Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hooray! We're eating!

A miraculous event occurred at the dinner table last night. Just as we finished eating, Quinn finished his baby food bananas and started dipping his bottle nipple into Uncle Gary's clam miso soup. He did this many, many, many times, always to enthusiastic applause.

Here's a picture:

After a while, Gary offered Quinn a sip from his large, Chinese porcelain soup spoon. Quinn rejected it, but was obviously considering it. Here's what that looked like:

But Gary hung in there and eventually Quinn stuck out his little tongue and stuck it into the soup. A bit after that he even let Gary give him a few sips from the spoon, even though Quinn never really opened his mouth.

Here's the big moment:

The final step is when Quinn took the spoon himself and brought it up to his mouth several times. He didn't quite have the angle right so I don't think any actually got it, but STILL!

Here's the big boy's first attempt at feeding himself with a spoon:

So glad we caught these moments on film. This is why we have two cameras with us everywhere we go!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Quinn's first Christmas in America

Quinn's first Christmas present, a toy cell phone:

Wow, lots of buttons to press:

Hanging with BaBa and Buttons:

Quinn gets the hang of opening presents:

Sharing a laugh with Auntie Bonny:

And a laugh with MaMa (this is Quinn's Christmas dinner outfit):

Eating Part II

Thanks for your encouragement!

One thing I forgot to ask earlier: I Googled this morning to find out how much baby food we should be giving Quinn at one sitting, and basically the consensus is to let the baby have as much as he wants because kids know when they've had enough.

So my question: Is that true with institutionalized kids? Considering that Quinn was fed on the orphanage's schedule rather than when he was hungry, I wonder if he even knows what hunger is. He is only just starting to tell us when he's hungry, three hours after his last bottle, and the signs are so subtle that if you don't know him you'd never notice.

Any guidance here would be appreciated: How much should we let him eat at one sitting?

Eating - we're getting there!

Since the day we met Quinn he has refused to eat anything that doesn't come from a bottle. At first, if he even showed him solid food he would cry. Now he looks at it and then turns his head away.

In the past month, sometimes Quinn would let me dip his bottle nipple into a milkshake or baby food and take a bit or two. Yesterday he started doing it himself! He picks up the bottle, dips the nipple into his bowl and sucks away. Last night at dinner I took away the bottle and just gave him the nipple, hoping it would approximate a spoon. This morning I went a step further and put a spoon in the bowl, but he'd have none of it.

His feeding specialist, who has been quite perplexed at his absolute refusal to eat solids, believe he suffered some sort of trauma related to food - either he was force-fed or burned by too-hot congee. I'm curious if anyone out there experienced anything similar, and what they did about it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cuter by the day

Some of my recent faves:

The long-awaited neuro-psychological assessment

We're in California visiting Tom's family. So we took the opportunity to drive to San Francisco and have Quinn assessed by a neuropsychologist who specializes in international adoption. She put Quinn through a series of tests and scored him on a number of different levels.

The upshot is that, at 18 months old, he scores as an 11-month-old in most areas. That's a significant enough delay that he probably won't catch up on his own and needs some pretty serious intervention and attention. Luckily, he'll get a lot of that through the Arizona early intervention program. But it was a good wake-up call for us that we need to be working with him a lot more intensely.

I got a good start today at library story time, of all places. We did rhymes and sang songs in addition to reading books, and it really struck me that I should be doing stuff like that with Quinn. But I may be going at it to excess. I obsessively sang, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," complete with hand motions, to the poor boy all afternoon. He did humor me with a twinkle hand motion at Macy's, which warmed my heart. Then he sighed and went back to our beloved hand games and I decided it was time to give him a break.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You want to do WHAT to my baby?

It looks like Quinn might need surgery. He got a clean bill of health from the neurologist, but the orthopaedic surgeon she referred him to thinks Quinn may need to go under the knife. His brachial plexus injury has taken away one critical movement: put your right arm in front of you, with your upper arm against your body, like you're in a quick-draw contest. Point our hand straight out, and then rotate your forearm away from your body. That's what he can't do. There are two muscles that help you do that, but five that help you rotate inward. So what they do is take two muscles from the inward rotation and move them to help with the outward rotation.

He'll begin pretty extensive physical therapy soon and then be evaluated again in a few weeks. If they determine the surgery is necessary, it likely would be done when he's 2, which would put it next June or later. The surgery itself takes three hours and is fairly complex, but honestly, it's the recovery that scares me: A MONTH in an upper-body cast that immobilizes his right arm like he's swearing to tell the truth in court. A MONTH.

I've heard that little patients are quite resilient and that Quinn will probably do just fine during recovery. But it sounds awful to me.

Has anyone gone through anything like this? Any thoughts on kids and surgery?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hooray! He failed the test!

It probably isn't something we'll ever feel again, but today we're celebrating that Quinn scored low enough on his assessment to be eligible for the Arizona Early Intervention program. He scored with a 25 percent delay in all areas except for communication, where he scored a 50 percent delay. The evaluator, Patrick, said the communications score is a little goofy since Quinn doesn't yet understand English. And he also said he shows no signs of cognitive delays, sensory integration issues or autism. All his delays are physical, for which we're grateful.

His eligibility for the program means he'll get access to all the specialists he will need without having to fight with our insurance company; the state will do that for us. And whatever our insurance won't cover, the state will.

For Quinn, that means a feeding specialist to get him eating solids, an occupational therapist to get him using his right arm, a physical therapist to get him walking and perhaps a speech therapist to get him talking.

Here we go!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A breakthrough day

The Mighty Quinn had not one, but two, breakthroughs today.

First, at lunch, he seemed VERY interested in my milkshake so I dipped the nipple of his big-boy bottle (his new sippy-cup-style bottle) into the milkshake and he slurped it right up. We did it about three more times with the same results. Then I offered him some on my spoon and, as usual, he turned his head away in despair.

Then, this afternoon, Quinn was playing on one side of our big square coffee table and I was on the computer on the other side. I saw a head slowly rise so I crawled around and watched him pull himself up into a standing position for the first time.

Hooray for Quinn! It's amazing to see how fast he is coming along - learning and growing every day. Also becoming MUCH more of a handful. A week ago I could sit him down with his toys and he'd be good to go. Just now I sat him down and he crawled straight to a large, heavy framed photo Tom has leaning on his office wall and just about pulled it right down on himself. Now he's having a good cry because I moved him away from it. Mean Mama.

The Christmas decorating dilemma

A kid certainly makes the holidays more fun. You can walk through the mall singing along to Christmas songs, and if you have a kid with you, no one even looks at you. Take it from someone who knows, that's not the case when you're alone.

However, Quinn does present a dilemma when it comes to decorating. He is now crawling all over the house and he likes to reach up and pull things he comes across. So: Christmas tree or no Christmas tree? I am nervous he will pull it down on himself. But I also want him to have a tree since he LOVES lights. I'm considering skipping the big tree and putting a small tree up high where he can see and not touch.

Any ideas?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things Quinn is grateful for this Thanksgiving

1. Stacking cups and rings. Always a good time.

2. Baxter the dog. Loyal and protective of HIS boy.

3. Grandma Marj. Unconditional love, and a weakness for Gymboree.

4. Best pal Ba Ba. Always happy to act like a kid himself.

5. Bedtime stories. Good Night Moon works EVERY time.

Things we're grateful for this Thanksgiving

1. Smiles.
2. Hand games that make Quinn laugh out loud.
3. Stacking cups.
4. Peaceful nights. Thanks to a RIGID schedule, we now have bathtime, reading in the rocker and then to bed. Quinn usually wakes up when we put him in the crib, but cries for only about 15 seconds - tonight, he just looked up at the mobile and didn't cry at all.
5. Eye contact. Finally.
6. Learning ever day. When we came home Quinn couldn't handle a big, chunky stacking ring - he would over- or under-shoot the central post and give up. Less than two weeks later he has mastered a three-part stacking tower with very narrow wooden posts.
7. Crawling. In China Quinn could barely make it from one side of the bed to the other. Now he is crawling through the entire house.
8. Walking. He looks like a cross between Frankenstein and Popeye with his goose steps and wobbly legs, but with a little assistance (we hold him under his arms), he's cruising.
9. Baby pajamas. Is there anything cuter?
10. Kisses. Quinn has two versions: The vampire kiss, where he tucks his lips around his teeth and bites the neck; and the face plant, where he positions a hand, palm open, in front of him, then falls face-first into it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boy under a microscope

Quinn's first doctor's appointment led to a flurry of specialist visits.

First up, on Monday he will meet with an internationally know feeding specialist, who happens to live in Tucson. She will work with him on his refusal to eat solid foods. Our first exercise was to track anything he puts in his mouth - that was easy, the answer is nothing! - and to dip the fingers he puts in his mouth in juice and see what he does. He pops them in just like normal.

Next up, he is enrolled in Arizona's Early Intervention program for kids with developmental delays. That will lead him to a physical therapist to get him to use his bad shoulder (his SN is a brachial plexus injury sustained during delivery) and an occupational therapist to work on his walking.

In December, we will visit an international adoption clinic in San Francisco for a thorough analysis of his development, attachment, etc.

This kid is going to see a lot of waiting rooms. We'd better make sure we bring the stacking cups!

Help! Sleep!

Quinn slept so well in China. Near the end of the trip he started crying when we put him down, so we went into the bathroom for a few minutes to get ready for bed, and he'd be out by the time we were finished.

Now that we're home, going to bed has become tougher and tougher for the poor kid. He cries for about 90 minutes and then starts these
horrible institutional behaviors: rocking very hard forward and back,
hitting himself in the mouth, making odd faces. I really want him to
sleep in his own room, but this is just about killing me. I know he must
be scared - it's probably the first time he's been in a room by himself.

Our doctor suggested we read to him for an hour or until he falls
asleep. I did that last night and he went right to sleep, but when I put
him down he woke up and SHRIEKED for 45 minutes. Tonight he willed
himself to stay awake for the full hour - I could see it!- but when I
put him down he cried for only 30 seconds or so. But then an hour of the
rocking and hitting.

Help! Any ideas?????

Pee problem, solved!

A couple days ago we went to Babies R Us and asked for the most industrial-strength diaper ever made. We went home with Huggies Overnights and something called Diaper Doublers, which are big, long pads that line the length of the diaper. Hooray, it works! I am still changing him A LOT, but we are no longer leaking through four outfits a day!

Hello, America

We're home!

The journey was far easier than we had feared, thanks to a miraculously good boy who had only one bad moment on the loooong flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles, when Baba tried to help fussy Quinn by popping his fingers back into his mouth. SKREEEEEEECH!!!! He screamed for about a minute and quieted down.

Quinn became an American in the eyes of the law when we touched down in LA. He seemed to understand the significance of the moment as he looked out over the tarmac:

For most of the flights, he entertained himself by playing with his toys. On the flight from Guangzhou, we were lucky to have an empty seat next to us:

He did very well, but after a while he got a bit bored:

On the long flight, he had his own little cubby under my seat - although he spent most of the flight sleeping on my seat. About two hours before we landed I gave up and surrendered the seat to him; I sat on the footrest and read a book.

Here he is in his cubby. This is the first picture he ever posed for and smiled:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homeward bound

Tomorrow morning we head home.

I'll be sad to leave China, the place of Quinn's birth and heritage, but I'm excited to get him into his new life and develop some sort of routine.

This trip has been amazing, and I've loved everything about it.

I'm so glad we were able to see China and learn a bit about a country I had underestimated and misunderstood.

I'm so grateful that we were able to see Quinn's finding place and piece together some of his history and the events of day he was found - the day he began his journey to us.

And most of all, of course, I'm awed that this trip gave us our amazing son, who is currently sitting on the middle of a kingsized bed, happily stacking his cups and babbling his adorable little baby babble.

I'll write again once we're home and settled. Thanks to all of you for sharing the most important journey of our lives - it was fun to have you be a part of it!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The many-varied attachment process

In the adoption class we took when we started this process, we learned that a common reaction of kids when they meet their parents is to reject one or the other. We also learned that grieving was normal. Surprisingly - to me, at least - is that both reactions are considered healthy and actually good for the child. They indicate that the child has bonded to a caregiver and is grieving that loss.

For Quinn, the grieving process was retreating into himself and crying all night in his sleep his second night with us. He needed a good week to warm up to us. For the first couple days, he refused to make eye contact and was so deep into himself that we were convinced he was autistic.

Two other couples we met yesterday saw very different reactions.

One couple, experienced parents of special needs kids who adopted a 2-year-old, found that their new daughter completely rejected the heartbroken mom. It's been a week now and the little girl will look at her mom, which is progress, but will not let her hold her or feed her. I had heard that a good thing to do in cases like this is for the preferred parent to hold the baby while the rejected parent feeds her. Not sure if that works, but maybe it's worth a try.

Another couple adopted a 2-year-old girl who was deeply attached to her foster parents. Hand-off was very difficult; the entire foster family, including grandparents and aunts and uncles, showed up and sobbed. The poor little girl was despondent for an entire week. She smiled for the first time on day eight and is showing small signs of progress.

As we prepare to head home, I do not pretend to be anything close to an expert on this whole process. All I can say is that, from what I've seen, children respond and bond and attach in very, very different ways. It seems like the best thing to do is learn about what might happen so you're prepared, but not worry if it does happen. Almost every problem experienced by the people I've met here has either disappeared a few days later or is waning.

My other advice would be to avoid comparing your kid to others. That's not easy when a 13-month-old in the playroom is obviously considerably more advanced than your 17-month-old, as we saw this morning. But every kid is on his own schedule, handling major, major upheaval in his or her own way. It's amazing, really, considering all they've been through, that they're doing as well as are.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quinn's first American meal

We've really been enjoying all the great Chinese food. But we have to admit that after more than two weeks in China, some American food sounded pretty darn good. It's a gorgeous day, so we went to Lucy's and ate outside.

Iced tea - hooray!

And grilled cheese sandwiches - with the crusts cut off!

A romantic dinner for three

Last night was beautiful, so we ate at a lovely outdoor restaurant on a heavily planted pedestrian street. We sat at a big, wide couch, which was perfect for Quinn. He sat and played with his trucks and rattles the whole time we were there.

We were sitting on this front porch:

The place used to be a coffee and tea house, so their tea presentation was quite lovely:

A knock at the door

Yesterday afternoon while Quinn was napping I heard a knock on the door. When I opened it there was a smiling young woman holding out a box. "This is for you, from the hotel," she said. I looked down and saw... Chinese adoption Barbie!!!!! There she is, standing in a garden and holding little Chinese girl. Way fab - I totally love it.

Here she is:

My favorite souvenirs

Personalized souvenirs are all over the place here.

Here are my favorites:

- Chops are small stamps with your name in Chinese carved in them. Many people told us Michael has the best reputation for carving them, and that's where we got ours. If you upgrade to the medium size, he puts the name in English AND Chinese, which we liked. (Bring the birth year of anyone you plan to buy a chop for - each one includes a carved Chinese zodiac symbol on the top.) We bought a bunch for Christmas gifts.

- Some places, including the shop just past Michael's, will carve your child's face onto a larger chop. They're very cute, but we couldn't figure out how we'd ever use it so we passed.

- Several shops will paint your child's face inside a small bottle. Great grandma gifts! We bought ours at Michael's, and he let us e-mail him a photo.

- Several places also will carve your child's face in granite. We chose a cool version at Sherry's, that includes not only the face, but also a quote from the parents, a map of China with the child's province marked, the child's birthdate and adoption date, and the parents' signature. We plan to give it to Quinn for his 13th or 16th birthday. (They'll take a photo of your child there in the store.)

- Almost everywhere will do your child's name in calligraphy. Both Jordan's and Sherry's will do you a small one for free. We haven't picked up ours from Jordan yet, but the one from Sherry's is way cute and includes a colorful pig (Quinn was born in the year of the pig). If you want to buy more, you can get a big version of the child's name in calligraphy, and Michael's has a cute selection of bookmarks you can personalize.

- This isn't exactly personalized, but a cute and easy to pack gift is ornaments in the shape of the recipient's zodiac animal. The best ones I saw were in Beijing - I wish we had bought more there, on the little street across from the Wangfujing shopping street (there are a bunch of souvenir shops and camera shops all interspersed, and they're in those souvenir shops). But Michael's here on Shamian Island has some, too.

- At Raymond's suggestion, we're also bringing home some almond cookies. They're in nice boxes at the grocery store, and WAY cheaper than the versions you'll see in the tourist shops.

Shopping tips for those coming to Guangzhou

We have been here for almost a week now and have done A LOT of shopping. Here are my tips:

- My favorite merchant, by a long shot, is Michael, of Michael's. Just walk out of the hotel on the first floor, turn right and then make a left on the first street. You'll see his shop right away. He's very nice, his quality is the best in my opinion, and neither he nor his clerks are a bit pushy. That is a big-time rarity here, and makes for a much better shopping experience than in most stores, where someone follows you around and says, "That's very rare. You want that? You want that?"

- Try the green tea latte at Starbuck's after a long day of shopping. Yummy.

- The owner of Jordan's is very nice, and his shop has ADORABLE Chinese rag dolls for girls.

- If you want a doll for a boy, check out the awesome charity shop on the pedestrian street near the hotel. It's called A Gift from China, and it's right in between Sherry's and Starbucks - two places anyone can point you to. If you're looking for Christian-themed Chinese souvenirs, or you want to buy someplace where your money goes to charity, this is the place. And the knit boy dolls are super cute - someone in our adoption group spotted them and bought one for Quinn (thanks, Melanie!!).

- Catty-corner across the street from Starbuck's is a very nice art gallery called E-Gallery. Nice variety, very good quality and very fair prices. They did bargain, but not a ton. And they take Visa, which is rare in China.

- Someone in my group suggested buying several years' worth of Chinese New Year's outfits while we're here. We found one we loved at Michael's (Quinn is wearing it in his red couch photo) and we bought three more in bigger sizes. It's short-sleeved, which will be good for us in Tucson (most of them are very heavily quilted).

Bargain shopping with the bargain shopper

Today our Guangzhou guide, Raymond, took us shopping for kids' clothes. First we started at a very fancy department store, where the clothes were fabulous, but priced about the same as they would be at home. So Raymond dragged us out of there and took us to the children's garment district, which is mostly wholesale but has some retail outlets, too.

That Raymond was quite the wheeler and dealer. I'd point out what I'd like and he'd ask the price, then scowl and tell the seller that was ridiculous. If they didn't come immediately down he'd say to me, "We'll go to another place" and lead me out of the store. Most of the time someone would come running after us with a better price, but sometimes not. Usually in those cases Raymond would say, "The 66 yuan they want is is a very good price." Then why did we leave? That's just the way you do it here. So we'd look at another couple of stores and then head back to the one we had just marched out of and say we had reconsidered.

Pretty quickly I got a beautiful Chinese New Year's outfit for $13, a very nice coat and matching ski pants for $14 and a nice stocking cap and gloves for $4. Then Raymond hit the motherlode: a row of wholesale shops that each had a box of retail bargains out front. I got two pairs of sweat pants for less than $1 each and seven adorable long-sleeved t-shirts for less than $2 each. It was quite the haul, and a really fun experience.

The newest Americans

Yesterday afternoon we headed to the American consulate to get the kids' immigrant visas. The guy who runs the adoptions unit is new to the job, and still obviously jazzed about it, and he came out and gave a sweet speech about how much he loves his job. Then all 37 families in the room stood and gave an oath that all the information in our children's information was correct, and poof, instant Americans. It's not official until they touch down on American soil, but all the paperwork is completed.

Congratulations to the newest little Americans!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Only in China

At a very nice Thai restaurant in Guangzhou, an entire page is dedicated to food for infants:

Starbucks in America serves green tea latte, too. But the version here is VERY strongly flavored of matcha powder, and very delicious. Also much greener than the American version:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I wish I had brought/glad I brought to China

I wish I had brought:

1. An illuminated alarm clock. We have stayed in two very nice hotels, and neither has clocks in the rooms. Apparently Chinese people are not fond of them, because they're a reminder that time is short. We've been doing wake-up calls every day, which is fine, but when I wake up in the middle of the night I wish I knew what time it was!

2. OTC medicine. I brought antibiotics from my doctor in case we got really sick, but I had a cold and now a cough, and haven't been able to find cough or cold medicine at the grocery stores.

3. Diapers. Quinn has leaked through every Chinese diaper we have tried. I think we have spent way more in laundry service than we have on food!

I'm glad I brought:

1. Baby Bjorn. We struggled with this one because Quinn is 22 pounds and Baby Bjorn carriers max out at 25. We are SO glad we brought it. We firmly believed this helped significantly in our bonding process. Wherever we went Quinn was right there with us, feeling us against him and hearing our voices. After the first couple days he started asking to hold our fingers, which we hold up light motorcycle handles in front of him. He is ALWAYS happy in his Baby Bjorn. We will be so sad when he outgrows it!!

2. Music. We bought a portable speaker system for our iPod at Target, and it's been great. We downloaded lullabies for nap and bed time, and upbeat Asian tunes for playtime. It has really created a nice atmosphere for us.

3. Laptop. We really struggled with whether to bring it, and I'm so glad we did. Not only did it make it possible for me to blog, but we have used it to look up all kinds of things: how to make phone calls from Guangzhou, how much formula babies should have at 22 pounds, the definitions of various special needs (after meeting kids with them), all kinds of stuff. It also eased my mind when I was convinced Quinn had autism, and told us who our next president will be. I'm SO glad we brought it.

4. Baby clothes. Everyone kept telling us not to bother, that everything was readily available here. That's true here in Guangzhou, but we spent our first 10 days in Beijing, where the only children's store was a very nice, but very expensive, super store. We also went to Super Wal-Mart, but it was far away and not especially well-stocked with baby clothes.

We're walking, yes siree!

Every day we do a little walking. Today Quinn really started to get the hang of it. By the time he wore out, he was supporting himself pretty well and mostly all I was doing was helping him balance!

The famous red couch

Today the Little Emperor dressed up in an outfit fit for his status for his red couch photo:

Just about every child adopted from China has been photographed on the famous red couch at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, where we're staying.

Yesterday was our day. Not long ago, red couch photos of individual adoption groups included dozens of children. Now, adoptions from China have dwindled significantly because of new restrictions, longer waits, and China's new emphasis on adopting out healthy children domestically and special needs children internationally. Our agency now does about eight adoptions of healthy kids a month, compared with 60 special needs adoptions.

Our adoption group has three kids, but for the photo we teamed up with the other Holt families here in the hotel. Two of them we met at our orientation in Beijing so long ago, and another we met at dinner the other night, so we were among friends.

Predictably, none of the kids cooperated, lots of them cried, one of them tumbled head first off the couch (the one non special-needs kid in the group, mind you) and none of them knew where to look with all the parents calling and all the camera flashes popping. It was utter chaos, but also lots of fun. Afterwards, we all went for tea at the White Swan and had a serious sugar fest.

These are the kids from our adoption group: 17-month-old Quinn, 25-month-old Anna and 6-year-old Malia (plus Malia's big sister, 8-year-old Ari):

And here is our entire Red Couch group:

We survived!

Here is our entire group, plus the fabulous Leah:

And all the Holt families: