Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What we've been up to...

I have about 5 unfinished blog posts sitting here- and by the time I get back to them, time has passed and they are outdated. So I will try to type quickly here and not be too perfectionistic about it so that I can get this posted TODAY!

We are doing well! I am happy to be into a good fall schedule now and I think the girls are too.
We had a busy summer since I last posted: we went on a couple camping trips, Erik's parents came to visit, we went up to visit my parents in Glenwood Springs, we had some doctors appointments to catch Lia up on everything and she had a minor surgery which went very smoothly.

Nora learned to ride a two wheeler, to go across the monkey bars by herself and she learned to really swim this summer which she is very proud about. She can now dive down for toys on the bottom of the pool- a huge step for a girl who wouldn't put her face in at the beginning of the summer. She turned 5 this past Saturday, much to my amazement! How did five years already pass since she was born?!? It really does FLY by...

Both girls are in preschools this fall. Nora was so close to the cutoff for kindergarten that we decided to hold her back this year and I think that was a good decision. Two days a week she goes to a small neighborhood school that has a emphasis on community, free play and art. They serve vegan lunches with lots of veggies fresh from their own little garden. The lunches smell so good that I always wish I could have lunch when I come to pick her up. I'm not sure Nora is as thrilled about the food as I would be, but she eats well, as always.  She has already made some friends there and comes home very happy. She also goes to a local farm program once a week where they do a lot of outdoor exploration- ride horses, feed the goats, pick apples, etc. Now that she is five she can't wait to take a rock climbing class with Erik- something that I think she will be very good at. She continues to love gymnastics.

Lia goes two mornings a week to an integrated preschool that has special needs kids and 'regular' kids in each classroom. She has two teachers for six students which is wonderful for her right now, and some other internationally adopted kids in her class. "ShaSha like-a her tee-cher" she tells me every time I pick her up. We're trying to make a full transition to her being called Lia at school and that seems to be going OK, although she still refers to herself in the third person much of the time. We talked about names one day and when I said her original Chinese name to her, "HongSha",  she told me she did NOT want to be called HongSha. I asked her if it was OK if other people called her Lia and if her family called her ShaSha and she said it was. She is always ShaSha at home and I don't see that changing :)

She has done so well and she is adjusting beautifully. I do want to state here however that we have had our share of behavior challenges and that we have put a LOT of work and prayer into attachment and behavior issues these last few months, and now I feel we are just starting to see good fruit from that. I read a lot of adoption blogs and there are a lot of rainbows and sunshine posts out there- which are great sometimes- but I do not want anyone to think that adoption is super easy or that our transition has been seamless. It has however been worth every minute of hard work. When Lia snuggles into me, and says (as she suddenly has been doing this past week) "I need-a my Mama" or "ShaSha want to be Mama's baby" then I know we've made great progress. She is an incredible kid and I am so grateful to get to be her Mama. The hard work and hurdles we've overcome only makes the connection now between us sweeter.

She has made incredible strides with her ability to speak English. She speaks in full sentences, has a wide vocabulary, and uses past and future tense much of the time. It is rare that we don't understand what she wants or needs. She asks "why?" all the time, just as any normal three year old, and she regularly tells pee-pee and poop jokes as she enjoys making her sister laugh. I took her for a developmental screening with the school district and she even tried her best pee-pee joke with the man testing her. Not sure he got the joke :) We don't hear a single word of Chinese anymore besides a few words that have now become family words to all of us. She still sings the Chinese "Mama" song, and mixes a few Chinese words into her other songs but that is all I hear. The few times she has been around people who have spoken Chinese to her the past couple months, she stiffens and will not look at them or respond to them. I'm not sure that it's fear, as much as an "I have no idea what to do with that" sort of reaction.

Sleep has gotten much easier- which is a huge praise! I NEED sleep and I am a terrible Mama without it. She occasionally wakes up crying out, strangely at almost exactly the same time every night in the early part of the night, but settles quickly back to sleep with a hug and kiss and then sleeps thru until morning. She does now cosleep full time and I credit that with solving many of our sleep issues and helping overcome many of her fears. Both girls take a long time to get to sleep but we've been working on that and I've think we've made some good progress. It helps with the days getting shorter and the evenings being darker.

The girls have become great friends which is another answer to prayer. They fight like sisters do, but they also have hours of playing happily together and many times they bring tears to my eyes when they show great kindness to one another.  They truly love each other and take care of each other. Lia cried last Friday when we dropped Nora off at her school. If Nora is gone somewhere, Lia asks over and over, "where Nora go?"

Here are some pictures of our last few months. I stopped using my big camera this summer, and now I feel a bit sad about that. I love my iphone but it just isn't the same. I need to commit to taking more pictures, more often...and I need about 4 extra hours a day to edit and sort them :)

She's SO hard to photograph since she moves so fast- I love this one!

Camping- looking out of our new tent


I love this one- might have to order it on a canvas


Nora pretending to be the Little Mermaid

Grandpa helping Lia fish- we didn't catch anything


It is not possible to describe just how much she LOVES ice cream


Running through the sprinklers

She has figured out quickly that going to Target is a good thing- Mama can't resist spoiling my girls with little treats.

At the dentist- she did really well and we were told she has beautiful teeth.

Goofy looks from both of them...




Celebrating her birthday at preschool by walking around the "sun" five times to represent her five years on the earth. Yeah, not exactly how we celebrate at home, and we're not believers in the  "Mother" Earth that they sing about at school,  but rather the loving God that made us, but we'll talk about it all at home and see if that can help her process all the different beliefs that people have :)      


My five year old!

I'll try to blog a little bit more often this fall as I have a little time with the girls in preschool. We are so thankful to everyone who has checked in on us and prayed for us over this summer- we appreciate that so much.




Thursday, June 28, 2012

One month home...

Well we've been home from China for just over a month.

Our biggest happy news is that we've gone to both the pediatrician and cardiologist in the past couple weeks and Lia is healthy and her heart is doing great. We have to return in one year to the cardiologist and we'll be catching up with some immunizations and maybe some physical therapy over the next year but we're relieved that her heart repair in China was so successful and that she's a healthy girl. The cardiologist said that her patients with this same repair go on to play sports, climb mountains, have normal pregnancies and live long lives. So that was wonderful to hear.

Other than that we've been busy becoming a family of four, getting into new routines and working very hard on attachment with Lia. Bedtimes and getting to her to sleep have been our biggest challenges- thankfully most of the time she stays asleep once she's down for the night- but after several very challenging and long evenings, we transitioned to full time co-sleeping with her. So now she goes down in our bed from the start every night rather than being in her own room at all. And for her, that has been incredibly helpful and seems to have lowered her fear level significantly.

Also, I'm not sure if it's all due to the co-sleeping, or partly just the effect of time and effort- but the last several days we've seen enormous jumps in attachment behavior (direct, maintained eye contact, seeking us whenever she has a need, sitting on my lap facing directly into my face- this is a big change- she used to just sort of back into me all the time and always wanted to sit facing out, a decrease in tantrums and angry yelling, etc) And her English comprehension has increased even more just in a few days- I can give multi-step directions and she will do them. She is repeating everything we say and using all her words appropriately and in context. She even uses "uff dah" often and appropriate to the situation at hand- Erik is a proud Norwegian Daddy!

Today we had a very LOUD thunderstorm here (thankfully a little rain too- I am praying for all our fellow Coloradans who are in the path of those terrible fires...) and she was TERRIFIED. She sat on my lap with her face pressed so tightly into my chest I was worried she couldn't breathe. Poor baby. But after the thunder passed we were able to talk about the storm; we told it to go "bye bye", to not come back, how loud it was, how scared she felt of it and how it was gone now and how it wouldn't hurt her inside the house. And she understood all this and discussed it with me and acted out how scared she felt. I wished she hadn't been so scared but I think it was a good thing for her to be able to process that with a parent, and I am so amazed how far she has come in just six weeks of being with us.  Tonight she would periodically say "thunder!" and press her face into my chest and we would talk about it again.

So here are a bunch of photos- in no particular order. All iphone as I can't carry both Lia and the big camera around :) 

First family photo

New shoes, new dress and new hair clips. She strung all these necklaces herself and was very proud
We go for a walk to the park almost every night
Not sure what is going on here exactly- but some sort of sisterly thing. They are getting along well for the most part. We have moments of beauty and moments of screaming and tears

First haircut here. Everyone comments on how cute her haircut is that she had from China so I asked him to keep the shape, and he did basically keep it but he didn't cut enough hair or trim all her bangs so it looks all weird and shaggy now- total waste of time and a haircut...

Playing in a fort


es, she dressed herself, and yes that is a band aid on her chin and yes she's starting a new rock band. We are obsesses with band aids and booboos here- and I make a big deal out of each and every one. I have a rule to try to never tell any child "oh you're OK- you don't have an owie" ( although at times Nora really tests that rule :) I think Lia  is making up for years of no Mama being around to kiss her owies- she has multiple owies that need many kisses
every day.
Trampoline fun at a friend's birthday

Nora went to farm camp last week and came back dirty and/or covered in paint every day. She loves farm camp- it's an awesome place and she has so much fun there. She'll go to 'school' there next year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Home for just over two weeks...

I've had several people ask how we are doing so I thought I'd update here a bit.

We're doing really well for the most part! Lia is really attaching beautifully. She has reversed her China behavior a bit so that now I am the preferred parent for much of the time over Erik but I suspect we might ebb back and forth with that for a bit. She can be very clingy of me during the course of the day- and wants to be held a lot (sometimes at very inopportune times!) but this is good. She gives lots of hugs and kisses calls for "Mama" when she hasn't seen me for very long and when we go out places she is usually glued to me for at least the first 15-20 minutes of being somewhere. She rejects most contact with people outside of our family unit- which is what we'd prefer at this point, rather than any "Mama or Baba shopping" that you might see from a child who has had multiple caregivers in the past. She likes to rock with me and we've set up a routine with getting milk in her sippy cup a few times a day and I hold her and cuddle with her while she gets it and she really likes that.

Bedtimes have also been going pretty well- we have set up a "night- night" routine of books, milk, brushing teeth and singing that she knows now and really seems to love. I do the routine and then she lies in her bed and I lie on a mattress next to her bed and she then goes to sleep. However actually getting her to fall asleep takes a long time most nights...I think the big part of that is that she is 3 and a half, where she is still mostly needing that mid-day hour nap but getting close to not needing it as much. When she doesn't take a nap, the late afternoon is brutal with meltdowns and tears, etc, but she does fall asleep much faster. The falling asleep time however has been pretty tear free: she rustles around in her bed, sings songs, wants me to sing, puts a blanket on, takes it off (she wont sleep with any blanket or PJ pants on), gives lots of kisses, says "ShaSha go nigh-nigh, No-ya go nigh-nigh, Mama go nigh-nigh, Baba go nigh-nigh" over and over again, kisses her baby doll, sings some more, gives more kisses to Mama, and finally goes to sleep after 30-40 minutes of this. I can get a little weary of it when it takes so long, but at the same time it is a sweet time to connect with her and I think she treasures the time too.

She usually wakes up and cries out in the middle of the night and I get her and bring her into our bed- Nora usually joins us at some point- and I often wake up completely smooshed between two girls! But this seems to work well- we get some of the benefits of the bonding from co-sleeping and we all wake up and talk and play in the morning together, while they still go to bed in their own beds every night. Lia naps in our bed during the day which she loves to do (and that way I can lie down with her and take a nap too if needed :)

She loves, loves, loves to sing and she sings frequently throughout the day. She is singing less in Chinese than she did in China- but we still hear some Chinese and mostly mix of Chinese and English. She loves to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese (zhù nǐ shēng rì kuài lè) but now is starting to mix the two languages. And who would have guessed that "Oh My Darling Clementine" has been translated into Chinese.

(ah- after typing that I googled "oh my darling Clementine" in Chinese"- and the first result was this blog talking about that very thing- I guess it's the Chinese Happy New Year song.)

Here is a video I took of her singing to me before bed- (it's totally dark since we were in her dark room- I just recorded it to get the sound)-  my sister-in-lawYin kindly translated for me and said she's singing a popular Chinese kid's song-

"she was repeating 2nd sentence, meaning "A kid who has a mom was treated like a treasure".
The 1st sentence means " Mom is the only best person in the world"  
The 3nd sentence means "Snuggling with mommy"
The 4th sentence means "Full of happiness"

Learning what she was saying made my heart melt! (although it feels a bit sad that she somehow learned that song while living in an orphanage...)

video


It's quite an unexpected blessing to have a musically inclined child- God can do anything of course, but it would have been quite a divine miracle for me to have had a biological child born with much innate musical ability...

So that is where we are at right now. Now please know that I put all of the good stuff on here and I am not sharing as many of the challenges  :)  But if anyone wanted to pray for Nora right now that would be most welcome, she is really struggling with all the big changes in her life right now and being a good Mama to her has actually been harder for me the past couple weeks than it has being there for ShaSha. It's so hard to have a little sister who gets into all your things and takes so much of Mama and Daddy's attention...

Playing at the local Children's museum

Running with Nora

They chose to wear their matching dresses to the park today. ShaSha got new shoes that are like Nora's and she refuses to take them off! Nora is doing that peace sign thing in photos all the time now ever since seeing kids in China do it.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Because I haven't posted a picture of Nora in a while..

On a walk after the rain tonight. She seems a million times bigger and more mature to me now that she's a big sister




A fake smile but I still love this picture

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baby Lia

As many of you know, Lia was born with a heart condition that was repaired in China when she was 9 months old. We will go see the Cardiologist soon to see how she's doing and what, if any, further procedures she may need, but from all appearances her heart function seems normal right now (and she sure put her heart to a good test with all her airplane screaming :)

Lia was blessed to have had her surgery paid for by the organization Love Without Boundaries and we are forever indebted to this amazing group for the difference that they made in her life. There are many children in orphanages in China who do not have their heart conditions repaired. Some die or have permanent damage from a condition that goes unrepaired for too long, when it could have been a straightforward surgical fix had it been done earlier. So any way that these heart repairs- and many other surgeries- can be funded is a worthy cause.

During our whole adoption process we were not allowed to know for sure that her surgery had been funded by LWB (although we suspected that it had) but as soon as she was home, I sent a request for information and it came back that they had indeed had funded her surgery, and best of all, we got some priceless baby pictures! We had no pictures or information about her before she was 14 months old, so I was so happy to receive these.

This is pretty much the youngest picture we have- she was five months old here

Right after her heart surgery in November 2009
There's that beautiful smile! Sporting the JCrew rugby shirt look here. May 2010


November 2010




 I also cried a little bit when I saw these, as I've missed so much of her little life! On the Love Without Boundaries information sheet that we received with that bottom photo, it said that her file was being prepared for adoption at that time. Well somehow nothing happened on the adoption front until an entire year later- when her file was finally released in late November of 2011 and we first saw her face December 2011.  I of course am selfishly so grateful for that delay, although I regret that she had to spend as much time as she did in an orphanage...it makes my head spin to think out all that was involved for her to be matched with our family- but I am simply thankful to God that she is home with us.

A couple things in the info that they sent that were so cute-
March 2010 "When she doesn't eat or is nearly full, she will pass the feeding bottle to Ayi or shake her head to say "NO""
That's our Sha-Sha! She does this cute little hand wave/head shake when she is done with something.

also- "The orphanage staff describes her as “very clever and eager”. It seems that she is quite the
teacher’s pet during speaking lessons and always comes right up to the front of the class to stand next to
the Ayi."
Yes- that would be Lia!

OK- more tomorrow- I actually managed to get a couple pictures of the girls with my big camera- finally.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lists

I'm glad for this blog as I'm not able to work on a memory book at all right now- so I'll put it here and get it in a book at some point!

 Things Lia likes right now-
bananas
noodles
shrimp
milk
candy
tickles
ice cream
water play
going to the park
going around without pants on
holding her sister's hand when out for a walk
dried berries
nuts
certain flavors of Lara bars
being goofy, teasing us and getting us to laugh at her
riding in the car, getting in her car seat
playing outside
napping in Mama's bed with Mama and Nora lying down next to her

things she doesn't like-
bread or tortillas or anything resembling bread
most fresh fruit
fresh vegetables
having something taken from her 
sleeping alone
waking up from a nap

Words she is saying-
Mama, Baba
"Newya" (Nora)
"peekabow- see you!"
all done/all gone
baby
banana
"brothajon"
"Mama help"
"Mama come right back"
night-night
bye-bye, good bye
hello
"Im damap" ("I'm the map" from Dora)
shoe
"wheredago" ("where did it go?" when she hides something)

shrimp!

Loves climbing at the park

Climbing after eating- and spilling- her ice cream- i keep forgetting to bring bibs, etc when we go out....

Checking out farm art at the park

Playing at the creek with friends

Nora put 15 bandaids on ShaSha the other day. The berries are just for show here- she spits them out when they touch her mouth- but she likes to feed them to Nora and me

We went to Dairy Queen and she refused her ice cream sundae for a few minutes. Then all of a sudden she tried it and this was the smile after trying it- she laughed really loud too which is the way we know she really likes something.







Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Settling in..

It was two weeks ago and one day that we met our sweet ShaSha, and I can hardly believe all the changes, challenges and joys that we've gone through in just two weeks. It's hard to believe that she's the same child we met in that Civil Affairs Office, rocking back and forth against the wall, screaming periodically in terror and anger.

We have spent the last few days settling in at home, and with the exception of night times all has gone really well. Lia seems to enjoy being at home, loves playing- her two top favorites right now are the water table (it used to be a sand table but we emptied out the sand as she wasn't really into the sand)- she can play with that for hours and a baby doll that has a highchair and a little doll stroller that she likes to push around. She also likes to ride in her own stroller to go to the park. She wont go outside onto the grass or walk outside the house on her own- she wants to be carried or in the stroller- but once we're at the park she runs around at the playground there. She doesn't seem to need a lot of structure (which is good because we are pretty unstructured here!) and as long as everyone is around she's very content.

Best of all she is seeking out Mama lots, asking for me when I'm not in the room, coming to find me and running into my arms whenever we are reunited and giving me lots of hugs and cuddles and wanting lots and lots of tickles and kisses.  She is even occasionally choosing me over Baba. So massive progress has been made on that front! I am so relieved as I was worried how things would go when Erik goes back to work and I have to put her to bed by myself. In retrospect I am so glad she bonded with Erik first- it made it better for Nora in China, easier for me to do all the paperwork, etc. and now they have that connection when he goes back to work. So thankful to God for that.

It has been so nice to be home where we have let her go crazy with the food and water play and we've been able to set clear and consistent limits on behavior. She's learned so quickly and only challenged us on a couple things before conceding fast. She shows eagerness to figure out the family rules and participate appropriately. She likes to get a twinkle in her eye and stand up on her chair or deliberately do something she knows she's not supposed to, but then she'll stop doing it really quickly and sit down with a big smile, as if to say "I was just trying to keep things interesting!"

Nights have been very difficult. The second night we were home no one slept well at all. The next night Lia was up until 3 AM crying on and off- thankfully I was able to get a good night's sleep that night as Erik stayed up with her and then I let him sleep in. Nora had gone to my Mom's to spend the night which worked out well as then I had lots of bonding one on one playtime with Lia in the morning. Last night she was only up until 12:30 with on and off crying so we're hoping that is progress and that the jetlag can be overcome and that some of the crying will stop. We haven't even attempted any naps at all in the hope that she'll be really tired each night. We were co-sleeping in China but when we tried that here she still just stayed up and cried and cried in our bed so we've found it's better for Erik to lie on a mat next to her bed and at least one of us gets sleep this way. She comes into our bed in the morning and cuddles so that is nice.

It's crazy that the orphanage told us she slept from 5PM-7AM with a noon nap! She definitely needs more sleep than she has been getting but she doesn't need anywhere close to that much.  I also suspect that she doesn't really need a nap anymore :( Even with all the changes she's remarkably even tempered during these past few days on relatively limited sleep. She obviously dreads sleep too; as soon as we say "it's night night time" her eyes fill will tears. It makes me sad to think of how alone she must have felt at nights for so long...but no more little one- you aren't alone any more. Now if only you could know that in your heart so you wouldn't have so much sadness about sleep...

So that is our new normal- here are some pictures finally. I have been a terrible picture taker lately and I am so grateful for my iphone that at least I'll have a few snaps to remember these days...it's just too much work to edit photos right now...

Playing in the play kitchen

Meeting her new doll in her room- she wont go into her room during the day :(- she gets so scared she's going to have to go to sleep

First trip to the park

Nap on Baba's lap on the porch swing

Love the pigtails but she wont keep them in!

Feeding baby Cheerios. Lia eats about three bowls of Cheerios every morning

Loving the stools at the kitchen counter and we finally found the right yogurt

In her boat!