A Long-overdue Li Update

Li and Ian
Li and Ian

Yeah, I know: this is way overdue. It has been more than a month since posting much about Li and life and how we are all doing. This last part of the summer has been more than just a skosh on the busy side — both at home and at work — and I’ve struggled to find any sort of time/energy combination that might lead to writing an update here. (I’m also in the process of rebuilding a couple of my Linux boxes under a new distribution, which takes a long time — I’m more than two weeks into that project as of today — when you try to do it in 15 minute chunks; more on that in a separate post, perhaps. And as much as I’d like to be able to blame a lack of updates here on that, it’s a really only a minor part of it.)

Li is doing great, in short. The biggest change — at least for us — is that she is developing some more effective habits regarding sleep. Deb has been working with her to help her learn to fall asleep, so nap time is becoming both a little more regular and a little more productive. It is also helping with sleeping at night, as she learns that she can in fact relax in her bed and gradually fall asleep (some nights “gradually” ends up being 7 seconds after she puts her head down, while other nights, it tends toward 15-ish minutes). As a result, she’s sleeping better, she’s more rested, and she’s generally happier. Ditto for us. The only real kink there has been that Li is working through her second major cold in the past 4 weeks, and is only in the past couple of days starting to bounce back from this second iteration. We’ll be glad to say goodbye to whatever little bugs have been wreaking havoc with her nose and respiratory system…

Li and her almost-constant companion, Monkey
Li and her almost-constant companion, Monkey

She’s continuing to expand her vocabulary, and she’s definitely talking more. The biggest change there is that she’s becoming much more consistent in hanging closing sounds on words. While we’ve become pretty good at using context to figure out what “baah” might mean, having that turn into “bath” makes a difference.

We took her huckleberry picking for the first time a couple weeks ago (and suffered through the angst of just the first of many — I’m sure — realizations that we although we remembered the lunch and the sunscreen, we forgot the camera!). Once she decided that she liked the berries themselves, the next step was convincing her that if she wanted to eat them, she had to pick them (and that the pail we were picking into was not yet for general consumption). The next challenge was centered around the decision that she had probably had enough of them to eat. As we found when Ian was little, it’s tough to get many huckleberries when picking with a little one, but we did end up with a couple of quarts by the time we were done. Probably more importantly, though, we had a great day out in the mountains about town and Li found one more thing she really enjoyed. (And next time, I’m positive we’ll remember the camera, but Deb is snickering as I write that!)

Li and cousin Lauren on Li's first trip into a swimming pool
Li and cousin Lauren on Li's first trip into a swimming pool

Li is growing and developing physically, too. She definitely enjoys being outside, and is now both able to and excited about going up and down the small slide on the school playground near our house. Rides in the stroller or the wagon as we go on walks are always highlights, as are trips to the zoo. Deb bought a family pass to the zoo that works with quite a number of zoos, and between trips to our local zoo and the zoo in Salt Lake, it has more than paid for itself; it’s great to just zip over for an hour and let her explore and watch the animals on an afternoon.

Some other random Li observations:

  • She loves cuddling with Monkey, a stuffed monkey from our friend Karie, that has turned into a constant companion. (So constant, in fact, that we’ve had to find MonkeyB, who occasionally makes an appearance so that Monkey can be washed.)
  • There is no such thing as “too many books” or “too much reading”, as far as Li is concerned. Current favorites include “The Napping House”, “Is Your Mama a Llama?”, “Where’s My Teddy?”, and the “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear”.
  • Her favorite pajamas are her “pink-alicious” PJs, an early gift from cousin Jordy, but with the weather cooling off as the summer winds into fall, it won’t be long before we’ll need to put them away.
  • Li is definitely a morning person at this early stage of her life, even on mornings when Mom and Dad don’t necessarily want to be.
  • Li and Aunt Ida's quilt
    Li and Aunt Ida's quilt

    The quilt from great-great Aunt Ida is a blast; there are hundreds (thousands?) of picures on it from lots of different fabrics that provide a never ending source of things to point at, ask questions about, and discuss (including a University of Kansas Jayhawk and the KSU wildcat!).

  • Cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden are wonderful, and you don’t need to take the little green top-things off to eat them.
  • Pad thai from the Thai House restaurant downtown in definitely worth skipping a nap for.
  • Bugs are fun to squish when you’re wearing your too-cute purple crocs, and those same crocs are great for splashing in the water running through the gutter on a hot summer day.
  • Big brothers don’t seem to be good for much other than an occasional tickling or helping you learn to fly, but Li definitely loves hers.
  • Swimming pools and cousins — once you get used to them (both) — are a great way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon.

A couple more firsts

A couple more firsts — not necessarily momentous like steps or words — but firsts, nonetheless. We went to Salt Lake City over the weekend to see Real Salt Lake play the Columbus Crew, so Li saw her first MLS match. While there, Li had her first experience with Indian food when we had dinner at Star of India in downtown SLC. She actually didn’t like as much of it as I might have thought, given her preference for flavorful and spicy food, but there were a couple of things she really enjoyed (mango kulfi, for one, but that wasn’t a surprise!). We spent a couple hours at the Tracy Aviary there, too, and she was fascinated with some of the birds.

Li is talking a bit more, too, which is a bit more momentous. Her vocabulary includes “up” with a sort of soft “p” on the end that is really cute, along with “duck”, “doggie”, “kitty” (hmmm, a theme here?). She loves to make animal sounds and does a hilarious “meh” for a goat complete with the appropriate little waver in there, and she’s working “moo”, “woof”, “oink”, “quack”, and we even heard a soft “cock-a-doodle-doo” once. She’s also got “ba-ba”, “this”, and an occasional “ma-ma”. We haven’t heard “een” (for Ian) for awhile, but it is there, too. We’ve also taught her a few signs to help (she has “juice”, “hungry”, “change”, “bath”, “book”, “more”) and she definitely has “yes” and “no”, although we see the “no” much more frequently.

And, last for this post but not least, Ian finished Driver’s Ed last night. Consider yourself warned.

Li’s First Camping Trip

Deb and Li walking near campLi’s mosquito bites are fading, but our memories of her first camping trip certainly aren’t! We spent three days over the long July 4th weekend in the Sawtooths in central Idaho and she thoroughly enjoyed it…

She saw her first deer, snakes (all garter snakes or something similar thankfully, given that the largest one was a couple of feet long and about as big around as my thumb), hummingbirds, squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks; experienced the warmth of a campfire on a cool morning; learned a little about Dutch ovens and the delights that come forth from them; had her first cheeseburger, fries, and malt from the Wrangler in Fairfield on the way in to camp; had acres of dirt, sticks, and pine needles to play in; and experienced the feeling of dropping your feet into a cold river on a hot day in the mountains…

We had three great days of warm (OK, closer to hot, I’ll concede) weather. The bugs weren’t bad except in the early morning and late evening, when the mosquitoes came out. We decided these mosquitoes had never had Chinese food before, because they made more than a meal out of Li, despite bug repellent. Usually they go for Deb, but that didn’t seem to be the case this time. We also had a bit of a fireworks show on the first evening as a big thunderstorm came over the ridge around 10pm and treated us to a couple hours of thunder, lightning, an occasional big gust of wind to shake the tent, and just a sprinkle or two of rain.

Dutch oven fajita chicken with vegetablesWe did pizza in the Dutch oven the first night, and fajita chicken and potatoes the second; both turned out pretty well. The fajita chicken was one of those things where we didn’t have a recipe but just sort of started down the “What if we…” path an this where we ended up.

Sleeping in our tent with a toddler was definitely a mixed bag, but we knew that we had no idea what to expect (having been down this same road with Ian years ago). The first night went well, as Li slept very soundly (exhaustion, perhaps?) and woke up happy the next morning. Let’s just say the second night and next morning didn’t go nearly as well and by the time the night was over, both Deb and I decided that 2 adults, a toddler, and a stuffed monkey are just too many for a pair of zipped-together mummy-style sleeping bags. It’s safe to assume that we’ll probably try something different next time out.

Li and Grandma Stewart cooling their feet in the riverMy parents came up on Friday morning, and Li was delighted to get to spend a good part of the next couple days with Grandma and Grandpa. We spent some time that afternoon down on the rocks at the edge of the river playing in and around the water, watching bugs and snakes and splashing water on each other.

All in all, a great outing, and very encouraging in terms of getting Li out camping. In Deb’s words, it was less grueling than she expected (truth be told, I think I was more excited about going than Deb was ahead of the trip).

It’s a process…

We keep reminding ourselves — sometimes more effectively than others — that our adoption journey with Li is a process rather than an event.

Surrounded by booksIt has been quite a while — too long, probably — since I posted anything of any significance on Li. She’s doing really well, for the most part, and she continues to amaze us each day, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in large ways. Physically, she’s healthy, she’s eating well, she’s growing, and she’s continuing to blossom. She loves books — can’t seem to get enough of them, in fact — and will sit in her room or in the living room and “read” them to herself.

There are still some areas, though, that seem to be roller-coaster rides for all of us: sleep is one (and it is a big one, because if she doesn’t sleep well, at least two others of us also don’t sleep well) and dealing with situations where she doesn’t get exactly what she wants is another. She hasn’t slept well the past couple weeks, either at night or during the day in the form of naps, and that has made for some very trying days (and some very exhausted parents, at times). In addition, there have been some days where every little thing has resulted in a temper tantrum (either grande or petite, depending on how tired she is and… oh, how we wish we knew what it depended on).

Both of those — sleep and behavior — are the two areas where, given that we are working with a little girl who has 14 months of pre-history to which we are not privy, this is a very different journey than we’ve had with Ian and where we do have to keep reminding ourselves that this stuff isn’t going to just work itself out overnight or even over the course of a week or two…

The other thing that factors in to some of this, too, seems to be that she is still getting used to me being gone all day during week. Where I was home from work for a full two-plus weeks after we got back from China, and then was only working part-time for the next two weeks after that, my going back to work on a full-time basis has been pretty hard on her.

It has been a full month or so for all of us. The soccer season reached its conclusion over Memorial Day weekend with a tournament down in Utah, preceded the weekend before with the President’s Cup tournament over in Twin Falls. The trip to Twin was Li’s first road trip, and we really weren’t sure what to expect. She travelled OK for the most part, and actually slept fairly well both nights in the motel. Utah was a little different story — she travelled fairly well, but really didn’t sleep all that well.

(Our team played well in both tournaments, and squeezed a great game against our primary local rival in between the tournaments, but that’s fodder for a separate post, I think.)

Our little gardener working in strawberry patchWhile in the Salt Lake area, we squeezed in a trip to the Hogle Zoo with Li on an off-day during the tournament. She liked the elephants and giraffes the best, with some of the monkeys a close second. Some of that seemed to be because those exhibits were the easiest for her to see from her stroller; she was in one of those moods where getting her into (or back into) the stroller was pretty trying, so we did quite a bit of drive-by viewing of the animals. It seemed to us, too, though that many of the fences around the exhibits really didn’t lend themselves to stroller-level viewing, which seemed to factor into her experience.

Since getting back from Salt Lake City, Li and Deb have spent a fair amount of time outside, getting out to work in the garden off and on, with a big stretch there this past Saturday. The weather has been a bit cooler than normal this spring, so Deb is just now getting stuff in the garden going. By all appearances, Deb may have a little gardener on her hands, as Li seems to love not just being outside but being in the dirt (Deb would call it soil) as seen here. She has her own little set of gardening tools and watering can, and really has no qualms about getting her hands dirty.

Deb and Li blowing bubblesOther highlights of the past few weeks, in no particular order:

  • Deb and Li blowing bubbles in the evening sun outside the hotel in Salt Lake City.
  • The skin condition I touched on in a previous post is finally clearing up. She has a couple spots (we call them Harold and Maude, because the first spot is called the “herald patch” and these two spots have been around long enough that we’re kind of on a first name basis). Harold is getting smaller and smaller each day, and we’ll be glad when he’s gone completely; Maude is close to fading into oblivion.
  • Li getting to see and feed the animals at our friends Tony and Kristi’s house (chickens, turkeys, lambs, sheep).
  • Li getting to see the animals at our friends the Beller’s (chickens, goats, horses).
  • The parents and families of our soccer team this year: they will likely never know how much of a blessing they have been for Deb and me in accepting and welcoming Li into like in Idaho Falls this past season.
  • The sheepish look on Li’s face in the bath tub Sunday evening when she got her face wet accidentally, along with the look of surprise and anguish a few minutes later when she did it again (except that the second time, she inhaled some bath water).
  • Reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle four straight times the first evening after our neighbor Chris gave it to Li; her love of books and curiosity about them just shows no signs of slowing.
  • Watching Li dance to Dave Matthews; we first saw signs of this when my friend Kathleen from work finally got to meet Li one evening a couple weeks ago when Kathleen was in Idaho Falls on a work trip.
  • Watching Li shovel Chinese noodles into her mouth with both hands as fast as she can; she does like her noodles.
  • Watching Li wake up on a Saturday morning, when we’ve tucked her into “the big bed” between us at 5am because we all need another couple hours of sleep, and she’s fallen back asleep until 7.

She’ll hit 17 months old here in a couple of days, and I still can’t believe it has been two months since we got home…

Sweet Sixteen (months, that is…)

Li passed another minor milestone — although I’m not all that sure any of the milestones are minor, in this case — this past week: she turned 16 months old on Tuesday…

At this point, it is hard to believe we’ve had Li as part of our family for almost 2 months and that we’ve been back from China with her for six weeks. Someone asked me that question yesterday (how long we’ve been back) and I had to stop and think. We’re rapidly approaching the point where it gets hard in some ways to remember life without her.

Li enjoying a snack of yoghurt and graham crackersLi is doing great these days, in general. She’s teething again (working on another molar), walking all over the place with the occasional crash that accompanies walking, sleeping well most nights (although yesterday evening, for some reason, she had a tough time getting to sleep and staying asleep), and is generally healthy. She’s got a skin thing we’re dealing with — I think it bothers us much more than it bothers her. She’s continuing to grow and develop and adapt in sometimes-amazing ways. She’s wanting more and more to feed herself, which leads to some interesting experiences for all of us as well as humorous pictures…

She seems to be on the verge of a language explosion, too. There have been a couple of situations over the past week where we are almost certain that she was trying to say Ian’s name: she stood at the top of the stairs and shouted “Eee! Eee!” before dinner one evening, and then last Wednesday at La Pizzeria she was saying the same thing and looking at him before our food showed up. She has also taken to opening one of her books to a page (making sure it’s right side up, of course) and then she’ll start babbling, turn the page, and babble some more. It’s coming, and when it does, I have no doubt it is going to be impressive.

She has also taken to pointing to herself anytime we say “Li”…

Deb and Li enjoying a bit of sunshineThe weather has finally gotten to the point where we’ve had a few decent days: temperatures in the sixties and even a couple of days without gale-force winds which have been nice both from the standpoint of soccer and from the standpoint that Deb and Li have been able to get out into the yard. (Of course, this is springtime in Idaho: we’ve also had snow twice this past week mixed in with rain, sleet, hail, wind, and the occasional sun. And it was pea-soup foggy this morning when I got up.)

The past couple weeks have been hard for me. With work and soccer every weekday and a soccer tournament last weekend, I just haven’t been able to spend any real time with her. Most days, I will get to see her for a few minutes before leaving for work. In the afternoons, I dash from work to home, change clothes and grab my soccer gear and head for training. Home around 7pm for dinner, and by the time we’re done with dinner, it is typically time for a bath for Li, some reading, and she’s in to bed. This weekend has been a nice change in that regard, as Friday was an off-Friday from work and we don’t have a soccer tournament this weekend so I actually get a real three-day weekend with Deb and Li. (Ian’s schedule right now seems much like mine: school, soccer, homework, bed, repeat — particularly as the last couple weeks of school wind down.)