The Straka Family

(left to right) Kelci, Noelle, Chris, Andy, Bonnie, Aimee, Lily


Andy and Bonnie February 2009

-Beijing  (New Day Foster Home, Love Without Boundaries Heartbridge)

-Jiangxi province (Luke's home province for adoption)

-Guangzhou (American Consulate)

February 18, Red Couch Picture White Swan Hotel, Luke, Mommy, and Daddy Preparing To Return Home!

February 18, Red Couch Picture White Swan Hotel, Luke, Mommy, and Daddy Preparing To Return Home!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Tinkles and Poopoos"

For those of you with weak stomachs, or with little to no interest in the downside of traveling in a foreign country with a small child whose toileting habits are relatively unknown, feel free to stop right here and come back tomorrow for a new blog entry extolling the wonders of Luke.  (Because, trust me, this little guy has so many wonderful virtues to extol.)  But for those who want to know the seamier side of things here in urban China and for those adoptive families who have walked this path before and know that things are not always easy in such situations, read on….

First, a little background….Andy and I have done the diaper thing with many children.  We have done the toilet training thing.  We have washed messy underwear after “accidents” and cleaned throw-up off clothes and stuffed animals.  It’s part of being a parent.  Not glamorous, not fun, but part of the job description.  However, lest anyone reading this think that I’m overly stoic and unmoved by the smell of puke or stinky poop, please know that this part of parenting is not my favorite.  Nor Andy’s.  And so we were both very happy to learn that we were adopting a toilet-trained son.  Good stuff.  Bonus.

While visiting New Day I watched Luke use the potty along with his buddies.  Really good stuff.  Yes, the nannies informed us, Luke is completely potty trained.  Oh, by the way, we do get him up at midnight to use the potty.  Oh, and by the way, we often get him up again in the middle of the night (or was it early morning?) again to use the potty.  What?  Twice during the night?  Andy and I asked.  Yes, we were told.  Hmmm…might not be sustainable for us, but let’s see how it goes, we thought.

We noticed that when Luke was handed to us in Beijing his nanny took a soggy diaper off his little bottom.  Hmmmm, I thought, but chalked it up to an unpredictable routine and uncharacteristic travel.  The order of his New Day Foster Home life had been disrupted.  We would just have to work at reestablishing a routine of sorts to help out.  No problem. 

But just in case, the first night we decided to put a pull-up from the emergency supply we brought along, just in case….and sure enough, soggy diapers in the morning.

No problem, we reasoned.  We didn’t get him up twice during the night.  The little guy was exhausted and needed uninterrupted sleep.  We were exhausted and needed some sleep.  No problem.

The next night we got him up around midnight and sure enough, the next morning, a dry pull-up.  Great!  We can do this.  One of us is usually still up around midnight.  No problem.  Maybe this whole supply of pull-ups taking up space in our suitcase will go to waste.  Time to head back to those adorable little boy undies.

Ah, overconfidence in parenting is never a good thing, even with a sixth child.  I can verify, yet again, that pride really does go before the inevitable fall. 

Today we went to Elephant Park, a beautiful area of walking paths and a Taoist temple on the edge of a lake.  The weather was unseasonably warm, and we could even sense a little sun through the smog.  Truly the perfect day to enjoy a park.

We had been sticking pretty close to the hotel to keep things quiet and stable for Luke, to develop a bit of a routine, and to be near the all-important western toilet in our hotel room.  If there’s one thing I really do not like, it is the Chinese squatty potty.  And my experiences in the past have shown me that when traveling away from westernized hotels and thoroughfares a western toilet is often hard to come by. 

However, emboldened by Luke’s potty successes of the past few days, we thought a trip to the park for a few hours would be fine.  Just in case, we packed an extra pair of pants and a special pair of undies with trains on it.  Luke proudly wore the dark green pair with tractors and his khaki pants and doggy shirt.  Out we strode, ready to enjoy Elephant Park.

We hadn’t been there too long when Luke suddenly grabbed his pants, hastily pulled them down and squatted on the stone path.  Quick as a wink, our little boy.  No problem, I thought as I tried to react but felt as if I were in slow motion.  The Chinese children do this all the time.  

No problem, hadn’t we just the day before seen a Chinese man holding a small baby boy next to a tree on the roadside of a busy highway, encouraging the little guy to tinkle by freeing the important body part through a split in the clothing and making repetitive sounds that were, I think, supposed to elicit thoughts of running water….so this is how it’s done in China, no problem.

The problem, however, is that Luke has been taught to sit on a western toilet while tinkling.  And so as he squatted in the middle of Elephant Park, with us, his parents, the only non-Chinese in sight, he very adroitly tinkled all over his tractor undies and khaki pants.  While we all squatted helplessly around him, realizing that the damage was done before we even had time to react.

Hey, I reminded Andy.  You’re the guy, the daddy.  I think that if he is going to choose this method in China, then you need to teach him, you know, the guy way to stand and do it.  After all, you’re the guy.  I do girls’ hair and put in the bows.  I pick out their outfits.  I think this little boy tinkling thing is in your department.  Seemed reasonable.  Pass the buck, baby. 

For the moment, we were congratulating ourselves on having the presence of mind to bring along a change of clothes.  Great job.  No problem, this little tinkle accident.  Off went the wet undies and pants.  I pulled out the tissues that I always have with me in China (just in case).  And on went the new clothes.  I figured Andy could defer the tinkling lesson until we were in the privacy of our hotel room.  No problem. 

So on we went, and soon were within the hallowed walls of the Taoist Temple.  

Just as Andy was deep in discussion with our guide, Jenny, in answer to her question “Do you have any kind of religion?”, I noticed that once again Luke was pulling his pants down.  Ah ha!  I thought.  I know what this means.  And this time I was quick.  I mean, really quick.  I’m a fast learner.  (See, there’s that pride thing again)  So as Luke squatted I pulled his pants and undies down around his ankle, away from the potential stream.  But alas, our little guy can really squirt.  Another outfit, history.  And this time there was no replacement.  Our earlier parental pride was gone.  What to do?  How to save face?  How to get back to the hotel in such a state?  How to keep up with the hand washing of the limited supply of clothing for Luke? 

Once again, we stripped off the soggy clothing.  And we decided that it was time to say goodbye to Elephant Park.  So off we went, our formerly resplendent little guy now with only his jacket wrapped around his legs, little skinny totally adorable legs that they are.  Back to the hotel.  Thank goodness for the Lovelast liquid detergent that I brought along!  It is the best stuff.  But I digress….

Luke was merry as could be, completely unfazed by his many outfit changes, striding happily and with great confidence up the steps of our five star hotel with bare little legs and his blue Nike sneakers.  Thank goodness his shirt was big enough to cover the important areas that were completely bare.  Where does he get this confidence, this happiness, this sense that all is right with the world?  It is amazing.

Andy and I were a little more battle-weary, a little less confident, and suddenly I was very glad I had brought the stack of pull-ups along.  We agreed that when traveling away from the room in the future we should use the pull-ups rather than underpants, and wondered if our supply would last.  Who knew?

We lay Luke down for his nap with our new best friend, the pull-up, safely on his little bottom.  We let him sleep for close to 2 hours, and then decided to wake him up so he wouldn’t be awake all night…besides, I would put him right on the potty to help reinforce the “right” way to do things after the morning’s “episodes”.  No time to wake up slowly and possibly have another “accident”.  I had done this potty training thing before and knew the ropes.  I was a pro. 

I took my sweet and sleepy little guy and prepared to plunk him on the potty when I realized that his pull-ups were full of poopoos.  Whoa!  That was a new one!  Up until this point he had been great about doing those smelly poopoos on the potty.  Were we regressing in all areas?  Mayday!!!!  Squishy poopoos everywhere!

I stoically began the clean-up process and wondered where to put the smelly pull-ups.  I didn’t travel to China this time with those little blue baggies that smell so nice and help hide the odor of poopy diapers.  Nope.  Not this time.  I thought those days were over.  Sigh.

The good news?  Throughout all of this Luke didn’t grumble or complain.  He stoically stood as I cleaned off his tiny little bottom.  Happily jumped into the bathtub for yet one more bath (bonus! He seemed to be thinking.  Another bath!  My lucky day!  It’s all good.)  Whereas Andy and I were thinking, where do we put this diaper?  Man, I’d forgotton how bad a poopy diaper smells.  We are definitely going to run out of pull-ups.  Wish we had packed more. 

Well, this sordid tale has a happy ending, as I suspect all stories involving Luke will.  He’s just that kind of a little guy.  Andy cleverly carried the poopy pull-up down the hall to the conference room where, moments later, a room full of Chinese smoking heavily (on our non-smoking floor) would not even notice it….and I sat at the edge of the bathtub, watching Luke happily enjoying the bath, as if it were the absolute greatest thing in the world, this bath, this bathtub, our hotel room, my sitting next to him.  And so I had to grab my camera, to capture that moment.  To remember that even though my original life plan had not included changing a poopy pull-up on a child of mine at the ripe old age of 49, that it really wasn’t all that bad.  In fact, looking at Luke’s merry little face, beaming up at me, it really was pretty good. 



  1. That is too funny. We bought diapers in a Grocery store when we were in China with Hudson. Your blog brings back soo many memories.

  2. Bonnie! I just love it! NOT the poopy pull up but just the way you handled the whole thing!

    Maybe someone else around you will have a truly potty trained child and let you have THEIR supply of pull ups!

    Luke is absolutely charming!

  3. what a crack up! I can picture this all....:)