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.)

She’s walkin’…

Li is now walking! As of yesterday evening, we now have a walker! Right after dinner, Li took a tentative first step and we happened to see her doing it… so we encouraged her a bit and she just took off! Within the next few minutes, she had gone on half a dozen little journeys around our living room, each time with a little encouragement and each time into the waiting arms of one of us. The look on her face each time she did it was incredible: a huge excited smile and big laugh. It was so cool that all three of us happened to be around and were all there to experience this with her.

This is something that we’ve known was coming. She was close a couple of times right after we got home from China, but then kind of backed off. The past couple days we could feel that grip on our hands continually loosen as we walked with her, so we knew it was close.

Deb made the comment this evening that it is still a bit surreal to glance up and see her walking around or walking across the room…

(And, yes, I know I’ve been horribly deficient in posting anything lately. That’s just one area where I have been horribly deficient, I promise. These past couple weeks have been filled to overflowing — with no end in sight — but I will try to squeeze out some time in the next couple days for an update. I did manage to get some short video segments on my camera of her walking last night, so I’ll try to post those, too…)

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…