Sunday, March 25, 2012

One more thing

There have been many times I have been so glad we learned any Mandarin, like the time when Nora stood at the top of the stairs and I could say "sit down!" faster than I could get to her, or the time I made her laugh by calling her "little naughty". Today I have never been happier to be able to communicate, however little, with our daughter.

It wasn't until a few days ago that she learned that nodding meant yes (hence the previous nodding at doctors because it was fun). She is very happy to let us know she doesn't like something or doesn't agree. I was playing on the floor with her and she was being very cute, so I scooped her up and (in Mandarin) told her I loved her and that she was such a good baby. She laughed and I gave her a big kiss and hugs. Then I asked her if she loved mama. She smiled big, nodded, and hugged me.

Is it all worth it? Absolutely.

One month home: all about Nora

We are settling into a routine and finally getting a bit of a clue as to being parents. Sleep is still an issue, but the last two nights she has woken up at around 2:30 for a diaper change and again at 5 wanting to be held and rocked for a while. Considering where we were a couple weeks ago, I will gladly take it! Since she refused to sleep in her crib and our bed is a queen, we decided to try modifying our crib by removing the front, strapping it to the side of the bed and raising the mattress to be where ours is. Sidecar crib is a huge success since it allows her to have her kicky legs without them ending up in one of our necks/sides/backs/stomachs/faces and still makes for a quick soothing when she needs it.

There are many things I want to remember about this first month home and about our silly, sweet, naughty little girl. So in no particular order, here are the things that make me smile.

I showed Nora the diaper I finished, she immediately put it on her head

-Nora knew "byebye" from the Ayis, but didn't use it much until about week two. Then she learned it meant adventures or that Daddy was leaving, but would be back. Each morning after breakfast she will grab a pair of shoes, bring them to me and start saying "byebye."
-Her first English word that she learned here is "doggy", which for a week sounded like "daddy" which made some people a bit confused.
-She can spot a dog on the street, in a picture, or on the tv from a far distance. I find myself saying, "No, there's no d-- oh wait, you're right, there is one."
-Her first word each morning is usually a whispered "doggy?" wondering where our dogs are.
-She has a cute kiss game that she made up where she likes to point to where she wants to kiss you and wait for you to say ok.

-She is still as active as ever, with the addition of climbing. She is freakishly strong and can pull herself up onto just about everything.
-When she is trying to stay awake she gets very giggley and will do some yoga. Her preferred stance is an extreme "downward dog" where she will have her legs extended, bend forward, and put her head on the ground. She's a bendy one.
-She still calls Kevin "baba" and we don't really intend to change this anytime soon. It's pretty adorable, especially when he comes home from work and she walks to the stairs and starts shouting "BABA! BABA!"
-She loves her daddy, but mama is still who she wants late at night or when she isn't feeling well.
-She is a huge charmer. She will wave, smile and blow kisses at just about everyone.
-She appears to be a girlie girl. Each day she has to pick out a "pretty" for her hair, leans forward for me to put it in and then immediately must be taken to the mirror to see that she looks good. If she approves, she will kiss the pretty baby. Our mirrors are gross now.
-She also loves shoes. When we go in a store, few aisles are met with more reaching and wanting as the shoe aisle. Since I have like 4 pairs of shoes total, she can't have gotten this from me.
- Her hair is growing in and getting long in the back, but in kind of a rat-tail sort of fashion. It is cute and ridiculous at the same time.
- After singing itsy bitsy spider for her exactly one time with the hand motions, the next day she started putting her fingers together and asking for "ge" (song).
-She learned the sign for "more" in about 5 minutes, and when asked if she wants more, will make the sign while nodding and smiling very big, unless she doesn't want more, in which case she will smack whatever it is out of you hand.
-The only ones that get kisses with absolutely no hesitancy and only one request are the dogs.
- About two weeks ago while sitting on the ground with her, she gave me my first ever unsolicited hug. It was amazing.
- She is understanding quite a bit of English and responds to XiaoNora as readily as YinCi.
-She is a tough little nut who doesn't cry easily when she gets hurt, and recovers very quickly.
-Her favorite toy in the whole world is a ball. Any size, any kind. She will run around the house carrying one and saying "ba" over and over.
-She will also kick the ball and out of nowhere started making a "kuh" sound each time she kicked it.
- Words she says: mama (only rarely, little stinker), baba (daddy), mao (cat), doggy, ball, done, byebye, ge (song), gege (brother)
-She loves baths like crazy! Each night when the water is running she fussing at me for not getting her undressed and in the tub fast enough.
- She started playing Peek-A-Boo the other day. I have no idea who taught it to her, but she loves it.
-She is ticklish on her tummy, neck, and feet and will give a loud gurgley laugh each time we find the tickle spot.
- After giving a kiss she will kick her legs and breath all silly.
- She thinks tooth brushes are super cool, but doesn't quite get the "brushing" part.
- She, much like a cat, needs to cram herself into boxes that are too small for her, then act surprised when she falls out of them.
How she chose to watch her show the other day

- She loves dancing, which consists of taking her hands as she flails her head back and forth and shifts her weight from foot to foot. I will try to get video of her dance parties.
- She will put her head down and glare at you, but this actually means she wants to bonk foreheads with you, not that she thinks your opinions are without merit.
- She humors you by nodding to what you say. This was especially funny at her appointment with the cl/cp team where she nodded away as the doctor explained to me her prognosis over the next few years (which is pretty much nothing until she is 5-6).
- She loves having her toes counted, especially in Mandarin and will count along with you (though it sounds more like "ah, ee, ay"). Cuter still, she will go up to Tikka and begin counting doggy toes.

I'm sure there is more, but that's all I can think of right now. It hasn't been a perfect month and there have been lots of highs and lows, but we are slowly coming to understand each other and realize that this might turn out ok in the end.

We also had our 1 month visit with our social worker, who said that it seems like the attachment is progressing well and that we are doing the right things regarding her sleeping and the no holding rule. Based on her behaviors, she is not ready to be held by others just yet, but probably in a month or two.

For those who wonder, she did great at the doctor's and they feel that her repair is great, her speech is progressing fine, and she will only really need to come in for a bone graft surgery at 5-6 to repair her gum line. 5 separate doctors and specialists have now told me that we "couldn't ask for a better case scenario than this girl." We are extremely blessed, is all I can say. She is such a perfect addition to our family and is such a joy to be around. Of course, she is down for her nap right now, so I am a bit biased. Ask me again when she's up and throwing her shoes over the side of the stairs.

Sleeping babies are the best babies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I promised that I'd get some video on here, and so here you go!

As I type this, we've had our little Nora for a month now and looking back on the day we got her makes my heart jump just a tiny bit in the same way it did when the ayi walked into the room with her.  Here is the video that was shot on the adoption day itself.  We'd love to share this moment with you.

Many thanks to Lisa Duke who grabbed our camcorder to film this.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finally, an update!

SO many things to talk about, so little mental capacity to remember what they all are.

Today is our 6th anniversary. It's strange to think it's been six years. Sometimes it seems like we've been together for longer, other times it seems like just yesterday.

Last night was the first night I didn't wake up coughing in nearly a month! Thank goodness I am finally feeling healthy again! Thanks for all the prayers on my behalf, they were very needed.

We have now been a family of three for nearly 4 weeks. 4 weeks seems like a long time and it doesn't feel like we've had Nora for a long time. On the one hand, she still doesn't understand most of what we say unless it's in Mandarin. She still fights sleep every time it comes. We've been working on a routine and that seems to be helping. At the same time she has come so very far in just 4 weeks. She went from quietly clinging to me while avoiding eye contact and being afraid of Kevin to an easy smile, gurgley laugh, and shrieks of "Baba! Baba!" when Kevin gets home from work. She really is an amazing little girl.

She is learning English bit by bit. Her first English word was "bye bye" which we were told the Ayis had been teaching her before we came. Once home, she almost instantly started saying "doggie" which sounds more like doddy. The dogs have been great with her and she took all of about 3 hours to warm up to them. She still gets scared when they have a barking fit, but otherwise she will walk around giving soft pets and occasionally point out their noses (the nose and ear game was one she played long before we got to China).

She is not a picky eater and will stuff down a hard boiled egg in four bites, max. The only thing she has actually spit out was ice cream. I think it's the cold since she generally likes sweet things. She still prefers warm/hot water but will take room temp when she must. Noodles are superior to rice and she will kick her legs in excitement when she sees edamame coming her way. She is amazing at imitating sounds and tone, so we may have a little musician on our hands. She will only play with one thing at a time and if you hand her something new she will quickly decide whether to keep the old toy or trade up. If you have something she wants, she will bring things to trade for them. She is also smart enough to realize that trading a bouncy ball for an Ipod is a rip off. She has very strong ideas about how things are to be done and will shut any open door she walks past. I had to teach her how to safely go down stairs since she had never been around them and would try to walk down them like we did.

She doesn't really "get" tv yet, but that won't take much longer. I did have a little giggle while we sat on the couch together eating cheese nips and watching MST3K (Puma Man, for those who care. It's a good introductory episode, I find). Mostly she prefers to be out and about, though we are still nowhere near being ok with the car seat. Each morning after breakfast she will grab her shoes and start saying "bye bye". Mean mom that I am, I make her wait until we are both dressed before we go on adventures. She is adorable, and cute, and we are slowly getting better at communicating with each other

Now for the nitty gritty since we don't like to sugar coat things. It's easy to look at a few pictures and think that everything is rainbows and unicorns. We get lots of comments on how she is fitting right in and adjusting well and clearly loves us. I don't know if I would use the "L" word yet. I think she is ok with us and figures that since she has spent the last 4 weeks training us on the proper care and nurturing of a Nora, she should stick with us. That said, she still throws wicked tantrums and nights are still very tricky. She goes to bed easily each night, but wakes up several times, often refusing to sleep anywhere else than on top of me, or while being walked around the room, sometimes refusing flat-out to sleep. It's pretty exhausting.

I mentioned in a previous post about how we can't let other people hold her yet. Since we've had questions about it, I will try to explain. Currently, Nora will happily go to whoever puts their arms out to her. We were advised by other adoptive parents, social workers, and our agency that in order to teach her what it means to have parents we must be the only ones to hold, feed, and change her. Some agencies make you sign an agreement, though ours did not. The thing is, Nora has no real concept of what parents are. She went into the orphanage extremely underweight and in need of food and attention. The children learn that if they are cute and charming they are likely to get a bit more food or a bit more care from the Ayis. It's strictly about survival at that point. Other children have other survival methods, but it's pretty obvious that this was Nora's method. Especially in the bigger orphanages, there are so many children and so little staff that the most they can do is feed the kids and change their diapers occasionally. When they cry at night there is no one to comfort them, so they learn not to waste their strength on crying. They learn that the only person they can depend on is themselves and caretakers, while needed, won't stick around.

I had read about children who would start rejecting their parents once they were allowed to be held by other people. I had heard that the kids took it as a signal that they were on their own again and were in charge of picking their new caretaker. It's a totally different story seeing it happen with your own child. In China, Nora started lifting her hands up to be held by the two 12 year old girls in our group. After she had been held by them for only a few minutes, she would refuse to be held by me and her sleep would be sporadic and plagued by night terrors. It was intense. Since then, we've been very strict about the no-holding rule.

It's hard on our families and friends to not be able to hold her. It's hard on us to not be able to hand her off for a few minutes, but it's for the best. It's not that we are trying to instill in her a fear of others, or trying to hoard her affections. We are simply trying to teach her that there are levels of affection and that there is a difference between parents, family, friends, and strangers. It is only temporary and it will allow her to form stronger bonds with people eventually, but man it sucks trying to explain to people that there is a reason behind this and it's not some arbitrary thing that Kevin and I decided would be a laugh to try out.

Anyway, things are generally improving. Nora is generally happy and we are slowly finding our new normal. Tomorrow she has her evaluation with our CL/CP team, so hopefully we will have good things to report. Also, I will do a full list of things we miss/don't miss about China, but oh man am I craving a chocolate steam bun! Someone go to the 7-11 there for me and eat one (Shelah, I am looking at you).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three weeks

We are not dead, just dealing with attachment issues, sleep deprivation and trying to establish a new normal. I promise a real post and maybe even some video, but for now enjoy this cute picture of our cute little girl. Love her so much :)