Dear Readers

The theme of this blog, Abigail coming home, has been completed for some time now. Therefore, it's time to close the book on this adventure and call it complete.

The family adventure, however is far from over. If you wish to continue to follow the Friend family, head on over to our family blog at There you will find updates on Abigail as well as the rest of the family.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tales from the Front Pew, Chapter 10

It's been many years since Chapter 9 of this series was written. I think as children age they become better behaved in church and so provide less fodder for interesting stories. Either that or they just save their behavior for some other time. It's probably too embarassing for a teenager to act out when sitting in the front row of a crowded church. A 9-year-old has no such inhibitions.

We have had several comments from members of our choir on how Abigail seems to enjoy singing so much. People have remarked that she is so good in church, that she loves her daddy, and that she is radiantly trying to sing with the congregation, even though she may not know the words. Since we sit in the front row, we are readily visible from the choir risers.

The choir usually sits down after the first set of songs, however, so any observations beyond that get missed. Perhaps they would have a far different picture if they kept their positions during the entire service.

This past Sunday morning was fairly typical for us. Abigail sat well for the first 15 minutes of the sermon and then wanted to sit on my lap for the last half. She usually loses interest in following along in her Bible, turning to the children's bulletin. She can't read well enough to decode what's going on in the chilren's bulletin, so she pesters me for a while, asking how to do the puzzles and word games, until she finally figures out that I would really like to listen to the pastor. She will spend some time copying some text onto her writing pad. Sometimes it's from her Bible, other times it's the advertising text on her pen. Then she will start to fidget and yawn, sometimes going into a full body stretch that raises her hands high in the air.

When all this is happening on your lap, it can be a little distracting. Taking notes has been out of the question for the past few months.

Yesterday, just before the end of the sermon, she did her squirming and stretching and then blurted out in a loud whisper, "He talks TOO MUCH!"

This is the kind of stuff the choir never sees.


For the other chapters in this series, head on over to the Friend Family Blog

Friday, April 3, 2009

A New Look

For a long time, Abigail wanted to grow her hair out, including in the front. So we have been in the transitional phase where her previously-short bangs were now too long to let hang over the eyes, but too short to do anything else with. I finally convinced her that having shorter bangs was not such a bad idea, and she could still let the rest of her hair grow out. So she consented to my cutting her hair in the front. She may have a lot of firsts in her short time with our family, but this is a first for me. I have never played the role of beautician before. The result looked so much better and now we're not having to pin everything back all the time.

In addition to this, Abigail got glasses this past Saturday. It has taken her a few days to stop playing with them all the time and to quit asking if she can take them off, but she said right away that she could see so much better and she could actually read the store signs across the street.

So here is the new Abigail...

Tonight, she got out the big box of dress-up clothes she has and put on a fluffy pink dress. Deb also had some toy costume jewelry that she has squirreled away for just such an event. So here is a picture of Princess Abigail...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Turkey Run

We're currently sitting by the fire in the Turkey Run State Park Inn in central Indiana. Abigail is finally in bed and we're letting her have some lights-out time so she can get to sleep. We hiked one of the more difficult trails today, one which involved a lot of rock scrambling, water crossing, and even three ladders. Abigail loved it.

After dinner, we spent over an hour in the pool, playing a splashing game of keep-away with a beach ball. Abigail is not all that comfortable in the water yet, so I held her the entire time, and she loved all the splashing about, especially when David and Dad were trying to wrestle each other down. She probably felt like a beach ball herself since I was throwing her around so much.

When we were having our devotions just before bed, Abigail brought up the beggars she had seen in Xi'an, China. She remembered how they would sit on the streets in busy places and wave their bowls up and down. She then described the beggars she had seen here in the states. Half talking, half miming, she made the motions of someone ringing a bell and holding a red bucket. It took us just a split second to recognize that she was describing the Salvation Army bell ringers she had seen at Christmas time. We had to explain to her that these people weren't actually beggars, but they were there to help the poor. Now that the language is coming along it makes it a little easier to get this through to her.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Three Months and Three Inches

OK, maybe a little over three months and a little under three inches, but nonetheless remarkable. We put Abigail to the measuring stick this morning and discovered that she has grown a little under three inches since we've had her. This explains a lot. It explains why the dress she's worn to church for the last couple months is now seeming a little short. It explains why she eats more than my teenage boys. She's getting taller, at an alarming rate. I told her that she is going to be as tall as Josh in a short amount of time. But she knows better.

Another remarkable thing has been her progress learning the English language. She is starting to speak in complete sentences; simple, but complete. We're working on personal pronouns right now. I can see where that would be very difficult for someone coming in from a completely different language to learn the difference between "my" and "I" and "me" and "our" and so on. And I'm sure it will take a while.

Deb has started teaching her math, penmanship, letter and word recognition, and she's learning to play the recorder, so "school" has started in earnest. Someone asked her recently how she liked school and she corrected him. "It's homeschool," she said.

Turnabout is fair play in Abigail's book. During penmanship, she has Deb write Chinese characters. "TWO times!" she tells Deb. Never mind that some of them are so complicated it takes a magnifying glass to see all the detail.

We're still experiencing a lot of firsts. She went roller skating for the first time this past week. Deb and I supported her quite a bit for the first hour, but she insisted on going it alone after that, and managed to do well. By shuffling along on the skates, she was quite a bit steadier than earlier in the evening. She enjoyed herself immensely. After that we sat in a local McDonald's and quaffed chocolate milkshakes for a while. Abigail loves to get out and do stuff with people. She is a very social creature.

Now that the weather is lurching towards Spring in fits and starts, we're starting her on a bicycle. Josh outfitted her with a bike and training wheels and we try to go out with her so she can practice riding. On the balance thing, we're starting out at ground zero, so the training wheels are a Good Thing. Perhaps she will get more practice when things warm up for good.

The rest of us are still working on adjusting as well. This little creature is such a novel thing in this house. The boys never talked about where babies came from; Abigail and Deb have had several discussions. I made her an egg this morning and we had a little discussion about the egg and baby chickens and why this egg did not have a baby chicken in it. We have an Amaryllis just blooming in the family room. It has three blossoms, opening at just slightly different times. Abigail called the large blossom the Daddy, the smaller blossom the Mommy, and the smaller bud the baby that was not born yet. She's just waiting for that blossom to be born. She may be starting complete sentences, but the large language gap that still exists makes this sort of subject a little bit more difficult.

Several people have asked us how things are going, since it's been quite a while since I've written any updates. There's a reason that the updates are fewer. Trying to absorb a 9-year-old into our family at the same time we're trying to prepare another member for college tends to soak up all available time. And the remaining child, who called himself "a low maintenance, well-adjusted child", has my entire barn filled with various parts, and is in the process of building a car--from scratch. Not just a model car, but a real-life, street-legal sports car. Right now there is an engine suspended above a frame made from steel tubing welded together, and I have been helping him try to fit this impossibly large engine into this distressingly small frame.

It continues to be quite an adventure.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Maytag Repairgirl

Household appliances have no respect for the current tough economic times. You'd think they would put out a little extra effort to get us through the hard times, but nooooo... Our dishwasher croaked the other day. It made plenty of noise like it always has but didn't wash the dishes. After twinking around with it for a while, I finally determined that 17 years of washing dishes had been enough and it was time for the old Maytag to retire.

Abigail was right there when I began taking the panels off to remove it. She is intensely curious and has to be in the know about everything. So she dove right in along with me, taking things apart and eventually pulling the dishwasher out of its place under the counter. She made a lot of comments and asked a lot of questions but I could tell right away that she approaches things quite a bit differently than the boys. While the boys would be interested in the mechanical aspects, Abigail thought the red and green and pink wires were "pretty".

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I played the part of dentist for Abigail for the second time this evening. The first time was shortly after we got home from China. One of her lower teeth was quite loose and she made motions that she wanted it out. So, I sat her down, grabbed the tooth, and yanked it out. She didn't flinch a bit. It must have hurt because it did bleed for a while. But she didn't show it. When she first came home she was very stoic. She never cried.

The matching tooth on the other side of her mouth has been coming loose lately. I have asked her a few times over the last few days if she wanted me to pull it out. Up until tonight, she has refused. I think she has been poked and prodded one too many times by doctors and dentists in the short time she has been with us and was getting wary of anything involving pain. Her tetanus shot a couple weeks ago was probably the clincher.

This evening she finally got sick of it and told me she wanted it out. I could tell she was very hesitant, but she did want it out. She has been showing a little bit of a sensitive side lately. The stoicism that she showed for the first tooth was gone and I could tell she was a bit fearful, but she REALLY wanted it out.

So with Abigail on my lap, I cradled her head in one arm and played dentist with the other. She laid there looking up at me with those deep brown eyes, trusting me completely. It was both humbling and gratifying at the same time. Several weeks ago, she was a stranger, now I have her on my lap, performing what amounts to oral surgery without anaesthesia, and she trusts me to do it right.

It was rather difficult to grab such a small tooth with these big Dutch paws of mine, but I did start working on the tooth, trying to work it out. This time, I could tell when it hurt. When she reacted, I tried to change tactics to minimize what she was feeling. At one point, there was even a tear in the corner of one eye.

I carried her up to the kitchen so she could rinse her mouth out and we finished the job there. The satisfying "clink" of the tooth falling into the sink signalled that the task was complete. We all congratulated her on what a brave girl she was. And I was happy that she could show so much trust, even after such a short time in our family.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

First Time Ice Skating

Abigail may not have a sense of balance yet, but she loved ice skating, as long as someone or something was holding her up. When I was pushing her, she always wanted to go faster, and doing so usually resulted in her legs going in two different directions and herself sitting on the ice.

We were with a large group of people and we all descended on a local Pizza Hut afterwards. If this was just the table for little girls, you can imagine what the rest of the crowd looked like.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Transition

Further evidence that Abigail's language preference is changing ... she has shifted from calling me "Baba" to calling me "Daddy".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Abigail is starting to understand how our naming system works. She knows that she has a Chinese middle name and an English family name, which she shares with the rest of her family. We are all Friends. It took a little bit of explaining at dinnertime to get her to understand that everyone else outside our family is not also named "Friend".

Back in the orphanage, all the kids will typically have the same family name, usually taken from the city where the orphanage is. So Abigail, whose orphanage was in Tongchuan, had the family name of "Tong".

It took a little bit to catch on why she was starting to refer to the girls she knows at church as Elizabeth Friend and Kari Friend and Rachel Friend. We first thought she was talking about her cousins. Yes, she does have a cousin Elizabeth Friend, but there is no Rachel in either of our families, and I suppose Kari could be confused with her cousin Kirsten.

When we figured out she was talking about her church friends, we got out the church picture directory and pointed out the family names of each of her friends. I think when she could see them in the context of their own families, she began to understand.

It probably didn't help that we sometimes refer to her friends as "your friend, Rachel" for example. In China, the family name is listed first, so their Friend Rachel would be Rachel Friend here in the US. Having "Friend" as a family name is certainly cool but I can see where it could really mess someone up. Particularly an adoptee from China.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


We took Abigail to the beach today. This may sound a little silly, since it was 15 degrees and the wind made any exposed skin hurt instantly. But we wanted to show her the ice on Lake Michigan.

First of all, she's never seen a big lake yet. I think she had a little trouble envisioning such a large body of water. We did show her on the globe where it was.

She still hasn't seen such a big lake yet. The ice is so far out that any open water cannot be seen. We told her that there is water under all that ice and that we'd take her there in July when she could actually see the water.

We walked over the ice to the end of the pier. Abigail's new word is now "slippery". She said it the whole way there and the whole way back to the car. And slippery it was. Most of the time we weren't sure we were actually on the pier until we reached the light beacon at the end. And then we were standing at what was normally head height on the ice.

She picks up more and more of the language every day. We're to the point where we don't see it as much any more because she is able to communicate rather well, but others who are not so close will notice right away. She puts words together and speaks in phrases a lot.

One of her favorite phrases right now is "Will you please?" She uses this for nearly everything that she wants. We're working on getting her to specify what she is requesting and now she will usually add a word to this along with her hand gestures. "Will you please...up" means she wants me to pick her up. If I don't act right away, she will still occasionally add, "Green Eggs and Ham" in a sing-song voice, something the boys taught her in China.

As her English is increasing, her Chinese is decreasing. It is more and more difficult to coax her to say anything in Chinese, and she will usually just interject some babble when she is trying to piece her English into complete sentences. We can usually understand what she is trying to communicate, but someone who doesn't know her as well will have a harder time. She was on the phone with Grandma several days ago and rattled on for a good ten minutes in part English, part babble.

We have periodically had Chinese-speaking people over to our house, averaging about once a week. When the first person was here she talked his ear off for an hour and a half. By the fourth time, she talked far less and even talked to the Chinese people using what English she knew. She was still able to talk in Chinese, but her preference is shifting as she gains more English.

She is adjusting well, though. We had a person over last week who is a specialist on post-adoption attachment. He sat and talked to us for a couple hours, asking lots of questions and observing. He was actually glad to hear that we had such a horrible time on Gotcha Day, as he said this meant that she was able to form attachments with her caregivers and should be able to form attachments with us.

We have another social worker coming over this week for our required three month check-up, hopefully she will come to the same conclusion.