First(s) of March

Li enjoying the spring's first trip to the swings (March 2009)
Li enjoying the spring's first trip to the swings (March 2009)

Yesterday was the first day of March, and we noted several firsts worth (at least to us) recording here:

  • It was the first weekend during this winter-to-spring transition with weather conducive to being outside. We spent a couple hours on Saturday working and playing in the snow in the backyard (pruning our Dr. Seuss tree and digging out the patio from the accumulated snow and ice from the winter). It was wonderful just to be outside in the sunshine, even if it was still pretty cool.
  • Sunday was even nicer, so we walked over to the neighborhood school for some time playing on the swings and the slides. Li is significantly braver now on the playground toys than even just a few months ago, and had a blast just being outside.
  • This weekend marked the first time Li has referred to Deb as “Momma”. Until now, it has been “Ba”, but we’re clearly getting “m’s” in there now. Ian’s name is getting clearer, too, as part of this language explosion that started a couple weeks ago.

This month will also mark our first full year with Li, which is hard to believe. At this point last year, we were getting ready for long flight and the start of our life together…

Much to be Thankful For

Li enjoys a traditional Thanksgiving meal of... noodles, of course.
Li enjoys a traditional Thanksgiving meal of... noodles, of course.

It’s now almost two weeks since Thanksgiving, and I know I’m late in writing this but I’ve thought about it quite a bit of late… we have so much to be thankful for:

  • Dominating our thoughts and lives this year is the arrival of our daughter Li and the changes she has brought to almost every aspect of our lives. After nearly three years of waiting, her arrival in March of this year made all of the waiting worth it. We are so thankful that she is part of our family, that she arrived healthy and obviously loved and well cared for, and that she has begun adjusting to life with us.
  • We’re grateful for the love and support of friends and family as we have gone through major changes in our lives as her addition ripples in ever-widening circles. That love and support has shown in many ways including prayers for us while we were in China to get Li; getting to spend Thanksgiving with our friends Nick and Karie and their family where Li enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving dinner of… noodles, of course; the seemingly never-ending bags of pink clothes from friends Chuck and Heather, knowing how much I like pink; watching Li with her grandparents.
  • We’re thankful that — not coincidentally, I am certain — she has started spending all night in her own bed beginning on the night before Thanksgiving. She’s still not sleeping all the way through the night (she’s only done it a couple of times, and it’s weird when she does) but having her sleep in her own bed means better rest for all of us.
  • We’re thankful for our church family and the support that we’ve received from so many people there as we’ve gone through this major adjustment, particularly from Mike.
  • We’re thankful for the opportunity to see the young man and big brother that Ian is growing into.
  • We’re thankful for having had the opportunity to travel together as a family to China, to spend almost three weeks there getting to see just a tiny bit of the culture and the people from where Li came, for having seen and heard and experienced just enough there to know that we will go back with Li someday when she is a little older and can understand better the path by which God brought us to her and vice versa.
  • We’re thankful and excited for our friend Cynthia and her husband Temo and their new life together and for finally getting to meet Temo on my last trip to DC in November.
Swim goggles are now mandatory attire for yogurt smoothies... who knew?
Swim goggles are now mandatory attire for consuming yogurt smoothies... who knew?

And the list goes on and on… we are truly blessed in so many ways. This year has been dominated by this little girl, this huge gift, and by the opportunity to welcome her into our family and to watch her grow and to realize how much we are growing, too. I don’t have any doubts that Christmas is going to be very special this year, too, as this little girl whose sense of humor is showing up more and more and whose sense of wonder at what goes on around her life each day grows gets to experience a very special time.

And, yes, those are swim goggles — deemed necessary attire by Li for consuming her pre-bedtime yogurt smoothie this evening… go figure.

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…

Week 2: A Tough Week for Li

Kind of a tough second week for Li, with more lows than highs…

  • She came down with a stomach bug early in the week that necessitated a scaling back of her diet, lots of diaper changes, and lots of laundry. She shared it with Deb, it would seem, on Tuesday which made for a long day for all of us. By Wednesday afternoon, though, she seemed to have shaken it and was feeling better.
  • Late Wednesday and early Thursday, Li just didn’t seem to feel good. As best we can tell from the symptoms, she was dealing with a slight reaction to her MMR shot a week earlier — not all that uncommon but obviously not all that pleasant either.
  • Li, Deb, and Grandma StewartShe met one set of her grandparents on Friday (that visit having been postponed from Tuesday for obvious reasons) as my parents came over for the day from Twin Falls. We weren’t really sure what to expect from her. She was pretty quiet and slow in the morning, still dealing with the aftermath of the shot the previous week. After her mid-day nap — not yet a regular occurrence — she seemed to be feeling better, and had a great afternoon with all of us. We went out for Chinese food at our favorite local place and she loved it.
  • Li woke up unhappy at 3am Saturday and aside from sleeping fitfully for a couple of 30 minute-ish stretches didn’t sleep again until collapsing somewhere around 10pm. Every little thing resulted in what looked and sounded like a temper tantrum (kicking, screaming, arched back) that would go on for (in a couple cases) an hour or more. We’d love to know what was wrong, but we have no way of getting into her little head to find out. As best we could tell, there wasn’t anything physically amiss. This was the toughest day yet for all of us since we got her, and was all the more unexpected based on how she was Friday afternoon and evening. At one point or another during this day, all of us except Ian, was in tears from frustration, anger, and/or exhaustion.
  • Sunday started with a 6am wakeup, but she was generally happy. Li showed no inclination to go back to bed and was happy to play with toys in our bedroom for an hour or so as we dozed and finished waking up. She ate well at breakfast and then promptly fell asleep in my arms after breakfast for an hour and a half nap; given Saturday, we were reluctant to try to put her down and just let her nap in our arms. She woke just in time for a quick snack before church — her first time there — and she did great at church: she seemed to like the music, wanted to walk a bit during the message, and lasted until the very end of the service by which time she was getting a little antsy. She was a bit overwhelmed with all of the attention and new faces, but dealt with all of it pretty well. She had a great afternoon, with a bit of a nap in the stroller during Mom’s walk (the weather has finally turned a bit warmer!) and enjoyed being outside while we got a bit of yardwork done. Ate well at dinner, a good bath, books, and then she went down to sleep with only a minor squawk or two. (It’s nearly 6am as I am drafting this, and she has only fussed a couple of times during the night, making this the closest we have come to a full night’s sleep so far.)

This will be an interesting week to watch, as I head back to work on a half-day basis and it is going to be a busy week with Ian’s parent/teacher conferences, soccer every day (including a tournament in Pocatello next weekend), Deb’s folks visiting on Tuesday and Wednesday, and all of us continuing to move toward some sort of regular pattern of life.

A Full Week

It has been a full week — our first full week since coming home from China with Li — and it has, in fact, been a full week. We’re starting to get the routine down, and she’s adapting well (and, so are we, actually).

Ian and Li exploring a Lego bucketBy the end of the week, Ian seemed to feel like school was much closer to being under control as he got closer to being caught up. It has involved (and will continue to do so for a few days) going in early for make up sessions with one of his teachers. It was also his first full week of soccer, with training sessions on three evenings and two matches this week. The return to soccer seems to agree with him — probably the combination of getting outside a bit, the exercise, the competition, and the teamwork. And he still found time this week to squeeze in a bit of quality time with his mei-mei (little sister), sharing one of his own loves with her.

Evenings and nap times with Li are gradually settling down, too, with the extended bouts of screaming becoming fewer and farther between, and primarily restricted to just those situations where she has gotten too tired to be rational (we’ve had a few of those ourselves). She’s sleeping better — not typically through the night yet, but for longer periods — and as a result, we are too. We took the leap yesterday evening of moving her out of our room, where she had been sleeping in a portable crib, and into her own room and real crib. She’s napped there each day this week, but the time or two we’d tried this move in the past had just resulted in screaming. She slept well, but only lasted in there until about 4 am, and since we couldn’t get her to really fall back asleep there, we just threw in between us in our bed and squeezed a couple more hours of sleep in. We had expected this shift to be a much bigger step backward, but so far so good…

The best part of bath timeBath times are a bit of a challenge: she turns into Dash from the movie “The Incredibles” as we lower her into the warm bath water, with her legs going about 4500 rpm and water going out behind her in an impressive rooster tail. We no longer have to have a steady stream of Cheerios being fed to her to keep her in the water for long enough to soap, rinse, shampoo, rinse, but she clearly hasn’t reached the point where she enjoys bath time. This, too, would be interesting to explore in terms of how they did bathtime at her orphanage, as she supposedly enjoyed baths. Her favorite part of the whole exercise seems to be sitting in Dad’s lap, all wrapped up in a hooded towel after the ordeal is over.

We’ve slowly started to introduce her to our circle of friends late this week as well. She clearly does better with low key people (which is understandable, given her parents), does better on her own turf here at home or where food is involved (John and Tiffany at Great Harvest Bread were big hits!). She and Deb went to both of Ian’s soccer matches (or most of each of them) this week, and she seemed to do fine: she enjoyed being outdoors, actually paid attention to the match, and did pretty well with all of the attention. She seems more open to adults than kids, in general, too.

Li had her first doctor appointment — a normal well-baby check — this week, and that was hard. Lots of immunizations (by the time it was over, she looked like a pin-cushion) and they drew blood (it seemed like they pulled about 3 quarts) for a number of additional tests just to check for other possible problems. That was the hardest part, as a parent, to watch: for the first time since we met her, we saw real tears — and lots of them. All the screaming to this point has been all wind and no rain, but there were tears aplenty by the time that was over. It made an impression, because we had to take her back in for the results of the TB test this morning and she clearly did not have fond memories of the doctors’ office.

She’s standing on her own more and more, and for longer periods of time. She took a sort of stumbling pair of steps yesterday, but they were more caused by a loss of balance than a desire to go from point A to point B, so we aren’t really counting that as walking. Those first real steps, though, are clearly not far away.

Li exploring one of our book casesLi loves books. Just can’t seem to get enough of them either. Her favorite right now is a board-book version of Noah’s ark that we read at least 10 times every day — her favorite page is the one where the reader has to howl like the two wolves, roar like the two lions, and trumpet like the two elephants. I don’t know how much, if at all, she was read to in the orphanage or whether she had books there to look at, but ever since we gave her a couple of books early in China, she has been drawn to them. I don’t specifically recall anything in the adoption paperwork where we touched on our love of books and reading as a family, but this is just one more way that God made sure this little girl has, as the Chinese would put it, “fallen into the honeypot”.

So, as week 1 draws to a close on Li’s new life with us and our new life with her, we can look back at this week and offer a prayer of thanks for

  • a really full week together
  • the love and joy this little gift of God brings to our family
  • the kindness, support, prayers, and patience of our friends and extended family as we all adapt

Tomorrow marks Li turning 15 months old and the start of our second week home. We can’t wait to see what this next week holds for all of us…