Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two questions answered

The two questions I am asked most often are:

How are your parents?

How is Annabel doing? Has she learned to speak English yet?

So I decided to provide an update on both.

It is less than three weeks since Mom and Dad's car accident. If I had been in the same accident, I would still be trying to eke out sympathy and expecting others to take care of me. Of course not for Mom and Dad.

Dad gets cabin fever very quickly. He would probably get island fever if he ever visited an island too!

Even though it still hurts to laugh, cough, raise his arms, lower his arms, or pretty much anything that requires his upper body, he is out trying to help others any way he can.

Mom's knee is still giving her fits and when Annabel tried to massage it today, we found out just how sensitive it still is. Yet, she too can't sit still very long. I'm snacking on her DELICIOUS banana nut cake as I type!

On New Year's Eve we all went out to dinner together and to see Christmas lights with me driving. This brought up the worst problem for them - still being VERY uncomfortable in a car, especially with the craziness of the drivers that night and the slick streets did not help. I think they just wanted to get out and sit quietly for a LONG time afterward!

Annabel continues to make remarkable progress. Yes, she speaks English, but still has a lot of trouble finding the correct word, much less the name of things. She wanted to tell me about something you squeeze, finally adding that it was in a bottle, and then with the final clue we had seen it on TV. Oh, ketchup!

For the purpose of explanation, I researched the average vocabulary of an American. Estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 words. I'm sorry, but I could not find the average vocabulary for Chinese. The big difference is one symbol for them, can many several words. There is no alphabet like we are familiar with.

Reading and writing are of course the most difficult parts. The spoken language will come and rarely is she shy on trying to find the right word. Sometimes she will make up one with pretty hysterical results. Thankfully she thinks it's funny too.

So many things through this holiday have made me think of a toddler in her maturation rate. She has utterly and completely enjoyed all of the holiday components and squealed so much with delight, she has made it fun for all of us.

But there is a dark side and this week she shared more than she ever has about her life in China.

She began by telling me that she was always in trouble. Many of her stories have the people in China calling her Annabel also. Grace questioned her about that one day, but she blew her off with the reasonable explanation that was what they called her!

This week though she told me about LOVING to watch TV in China. BUT her vision was so poor, she had to sit very close to the screen. When her foster family could not see over her head, they would scream at her, and finally punish her for sitting too close or wanting to watch too much.

That sat her in front of a mirror and made her stare at it.

Or they would put her at the foot of the bed and turn on the TV so loud she could not sleep and she was not allowed to look at the screen.

The worst though was making her sit on her knees on a washboard for long periods of time.

I know she is struggling to make things make sense. Here she is praised for doing things right. There are no cruel or unusual punishments. The worst has been losing the privilege to play her Nintendo for a week. And while she can misbehave, it is just your average childish activities, nothing that would fit the punishment she was used to.

My heart breaks for the losses she endured so early in life, but I know I can only go forward. We will still address the past, but hopefully she will learn what real love is.

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