24 September 2007


New Project: to gather any and all information I can about XiaJiang SWI, where Julis lived before she joined our family. As we begin assessments and therapy, I am asked over and over about her background. I have so little information, and not just for docs but for our family and for Julia. For Julia, when she returns to China to visit. And for this mother's heart. It is hard not to know your child. So I posted this message on all the yahoo boards that I belong it, and hope that it yeilds some information.

Hello all,

XiaJiang is a small orphanage in JiangXi province about three hours from Nanchang. Our Julia Bai Bai lived for five years there and we have very little information about the orphanage and what she did there. Now that she is home a year and starting some therapy and assessments, I am interested in compiling anything I can about what life was like at XiaJiang. The officials there are very private and direct questions to them go unanswered most of the time. I am interested in talking to, emailing, any families who have brought children home from XiaJiang. You can also join or visit the XiaJiang yahoo group to become involved in this ongoing research and discussion.

I promise to protect privacy and to share the information I find with anyone who provides me with information. My hope is to have some information to give to Julia when and if she is interested, and to better understand Julia's character and behavior.

Thanks for any help you could give,SuzanneJuia Bai Bai's geeky mommy

ps I am going to post this to any group that I belong to that seems at all relevant, please forgive repetition if you belong to the same groups that I do.

19 September 2007

Moving along!

I see so many great pictures on other blogs and admit my envy. I have not trained Julia to take great pictures like my friend Angie. Then again, there is the photographer -- me -- and I know I am not the best. So when I find a few that I really like, I want to use them again and again.

Here are my latest favorities.

I have been walking around with a giant lump in my throat, trying to be patient with the school and not demand too much all at once and at the same time knowing that it is me and me alone who is going to make sure Julia gets what she needs.

Julia is still tolerating school -- who knows, one day, she might like it. We are still going to school early enough to swing most days, but today we got there after the buses had left and the playground was full of noisy kids playing and talking. Julia and I just walked on in, singing "Hey, let’s go" (from My Neighbor Totoro). She put her backpack near the right line of packs and was ready to find Amy. She greeted Amy and then said good by to me.

The school in Madison continues to surprise me which is so appreciated. Julia had her language assessed within the first three days of school, and next monday, beginning of the 4th week of school, a team will meet to start talking about other testing. There are a few kids in her class -- a classroom with extra help -- who may be assessed. I am concerned about her emotional development, her sensitivity to sound, her disinterest in all things academic, her anger, and her lack of social skills. According to what I've been told, I will have a chance to voice all of these concerns and we will work together to figure out what to work on first. I have heard of many people who have had to fight for this kind of attention, so I am very grateful for it. Meanwhile, we have an appointment on Friday with an attachment specialist to see what there is to work on there, and an application for an appointment with the developmental clinic connected to the University.
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16 September 2007

Riding lesson 2

Today, Julia rode Ranger around an inside and an outside ring led by Terry, her teacher. It was her first time on an English saddle and her first time with her feet in stirrups. Terry had Julia put her arms out like airplane wings, put her hands over her head, and straight out in front of her. Julia even touched her nose to the horse's neck.
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14 September 2007

Second week of school

The pictures today are from the first day of school last week. They were taken as we left for school and I was still hopeful that the morning would go smoothly. I didn’t feel like putting them up last week as I was feeling that our progress was so little from where we had left off in May. I am feeling better about where we are now.

This week has come and gone with small progresses and advances. Julia is almost enjoying school. Each morning still begins with an "I don’t want to go school-o," but she is quite happy to get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth, comb the bed head and get some of her hair out of her eyes, ride to school, and swing on the swings before the bell rings to get on line. Julia is learning to put her backpack on her teachers line-up dot, and to line up when the bell rings. She has an aide right now, Amy, who is helping her and who is also in the classroom in the mornings.

We received word today that Julia qualifies for language training at the school. Hard to imagine that she wouldn’t but still very happy they have done all the paper work to get that going.

Julia has been coming home with some of her work – She painted a big J and S in the lines. Dotted a line drawn J and U, but just went crazy with the rest of her name. She copied her numbers from 1 to 10 and I think she tried to write a few more. I don’t know if she has done this during a free work time or when Amy is sitting down with her, but it does seem that she is doing more than just playing. I say just playing, however, I was pleased to see her playing with two boys building with legos when I went to pick her up for the docs on Wednesday.

Julia is so happy to see me when I come to get her. Sometimes, a bit too happy – something that I will talk to the therapist about.

I have been packing lunch for her. At least for now, I am trying to give her food that she really likes – usually noodles or rice as part of her lunch – in the hope that it makes school feel more familiar.

She is still doing some pushing and hitting, and I hope that our appointment with a behavioral therapist helps us some with that. We will be talking about her attachment and aggression. I am hoping to get a few answers, or at least a few things to try to move us along some. I am at such a plateau with her behavior. I have no idea how to cope with what is left of the bad stuff – not often, but when she tantrums or melts down. She is listening in general much more. Julia has begun answering questions about school as well – okay, mostly about whether or not she has eaten her lunch, but I think it is important to get a dialogue going.

I have been awfully lazy and a little blue this week this week. I have done my tasks, what I set out to do to keep the house and move a few projects along but I putter along without enthusiasm. This is not the behavior that I had planned for this time. I want to pull out of this, take possession of the lovely fall days.
It turned cold today -- cooling off all week, but tonight I was cold walking the dog. I had my tee shirt and a fleece jacket on, but I really could have used something that the wind couldn't invade. The children go to school in sweaters and jackets and up until today the outer wear was shoved into backpacks at the end of th day, but today, those kids came out of school with jackets on and buttoned. We are expecting a light freeze tonight -- if I had tomatoes planted, I'd be taking off all the tomatoes that I could this evening. We have moved north.
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09 September 2007


We had two full days this weekend -- zoo, ice cream social, and street fair on Saturday. And horseback riding for the first time on Sunday. Julia had a good weekend. The weather has eased some and we spent most of our time outside. Julia even tried using her skooter today because the boys next door were playing with theirs.

Tomorrow begins a full week of school

07 September 2007

The rest of the week

What a week -- the lows and highs keep coming. I received some wonderful emails from oh so wonderful friends who read about that first day at school and wrote or called to offer me a hand, a shoulder, anything I needed. There are no thanks that are enough! But, thanks. Those who are in a similar boat and those with sympathy -- you are all great.

Well, the week has gotten better every day. Julia put up small fusses sometime in the morning as we got ready for school. She didn't want to get dressed or come to the table to eat or go upstairs to brush her teeth. But she was not unruly; she did not insist and was easily distracted to do what she needed to. We took the car to school each day even though it is about a 15-20 minute walk. I didn't think Julia was up to that yet; however, today, I walked over to the school and we walked home when she got out. The walk was good and I will try it again next week.

Julia was assessed for language on thursday, and she shares an aid in the classroom with a few other kids. Her teacher is very interested in figuring out what can work for Julia; and Julia likes her. My conversation with our doctor resulted in a referral to a therapist to work on Julia's attachment and anger. Hopefully, we will get an appointment at the developmental clinic soon, and can figure out what else Julia needs.

Julia did have some bad behavior today. She hit another child without reason -- not that hitting with a reason would be okay -- and did it more than once to the same child. Is she thinking of establishing pecking order? We'll be working on this immediately.

05 September 2007

Second day of school

No, I am not going to report on every day of school. At least, I am not planning to, but who knows?

Julia was up early this morning and in a feisty mood. She was immediately loud and demanding and did not like whatever Daddy said. I was trying to catch my extra 15 minutes. I got up to shower and found out that Julia had taken off her pj's but was refusing to get dressed. In an effort to covince her to get dressed, I received some punches and kicks. I picked out clothes for her and gave her the choic of getting dressed or sitting on the step before I finished showering. She chose the step. She agreed very reluctantly to get dressed afterwards and we headed downstairs for breakfast. I told Julia that if she was a good girl in the mornings and got dressed without fuss, I would let her watch a bit of tv before breakfast; however, because she did not have good behavior this morning, there would be no tv. She accepted this without comment. I suggested that she play with lego before breakfast. She also really enjoyed watching me pack her lunch box. Today, she will eat Chinese noodles, a cheese stick, strawberries, and raisins. She has a little bottle of water to drink. This is approximately her lunch when she is at home. I am going to try to pack lunches for the time being.

Julia ate, brushed her teeth, and I fixed her hair. We left early to play on the playground. Julia and I were the first ones there -- some kids went inside for breakfast, but we stayed and played. Julia went on a swing for about 10 minutes before the school buses arrived. She liked the quiet and told me so. When kids started to arrive -- and oh my, they burst from their buses with loud voices and very busy bodies -- Julia asked to be picked up. We sat down together, her in my lap and she told me that the kids made too much noise. She watched carefully and I think, she felt safe observing from my lap.

We went to find her teacher and aid (Christy and Amy). Julia took her name tag from Christy, and wandered a bit. I asked the teachers about her day yesterday and they said that Julia had trouble transitioning from place to place -- music, gym, outside -- but once where she was supposed to be, she listened and followed directions. This is an improvement over last year.

I left her with a hug and kiss. When the bell rang, she took Amy's hand and went with her class line into the building.

Okay, really big sigh!

04 September 2007

The rest of the day

It would be so satisfying to write that the rest of the day went incredibly well and Julia is just chomping at the bit to go back to school tomorrow, but it might be that reality is so much more interesting.

I picked Julia up from school early -- we ha a doc appointment that was the only available time for the doc. I arrived just as Julia's class was coming out of the door and heading for the playground. Julia was holding hands with her teacher, Christy, and walking quite easily. She was happy to see me, and Christy told me that Julia had had a good day. I am not sure what that means although I expect that she followed directions and acted like a good kindergarten student. Julia learned this last school year in Indianapolis and I hope that some of it transferred over.

We went to our doctor and Julia had a good visit. She was very cooperative with weight, height, etc. gathering. She completed part of an eye exam. I had a good talk with the doctor and we have registered to be evaluate at a developmental clinic. I told her about my suspicions that Julia has sensory integration issues and the doc confirmed that the clinic was a good place to start. She also said that the school would do some assessment which would be helpful to us and that we might want to see a therapist to help us with Julia's anger.

We left the doc's office and I was feeling pretty good. We have had a good summer. Julia has spent her time with me most of her days. Her behavior improved greatly after we moved to Madison and were living with David again on a full time basis. We worked on her colors, letters, and numbers. She has most of her colors down pretty well, can count and recognize a few letters. However, the early morning at the school made me realize how far we are from truely normal behavior. I explained to the doctor that we have reached a plateau with Julia and I did not know how to move further. My stress level rose pretty quickly but after talking to the doctor I feel like we can do something that will help Julia move on.

Back to the day. After the doctors, Julia and I went to Target to find a lunch box and accesories. I wanted to involve Julia with each part of the purchase so she would be invested in her lunch box. She picked out a "Cars" lunch box, a "Hello Kitty" thermos, and a Dora reuseable ice. She was invested.

And here is when catastophy hit.

I went to check out and discovered that I did not have my wallet and so had no way to pay. I wanted to dash home, get the wallet, and come back to the store. I got Julia outside, and had a time dragging her to the car and getting her in. Then the tantrum really began. Julia let go and had her first major tantrum in a long time. She screamed and kicked and yelled at me (Yes, her language has gotten so much better) for the whole ride back ot the house and some of the return. While she was screaming, I was telling her what I was going to do and later that I had done what I said that I would and that I was her mother and she could trust me.

When Julia calmed down, I asked if she wanted to go into Target to pay for what we had left there. We went in together and paid for her lunch box. Then we did a good food shopping and went home. Julia's behavior was very loving. She wanted lots of hugs and kisses. She talked a lot.

I don't write to complain or whine about our experience. I want to record my impressions of this journey so that I can undertand the big picture at some point in the future.

First day of school II

So this is a tough one. Julia and school.

Getting in the car was the easy part. Getting out of the car, into the building, meeting her teachers (to be called Christie and Amy after we had been rehursing thier last names with a Miss, as we did in Indiana) and putting her stuff in her cubby were okay as well. But going back on the playground and being surrounded by kids and parents was cause for complete collaspse.

I am writing this now because I don't want to forget my immediate impression.

Julia went willingly into the playground but the crowd of kids and the noise did something -- scare her? feel uncomfortable to her? She dug her heels in (really she did) and would not budge. She would not get on line or stand with the rest of the class. She went to the ground and did not want to join in with the activity. When other teachers and I tried to move her into her group, she started hitting me with closed fists -- not hard at all. I held her arms to get her to calm down. I talked to her quietly, especially that it was okay to be afraid in a new situation. When she calmed down, I picked her up and she has some comfort in that. She hugged me and apologized without being asked for hitting me. We repeated this cycle a few times as Christie's group moved from one part of the playground to another and into the school room. Julia hated that she had left her bag in the classroom and other kids had theirs on their backs.

When it was time to move into the classroom, Julia walked holding my hand. (I was the only parent accompanying the kids into school.) Christie stopped outside the classroom and had the kids sit down in the hall. She explained what to do with lunch boxes and coats. Julia sat with the kids near me, and then left to lay on the floor between where the kids were sitting and Christie. I would ordinarily view this as wanting attention and scold a kid for doing this. Christie just let her do it. I make no judgment right now.

Julia went into the classroom when the other kids did. Christie told the kids to sit on the rug; Julia went to play with some lego on a table. Christie tol me that I could leave if I wanted to and I consented. I don't think I was doing any good there.

We need some help.

02 September 2007

Three days with Cheshire

The beautiful Schanker sisters.

The silliest Schanker sisters.

The singingest Schanker sisters
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More Bai Bai & Miao Miao

The two of them walked with eachother holding on like very old friends.
They bent their heads and talked and laughed together. Both of them wear dresses, although I hear that Miao Miao's mom "lost" the dresses when they were vacationing and Miao Miao wore shorts without complaint. Ummm, not a bad idea.
"Smile," the paparazzi said, and both girls put on these funny, fake smiles. What is not totally visible in this picture is that Miao is missing her bottom teeth, a perfect match for Julia's missing top teeth.

Last Thursday, there were no happier people in the world!
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Old Friends

On August 30, 2007, Julia was able to see her friend, Xiao Zhi Lan, aka Miao Miao, for the first time since Julia left China a year ago. (I am not going to use Miao Miao’s American name, because I haven’t checked with her mom about that.).

Miao Miao was on the same Waiting Child list at FTIA, our adoption agency, that Julia was on – the March 2006 list. We had committed to Julia, Xiao Zhi Kuang, by the time the list was put on line. When I saw ZhiLan on the list, I had to know whether our ZhiKuang knew her. As I remember, at least one of the girls’ reports mentioned that they were friends. Immediately I wanted to help this child find her home. She seemed to linger on that list for a long time. I advocated for her on a few yahoo lists for waiting children and waited. I think it was just before we left for China, when Miao Miao’s family claimed her, and we were very happy.

Miao Miao’s mom and I have been in touch since before they went to China to adopt her last spring. We sent a doll with a picture of Miao Miao and Julia together to Miao Miao’s family, and they gave that to Miao Miao in China. We followed their journey online and Julia thrilled to see pictures of her friend, and thrilled to see her friend find her family. From what they reported, Miao Miao was also very happy to have heard from her friend Bai Bai.

That was back in the Spring. Miao Miao’s mom and I planned to get the girl together via Skype (an internet service that allows for video phone calls on the computer), but our lives got in the way. We were moving; they were vacationing away from home and computer. Just last week, Miao Miao’s mom emailed to see if we could do a Skype call and I replied that I was traveling to Jersey and we’d need to wait a week. She wrote back and asked if we could meet in Jersey and the plan was on.

On Thursday, we decided to meet midway between where my mother lives and where Miao Miao’s family lives in Hightstown, New Jersey. We decided on the playground of a grammar school and Julia and I set out a little past 9 in the morning. Julia and I arrived at the playground first. Julia was not sure that she wanted to see her Miao Miao, and she said so in the car a number of times as we were driving. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get out of the car when we arrived.

I spotted a van pull into the school parking lot and saw Miao Miao and her mom get out. I told Julia to look that way and Julia turned and moved towards them. When they got close enough to identify, Julia turned her back and ran, Miao Miao clutched her mom. We moms had to coax the girls together, and just as I was ready to worry that the meeting was not going to work, the girls ran off to play together. They were chasing each other, climbing bars, writing in the dust, and investigating everything.

They are the same height and Miao Miao acts more mature than Julia does. It is hard to believe that Julia is 6.5 and Miao Miao is just turning 5. Both Miao Miao’s mom and I have doubts about their ages, but there are no doubts why they are friends -- both girls have big voices and use them, both are stubborn as the day is long, both are sweet and affectionate, both have unlimited energy. Miao Miao took some time to cuddle up to me and Julia did the same with Miao Miao’s mom -- as if they were very thankful, as if we must be relatives that just haven't met yet.

I saw Miao Miao stand her ground as her mom told her not to go to their van. Miao Miao even shook her head just like Julia does when she is feeling stubborn. Julia yelled at Miao Miao to come and come she did. The girls were very physical with eachother – standing or squatting very close together, touching hands or arms or faces, they bent their heads together and we have no idea what they were saying. Julia has more English and I have no idea if she knows any Chinese anymore. that Miao Miao’s mom brought, made faces as they ate sour grapes and shared crackers.
From what her mom said, Miao Miao doesn’t let anyone call her that but she took no offense when Julia did it. Both girls used their Chinese names interchangeably. They fell into what must be their old relationship so quickly and passed the three hours that we were together with ease. They ate the snacks that Miao Miao’s mom brought, made faces as they ate sour grapes and shared crackers.

Their parting was sweet and sad. They hugged and held eachother's faces close. They parted and hugged again – this time Julia lifted Miao Miao off her feet and the girls laughed. Julia wanted to watch Abby get in the van and drive off and we waved until we couldn't see them. As they turned the corner, we heard a very loud, "Bai Bai" and Julia shouted "Miao Miao" back.
On the ride back to my mom's house, Julia was first angry that we left Miao Miao and I wondered if this ride was just a little bit like the ride from the orphange to Nanchang to meet us (I think that leaving Miao Miao that time must have been very hard for both girls). After awhile, she stopped being angry and told me that she loved me. Then, she asked about where Abby Miao Miao was. She asked many times last night and first thing this morning. She can now answer her own questions, that Miao Miao is home with her mommy, daddy, and 3 Jei Jei. And I might be reading much to much into this but Julia looks happier today, less stressed, and as if part of her world was righted.
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Julia in Jersey

This has been a great week for Julia and I. We spent the week in Jersey with my mother. For us it was a visiting and vacation! Julia played with Jennifer’s doll house and all the little furniture and figures that were inside. She enjoyed what her Babja (grandma in Ukrainian) cooked for her and the extra hugs and kisses she received.

We spent afternoons at the Knights of Columbus pool that my parents joined years ago. The pool is not well used now and so the kids who use it have unlimited space in the pool. This is different from our community pool in Madison in that the shallowest water is 3 feet, and so, the water was much colder than Julia and I are used to. This was not much of a problem for Julia but she did come out a number of times with almost blue lips and enjoyed the warm towel and snuggle to get warm. Julia found kids to play with each time that we went. She especially enjoyed playing with a little girl who was just 4. Julia and this little girl jumped into the pool holding hands, and Julia jumped by herself at least once. The two of them splashed and played and "attacked" two older boys who entered into a substantial splashing war. This physical play without the demand of mature vocal communication was just pleasure for Julia. She was loud but no louder than the other kids and kinda rough for a girl, but those were tough boys. Julia also met two of my mother’s friends an by the end of the first day, she was calling them "grandma" and giving out hugs and kisses when we left. I wondered whether Julia calling these ladies "grandma" was somewhat a sign of respect. She may have done something like this with older people who she saw in China.

David was driving Cheshire to school during this week and he stopped at both his parents and mine to allow the grandparents to see our world traveler before she returned to school. After he helped her set up her dorm room, he stopped again in Jersey. As it turned out we had a very nice dinner with all the grandparents and the three of us on Julia’s adoption day. It was low key but very nice to be together. And Julia discovered shrimp.

It is amazing to think that we have been together for a year. Julia really has burrowed deep into our hearts and her attachment to us is still such a source of wonder to me. After spending a little time with Miao Miao, I see how much Julia is behind developmentally. I don’t know the reason, but from what I can put together from what I know of Julia and what I’ve now heard of Miao Miao, I am coming to see that Julia was not treated well at the orphanage. She was probably not a favorite, not sent to school when her friend much younger than she was sent, the food was not plentiful although Julia came home a fine size, and the stimulation was lacking. Julia and Miao Miao played with sticks drawing in the dirt, and neither girl knew what crayons were in China. The pictures that Miao Miao brought home included shots of her with various caregivers, shots of her at school doing various activities with other children, at least one shot outside the orphanage, and shots in more than one set of clothes suggesting that the pictures were taken on more than one day. Apart from the one picture of Julia with Miao Miao and the boy, Na Na, Julia pictures were of her alone and either inside the orphanage or on the play equipment. I wonder now if Julia’s caregivers saw a reason not to treat her as they treated her best friend.

I am very angry and bitter about Julia’s treatment at the orphanage. I do not believe that Miao Miao was treated very well at the orphanage. Why was my darling child not treated as well as her best friend? And there is no one to ask these questions of.

Julia nudges me to put my arm around her for the scary part of a movie.

On Friday, we drove down to Point Pleasant, a beach community on the Jersey shore. It was grey and damp day and so not a real beach day and my mom didn’t want to go into the sand. We walked the board walk – for Julia this was a first although she did not think the board walk was anything special – and I bought many, many ticket for Julia to go on rides. Each time we try the kiddie rides, Julia’s behavior improves, and although we had a short time when she did not want to do what I wanted her to, she was mostly willing to follow my directions. And she did go on lots of rides. She is beginning to look like she is enjoying rides. When we have taken her on other rides, she has looked very serious. She observes very carefully, she steers the wheel in front of her, she watches others, but she rarely laughs or waves to her crazy parents who call out to her and wave like silly people as she passes us each time. This time she noticed us and seemed to be happy waving.

Julia loves little roller coasters and has been on a few. This time the coaster was a little bigger. It was still very must a junior thrill but it went up and down and in two circles before returning to the platform. I decided to go on with her because I thought it might scare her some. Well, she loved it. She told me later and even today that she was scared during the ride but she screamed and held up her hands and laughed.
Julia got to know her Babja this week. Julia was really ready for this and being together for a day at the shore was a great cap to the week together.

I was working on my own Kohr's chocolate cone -- a Jersey shore favorite -- and Julia needed some ice cream guidance. Thank goodness for grandmas!

We are on the way back home to Madison. Julia has been good in the airport coming and going. She is more patient waiting on lines, more patient when we put on her VCR and let her watch a movie, more patient if we need to change gatesWe are on the way back home to Madison. Julia has been good in the airport coming and going. She is more patient waiting on lines, more patient when we put on her VCR and let her watch a movie, more patient if we need to change gates
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