure out it was a garnish J ) 
After breakfast Emily (our guide) brought a money exchanger to our room and we exchanged a bunch of money for our fees today and tomorrow.  (this felt interesting too…a man with a leather jacket and a back pack and a hand held calculator…well at least it was convenient) 
Then we got in the van and drove about 45 minutes to her orphanage.  During the drive I got to go over my long list of things I wanted to ask when we got there.  One of the things we spoke about was a list of children still on the waiting list from Chengdu’s orphanage.  We were going to ask the director if we could meet any of these children and take pictures/videos and get any new information on them…so we could share the information with a group of advocates that try so hard to find families for these children before they age out.  (this is how we found Hannah Ershu, on the website of one of these amazing and caring advocates!)  Long story short, the head of the orphanage agreed to send us updated info (I have the email already…I just can’t open the attachment) though because we were there during school hours, we were not able to meet any of them.  And truthfully, I was fine with this, because I really wanted to focus on meeting Hannah and learning as much as we could about her and her life.  

When we walked in to her very clean and colorful orphanage, we were so excited!  It was interesting though because even though it was raining and cool outside, it was cool and airy inside, almost like you were in an open air building.  I guess they just don’t heat it at the moment.  So most people were still wearing coats inside.  We walked into this room we had seen before in the videos of our daughter, and there she was, sitting on the couch dressed up in pink and frilly mis-matched clothes, looking so pretty!  She had her back pack on.  I was so excited to see her, and Josh was taking pictures and video.  (I think most of the meeting is in a long video file, but we have some pictures to share).  She was shy and looked away when I approached her, but she eventually scooted over on the couch so I could sit by her (though I think it was because someone told her too;))  We were introduced to the other ladies in the room.  One was one we had met over Skype (we have been told that technically she is the assistant director, but she is actually the one that does everything having to do with adoption and the care of these kids at the orphanage.)  and the other lady was Hannah’s foster mom.   After sitting for a moment with Mateo next to me and Josh taking video, we decided to give the gifts out to them.  We brought two red bags with the same things in it…an Alaska smoked salmon fillet, lindor truffles, and a bag of fresh coffee, one for the each of the ladies, and then we pulled out Ershu’s special doll (this doll has its own amazing story that I will hopefully have more time to share later)  And she loved it!!  Our guide was thrilled that the doll looked like Ershu.  At this point she is still being shy (completely understandable) and at some point someone tells her to give me a hug and she did, but then went back to looking at her doll.  Her foster mom pulled out a small photo album and handed it to me.  We all looked at it together, and it was full of pictures of Ershu from the time she got to the orphanage around six and a half, up until her recent passport photo they just took.  There were some very cute ones, and we are so happy to have a glimpse of her life here at the orphanage.  She pointed to a few of her when she was a lot younger and she said this doesn’t even look like me.  We also got to share some photos sent to me to give to the foster mom, of a foster sister and foster brother, that had been adopted 2 or 3 months ago by 2 separate families that we have connected with over emails and blogs (and they have been such a great source of help and encouragement!)  It was so exciting to be able to share with the director and foster mom that they both (12 year old girl and 14 year old boy) have settled in beautifully and are really doing well in their new families!   And I think it was really good for the foster mom to see that they were happy and doing well…I think she really appreciated it!! 

At this point Mateo is still being shy and sitting on the other side of me, and Josh is still videoing, so I offer to switch with them, and we encouraged (made J) Mateo go sit on the other side of Hannah Ershu.  Then we dug out suckers for both of them, and that was it!  It was a hit with her, and the fact that Mateo had one too, was just thrilling and fun for her.  After that she seemed to accept that we were ok and she seemed to relax a little and started having fun with Mateo. 
I was led down to an office where we paid the passport fee and got a receipt.  While we were waiting I asked the “director” how they or why they named her Zhu Er Shu.  She explained that the year she was abandoned was the year of the pig, so the “last name” Zhu was given (normally a first name meaning pig? If I understood her right)  Then it was in the month of February so the word for February is Er __ (something) so they took the first part of the word and gave it to her and then Shu is a girl name (or means girl?).  So that’s it…a little underwhelming…but realistic of the orphans in China, and from what I have heard it could be worse. 

I went back to the room and we all packed up our things to then go to see the apartment where she has lived with the foster family and other kids, in the adjoining building.  Of course there were many other details and paperwork that happened while we were in the office…but we would be here until the cows came home if I shared all of them J, but it was a good time.  On the short walk through the hallways Ershu held Mateo’s hand and almost the whole time we were there she “mothered” him like he was a lot younger than he was.  She was being very sweet in helping him, and he was great at letting her (though normally he would be perfectly capable by himself J)  We were also told, that Ershu woke up earlier than normal today, had a big breakfast, and then stated she was ready to go.  I guess she is very excited to go with us! (Huge answer to prayers)  We got to see the apartment, including her room and bathroom (2 squatty potties) and we were allowed to take pictures just not of the other children there.  I also took some pictures of the family photos on the wall, and I was given a laminated one by the foster mother too.  It was very nice to be able to see where she lived, and you can tell she was very loved and well taken care of by her foster mom.  After taking some group pictures we said our goodbyes and though no one cried, I have 2 precious pictures of Ershu hugging her foster mom. 

After this, we just piled all back in the van and headed back to the hotel.  Most of the trip back Ershu wouldn’t look at me, though she was sitting next to me…and the driver and Emily were busy in a long conversation.  So we just sat in silence for most of the drive.  I tried a few things, like showing her this amazing communication book Bonnie Lenamond made for us, and showing her some of the pictures on our digital camera we had just taken, but she was not very interested…toward the end I pulled out an envelope that had a birthday card and gift from Aunt Mindy and Uncle Donald.  I helped her open it and Emily explained who it was from …and when she saw that it was a necklace she was so excited!  When we opened it and saw that it was a sparkly bejeweled Hello Kitty necklace she gestured that she wanted me to put it on her immediately!  She loved it!  Then she dug around in her back pack for a while and pulled out a little glass dog (snoopy?) pendant and handed it to me.  I thanked her, and she told the guide it is for Esther.  She is so sweet to have thought about Esther!  After that we were at the hotel, and she was just pure excitement.  She wanted to look at everything and explore, and dragging ;) Mateo around by the hand all the while.  We are SOOO GLAD God provided the way for Mateo to come with us…we can see how much easier his presence makes this for her!
When we got back, we went up to our room and showed Hannah the clothes and girly stuff we brought her while housekeeping brought in a bed.  (talk about squishy…but it is fine)  She loved all of it, including the finger polish and the hair bows and headbands.  Then our guide helped us try to skype with Granny and Noah (she had to wake him up J) from the lobby where there is WIFI.  IT worked better down in the lobby.  They were able to see and say hi to Hannah Ershu.  The amazing thing at this point is she is already trying to speak English and she is doing a great job at copying words…and she picks up things so quickly!  She has totally AMAZE us today!  She is happy, excited, brave, caring, bossy- yes she was born to be a big sister, very smart, determined, funny, playful and sweet!  And she does such a great job expressing herself with movement and gestures to help us understand what she needs or wants! She is amazing!!

Emily then took us to lunch and to the grocery store near the hotel.  She took us to a fast food Chinese place and I don’t think we will go again.  Most of it was spicy, or had wheat in it.  So Ershu ordered chicken – which came with 2 drumsticks and wings, and Josh had something spicy, and Mateo and I split a “steak” platter, because that is all we could eat there.  (though, it was still very black -peppery so Mateo didn’t eat much of his steak, and mostly ate the corn on the cob and his half of the rice)  I am sharing this part because it was hilarious and eye opening to us…so after noticing how much Mateo was struggling with the meat, I just gave him the rest of my fried rice…and after a while I reached over (not even thinking anything) and poked a piece of meat I knew he wasn’t going to eat.  Well, pretty much because I am Mommy and I can and I understood the context of Mateo wasn’t going to eat it, and I just gave him my food so he had more to eat.  As soon as I had it in my mouth, Ershu starts saying something loudly and excitedly and gesturing quickly, and then leans over and takes meat off Mateo’s plate.  Our guide translates, and then tells her that she can have whatever food she wants and to help herself.  I’m still trying to grasp everything that is going on and quickly thinking what a  bad example I have just set for her and with the permission of the guide to just eat whomever’s food she wants…oh my.  But after a moment, she then tries really hard to share her chicken with us and it all worked out.  She loves trying everything, but she seems to sense she needs to ask first…but both Josh and I are looking at each other chuckling and acknowledging we are going to have to be more careful on what we do until she understands that some things Mommy and Daddy’s are allowed to do because we are Mommy and Daddy…but not the most pressing thing to learn at the moment J  So until then Josh and I will just be a little more careful.  She really is so smart and is observing and learning everything so quickly.  We are so excited for her to have a chance to be schooled and learning! 
We came back to the room after a quick stop at the grocery store.  It was kind of fun, and a little nerve racking for us, because having a 12 year old picking out her own stuff is a little different for us J  I also got chastised for taking a picture of a smoked pig snout (head) by a security guard.  I am still not sure what the harm in that was, but…no problem obeying when you are being told that by a guard in China! J  Emily explained to Ershu that it was time to take a nap, though she was yawning, she really didn’t want to lie down.  Emily also explained a few more things to her, including to both of us that we could call her anytime if we were having any problem communicating and she would talk on the phone with us and translate, and asked Ershu if she was doing ok, or if she was scared or anything.  She said no and laid down and between Mateo and her…we had a really hard time waking them up after a long 2 hour nap!  Before they settled down though, there was a lot of giggling and laughing going on, it was so sweet to joke and play with her and Mateo!  She needed help getting her over-sweater off that turns out to be very difficult and humorous because as it turns out it has two of its own layers and is attached to the skirt.  I would have never guessed and definitely found out the hard way J  but with lots of giggles it was worth it!

When they woke up we decide to go explore a little bit, and of course the most adventurous thing is living to see the other side of the road when you are crossing!!!  The traffic…cars, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians…many times you can’t help but stare at the chaos (from our window and we have also been the silly tourist who stand there and take pictures of all of them from the sidewalk).  Then we ate dinner at our hotel, which was buffet…(sometimes this is the easiest thing when you are trying to avoid certain things, because you can just see with your own eyes, instead of trying to explain and ask questions of someone who doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand them- though they have always been very polite and helpful)  Er shu started with a little, and then just kept wanting more and going back may times, after a while of the rest of us sitting waiting, we told her we were done and we got up and left quickly before she decided she wanted more.  When we got back to the room she started helping herself to the snacks and gum we had bought for her earlier, and then eventually tried to open a yogurt drink.  This was our first “moment”.  She wanted the drink, but I wanted her to ask before she just helped herself, mainly at this point I was worried that she was going to get a belly ache from all that she was eating.  Up to this point she knows how to say “please?” if she wants something (we had worked on it earlier with Emily and she did great) but she was not going to do it, and she was not happy we were saying no.  So she walks over to the phone and indicates she wants to call Emily.  Josh and I, at this point,  are a little nervous to be in this moment on the first day…setting some boundaries for her own good, but we were also so proud of her for being brave enough to try to work it out with us with the help of Emily!  So we called her, and I explained the situation and then she got on the phone with her and explained that Mommy wants her to ask if she wants something, so bring it over to her and say please.  So she hands the phone back to me and as Emily is explaining what she told her and what she said (“I don’t know how to make her understand me (in a frustrated tone)”), Hannah brought it over to me and asked please.  That is when I told Emily that I knew what she wanted, (she is very good at expressing it) I was just concerned for her belly after eating so much.  Emily understood and explained it to Ershu, and she said Ershu understood, and so she went and put it back…though, you could tell she was still a little upset about it. 
Later that evening Mateo pulled out his “journal” for the trip and school (coolest field trip ever!!  Got to love homeschooling!)  She loved looking at his words and the airplane he drew…and then she gestured that she wanted to write too.  So we got her a note pad and got her new colored pencils out and she wrote her name in Chinese for us.  Then I wrote Zhu Er Shu, and then Hannah under it.  Next time I looked down she had copied her name (amazingly well!) in English!  Then she looked out the window and copied “iPad” off a building.  I don’t think it is that she knows her alphabet, but it is more that she is an artist!  She can copy very well.  Then we got the ipad out, with the intention of doing some basic English with her in this app called itot .  It just has flash cards of pictures and then it speaks the name of it in whatever of the 4 languages it has.  It was set on Mandarin with the characters written under the picture, and all she wanted to do was write/copy the Chinese characters!  She did so well and was so proud of herself when we would praise her.  It was a lot of fun!
Then it was time for bed…you could tell she didn’t really want to go…but she worked on getting ready.  She didn’t want to wear any of the pjs we brought.  She just wanted to wear her clothes and we knew to expect that so it was no big deal.  Then she brushed her teeth, went to the bathroom, and then started pointing to her feet and rubbing them, trying to tell me something.  I can tell what it is about, but I have no idea really why she is doing it…so we call Emily and it turns out that in China, children don’t shower or bathe every day, but before bed they wash their feet in a basin!  She suggested that because we didn’t have a basin in the hotel room, that if it was convenient I could just shower with her. (she needs help to keep her safe because of her balance.  Well at this time I was sooo tired and we were all ready for bed, I just helped her sit on the edge of the bath tub and we filled just enough to wash her feet (which she did herself, I just helped keep her steady).  Then she climbed into bed, but still didn’t look very happy, and at this point we are not sure if it is because she doesn’t want to go to bed or if she is sad or upset because the reality and immensity of today is setting in for her.  I said good night and patted her and gave her the space she seemed to want from me, but Josh came over just like he does with all our kids and kissed her on the cheek, tucked her in, and told her that he loved her.  You should have seen her smile!  She eventually cried, but quietly and was just wiping her eyes over and over.  She didn’t want me to hug her or comfort her any.  (up to this point she has held my hand (had to first be told, but after the initial time she will hold my hand anytime I ask for it, Josh too)),  So I just sat next to her on the bed and rubbed a small part of her elbow over and over, and she went to sleep very quickly.  As most of you know, it is so hard when your children are hurting and you can’t make it better for them.  But we know this is hard on her, and we will love her and support her through it.
Well that is it for now, if you are still reading this (sorry it is such a book…the first day was so special for us we want to remember as much about it as possible!  Josh also calls me the (Queen of Parenthesis) ;))  Hopefully for my back and neck, and you all, the next post won’t be so long!  J 

Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement!!  It means a lot to us, and we can’t wait till you all can meet our new precious daughter!!  This reminds me… we would love to welcome you to come to the airport and welcome Hannah Ershu home if you would like.  Friday 16th around 4:30pm. 

Tomorrow, (today by the time I could post this) we go to the registrar and sign saying we want her as our daughter (after a 24 hour period) and because she is over 10 she has to sign saying  she wants to be adopted by us.  Please pray!  We have no doubt she is meant to be our daughter!  We pray she doesn’t either!


  1. Boy that brings back memories! So much learning on mom's side and on new child's side. You feel like you are juggling and you just know you are going to drop the ball one of these's OK though...
    And you are right..another kid along is the BEST thing.

  2. Maria,
    what a different Gotcha Day experience you have had than we did. Once our guide was done with the paperwork, she just dumped us and offered no help at all with translating or working things out. Can't imagine what NingNing was thinking that first day. We have recently found out that he was not close to his foster parents at all or his sisters, so that explains why he has never seemed to grieve. I showed him your pictures on your blog, and he just smiled and nodded. His closest emotional attachments were to his foster brother and his two friends. His time in China was not really happy; he was ready to leave.
    Very happy for you at ErShu's excitement over being with you guys...I'm sure the paperwork will go fine!

    1. I am sorry that you had such a bad guide...I really think that can make or break your experience! I am just glad he went home with you and has settled so well with you. I got 2 pictures for you of the foster mom. I did not get to meet the older foster brother because he was at school, but I do have a letter for NingNing that he wrote to him. (they told me he was 15 years old) They also said they would take a picture of him for us...though I am not sure if they will go through the guide to us, or if she will directly email them to you. Thank for all your help and insight along the way! And I know the foster mother really enjoyed those pictures (though unfortunately I wish I knew for sure that she was aloud to keep them. I gave them to her, and I thought that was clear, but right before we left the room, they were in a pile of Mandy's...? At the very least she saw them!

  3. Oh Maria, praise the Lord!!!! How wonderful and what a true blessing!! I am just so happy for you and for precious Hannah Ershu.

  4. Maria, we are thrilled that the transition is going well! What an amazing experience and blessing for you all. Hannah is beautiful.

  5. Maria,

    I love you guys so much! I loved reading and I love my niece already! I am in tears and my heart breaks over her grieving. I will continue to pray that God will help her see that you all love her and help her learn to trust you.

    I am so proud of you, Maria. How long is your layover in Seattle? If it was like last time, could we see you?

    Lots of love,

    P.S. Tell Mateo Aunt Missy loves him and is so proud of him! And give him a hug and a kiss for me.

    1. Thanks Miss! We have a very short time in Seattle to make our plane, considering that we have to make it through customs and immigration. But all that to say if we miss our plane, we will have lots of time on our hands to visit :) Keep that in mind

  6. Oh, happy day! I was so thrilled to read through your posts this morning... We're praying for you all as you adjust (what a blessing for sweet Mateo to be with you!) and for Hannah's heart to feel safe and at home with your family. We love you guys, and are so happy about your new daughter's arrival into the Cross family. :)