Thursday, July 30, 2009

Neurological Reorganization & Newly Adopted

The title alone is enough to make some of you start snoozin'. But if you have interest in human development--especially as it relates to adoption--keep reading! :)

As you may or may not know, one of my children spent 2.5 years doing a program of neuro reorg. Why? Quick summary... Neuro reorg is designed to wire parts of the brain that didn't get enough attention during normal neurodevelopment. In adoption this can be due to moves, transitions, etc... All stuff that puts immense stress on the developing brain. Actual "symptoms" vary immensely from child to child. You can actually see brain "issues" by looking at a child's movements--things as simple as creeping/crawling can give you incredible insights.

All that to say...

When GG came home, I was eager to observe his creeping/crawling abilities. After we were home several weeks, he tummy crawled down the hallway. It looked pretty good. I thought we were home free. But several weeks later I looked again, this time at both his tummy creeping and hands/knees crawling. What I saw deeply concerned me; both were very unorganized. I mentally prepared myself for years of neuro work with him.

Fast forward to today, now home two months. Everything looks MUCH better. Nice crosspattern. Fairly even. One foot comes up off the floor during creeping, but other than that, things look really pretty good.

Which leads me to contemplate why. (If you're still reading, you must be a neuro nut like me!) Some fellow adoptive/neuro moms helped me brainstorm...

1. One mom said, "I've been wondering how big a role a child's "point on the continuum of trauma" plays in how they look neurologically. What I mean is, if you had video of GG crawling and creeping months before the adoption, would he have looked fine? And then immediately after the adoption, would he have looked really impaired? I know with my dd that the trauma of the adoption experience was enough to make her regress severely in several physical areas, so I'm guessing if we'd had her evaluated after we'd only been home a month, she probably would have looked a mess, whereas 4 years later her issues looked mild-moderate. As GG is processing what has happened to his world, as the trauma is less fresh and raw, I would think that he would look more neurologically integrated and typical. But that's just my layman's musings."

I, too, wonder about the "trauma factor." GG's world turned upside down. (Literally, if you consider he's now on the other side of the world!) What affect could that have on his current neurological appearance?

2. Another mom asked if he's been on the floor a lot since he's been home. The answer is yes. He often plays on the floor. But he also runs outside a ton. In China we noticed that his balance was off. When we got home, he fell quite a bit (and has the banged up limbs to prove it!) I held by breath whenever he ran on our asphalt driveway because he was always on the verge of tripping flat. In the last couple weeks, this seems to have improved.

I wonder a few things... How much was he able to move about in China? Did he run freely? He lived in a crowded city. Did he simply need some time to get used to what it means to run in big, open spaces? Can balance/running ability really change that fast if given a different environment?

I'm curious to know how much the average Chinese family puts their children on the floor? Do kids have "floortime?" Do they run much?

I don't know if his current neurological presentation is going to stick. But it's changed so dramatically in the past two months--from good to bad to quite good--that I'm hesitant to make any surefire predictions.

But it sure would be cool to not have to do neuro again. It's fantastic cause it WORKS. But it's no picnic to do.

If you're still reading, I'd love to know what you think about all this... ;)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lemon Velvet Yogurt Drink

Tasty beverage for those 107 degree* days!!!!!! (*On the evening news they said it's hotter here than in Las Vegas or Phoenix. Yikes.)

Lemon Velvet

8oz lemon yogurt
6oz orange juice concentrate
2 1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla

Blend until frothy. 6 servings.

If you'd like, freeze into lemonsicles.

China Foster Family Skype #3

Several days ago I asked GG if he wanted to talk with NaiNai and Ayi on the computer. He vehemently nodded, ready to talk right that second. We arranged a session for tonight.

We could see NaiNai, Ayi, and the foster baby clearly. He looked at them and listened when they talked to him, responding only in brief spurts himself. At one point Ayi sang "Two Leopards" to him (same tune as "Are You Sleeping"...wish I'd recorded it!) and he very quietly sang a small part. He more enthusiastically sang the ABCs, "It's Raining, It's Pouring," and recited "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" which resulted in applause from both sides of the Pacific. At one point he held up a photo of all our kids. They said that he looked very handsome with all his brothers and sisters. Mostly he just sat quietly and played with the computer keys.

I was able to ask them several questions. Did he ever have bumps on his legs in China? (No...something I'm trying to figure out.) Did he ever go swimming in China? (No. But he liked cool showers.)

They asked me questions. Has he been to school? (No, but we do a lot of reading at home. We also go to the library.) Did he already eat tonight? (Yes. He finished his dinner so he could have Doritos.) What is he playing with? (A whistle. He showed them.) Has he forgotten Chinese (since he was so quiet)? (No. We're listening to lots of DVDs/CDs in Chinese and he seems to understand them.) Is taking Chinese classes? (No. None around here.)

They also told him that his niece/friend misses him and wishes he'd come back. That made him uncomfortable, but other than that he seemed okay with the conversation, despite saying little. Both NaiNai and Ayi had big grins on their faces the whole time. It was good for him to see them happy.

After 30 minutes he said, "All done," and got up to leave the computer. Thirty minutes is a long sit when you're three.

P.S. NaiNai also told him to get along with his brother. Unsolicited, but very relevant and appreciated! :) I should have lined up all the kids.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Names and Internationally Adopted Children

Did you read the latest on boys' names? Apparently, giving a boy a less popular name increases the tendency for that child to become a juvenile delinquent.

I've been thinking about how this applies to boys adopted internationally. In Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, Patty Cogen, a family therapist with expertise in international adoption, strongly advises that the child's original name be kept for the following reasons:

1. The child recognizes and identifies with the name by four months of age.
2. A name is the first way people identify themselves, from infancy onward.
3. The name provides a link to the past.
4. The name may have been given by birth parents.
5. The name is linked to a child's ethnic or national origins.
6. A change of name is confusing for young children.
7. A change of name suggests a parental rejection of country of origin or ethnic background.
8. Parents want to keep the child's past and present life connected.

Although I think it's wonderful to keep a child's original name, I've always wondered whether keeping his name would just be one more thing that sets him apart. If adopted internationally, he probably looks different from his family and (possibly) his peers. He knows his family life didn't start the same way as that of most friends. He knows from early on that there are things that make him different.

We've been slow about introducing GG's new name. I still call him by his Chinese name about 90% of the time. However, I've run into roadblocks in public. Well-meaning folks butcher his Chinese name, even after having it repeated to them over and over again. I've wondered what his 3-year-old mind thinks while listening to these interchanges. What would happen if the same scenarios continued in school? Granted, not all internationally adopted kiddos have names that are equally easy (or difficult) to say. But our child's really isn't that complicated and it's still been hard for most people.

What do you think? For what reasons should a name be kept or changed? And do you think that study applies to our kiddos?

I Think I Hate My Girls

They are driving me CRAZY!!!!!!!!

Just what, you might ask, is so terrible???

1. Despite having the best possible home life, they are totally unappreciative.

2. They constantly eat/drink without any thanks.

3. They are belligerent and refuse to do what they're asked.

4. They are STUPID and can't learn anything I'm trying to teach them!!!!!!!

ARGH! I'm starting to hate the girls! They put me in a FOWL mood!

My poultry...yes, the "Chicken Mansion" poultry...have taken to eating their own eggs. On far too many days lately, they eat half the eggs, ever so generously leaving the remaining half for us.

So what have I tried?

1. Violence
I caught one girl in the act, yolk dripping from her smirky little beak, and threw her out of the coop. She spent the day pacing back and forth in front of the gate. And went back to eating eggs the next day.

2. Shunning
I sent the worst offender back to live at the place of her "birth" the neighbors across the street. They will either reform her or eat her.

3. Deception
I put a golf ball in the nest, hoping they'd peck that instead. Apparently, they like golf.

4. Poultry Poison
I emptied a pecked egg shell and refilled it with hot pepper sauce. They ate quite a bit of it, leaving the remaining red, pasty mass in a nest. For a day or so I thought things were better. Then egg eating returned. So I filled another. Same thing. On my third attempt, I added ground pepper to the hot sauce. That seems to make a bit of difference. Of course now it's 105 degrees outside, so the stupid chickens just figure that their internal temperatures (from eating the hot sauce) now match their external temperatures.

Tonight dh goes to town in search of a "Flock Block."** Isn't this rewarding bad behavior???? So help me, this better work! Or we're eating chicken soup for the rest of the month!!!!!!

**So if you feed a chicken wheat and barley, are the eggs still gluten free??? :)

Trying to look innocent. Sheeesh!

105 Degree Day Activities

What do you do when it's 105 degrees outside?

1. Sweat.

2. Pretend like it's the dead of winter.

3. Sweat.

We're kinda going for option #2. While homeschooling, I always thought it wise to take off the month of May and homeschool on the hottest days of July/August, because we definitely don't want to go outside.

At the moment, my boys are playing with lentils. That's right, LENTILS. We actually have a kit from TOPS, but they aren't doing anything but filling/dumping containers at the moment, so you could do this at your house.

Now the bigger question...what do you make/eat for dinner when it's 105 outside??? Help me!

P.S. One thing for dinner...Crisp Cucumber Salad.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Forgetting the Past Already??

It's been a week or two since GG sat at the computer with me to look at photos of his foster family. The viewing hiatus wasn't intentional, it's just that we've been too busy for computer time. Tonight he climbed up on my lap and pointed to the photos. The first he chose was a picture of his niece, really more like a sister, just a year older than him and a good playmate. He talked to her on Skype only a couple weeks ago. When I pointed to her photo and asked "Who's that?" he said 'LilDude's name. I thought it was an accident. So I asked again. He repeated 'LilDude's name. I then said her name. He got a confused look and then a lightbulb went on and he said her name, but slowly, like he wasn't certain he was saying it right. He wasn't avoidant. He wasn't upset. He just acted like he genuinely thought her name was something else. Perhaps that's the way a 3-year-old blends the past into the present??

Feeding a 3yo from China!

Our pre-adoption reports said that GG (age 3) will eat anything. That is either entirely wrong or only applies to food eaten in China.

Feeding GG is a culinary adventure. In the very beginning, he wouldn't eat anything. Then, slowly, he ate a few familiar things--formula, his favorite Chinese crackers, a bite or two of congee. When we got home he lived on congee for the first week, but then rejected it in favor of cornflakes. After the cornflakes, we learned that he'd eat eggs. So we scrambled 'em, easy-overed 'em, and hard boiled 'em. Then it was toast. Toast, toast, toast. "Wo yao TOAST!!!!!"

Oh, and did I mention that with each new food, he rejects the previous ones? So once we added cornflakes, no more congee. Once we added eggs, no more cornflakes. Toast, no more eggs.

So we play the "eat THAT first and then you can have THIS" game. It's a lovely game that we play over and over and over. He'll eat almost anything for a popsicle. One day he ate more than 20 baby carrots when I insisted that the boys eat a carrot in between each potato chip.

But we've also learned that condiments go a long way. Put ketchup on it. He'll eat it. I drew the line when he asked for ketchup on his salad. But I've put it on about everything else: eggs, noodles, rice, and PANCAKES. He would eat ketchup soup if I'd let him.

Dip it in Ranch dressing? He'll eat it. One of his first sentences was, "Momma, Momma, Momma, wo yao Ranch?" (I want Ranch.)

While in China, we were told not to feed him spicy food. Apparently, the SW did not consult with GG. We threw the "no spicy" rule out the window when we learned that he'll eat pretty much anything that's been slathered in Thai peanut sauce.

Things that he initially rejected are now requested. At first he spit out berries. Now he picks blueberries and strawberries off the bush and feeds himself. He totally boycotted ice cream, which I found quite advantageous until this week when he downed about 75% of the chocolate milkshake that I picked up for ME at the Burgerville drive-thru.

We've been very grateful that we picked up spoons while in China. He eats much better if he can feed himself and the Chinese spoons make it easy. But, like food, he's also changed his opinion about eating utensils. First it was Chinese spoons. Then he demanded forks. And this week it's chopsticks. And he's fairly competent with all three options.

Now if I was only a tad more competent in the culinary adventures of 3yos... From China... :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

So just what is it you DO all day????

Lately I've had this feeling that I work all day and don't really accomplish anything. At the end of the day, the dishes are still piled up at the sink, the laundry is urping into the hallway, and I still can't find my desktop. So it's time for "A Day Two Hours in the Life..."

Roll over and ask dh what time it is. Realize that I'd better get up if I'm going to get everything done that needs to be done before I leave the house this morning.

Prepare two chickens for two crockpots. I was supposed to do this on Saturday, but I forgot. I'm wearing a nightshirt and debate whether anyone will see me if I sneak out on the back porch to snip some celery. Snip away. No phone calls from the neighbors, although it was early, so maybe they thought they were dreaming. (I won't get into the whole nightmare verses fantasy debate, but I will say that the nightshirt is pretty ugly.) Return to the bloody bags of poultry. Decide that raw chicken is even more disgusting at 5:45am than it normally is.

Consider going back to bed but decide everyone is asleep so I might as well catch up on email. Answer a couple. Don't get anywhere close to emptying my inbox.

Am joined by a very sleepy 3yo, GG, who really should have stayed in bed. Rock GG with a bottle of milk. Bonding time. GG soon wants off my lap to hassle the dog. Rescue the dog. Am joined by LilDude. Leave LilDude and GG playing while I...

...Check on Anakin, who apparently got up a while ago. He's been sick a couple days and still has a high fever. Contemplate swine flu. Wonder if there is time in the day to take him to the doctor. Hear screaming coming from downstairs.

Find GG in a puddle of tears with LilDude looking suspiciously guilty nearby. Ask what's wrong. LilDude: "I told him not to go upstairs." (Where I was.) Ask: "Are you the Momma?" Try to mend the broken heart.

After hearing "I want to get dressed!" a few dozen times in Chinese (which sounds like "Wo yow Chinese food!" to my untrained ears), I finally take both little boys to get dressed. Go through at least 3 outfits to find something GG agrees to wear. He is a clothes hog. Somewhere in all this, I get dressed; unlike GG, I think I picked up the first clean thing I could find on the floor. That part is definitely hazy, but it must have happened because no one asked me later in the day where I got such an ugly nightshirt.

Started fast food central. GG has gotten very picky. And he's lost a little weight since he's been here. So I toss together some rice, Campbell's chicken broth, green beans, and Thai peanut sauce. He eats it all. Plus toast. LilDude gets toast, leftover scrambled eggs, and blueberries. Sick Anakin gets cereal, grapes and blueberries. And a refill pitcher of water. Somewhere in all this I eat breakfast too. I think.

The boys tell me that Lizzi went out to pick green beans. Bless her heart. I go out to talk about the day's schedule. On the way in, I stop to check the eggs. Blasted chickens! Ate yet another egg...and this one, the first of the day. Scheme about how to get them.

Take pecked egg and fill it with dh's red pepper sauce. Return egg to chicken mansion. Hope that they are stupid enough to eat it. Hope that they'll learn a lesson. Contemplate whether chickens are teachable.

All that by 7:45...

And you may note that I am posting this six days after I started writing it. And I never finished it.

Why, do you ask????

Cause I've been sitting around eating fudgesicles and listening to Oprah all week.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sunflower Seeds + Orbit Gum ?!?!

Sunflower seeds. A healthy snack. Inexpensive. And one that can be purchased in the U.S....unlike many of the other snacks that GG is used to eating. More sunflower seeds have been eaten here in the past month than in the past ten years.

For Christmas, BigSis gave LilDude a couple "BigePaks" of Orbit gum in his stocking. I found the empty containers while cleaning out LilDude's room a few weeks ago and decided they'd make great snack containers. The lid has three openings...the entire top can screw off for larger items, or you can pop off the large round clear plastic top or tiny square opening. Both the "pop tops" are on hinges, essential for easy kid access.

It's great for a lot of snacks, but it's perfect for sunflower seeds. It doesn't spill and it's easy for little hands to get just a few seeds out at a time.

So anyway, next time you end up with an Orbit gum container, think twice before tossing it. Or give it to me. ;) I'll use it!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Took GG swimming today for the first time. He LOVED it! One of the instructors said, "He's going to be a little water bug!" The only problem? I cannot keep him warm enough. In the pool we lasted 30-45 minutes or so before he was shaking with cold. And then, in the kiddie pool (that feels like a hot tub compared to the big pool), his lips turned blue. Time to move to Florida?

Friday, July 10, 2009

China Foster Family Skype #2


We just spent the last 45 minutes Skyping with GG's foster family. Big change from last time. In the last week or two I'd say, "Do you want to talk to Auntie on the computer sometime?" He'd nod and grunt in reply. This, in stark contrast to vigorous shaking of the head "NO!" when we asked initially.

So I asked again today. He did the whole grunt/head nod thing. So we tried it.

This time we had a translator. I am immensely grateful for the help of a very bright 13-year-old girl who lives two minutes away and is fluent in Mandarin and English. (If you want to do this with your child's Chinese FF, it's worth looking close by. Before I started looking, I had no idea that such talents were less than a mile away.)

Tonight, GG's Auntie, Foster Mom (Granny) and niece (age 4 and his live-in playmate) were on the other end. Unfortunately (I thought at first), the video of us worked but the video of them didn't. So they could hear/see us but we could only hear them. At first, GG was very serious. Didn't say anything. Just listened to them talk. But when his niece started talking and laughing, it broke the ice. He became very animated for parts of the conversation, even doing his "monkey face" for them. When we heard that they were eating goodies on their end, GG got a lollypop and offered it to the camera several times and got a "thank you" from China for his efforts. He never said more to them than "ni hao," but he was relaxed, smiling, sometimes laughing, and definitely enjoying himself as he listened to them.

Toward the end of the session, their video worked. He could then see everyone (though not well, as it was pretty slow/blurry), plus the new foster baby who had arrived the day before we visited in China. As soon as he saw them, he was done. He clearly indicated that he was ready to leave the computer. They were gracious and asked if he was tired. I said he was tired of the computer. They quickly brought Grandpa in to say hi as well. GG said goodbye to everyone and ran out to ride tricycle.

After the session, he played outside, happy and carefree. He was concerned about me coming back (I took the translator home), but as soon as he saw me, he gave me a big grin and went back to tricycling.

I'm so, so thrilled that this is working. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a relationship that we can continue, longterm. No one else can tell him about his first three years like these folks can. Even tonight, they were telling me little bits about him. He loves to drink milk. He learned Cantonese first, as a baby; then they gradually began to add in Mandarin. So he knows more Cantonese than Mandarin. (I hope that regular contact with them will help him keep the language.) They keep a candy jar in the living room and he'd always hurry to finish his meals so he could have some candy. Each day he'd want to go outside right after breakfast so they could drive him around in his car (presumably a push car toy.) I mentioned that he loves to pick out his clothes; they said that he would want to wear his favorite clothes again and again.

Odds and ends of info? Sure. But all a part of who he is...who he was before his life began here. And they love him so, so much. It was obvious that they just wanted to look at him, watch him, see that he was happy and healthy and loved.

What a gift for all of us!

Who could have ever guessed we'd be so lucky?

P.S. At some point in the conversation, GG's Foster Mom said, "Listen to your mother." It was just a random comment. But what a powerful thing...for him to hear that from the person who raised him from infancy. Incredible.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quiet Down Cobwebs

When my 93-year-old Nana died, I received this picture that she'd made. I'm moving it from my bedroom to my living room. I need the reminder. My house is seriously trashed, but I need to keep my priorities straight.

Thanks to the person on the Holt forum who posted the rest of the poem. I didn't know there was more...

Babies Don't Keep
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Momma's Arm

This is how my son falls asleep each night.

You'll notice that his attachment to Dora is not as strong as his attachment to my arm.

Yes, that is my arm he is "snuggling."

He's been home one month. He needs my arm to peacefully fall asleep each night.

I've thought a lot about this. I have a lot of time to think as I lay there with him each night, waiting for him to fall asleep. Usually about 45 minutes.

I could wean him off my arm.

I could force him to fall asleep without me. (In case you're wondering, this does result in crying...not manipulative crying, but "I'm extremely sad" crying.)

But why?

Well, I miss having that 45 minutes to myself.

I miss hanging out with whomever is still awake. (Usually dh.)

I miss not being (literally) tied to the bed at 8p.m.

So why do I do it?

In the scheme of things, this is just an eye blink in the course of my life. And while it's a slight inconvenience to me, the need/payoff for him is huge. Like my social worker said, "There are worse things!"

I'm grateful. It's ME who makes him feel safe enough to fall asleep. It's ME that he's turning to...instead of Dora.

What more could a mom ask for?

(If it's still happening in 6 months, I'll let ya know. :)

P.S. This totally reminds me of a book, Ida's Doll. It's the sweet story of two sisters who cannot afford a doll. The big sister allows her arm to be used as a doll; the little sister cradles the older sister's arm...even as it cramps and becomes uncomfortable in sleep, the older sister continues to allow the younger to hold it. I definitely know what it feels like to fall asleep with my arm cramping in a very awkward position.
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