Monday, December 23rd - DeSoto Beach (Gulf of Mexico)
SongSong didn't go out much further than shown in the picture above (he and I were the only ones with enough sense to stay out of that cold water). The rest of the family decided to join the Florida Chapter of the Polar Bear Club. The house we rented had a pool and the girls swam almost every night... the pool wasn't heated and Tim said it was slightly warmer than the ocean was - hmmm.
Tuesday, December 24th - Showcase of Citrus in Clermont, FL (morning)
We did a "monster truck" (converted school buses with giant tires) tour of a citrus farm. We bought some oranges there too (best oranges I've ever eaten - no joke).
December 24th - Wild Florida Airboats, Kenansville, FL (afternoon)
Diana and Oscar held the little alligator in the above picture - no one else wanted to. At this park there are airboat rides and a little zoological area. Good for killing an afternoon. We saw gators up close and mangrove trees and a bald eagle too. There are cows everywhere in Florida... including the swamp. Who knew?
December 25th - Christmas at my sister's house
The girls jumping on the trampoline with their cousin Alec (who is 12-1/2 years old and now almost a head taller than me).
December 26th - St. Augustine, FL
There's an old fort and a bunch of expensive touristy gift shops and restaurants here... I was a little disappointed. Oh, and it was COLD that day too! I did get to eat some Cuban food there, so it wasn't a complete bust :).
December 27th - Visit and Heading Home
While in Florida we swung by to visit the Johnsons (whose blog is linked in my sidebar to the right). They were very gracious in feeding us and hosting us so close after Christmas. We had a nice couple of hours visit, and their younger girls hit it off with our girls. I felt bad for eating and running, but I think they understood. And here is a picture of the ride home - just outside St. Louis, MO early in the morning on the 28th of December. Tim took this one because I was driving.
Growing up my family had what my mom dubbed 'birthday alley'. It ran from August until October with Mom's and mine and my younger sister's birthdays in August, my older sister in September and finally my dad in October. We have our own 'birthday alley' at our house. It runs from the end of July until October. By the end of October, I'm about done with cake and ice cream (okay, maybe just cake because I LOVE ice cream). Six of us have birthdays during this stretch, Claudia is the only one who doesn't (hers is in February) - that ensures that she gets her own birthday post :).
I posted this link on my facebook page back in August. (Actually, I shared it from the fb page of another adoptive mom. - Thank you Kimberly!) Anyway, if you've ever wondered what adopting an older child is like, Jen Hatmaker nails it. If you read her blog post from the link above, my post here will make a lot more sense to you. It's okay, go ahead and read it and come back when you're done... I'll still be here when you get back.
For some reason, our adoptions seem to go straight from the Pre-Stage (waiting for your kiddo/s) directly to Stage 2 (spaz out). We never seem to get Stage 1 (the honeymoon) - except the part where our first four kids treated their new brother like a pet... that happened.
I want to note that Stage 2 looks a bit different with a 14 year old than it did with 11, 8, 7, and 5 year olds. First, there is no wailing - but there is muttering... in Chinese... in a tone that is unmistakeably disrespectful (and I might add that it's at these times I'm happy to not understand exactly what it is that he's saying). Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'd recognize that tone in any language. Second, there are no tantrums - at least not the kicking, screaming, hysterical kind. Teenage tantrums are much more subtle and quiet. We've been given the silent treatment, the glares, exaggerated sighs of exasperation, and eye rolls (any of these may be combined for maximum effect). Yup, seen all those. Then there are the bouts of willful disobedience - like the night he was supposed to take a shower: he went in the bathroom, turned on the water, never got in, turned off the water, came back out and got in bed. He was righteously indignant when told to go back in and actually take a shower (the dry hair and dry towel were dead give aways to his folly - the same as when his dry toothbrush tells me that he didn't brush his teeth while he emphatically insists that he did). Finally, I've seen the tears in his eyes full of rage and frustration - that 'tantrum' was much harder on me to witness than his other ones. Grieving and simulaneously trying to assert his independence, all while going through a complete upheaval of life as he once knew it - that's a teen in Stage 2.
On December 5th, we will have been home 4 months. On the horizon, I'm seeing signs of Stage 3 (triage). For example, trying to have a 'conversation' with him via Google translate used to be very one-sided. I would type out what I considered to be a very important point that he needed to know and I expected he would have questions about; he would read it, bob his head and say 'mhhf' and go back to his iPod. Now, with an excessive amount of some prodding - he will ask/type some follow up questions! He interacts with his siblings willingly - even the girls (sometimes)! He started coming out of his room when we have people over - AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN HIS FRIENDS FROM CHINA! (You have no idea what a big deal that one is.) I recently became worthy of battery use on his iPod in order for him to translate for me how incredibly wrong my recipe was for making fried rice! (We only let him charge his iPod once per day in order to limit his usage of it - so that, my friends, is a big deal.) He actually laughed when I teased him that I was going to cut his hair as short as Oscar's buzz cut! (At some point around age 12 or 13 in the orphanage, they quit buzz cutting the boys' hair. NOT having a buzz cut is a big deal - like some sort of adolescent rite of passage. Him laughing about me doing that to his hair is a BIG deal.) I could go on and on about the small things that I see as huge victories. Unless you've lived attachment in older child adoption, there's no way for me to really explain to you how I can be so happy about such seemingly mundane happenings. Yet I am.
And although we are beginning to see more and more of this face:
I know we haven't seen the end of this face:
However, picturing this face...
...helps get me through those rough days. Because this is what I see when I look at him.