Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All Caught Up

Christmas was extra sweet this year. After four Christmas of saying that we were adopting "soon," at long last, Phoebe is with us. I am acutely aware of what miracle this thing called adoption is, and how lucky we are to have her as our daughter.
Christmas was just wonderful. We drove seven plus hours to Pennsylvania, where my parents had been preparing for a solid month to host a big Christmas celebration. The house was full of Christmas trees and lights, and every meal was a gourmet feast. Both my siblings were there, too, with their combined five kids. Gabe falls right between Miranda and Phoebe in the line-up of grandchildren, and those three little ones played and played hard! The girls just loved being fussed over by their Grammy and Opa. On the way home we had to field Miranda's question about five times, "Why we have to go home?"
A few days before Christmas, the Early Intervention team returned to our house with their bags of puzzles and mind twisters for tots to give Phoebe her second full evaluation. Six months ago, she took a peg in her little fist and tried with all her might to get it in the hole, but just couldn't do it. This time, plunk, plunk, plunk, she gently placed all six pegs in their holes, with extra points for finishing in under 30 seconds. She eagerly whizzed through all their tests, and in the end scored a full four months ahead of her biologic age. Six months ago, she scored two months behind. That adds up to a full year of developmental progress in the last six months. They circled "ineligible for services" on the bottom of the page, and invited her to continue coming to their weekly group sessions, now as a "community kid" with no more special needs.
Phoebe, it ends up, is one smart little cookie who loves to learn. The holidays were full of comments like "Ohhhh! Lights! Pretty!" After playing with a line-up of kid-size chairs for an hour or so the night before, Phoebe woke up the next morning singing "chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga CHOO CHOO." She quickly learned the names of her cousins and grandparents, and is constantly announcing new words (whale, tights, loud, elephant). She's now putting two and even three words together, surprising me every time I hear things like "I see you!", "I got it!" "Oh no, (what) happened?" and "More cookie, please." Her manners are quite refined, with spontaneous pleases and thank yous sprinkled about. Mark is particularly fond her of enthusiastic "Welcome!" when she places something in his hands. As we left Grammy Kate and Opa's house after four wonderful days in Pennsylvania, she yelled out "Thank you!" She can do "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with all the movements. On the long drive home there was a beautiful moment during a rousing verse of "If You're Happy and You Know It" when both girls shouted "Hooray!" with perfect synchronization and gusto.
Miranda continues to be a great big sister. During a little Phoebe meltdown on the trip to Pennsylvania, she put her fingers in her ears and quietly said, "That's too loud. Don't cry Phoebe. It's alright." When Phoebe drifted off to sleep, her fingers came out of the her ears and she said, "That's better." I had to laugh today when little Miranda was making what for her was a loud joyful noise, and Phoebe pointed an accusing finger at her and shouted-- in a voice three times as loud as Miranda can dream of making-- "Loud!" Miranda is starting to be a conversationalist now. She listens to lyrics of songs and asks questions ("Why he throw the television out the window?") and remembers the next day stories we tell that weren't necessarily directed at her ("Your truck got stuck in the mud?").
For my friends and followers, thank your traveling with us this year. My wish for you is a healthy, happy, joy-filled 2010.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Six months ago today

Six months ago today, Phoebe became our daughter. Just the night before, she arrived in our arms. Here is Phoebe, during our first minutes together.
That was a moment of such great joy for me, but you see Phoebe-- so much uncertainty. She woke up that morning with the only family she could remember, the foster family who had cared for her for just over a year. Many hours later, after a three hour bus trip with a bunch of babies and nannies she didn't know, she was placed in our arms. I remember the clicking noise she kept making in the back of her throat. I know Phoebe, and she certainly cries when she is scared, angry, or overwhelmed. She didn't cry that day. Not once. I think she must have been far beyond scared. Too scared to cry.

And this is Phoebe now:

This child has brought me so much joy. My favorite moment of the day is when I open the back door and hear the squealing of "Mama!!" with the pattering of feet, and then get bowled over by my two toddlers as they collapse in my arms with their giggles. When I watch her doing her naked butt-shaking dance, when she insists "Read it!" for the fifth time, when she curls up in my lap with her thumb in her mouth, when she outs her naughty trick with a proud shout of "I did it!"-- I just love her to pieces. Of all the children in the world, how did I get so lucky to have this one as my daughter?

On this Thanksgiving, I am so incredibly grateful that somehow in this big world, Phoebe came into our lives.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Overall, Phoebe is doing beautifully. But every once in a while there are reminders that she is still fragile. Two this week--

While the girls were watching Big Bird in China for the first time, during a sentimental song of "I love you" and "Hello" in both English and Mandarin, I leaned down to find Phoebe's eyes brimming with tears. I snatched her into my arms and called Mark over, and Phoebe gently touched our faces and peaked into Mark's pocket as single tear rolled down her cheek. No more Big Bird in China for a while.

Then I made a major attachment error, and left the girls napping with my parents in the house while I jetted to the store, two hours after my folks arrived for a visit. Phoebe woke up too quickly from her nap, and was not happy to find no mama, no papa, no nanny-- just Grammy and Opa, whom she knows but not too well. What worried me was the reunion. I found little Phoebe on the couch with tear-streaked face, thumb in the mouth, eye looking down. As I came in the door there was no relief, no happiness. Just that frozen thumb-in-the-mouth pose that didn't change when I held her, hugged her, kissed her. She didn't look at me for a good five minutes, then warmed up into her usual smiles. But it shook me up a little. Five months into our life together, Phoebe is still clearly afraid of abandonment. She's not yet 100% convinced that we are forever.

On a happier note, Halloween was fun! Miranda, who talks like mad these days, learned the word "candy," which had somehow eluded her until now. Phoebe's a little chocolate monster, too! Thankfully they forgot all about leftovers by morning-- I'm sure we won't be that lucky in another year or two!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Fun

(This is the kind of silliness that we have around here!)

I can't think of a better way to spend a fall Sunday. It was upper 60s with blue skies and a light breeze, and the New England landscape was painted in fall colors. We took the girls to a farm a few miles out of town, where Phoebe got to use her words "apple!" and "pumpkin!" over and over again. We got to see the animals associated with all the barnyard sounds that the girls recite so well, including a pig who weighs 1000 pounds and somehow smiles in her sleep. We took a hayride out to the apple orchards, feasted on cider donuts, and picked out one big pumpkin to be carved next week. We had two sleepy girls on the way home!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time passing by

Four months together as a family of four, and I can't remember what it was like without Phoebe in our life.

Actually, I should rephrase that-- I can't imagine our life without her, and think that adding her to our family was one of my top three best decisions in life, right up there with marrying Mark and having Miranda. But I admit that I remember quite well what it was like before-- the days when we managed to get our only child down to bed by 7:45 pm so that I could go to the gym, and we didn't feel badly about getting a babysitter once in a rare while so that we could go out for the evening. Now it seems that life revolves around sippy cups, diapers, giggles, ring-around-the-rosy in the kitchen, a wide variety of playgrounds, time outs, nap schedules, story books, and lessons in manners. Adding the fourth member to this family has much more than doubled the laundry, clutter, and groceries. How is that? Somehow two is still much harder than one every was. I admit that there is something of a survival mode going on here. On one hand I look at these girls who bring me so much joy and I want to freeze their cute selves in time so they never grow up. On the other hand, I long for date nights out, regular work-outs, a book club, and coffee with friends, and eagerly await the next phase in life when we can get back to some of our former selves.

Part of the problem is that I've been working much too much. Some day I'll be in a place where I can just choose to work fewer hours, but for reasons too long and boring for the blog, I'm again in a life of in-balance right now. I worked 3 of the past 4 weekends, and have been very, very tired.

Phoebe has been amazing through the long hours, and continues to hug and kiss me goodbye, and give me huge hugs and smiles when I arrive. She loves to snuggle as soon as I come home. For the first few months we didn't let anyone else touch or hold her other than Mark and I, and then when we finally lifted that restriction we were thrilled to find she didn't want to go to anyone other than us. Now we have come to just the right place, where after a safe introduction with us, within an hour or two she will sit very happily in a new friend's lap for a few minutes before asking to come back to us. We've had a few visits lately from friends and family from far away-- Mark's mother, Mark's cousin Lin and her husband Steve, and my dear friend I hadn't seen since medical school graduation five years ago. Phoebe warmed up to every one of them, which made for wonderful visits. I am so crazy about this child. At Phoebe's recent well-child visit, her pediatrician said at the end of the visit, "Just watching the two of you interact-- clearly you have bonded well. It's like you've known each other her whole 19 months rather than just three or four."

Miranda and Phoebe continue to love each other, though Miranda wants to be a little closer to Phoebe physically than Phoebe would like to allow. I often hear "Phoebe, hold hands with Miranda please?" as Miranda chases her little sister around. Phoebe likes personal space, so when Miranda flops her head into her sister's lap a shriek follows every time. But all in all, we continue to be quite lucky that tussles over toys is our biggest sisterly issue, with no overt jealousy or competition. Even when little Phoebe pooped on the potty-- ok, not exactly out of her own initiative, when she was snatched out of the tub and plunked on the potty half way through the job-- Miranda was nothing short of impressed. This sister thing is working out just fine.

It's been a while since we posted pictures-- Enjoy. I can't believe how old Phoebe looks now that her hair is growing longer. I worked through all our little baby clothes and toys recently in a massive purge, and had to have a good cry about how our baby days are over. When I hear Phoebe ask "More, please?" and say "Thank you!" my heart tugs a little each time. Our little girls are growing up.

Visit from Grammy:

Does Phoebe look like a big girl here?

Phoebe walked right up to Miranda and said, "Hi, Da-da," and Miranda just loved that moment:
This is my other big girl-- with so many "why" questions lately. Her favorite line of conversation goes like this: "What's that?" "It's a wine cork." "Why that a wine cork?" Or "Who's that?" "That's Megan." "Why that Megan?"

Auntie Lin came for a visit from California-- the girls just loved their time together!
Here she is again, my big girl. I can't stop looking at her lately-- so much growth!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last time we saw each other, we were blurry-eyed with jetlag, ending a 30 hour journey home with our new daughters who were clinging to us with no idea what was coming next in this madness. Today, three months later, our babies are toddling all over the playground, quite clear on who their moms and dads are. All of the kids have grown, but it is the ones who arrived the smallest that are the most amazing. There is one child-- a smart little thing with so much character!-- who couldn't sit up alone at 14 months, and today I watched her take a few steps between her parents' outstretched arms. In three months! Their faces have filled out and their legs are chunky. These children have found their families, and it is very clear that the parents have found their children, too. It's funny, we were just folders in the Matching Room a few months back, but somehow we ended up paired the way we are. I just can't imagine Liam with us, or Phoebe with Liz and Andy, or the twins with anyone other than the parents who got them. Everyone seems to be just exactly where they belong.

This past week Phoebe had her follow-up appointment at the International Adoption clinic. They re-evaluated her development with a full assessment. At 18 months of age, she officially scored at 18 or 19 months for everything except gross motor function; for that, she is still at 16 months-- but that's just 2 months behind now, up from 4 months behind before, and 2 months behind is pretty much right on target. OK, I think we can officially count her as caught up now. An average kid. Just learning and developing and exploring as all kids do, from here on out. I promise to back off on the monitoring and asssessing and grading her progress. It's time to just let her do her own thing, as all kids do if you love them and let them.

Even more thrilling than the numbers is watching Phoebe in a crowd now. She was at church with us this morning, and now she is relaxed and curious, no longer scared and threatened. It is so good to be 3 months into this, when we are no longer asking "Do you think she's up for it? Is she ok? How's she doing?" She just settles in.

At the same time, I know our work isn't done. At the IA clinic I was asked "How's attachment going?" and answered very positively. The response I got was more cautious than congratulatory: Keep doing what you are doing, they told me. Hold her, kiss her, hug her, make eye contact, tell her you love her. So far, so good, but don't let your guard down.

Words of the week: sit, giraffe, boo-boo, poop, hi-kitty, stuck (so many applications for the word stuck!), hand, toe, oh no. She's a good little talker!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ah, Sisters

Every day now I come home and find a list of new words that Phoebe is saying. One day it said "Tickle, Truck, Juice" and another day it said "Bubble, Down." Her day is peppered with words now: Ergo, Elmo, Look, Apple, Bottle, Milk, Yes, No, Music, Knock, Boo-boo, Book, Peek-a-Boo, Gotcha, Trolley, Yellow, Thank you. She's starting to put two words together, like "Hi, Kitty" and "Nite-Nite, DaDa." As of last week, she answers yes and no questions with enthusiastic and appropriate nods and shakes of her head. She knows her body parts, and can shake her sillies out, jump her jiggles out and do all the other Raffi verses with only verbal cues. Her Early Intervention teacher was away for a three week vacation and was thrilled when she came back. She eyeballed the developmental milestone list and said that now, three months after arriving in our arms with pretty significant delays, little Phoebe is right on target for all her 18 month milestones. I can't tell you how proud I am of that kiddo.

On the sibling front, we are feeling more sibling adjustment now than we did during the first 2.5 months of our family of four. Phoebe has a yell (like "Ba! Ba! Ba! when the cat gets too close) that, to quote Mark, "makes every rock concert I've every been to seem like low volume." And some mornings it seems like an unstoppable chorus of whining and shrieking with no off button. Baths have become an issue (about 25% of the time, and no problem the other 75%), and neither one is sleeping the night. I came home one day this week and our superstar nanny looked beat, saying in a very tired voice, "Oh, it was a long day." The pleasant days are so pleasant, with laughter and girls chasing each other around and quiet happy play, but it seems like there are more difficult days now than there every were before. I think part of the problem is that Miranda used to be the world's easiest toddler, and no she's, well, a typical two-year old. Her parents are adjusting.

At the suggestion of a parent-friend who does a great job with her kids, I'm trying to spend more time one-on-one with kids, especially with Miranda. When we are out together I say, "Miranda, look at this, it's just two of us, out together!" She says, "Phoebe not out with Mama. Just Miranda out with Mama." By the end of our sojourn she starts to say, "Miranda miss Phoebe. What Phoebe doing?" And when they meet again, it is always a happy reunion of long lost sister friends.

Monday, August 24, 2009


So many words, Phoebe! In the last week she's learned the following: pager, yellow, off, snack, stuck, Opa, Nana (complete with the baNANA sign for my grandmother), Ergo, Elmo. Every day it is a few more. We met Phoebe three months ago today, and she continues to amaze me. I look at the pictures now of our time in China, and now she seems so much more sure of herself. Her hair has grown, now in the "Ringo Star" look-- a bit too short to pull back effectively, so it hangs in front of her face and over her ears unless she'll let me keep the barrett in. Last weekend my parents and my grandmother came to visit. I was so proud of Phoebe when she let her grandparents hold her! My father toured her all over a huge sailing ship docked in Salem Harbor, and Phoebe looked as content as could be in his arms, even when they drifted out of my sight. And Mom danced to French Playground music with Phoebe in her arms, to the delight of both of them. With each week, Phoebe seems more and more at home.

Sleep, still not going so well. If Phoebe fails my 10 minute test as we lie in bed together, I put her in the Ergo and go for a walk. It never fails me, though sometimes takes 15 minutes until she drifts off. I know, I know, not a very good bedtime routine. But after much discussion and thought, I've decided to take the advice of those who say "Do what works." I'm a lot happier if my evening adult time starts at 8:30 compared to 9:30. And I'm counting on Phoebe being in a different space developmentally by the time the weather changes. And tonight was amazing-- Phoebe fell asleep with me on the big bed after about 10 minutes, and I was downstairs at 7:55 pm. That's a new record. I won't pretend it is a new trend, but it is a glimpse of hope. I'll take it.

It has been such a wonderful summer of visitors! We've been hunkering down to teach Phoebe about routine and consistency and the permanence of her new home, so people have come to us. We've had my parents quite a few times, my brother's great kids, my sister with her whole lively family, our neighbors from Providence whom we just adore, one of my more-than-half-my-life friends who has known me since junior high school (Keri), my dear Aunt Pat, my spunky 83 year old grandmother whose energy amazes me. . .Have I missed anybody? People have been great, just easing into our crazy life and making visits to relaxed and pleasant. Phoebe has grown more and more at ease with our visitors as the summer has gone on. (Though I have to say, there was a lot more whining than usual, from both of my little ones, with the latest visit-- why, I'm not sure, but some days I want earplugs, and I'm sure my guests do, too.) Next up are visits from Mark's mom and his cousin-- we are looking forward to those fall visits so Phoebe can meet her West Coast family, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Museum and Farmer's Market

I had the day off today, and what great afternoon with the kids! We went to the art museum that is just blocks from our house. We've been there many, many times, and usually make a beeline for the kids' room. But today Miranda took the lead and headed off to explore the museum. We saw a dress built of seashells, a papoose that looked much less comfortable than our Ergo, a toy train from 1850, figureheads that dressed the old New England trading ships, and huge stone Chinese lions. Miranda was great-- she walked around with her hands folded behind her back, just like her Opa taught us to do when we were kids. She said things like, "Wow, Miranda like that," and "Miranda no like that" as she was inspired, and forged on to room after room. Phoebe took it in in a much quieter way from my arms, but insisted on climbing each staircase (there were many in the Miranda tour!) by herself. We had a great time!

Then we headed to the farmer's market. After snacking on fresh organic ginger cookies, the kids found a long, gradual staircase, with about seven steps spread over 25 yards, on the border of the market and out of the way of most foot traffic. Miranda raced up the stairs and Phoebe lumbered after her with my fingers in her hands, shrieking in delight as she chased her sister. When Phoebe got to the top, the girls collapsed in a big giggling hug. They did this routine-- up and down the stairs, with hugs at either end-- about 20 times. Phoebe did her downward-facing dog maneuver several times, too, peering at the crowd upside down through her legs. Then the music started in the tent right next to us, and we were up on the steps a few feet behind the singers. My girls stood up and started jamming, bring much too much attention from the crowd and tears to my eyes as I laughed at their antics. We moved to a less conspicuous spot. About then, a woman came up to me and said, "I just have to tell you. Your girls have brought so much joy here today. They are just delightful."

I feel like the luckiest mom in the world.

Yes, I am back to work fulltime, but after working a 24 hour call yesterday, and having the luck of sleeping the night, I had my one day a week off today. Last night, on call, I managed to get home around 7:45 pm, just as Mark was reading stories to the girls. I got a warm welcome, and Phoebe settled right down in my lap to cuddle. I would say the transition has gone remarkably well.

And this week I sat down with my boss and told her that I need to get home by 5:30 pm. The latest. I can't do getting home at 6:30 and then doing another hour of documenting on the computer after the kids go to bed. We sat down with the schedule and crunched the numbers. I'll start a little earlier, have a little shorter lunch, eliminate the extra slots I added in when I was trying to hit the productivity bonus, and stop making double-booking part of my regular schedule. So now, last patient is scheduled at 3:30, and I'm going to work one or two afternoon/evening office days a week, which gives me all morning with the girls. That makes things a lot, LOT better. I've learned something this week: Ask for what you want. Be your own advocate. You might just get what you ask for.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ah, the new norm

Life is feeling, well, settled now. Less in transition. Two month into life with Phoebe, I have a hard time imagining our family without her. I can't believe it has been just two months. I think of the child we were handed in China, who couldn't even get up off her belly onto her knees, let alone crawl or stand alone. And tonight she was running through a cardboard box obstacle course in the driveway with Miranda and our two-year old neighbor. She rides a scooter, crawls up the stairs almost as fast as her sister, and climbs the plastic rock ladder at the playground by herself. Just in the last few days I've watched her face change-- that sudden transition from baby to toddler. Unlike Miranda, who needed months of hand-holding and close parental contact after she learned to walk, Phoebe is remarkably independent. When I took a phonecall at the playground the other day, Miranda and Phoebe pretty much entertained themselves, exploring under the umbrella of the crab apple trees and playing with a ball for a full 15 minutes. My big girls! She's talking now, too, with about 15 words if you count sounds of barnyard animals, and just in the last few days she's started repeating words when we ask her to say them. And I'm not sure this is real, but twice I swear she put two words together, saying "Bye-bye, Papa"-- but really, now, that's a bit unbelievable so I'll hold off on counting it until I hear it a few more times.

The transition back to work has gone beautifully, with much thanks to a super-star nanny that both girls love. My favorite moment of the day is the return, when I walk in and my two girls come running into my arms with big smiles and squeals. Good-byes vary, with some mornings triggering big tears and clinging that resolves a minute after I leave. Other mornings the girls stand with their nanny on the balcony and both say "Bye-bye" while I wave from the car. Phoebe has found the perfect balance between being close to us and being independent. She says "Hi!" to old men sitting alone on the park bench as she passes, but protests when strangers (or friends!) try to touch her. She explores the world and the people in it, but comes back to us for reassurance. She's content with her nanny during the day, but the second I'm home is clear that she would rather be in my arms than hers. Our Early Intervention report card this week said, "Phoebe is securely attached to her mother." Nothing could make me happier!

The pictures are from the beach just a mile from our house. I can't believe how lucky I am! I'm getting better at making quick beach trips, with one bag of essentials and the girls. It does require some practice to get smooth at juggling it all. The first day I did it, when I had girls covered from head to toe in sand, I had to approach some moms of school-age kids and ask, "Um, excuse me, can I just ask you all who are experienced-- how do I get them in the car with all of this sand?"

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Miranda now sees the world through lenses. Her right eye has been wandering inward since just before we left for China, and the pediatric ophthalmologist tells us she is farsighted. So, for an hour or two in the morning she wears a patch on the stronger eye, and on Friday we picked up her glasses. Yesterday was a struggle to keep them on, and there was one scare at the Boston Aquarium when we thought they were lost, but in all we probably got two or three hours out of her. And today she's started to leave them on longer and act like they belong there. She looks so adorable with them on, but dramatically older to my mama eyes. Will I ever get over this tension as I watch the girls grow up-- being so proud of their progress and at the same time feeling terribly sad about letting go of their little selves?

I took the girls to the park at the end of our street this week and instead of our usual play on the swings and slides let them wander around the basketball court with a few balls. Our neighbors with kids often show up where we are, so we had Miranda, two other two-year olds, and little Phoebe. I'll tell you, Phoebe is amazing. There she was, keeping up with the big kids--trotting all over the court, chasing the balls and keeping herself entertained while her mama caught up with friends. She keeps up with the two-year olds now.

Early Intervention came this week to assess Miranda, who at her two-year old check-up still couldn't run, jump, or climb up on the couch herself. It was great fun to watch her ace all their brainiac tasks, and then when they tried to get her to jump she walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out a book. While her qualitative assessment of gross motor function puts her at 25 months-- right where she should be-- they agree that she's less confident and more wobbly than most kids her age. We are going to have a pediatric physical therapist stop by for a session or two to help us work on a plan. Honestly, I think we need to get more athletic equipment and encourage physical play more, and read books less. And she needs to play more with the 26 month old boy across the street who shoots baskets from 5 feet away (and makes 50%!) and hits a ball in the air with a baseball bat.

One of the members on Miranda's assessment team did Phoebe's assessment four weeks ago. Let me just say, she was shocked. She eyeballed the assessment paperwork and put Phoebe's gross motor function at a 15 month level-- that's up from SEVEN month level a month ago, and is just a month shy of her actual age. Phoebe is using signs like mad now-- baby, eat, drink, milk, hat, cat, dog, flower. Her comprehension is really getting better, too, and I love to watch her use the right signs in response to my verbal cues. Today I said, "Are you ready to eat some lunch?" and she signed "eat" while saying "mmmm". That's my girl!

With so much fun to report, I almost forgot to mention, here, that's I'm back to work. This half-time schedule could really grow on me. I go in to the clinic in the morning, with last patient scheduled for a noon appointment, then get home when the work is done-- sometimes when the kids are still napping, sometimes when they are just up. We have the whole summer afternoon together to play at the beach, go to the pool, play on the Common, and have play dates, before heading home to cook dinner before Mark comes home. My second morning was the hardest leave-taking, with each girl clinging to one of my legs, and Miranda sobbing, "No work, Mama, no work!" while Phoebe screamed. But they get over my parting quickly and really seem to love their new nanny. That's just how it should be.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Attachment, 7 weeks in

Last weekend when my parents passed through town, I told my mother that she still couldn't hold Phoebe. She just wasn't ready. I was having a little attachment panic, since Phoebe was acting happy but not REALLY happy when I would come home from short absences, and she wasn't interested in cuddling. Some of the families we traveled with are doing "attachment parenting" techniques with much more gusto than we are-- 6 hours of holding the baby in the Ergo daily, feeding every morsel of food to the baby by hand instead letting her feed herself, etc. I was starting to panic, worry that I had brought Phoebe out into public too early and too often. I was envision my poorly attached child years down the road with major issues because I didn't do enough in those early weeks together.

And then something amazing happened this week. The nanny started (Keri, now an important person in our lives!) and I feel so much better about how things are going with Phoebe. I did lots of little trips out of the house this week for an hour or so. Phoebe cried when I left-- and sometimes clung like a monkey to me-- and then perked up in a minute or two after I left like any other toddler would. She played nicely with Keri while I was gone, but gave me big hugs and smiles when I returned. When Keri and I were both in the house, she has a clear preference for me. She gives lots of hugs now, and has settled nicely into cuddling in the rocking chair even after her bottle is done. She's become quite relaxed and smiley in a crowd, but doesn't go to strangers and hangs closely to mom. Her new favorite game is to walk out the door way of the living room while she waves and says "bye" and then laugh when she returns to me. I'm feeling much, much better! This weekend my parents were again in town and I told Mom she could hold Phoebe now. Phoebe tolerated it for, oh, about 5 seconds and then put her arms up for Mama. And while I wish my mother could cuddle her grandchild, I'm really glad that Phoebe is clear about who her mama is. I start work this week, and I'm feeling very comfortable about that.

In other news, Phoebe saw her regular pediatrician this week. She's gained more than a pound in the last months!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Talking away

Last night Phoebe had a Helen Keller moment with her sign language book-- I'm not kidding, there was a sudden moment when it clicked, and then she couldn't get enough of the signs. She has mastered "Book" for this little baby sign book of 10 signs, and has said it 100 times this morning. She does all 10 signs in the book now, and does cat when she sees Kaibab go by.

On the verbal front, here's her current vocabulary: Hi (to every passerby, and especially people sitting in parked cars), Bye, Mama, ut-oh, Up, Wuff-wuff. Less consistent and still is progress is Kaibab, Quack, and Moo. She's on the brink of bursting with words, I think!

Here's Phoebe trying on her first walking shoes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Report Card

Here's what Early Intervention had to say on Phoebe's report today:

"Great accomplishments in a week's time. . .She is doing beautifully. . .In a week she has changed so much-- more smiles, more vocalizations, more eye contact, and seems to be very bonded to mom. . . She was easy to engage in different activities and enjoyed playing with the toys. . ."

That's an A+ in my book.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Growing Up

Yesterday at the big gathering of blankets and lawn chairs down by the Salem Wharf, I watched Miranda with her little two year old friends. She imitates them, follows them, gangs up on anyone opening food in a big toddler mass, shyly smiles at strangers until they surrender their little American flags, gets stickers from strangers, plays ball, and rolls in the grass. I was a little stunned to realize that she didn't need me at all. She didn't look back once to see if I was still there in the crowd. At one point I grabbed her into my arms and kissed her, and she told me, "No kissing, Mama." Oh my. How on earth did it happen so suddenly? Miranda was still a baby when we left for China, and in the last four weeks she has turned into such a big girl. It was only when I said to her, "Should we go home and see how Papa and Phoebe are doing?" that she suddenly realized how tired she was, and lapsed back into babyhood, with whines and cries for "Binky!" As we turned the corner to our block, from the stroller I heard, "Go home. Yeah!" I insisted on a quick bath, and then she was too tired to read Green Eggs and Ham even once.

And Phoebe's no better in the growing up fast category. Today she got her first walking shoes. As soon as we arrived back home she followed Miranda right into our neighbor's play house, washing seashells in the toy sink like the big kids. Yesterday Mark said, "Come quick!" to show me that Phoebe has now learned to climb the stairs-- all the way to the top, by herself. She now takes down all the dish towels from the oven handle, opens unlocked cabinets, and tosses every loose item in the bathroom into the tub (the potty, books, clothes, shoes, etc.). I got about four weeks of baby out of Phoebe, and now she's a full-fledged toddler.

Our new nanny starts tomorrow. . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


It started yesterday-- Phoebe now says "Mama." Like music to my ears! She learned "Hi!" too, and says it to every stranger she passes, complete with a little hand that waves opened and closed. I think she's saying "Kaibab," too, the name of our very neglected cat, but that might be a stretch. "Mama" is for sure-- as in, "Mama!" between every bite of ice cream that wasn't quick enough this evening.

Ribbons have arrived! Thank you to everyone who sent them. They are red-white-and-blue and little girl cute. My mother gave me lace from my great-grandmother, and my old knitting group sent a few extra strands of a fabulous yarn along with the hat they made for Phoebe. Lots of different types and colors and styles. Now, what I'm going to do with them, I haven't quite figured out. But it's a beautiful collection for Phoebe to keep in her memory box, along with the clothes she was wearing when she came to us, the silver bracelets from the director of the orphanage, and my written recollection of our first few days together in her province. The ribbons are a way to show her that her new family and friends were there, across the ocean, waiting to welcome her. Thank you! (And it's not too late-- you can still send them!)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Major Progress

Last Wednesday, Phoebe learned to get from sitting to standing, pushing up through a "downward-facing dog" position.
On Friday, she learned to walk!
On Sunday, she learned to cruise around the coffee table.
And on Tuesday she learned to crawl!
That's a pretty full week for a little baby! I can't believe it, I'm so proud of her. The day she learned to stand up she must have down it 100 times, with great, slow concentation. He little muscles were nearly quivering, and I kept thinking, she must be so sore! I'm sort of glad that Early Intervention was here last week to give her a "7 month" score in gross motor function, because at this rate, she'd almost be placing out of their services.

She also learned to say "wuff," and seems to spend much of her day thinking about dogs. She thrilled the charming old man at the coat room of the museum the other day by saying "bye-bye" for the first time in his presence. She now attentively reads books, especially ones with flaps and squeeks and mirrors, and has started pointing to things she wants. Her favorite activity is looking at the photographs on the refrigerator of her new family members. Mysteriously, she seems to think that "Ga-ga" means "pictures," and uses it very consistently to mean so. She's mastered "Where's you nose?" Still no use of "mama" or "papa" or "Miranda", but so many other good things!

Sleep, not going so well. I can't seem to get her on a daytime schedule of napping with Miranda at noon, so she frequently ends up taking a quick morning snooze and a late afternoon nap, then doesn't want to go down for bed. At bedtime, there is much screaming and arching of the back, when she doesn't want to be held, doesn't want to be in bed, doesn't want the bottle, doesn't want to sleep-- until, oh, 9:45 a.m, then up again for a bottle (what?) at 3:00 or 4:00, sometimes with a tough time going back down. I think some part of her is afraid that when she wakes up in the morning she might be wisked off to her next foster family. Bedtime is the one time of the day when I really feel the pain of all she's been through.

Miranda had her first visit to the dentist today. She sat in the big chair with an oversized pair of sunglasses on and let the hygenist brush her fingers. She learned how to give Mr. Thirsty a big kiss, and picked cherry flavored toothpaste (I told them she didn't know what "cookie dough" was, so keep it to the fruits). She let them count her teeth, floss, brush, polish, and paint on Flouride. I couldn't believe it!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I've Learned About Miranda

Miranda has shocked me. I knew she was an easy toddler with a sweet personality, but I expected the usual sibling issues for the initial adjustment-- jealousy, competition, fighting, etc. Miranda hasn't said the word "mine" once since Phoebe came home. Here Phoebe is, wearing all of her clothes (same size), playing with all of her toys, and sharing her parents. And when Mark finished tossing Miranda in the air in the kitchen the other night, he put her down on the floor and she said-- what??-- "Phoebe's turn!" She's done this several times since then; after doing something that she thinks is exceptionally fun, she wants to be sure her little sister gets to share in the fun. Tonight I was trying to get shoes on the kids to get out to the corner store and Miranda pulled out a pair of pink Crocs that her beloved babysitter Izzy gave her for Christmas. I knew they were too small, but let Miranda prove it to herself by putting them on and saying "boo-boo" when she tried to walk. She took them off and was disappointed for a second before saying, "Phoebe." Phoebe put them on and they fit perfectly, and Miranda was quite pleased.

I should mention that Miranda has scratches on both of her arms from her sister's swats. Miranda is undeterred. She still wakes up from a nap with the first words out of her mouth being, "Phoebe awake?" And when Mark carries her down the stairs and into the kitchen in the morning, she says "Hi, Phoebe!" to the baby in my arms with a huge smile, ignoring me completely. "Chopped liver," Mark and I say. That's ok, I'm pretty secure about our attachment, and I'm thrilled that she loves her sister so much.

Now, I do have to say that ONCE in the tub I poured a pitcher of water of Miranda's head to wash her hair-- which she hates-- and she yelled, "No, PHOEBE!", which is the two-year old equivalent of saying, "Don't shoot me, shoot my sister instead!" And there have been moments of toy-stealing, and LOTS of teaching about taking turns. But never in my wildest dreams did I think this could go so well.

I hired a nanny today! Not only is she experienced, loved dearly by all her references, and just lovely overall, but she also lives about half a mile away from us. It only took 3 websites, 10 days, 100 applicants, and 6 interviews. Honest, compared to what other people I know have been through (you know who you are), that's lickity-split and very simple.

One more piece of big news: Phoebe learned to walk! I'm so proud of that kiddo. Three weeks ago she could barely sit without a little help, and couldn't do anything at all on her belly. Now she walks, cruises (oddly, that came a day after walking did), and even gets up to standing from the ground without using the wall. In a week her language progressed from 6 month level to 12 month, since in that week she learned her name, sign language for "more," hand waves to the voice command "bye-bye," and the spoken words "Buzz" and "ut-oh." Each time she does another thing that we answered "no" to at the assessments, we say she gets another month-- pointing, turning pages in a book, brushing her hair, handing someone an object and letting go of it. . . The progress is really amazing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In the Bathtub

Well, here you have it, pics from my life as a stay at home mom of, as Miranda likes to say, "Two Girls!" (For example, "Who's hungry for lunch?", with an enthusiastic response of, "Two Girls!")

Phoebe is doing just beautifully. Tonight she was so worked up with giggles and jiggling around that we couldn't possibly put her to bed at the normal time. She was just having too much fun!

In the bathtub tonight Phoebe started by blowing raspberries at her sister, who returned the favor. Then Miranda hid behind the shower curtain for a rousing game of peek-a-boo with her sister. Then a little splash battle started. There was much shrieking and laughter, real loud belly laughs. I stood in the door of the bathroom quietly watching in amazement at these sisters who didn't know each other 10 days ago. Welcome to the family, Phoebe. I'm so, so happy you are here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Settling In

Last night was a turning point-- the first time Phoebe reached out and showed affection to me. Mark was trying to put her down, but she wasn't tired and has spent the last three days with me, so there was much crying. I came up to relieve Mark. Phoebe stopped crying when I took her in my arms, and when Mark left us alone she reached out, took my cheeks in her hands, and Eskimo kiss me with a giggle. Melt my heart!

This morning we went on our first family outing to the beach-- a short 1 mile bike ride away. Poor little Phoebe was not liking her helmet that sunk down over her eyes, or Mama's bike seat that places her upfront but with a crash guard blocking her view. We had to stop a few times and ask, "What are we doing? How can we get out of this? What should we do now?" We walked the last little way, pushing the bikes, and she was much happier with that. At the beach, Phoebe played in the sand and watched the big kids at the water's edge. Miranda was not at all squeamish about mud and seaweed. We learned that we should bring dry clothes even if we didn't plan to swim. First trip, an experiment! Phoebe did much better on way home on Mark's bike. I think we'll be there a lot this summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Word in English

And the first word in English is. . ."Buzz!" There is a Laurie Berkner song about bumblebees that has a whole lot of "Buzz buzz buzz" in it, sung with hands flapping around. Mark sings it to Phoebe, to her delight, and she's been flapping for days. Then at dinner tonight, she shocked us by declaring, clear as could be, "Buzz, Buzz" while flapping away. Beautiful!

One Mom, Two Toddlers

Score! It's 12:15 and both kids just went down for naps, 10 minutes apart. Yesterday was my first day on my own, with no parents or husband to help. We had to leave the house for a walk at 07:20, after the first double meltdown of the day. My biggest problem is that Miranda isn't very good at walking down stairs, so that leaves me carrying my TWO 24-pound kids down the stairs, one on each hip, and my back is aching by the end of the day. You should have seen us trying to get to Miranda's 24 month check-up yesterday. With two kids, a diaper bag, and an Ergo, I'm trying to fill out the developmental assessment sheet. I know it looks very comical, and I get a lot of sympathy everywhere we go. This double toddler thing is kicking my butt.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So much better

Phoebe's back! The last two days she was gradually returning to the happy baby we knew, and today, all of the sudden, she's back. I actually took her to the grocery store in the Ergo so Mark could sleep, and she was all giggles. She's giving me Eskimo kisses, nose to nose, which cracks her up. At red lights I played Peek-a-Boo to her delight. When we arrived home she squealed and reached out for both Mark and Miranda. Right now she's listening to Laurie Berkner, Miranda's favorite musician, and is dancing and bouncing away. I think she gets it now-- we are family, we aren't leaving, she is home.

We spent this morning at the international adoption clinic downtown, and Phoebe was in full performance, doing her best to complete all the baby tasks they gave her. She scored at 6 months for verbal skills (no surprise). For gross motor function she scored at 9 months, but the doctor upgraded her to 10 to 11 months by the end of the visit. Everything else was at 14 months, just a month behind. The doctor emphasized what we already believe: that her foster family loved her a lot, and did a great job with her.

She's learned so much! This afternoon I verbally told her to "take a deep breath", without doing it myself, and she did! Then I told her "hands up!" and she did it, too! Last night I was holding her on my hip as I brushed my teeth and she signed "more" because she wanted to brush-- a little off on the meaning, but she knows that's a sign she is to use when she wants something. And I might be making this up, but she sure as heck looked like she signed "all done" last night when she didn't want any more dinner.

I'm crazy in love with this kiddo today. Even if she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for the day, every day.

My folks left today. Oh, my, we will miss them. They have been with Miranda for the last three weeks, and we so appreciate their willingness to be here for such an important transition in our lives. My mom actually said one night, "No. Cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen is on us. You need to spend time with the kids." When I was jet lagged and exhausted, it was so wonderful to have the kitchen magically clean itself without my efforts.

My plan for the next 4 meals: frozen pizza, spaghetti with red sauce from a jar, stirfry with frozen vegetables, and rice+salsa+cheese+blackbeans. Any other <15 minute vegetarian dinners that you care to suggest, please sent them on.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Oh, my. Miranda is like a broken tape recorder that whines, "Mama. Mama. Mama," all day long, and I just can't seem to stop it. It goes like this: "Mama." "Yes, honey?" "Mama." "What do you want, honey?" "Mama." And Phoebe has become a bit aggressive and angry with her sister, even hitting and biting. Both are a bit jealous of each other. I give Miranda great credit, though, for keeping up her string of gentle offers of "Hi, Phoebe," as she smiles politely at her angry baby sister. I can't believe how hard it is to parent two toddlers. With great efforts we got out of the house. It involved negotiating intensely with Miranda on which stroller to take and running upstairs to get the sippy cups and snacks that we had forgotten. We finally got to the children's room of the museum and as I lifted Miranda up to the make-a-bird table I noticed the dirty diaper. How on earth am I going to do this alone, without Mark and my parents?

Here's Phoebe as we knew her in China:

Here's the first meeting of our two daughters:

Miranda helping:

Some initial honeymoon moments:

And now note the new permanent expression on Phoebe's face:

I hear that the first week home is always tough. I'll keep that in mind.