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.

Friday, June 5, 2009


It was 30 hours from door-to-door, with three flights and two long layovers. On the first flight Phoebe didn't have her own seat and screamed like mad the whole two hours. On the second flight, there was a symphony of babies crying around bedtime, but then things quieted out for the last nine hours or so. And on the last flight Phoebe slept the whole way.

We got into the airport at nearly midnight to find friends waiting at the airport with balloons, flowers, signs, and hugs. Lillian, the founder of the agency we used, was there, too. We said goodbye to the families who had journeyed with us. Phoebe took well to her car seat. My parents were at the house waiting to meet their granddaughter.

We tried to go to bed, but Phoebe-- the poor jetlagged soul-- tossed and turned all night long. Around 4:00 a.m. we decided to quit trying, since Mark and I were both feeling wide awake anyway. It was great fun to introduce Phoebe to the toys in our house, one by one showing her how they work. She's a great fan of blocks, and can put them in and take them out of a bucket with no trouble at all. Finally Miranda woke up! Oh my, she's changed in two weeks. Her hair is longer, her face is different, and her vocabulary has exploded. She was barely putting together two words at a time when we left, and now she repeats the last three words of any sentence we utter.

Miranda smiled at Phoebe and gave her a hug. Phoebe is interested in her, too, but is a bit overwhelmed with everything right now, and to some extent Miranda is just another one of those new things around her. Miranda has twice used the sentence, "I want bottle," but responses well to telling her how silly that is. It gets tricky when they both want to be on mama's lap, or they both want the same toy, or when Phoebe gets placed in the Ergo carrier that was always Miranda's. We've had a couple of battles of the wills already, and one Miranda meltdown. But they've played in the sandbox and the toy kitchen together, they both really like the double stroller. We tried a double bath last night, but had to quickly abort tub after a minor poop incident, so we'll have to try again tonight. And I got them both down for naps this afternoon on my own. In short, things are going very well, with the jet lag and adjustments that you'd expect.

My parents are here with us, and that is so helpful! Mark is out of commission today with some combination of jet lag and fever, and my to-do list is enormously long. Thank goodness for four adults in this house right now. I feel like we tripled the amount of "kid" in this household. Am I really going to be home with both of these little ones all day for five or six weeks?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Our Way Home

At the U.S. consult today, in a room with 40 Chinese children and their new American families, we raised our right hands and solemnly swore that all the information that we had provided, both verbally and in writing, related to our adoption was correct to the best of our knowledge. And with the promise, the room erupted in cheers and tears, and our children earned the right to become American citizens. We hugged and congratulated each other, and conversations turned to reunions down the road and early morning wake-up calls. We are on our way home.

Phoebe, by the way, gave Mark a high-5 when he raised his right hand, and politely clapped her hands along with the crowd at just the right time. She's learned a lot in the last week.

See you home very soon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Off the Island

Yesterday we branched out and left Shamian Island, home of the White Swan Hotel. We found a map and took the metro into the heart of the city, getting off at a beautiful public park. It was "Children's Day" in China, so Phoebe got us in for free. The park was enormous, with hills of gardens, dense tropical vegetation, shaded foot paths, red lanterns, and historical sculptures. We stopped at the Guangzho Museum and climbed to the top for a view of the city.

It was very hot, and we've been using the Ergo carrier instead of a stroller to facilitate bonding, which only makes you sweat more. Little Phoebe felt very warm, and wasn't taking much of the water and juice I was trying to give her. We got her back to the hotel and took her to the pool to cool off. She loved it! Mark tossed her up in the air and let her splashed down in the water, and she squealed in delight. She played hard for an hour or so until the pool was closing, and then I noticed that she was still hot. 102.3, to be exact. Poor little one. I think we overdid it a bit, and misread that she probably had a fever all day long while we were lugging her about. At least I know enough medicine to know that a kid who has that much fun in a pool isn't too sick, but we still felt quite badly about it. A little Tylenol did her the world of good, and she slept a good night. This morning her fever is only low-grade and she's a little bit crabby, but all in all, she's doing ok.

Last post in China is coming later tonight. We miss Miranda so much. As much as she loves singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider with her parents on the webcam, it makes me very sad that she only gets to see her parents via Skype dates. Are we on the 48 hour countdown yet? Almost.