Last night I took Caroline and Mia Grace to Orange Leaf for some frozen yogurt. I haven’t had any since returning from China, and on long, hot summer evenings, yogurt always sounds like a treat. (Obviously, from the past few posts, our family is not on a gluten-free, sugar-free diet. We are on more of what you would call a “Welcome-to-America-and eat-cake-and-ice-cream-and-french-fries-kind-of-diet.” Maybe we will decide to go back to healthy eating when MG starts sleeping through the night.) But I’m going to be really honest; while the yogurt was good, I was a bit taken aback by all the stares. I’m just still not used to them. They startle me. Jar me on the inside. Take me aback.
I’ve never been one to like to have attention drawn to myself (just ask my mom), but it’s pretty clear that staring is something I am going to have to get used to now that Mia Grace is a part of our family.
I was used to the stares in China; they actually didn’t bother me. And I really didn’t blame anyone for staring. The stares were an expected response to blonde heads, blue eyes, and white faces with one Chinese baby smack dab in the middle.
But I wasn’t prepared for the stares here in the States. I don’t know why – I should have been. I should have taken a clue from the guy sitting next to me in the waiting area for our plane from Houston to Chicago before we even had Mia Grace. It came up that we were headed to China to adopt a baby, and he said, “Can I ask you a question? Why are you adopting a baby from China when there are so many babies here in America that need to be adopted? Just curious.”
Wow. I don’t think that’s a question I would even ask a close friend, much less a total stranger.
I think I mumbled something about feeling “called” and “led” and used trite, overstated Christian jargon that probably made no sense to the man and walked away trying to collect my thoughts. Jason had a really eloquent response when I posed the question to him later, but eloquent responses usually elude me in the urgency of a moment.
But that should have been the heads up. Many people in America are thrilled that we have added a Chinese daughter to our family; but some Americans also don’t understand why we would spend so much money, take so much time, and travel half way across the world to adopt a child that is not only miles but cultures away from us. The reasons why should be saved for another blog. But his comments should have prepped me for the stares.
From the moment we walked off our sheltering runway from our plane from Hong Kong to America, we were assaulted by stares in wide open spaces. Me especially, since I’m usually the one carrying Mia Grace.
And just a word of caution to all of us who want to stare – and I am including myself in those who stare because I’ve done plenty of staring over the course of my 38 years – PEOPLE KNOW WHEN YOU ARE STARING AT THEM.
I’ve always thought I could sneak a side glance and the person I am watching would have no clue.
They always know. Why? Because I know. I can feel it in the back of my baby carrier or see it from the turn of people’s heads from my peripheral vision. And immediately, I start sweating and begin to ask questions, “Why are people staring? Is it because I have an Asian baby in my baby carrier and I have white skin? Or is it the faint scar above her lip and the flattened nostril on the left? Is it just plain old curiosity? Or genuine love or appreciation for the child on my hip who is close to my heart?”
And let me give us starers one more piece of advice – if we are going to stare, and let’s face it, we all are going to stare at some point or another – SMILE. Smile at the person. Smile at the child. Smile at the family. I don’t blame people for staring; I probably would stare too and try to figure out the story behind the baby carrier. But what really jars me is not the stares; it’s the stares without the smiles. It the lingering looks, the side glances that continue throughout our meal, or our walk, or our frozen yogurt outing. So just know (at least from my very limited experience with stares the past few days), if you see a family who has a child with different color skin, or a handicap, or a different look, or is just plain ODD, a smile goes a long, long way. It takes the edge off of the stare and says, “I’m not staring because I’m wondering why you didn’t adopt an American baby without a flattened nostril or cleft lip, I’m staring because whatever your story is, I like it, and I like you, so be at ease.”
It was a relief to take our frozen yogurt to the tables outside and sit in a stare-free zone and enjoy the faces of my two girls in front of me. I didn’t get one smile in Orange Leaf last night; just stares. And one smile would have made all the difference.
Trust me; I’m not feeling sorry for myself or crying tears over tonight. It’s just the reality of adopting a baby from a different race. I just have to get used to being an anomaly. And I will get used to it – over time.
But until then, just remember to smile when you choose to stare. It makes the bitter edge of being different…sweet.
One more thing, as we drove home from Orange Leaf, Mia Grace started to fuss in her car seat. I looked back and this is what I saw:
Mia Grace had stopped her crying and fallen asleep while holding Caroline’s hand. Our differences are giving us the capacity for comfort. It’s a lesson our whole family is learning, one little hand at a time.
We are so thankful for each of you and the joy and comfort each one of you brings; in the days ahead, I am looking forward to seeing each of your encouraging smiles.
The Baker Six
Yesterday, I left the girls and Jason for an hour and a half to make a mad dash to the grocery store; our cupboards were looking pretty bare.
While standing in line to check out, this picture pops up on my phone with this caption underneath:
“Elvis’ daughter…Mia Graceland.”
I’m not sure what I laughed harder over – the ridiculous looking wig or the serious look on Mia Grace’s face.
That poor girl – I am sure half the time she looks at us and thinks, “Who are these ridiculous people, and why did I have to come home with them?!?”
In all seriousness, though, it has been a long few days for Mia Grace. The past two nights she has woken up with hard, panicked cries, either like she had a bad dream or is completely disoriented and cannot figure out where she is, or perhaps even as if she is grieving.
Thankfully, she is willing to be soothed and patted and rocked, but the cries continue off and on throughout the night, and she was awake a solid two hours from 1-3am last night.
During the day she has been teary and particularly clingy to me, behavior we never really saw while in China.
It is strange in many ways, watching my daughter grieve and mourn all that she knew as life up to this point and knowing how exactly to comfort her. I was expecting grief – the classes we took and books we read did a good job prepping us for that – but what I wasn’t expecting as how it would tug at my heart. So much of me wants to tell her, “Forget the orphanage. It wasn’t a great place anyway. You have a family now. Friends. A cat named Hot Dog (who totally freaks her out, by the way. She is not sure what to do about cats, hair dryers, or the sound of blenders). Why cry about a place where you slept behind bars in a room with ten other kids and ate rice congee every day?”
But she cries because it was all she knew. It was her familiar.
On one hand, my heart aches that the orphanage was her familiar and that she misses it. On the other hand, I long to communicate to her all that her adoption means and the benefits of “family, sisters, mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.” But I cannot communicate logic to an 18 month old’s cries, so the only option I have is to wait, and watch, and love, and hold, and pat, and kiss, and pray. Grief is a thing that cannot be rushed. And neither can the new becoming the familiar. We will have to wait to become her new familiar, her new place of trust, comfort, and love.
And while I wait, I am reminded of the One who waits for me. Of the One who patiently waits for His heart, His family, His ways, to become my new familiar. I have always thought of Him with a disapproving glance in His eyes as He waits for me to adjust my lenses to His holiness, but now I know differently. He waits with tears in His own eyes as He watches us grieve, struggle, and suffer over things that usually weren’t that great to begin with. He is so patient with us and “waits from on high to show us compassion” (Isaiah 30) again…and again…and again.
I need that same patience and grace (there’s that word again) as I wait for Mia Grace. Please pray that for me and for her. And please pray for sleep! We all feel about the equivalent of a slug trekking through jello as we slowly adjust to a 13 hour time difference, and I am sure Mia Grace feels it most of all.
On a happy note, we were able to celebrate my sister-in-law, Haley’s, birthday tonight over dinner and cake.
Mia Grace thoroughly entertained us eating by eating french fries and having her first taste of…CAKE. And not just any cake, but Teresa Medeiros’ homemade butternut cake.
I started feeding MG tiny bites with a fork:
About four bites in, she pushed the fork away and started pushing pieces of cake with both hands into her mouth as fast as she possibly could…smart girl!
Anyone who likes Teresa’s cake that much is one smart cookie and is going to do just fine with her new familiar.
Off to bed…praying everyone sleeps well in your house tonight and in mine.
The Baker Six
Today’s outing was so amazing that I thought it needed its own post.
Jason was under the weather and Lillian’s stomach was still hurting her, so the two of them stayed behind. But Caroline, Lizzie, Mia Grace and I went a place known as Shamian Island, a part of Guangzhou that was settled and occupied by the British, was home to many foreign embassies, and still maintains a traditional, colonial feel today. Tall banyan trees frame the sidewalks and form a canopy over bronze statues, fountains, and gardens below. Fans blow over old-fashioned porches and verandas in large colonial style houses, and if you close your eyes, you think for just a moment you might be somewhere in the South.
Except that to get to Shamian Island, you have to walk through the Medicine Market, something I am fairly certain doesn’t exist anywhere in the South.
First we walked through stalls of people selling all kinds of animals – cats, dogs, turtles, fish, you name it:
And then we entered into this huge hall, a place I like to call “The World of Medicine.” And when I say medicine, I mean anything that used to be alive and now isn’t that can potentially be put into a pot, boiled, and then put into a cup to be drunk down as medicine.
Here’s a video if you want to see them for yourself:
Oh my word.
It took mind over matter to get my already compromised digestive system through that medicine mart without completely losing my breakfast. Lucky for you the pictures can’t convey the smell in that market.
When we emerged from the mart into the light of day onto Shamian Island and saw a restaurant up ahead called “Lucy’s” that served things like apple pie and quesadillas, I almost cried and kissed the ground. Sometimes it feels good to be an American and not have to drink things like boiled sea horses when you turn 13 so you will grow faster.
Needless to say, we enjoyed Shamian Island. We watched people play a game similar to hacky sack. I thought my nephews would be great at this and kept wishing they were there to give it a try:
All in all, it was a good day, especially with Mia Grace’s laughter topping it off in the afternoon.
We hope you enjoy your Sunday and day of worship and rest as we sleep. We love and appreciate you all so much,
The Baker 6