Dispatch 8

Date:  June 20, 2001. Wednesday.

Location:  Nanchang, Jiangxi Province

It’s mid-day on Wednesday, only some 60 hours after we welcomed this excellent Elle into the family — and has she ever been working at shaping our behavior!

About her emotional state:  This is a generally sunny kid, active, inquisitive, tireless in practicing any new skill.  She understands how to sequence behaviors:  as an example, she particularly enjoys carrying  the ubiquitous water bottles, from which she regularly practices drinking (see last dispatch)–

 Practicing with the bottle cap.

and she’s also very eager to master  climbing stairs, up and down, and looks for every opportunity to try out her skills.  Yesterday we went for a long walk through the park by the lake (think “Lake View Hotel”), including a stone gazebo with three relatively high steps and no handrail.  Negotiating these steps meant abandoning her prized water bottle–unacceptable!  With only a little demonstration, however, she quickly learned that she could put her bottle on the first stair step, step up to that level, retrieve the bottle and transfer it to the next higher step…you see where this is going.  What a little scientist!

 Grabbing for the camera.

Skeptical, skeptical, skeptical.

Given some supervision, she can and will investigate literally anything (in the case below, a bug).

 Bug investigations.

Jeez, what we big people take for granted!  Ever think what a marvel it is to line up the top with the barrel of a pen so as to get the two snapped together properly?  To line up playing cards with the sides of their carrying case, so that they slide in easily instead of bending?  She carefully watches any demonstration you’re willing to give her and works hard at reproducing your technique.  She seems generally to be a one-trial learner when it comes to danger:  After pinching her finger in a drawer closing, she now takes care to close drawers with the flat of her hand, fingers extended and out of the way–and she seems to have transferred that lesson to other warnings of “careful!” stopping immediately and looking to us for further instruction.  She loves to take things out of other things, but she also spontaneously puts them back (this may be a two-edged sword–we fully expect to find things rearranged in new Elle-determined ways).  In fact, she’s barely glanced at the toys we brought for her–for the moment, the everyday world offers plenty of opportunity for play.

Scariest of all is what we’ve seen the last two evenings at nine, which is her bedtime.  We’d been playing along happily when the time arrived, and, sensible of making sure that we respect her need for a schedule, we got her ready for sleep.  But how to get her to go to sleep?  Robert pulled out those handy-dandy Bob Crawford phrase cards and read out the pinyin approximation of “it’s time for bed.”  She instantly lay down in her crib, covered herself with a blanket, and dutifully closed her eyes.  We stood back, aghast.  What was this, a spell or something?  Could it last?  When Susannah glanced her way a few moments later,she was standing in the crib, reaching for the nightlight.  Seeing that Mom was looking at her, she immediately put on an apologetic expression, lay back down, and covered herself with her blanket again. Thus may it be….

Unlike many her age, the incomparable Elle is an eater par excellence, …

… rapidly consuming a wide range of foodstuffs–everything from broccoli in garlic sauce (!) to give-us-this-day-our-daily congee (boiled-to-a-faretheewell rice).

Elle's a good eater.

No fears of malnutrition here. She tries anything we offer,especially if we offer it on chopsticks, and is firm but gracious in her rejection of things she does not care for (we now have established a “bone plate” for food items  that would otherwise be tossed on the floor–and, to our astonishment, she’s thus far pretty much accepted the idea of putting her rejects there).  We don’t mean to belabor the point, but we’re really blown away by the variety of foods she’ll accept: leafy greens of all sorts, any kind of fruit, Asian squashes and root vegetables, straw mushrooms, tofu (if in the context of fresh miso soup–“some like it hot,” they say, and Elle is no exception).  In other photos, you’ll see how straight and strong she is–our profound thanks to her foster parents for doing such a good job of nourishing her to this point.  And what a fortunate turn of affairs for us: that we get a kid who likes the kinds of food considered weird by most Americans, but that have been staple fare for us for years!


Robert & Susannah / http://eleanorjean.com

A good drinker as well.

She plays her own version of Mah Jong.


Mom and daughter.