Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A very meaningful day (for 2/3 of us...)

Today is our third Family Day. I can't believe it's been three years, and yet it seems like we've always been together. We let Quinn take the lead, so we went out for a bagel breakfast, and after preschool we went to the zoo and out for "Chinese noodles."

It was a lovely day, marred only by the grownups' repeated attempts to get a nice family photo. Quinn thought this was a terrible, boring idea that was sucking important fun time out of his day. He did a bit of whining and trotted out the fake cry he has just about retired, but all in all he put up with us  pretty well. We didn't get the perfect Christmas card photo we had envisioned, but we did get some photos that made us laugh (especially the one at the bottom of this post, which is the most perfect image ever of his goofy personality). And that's probably better in the long run anyway.

To Quinn's BCWI cousins Malia and Anna, Happy Family Day and lots and lots of love. To everyone waiting for a Family Day of their own, I hope your wait is short and sweet. And to Quinn Jianrong, we love you more than all the love in the world, times 27 million.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trunk or treat!

I zipped home from work early today and we carved a couple of pumpkins. Quinn drew on the faces, I did the carving. He tried to convince me to trade jobs, but I didn't fall for that one...

We all went trick-or-treating as the royal family. Tom made us crowns (Quinn chose one from his massive collection, and Nana found one that fit her, too) but Quinn also wore a cape. He is always very serious when he puts on a cape...

Here we go!

Our little dog Baxter is having some severe fainting spells due to a leaky heart value, so we're not supposed to get him too excited. A constantly ringing doorbell seemed like a bad idea, so we handed out candy from the back of one of our cars. It turned out to be a really fun thing to do and we got to talk to the neighbors a lot more than we do just opening the door and tossing out some candy while the dogs go nutty. This (and Quinn, of course) made for a really fun Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preschool dropout

After a three-week trial, the preschool for kids with speech delays decided not to enroll Quinn. They said that redirecting him ("Quinn, sit down. Quinn, are you listening?") was taking too much of the teacher's time. I can't say I blame them, because I know that is a challenge for him.

Surprisingly, I actually feel some sense of relief because I had been working my tail off trying to hide his challenges since this school doesn't take kids with issues other than speech. We were getting up early to run him around the 'hood and burn some energy, watching his diet very closely, not letting him watch any TV in the morning, etc., etc., etc. All good things, of course, but we were making ourselves a little nutty worrying about them all.

So we're back in the hunt for a school that's a good fit for Quinn. Today we visited a church-affiliated school that employs a PT who specializes in sensory processing disorder. They allow about two kids with SPD in each class. But all the kids get "therapy" -- they bring in an OT every Monday and do lots of sensory play every day. In many ways, this place is the opposite of the last school. While that one was very academically focused, this one doesn't really do academics at all. Its philosophy is that kids (at this private school, in this high-end neighborhood) are getting that sort of stimulation at home; what they need at school is social interaction and play. Since Quinn is doing great academically but is in desperate need of social skills, that sounds good to me. The catch: They might not have a slot for him. The school's SN liason was planning to put him in the 3-year-old class (their ages are developmental, not chronological) but changed her mind after meeting him and seeing his impressive brain at work on a puzzle and a game.

And so we wait. We play. And we enjoy our extra time with this fabulous little guy we're blessed to call our son.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Plan C, D - and working on E

I haven't been  blogging of late because I've been driving. And driving. And driving. Like a long-haul trucker.

As of my last post, I had pretty much decided to skip the speech preschool with the principal who pretty clearly didn't want Quinn. Instead, we decided to give his special-ed preschool another shot, with new goals written into his IEP.


This year's class has a couple of very challenged kids. And Quinn tends to raise or lower himself to the level of whatever is happening around him. So we were looking at a very bad scene, with increasing behavior issues.


I decided to keep my appointment to visit the speech preschool, and I had the same reaction as the first time I visited. I wanted to hate the place. But I loved it. The teacher is amazing, the assistant is fantastic, the kids are engaged. So I pretty much begged and got Quinn in on a trial basis. We'll find out soon whether he'll be able to stay, and at this point it's anybody's guess.

As the principal feared, he is a challenge to the teachers. He stands up during circle time, walks around during center time, doesn't want to sit and look at a book on his own. But... in three weeks, he has gone from speaking sentences only to himself to having actual conversations with us. He has gone from never, ever participating in his special-ed class group activities to taking part. And he has gone from never, ever singing with us at home to happily singing songs with multiple verses. So I'm working closely with the teacher (who is beyond wonderful), we're practicing school activities at home, we're volunteering at the school and we're praying, praying, praying.

In the meantime, I drive Quinn to "Miss Jocabed's school" for 2 1/2 hours in the morning, then pick him up and drive him across town for 2 hours of "Miss Schreiber's school" in the afternoon. Except on Wednesday afternoons, when we alternate between OT for sensory processing disorder and a therapeutic playgroup for speech and sensory issues. Then it's home to practice "centers."

How much do we practice? In the bath last night, Quinn said, "Mama! This is bath center!"

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Plan B

After much negotiating with the principal of the preschool I've been trying so hard to get Quinn into, she agreed to take him on a one-month trial — provided I came along with him. So I got my schedule all worked out, and then ... she called and said they've decided they want us to come again for a "visit" — and that visit won't be until two weeks into the school year. At that point, he may or may not be invited for another visit. And at the end of all this, he may or may not be accepted. 

What it comes down to is, I think, is they just don't want Quinn at their school. It's grant-supported, and in these tough economic times I think they're quite desperate to show that every kid improved with their curriculum. Because the principal fears Quinn has autism, I believe she's scared he'll skew her rankings. I get that, but I also know Quinn a little better than she does, and I honestly do believe he would thrive there.

But ... but. She expects him to fail. So, really, how could he not??

So while I made the appointment for us to visit in a couple of weeks, my gut tells me we won't be keeping that date. Instead, we're going to return to his special-ed preschool and I'm going to ask that the goals in his Individualized Education Plan be updated. Because, honestly, his speech delay isn't that big a deal anymore. He's progressing beautifully. Instead, I want to ask them to work on helping him to listen and follow directions, to make eye contact and to interact with other kids. Those things, I think, are the keys to helping him succeed later in school. As for speech and academics, we'll work on that stuff at home and supplement with some extra-curriculars like the swim and music classes we've been taking this summer.

It's funny, I've been fighting for so long to make this whole speech preschool thing happen. But now that I've pretty much decided against it, I really feel this path is the best one for Quinn right now.

And so ... here comes Plan B.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Day Out With Thomas

Last week we went to a preschool spectacle called "Day Out With Thomas." The kids get to ride in a train pulled by Thomas and also have access to a boatload of related activities: Thomas face painting, coloring pages, jumping castles, train tables, temporary tattoos - and, of course, an entire airplane hangar packed with Thomas merchandise for sale.

Quinn loved every little thing about this event. Tom snapped this photo after we boarded the open-air train and just before it took off. His expression shows the joy and wonder that was on his sweet face the whole day long.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The big week is now in our rear-view mirror

When last I wrote (which must have been 10 years ago now - sorry!) I mentioned that Quinn had a big week ahead. So here's how it went:

New play group: Eek! He loved the "play" part, which lasts an hour. The circle time part? Um, not so much. He squirmed, he kicked, he didn't listen, he didn't participate. No big nightmare, but not the biggest success, either.

New music class: Yay! Similar behavior issues, but the class is co-taught by a special ed teacher/ music therapist who is both understanding and full of good ideas. Quinn really enjoys it, although he doesn't exactly do what you would call participate...

New therapist: Yay! LOVE her. Very smart, great with kids. On our first visit she seemed a bit flightly; but on our second visit she showed up armed with a plan of action just for Quinn and a truckload of great strategies. She also served up something I hadn't heard of before: a compression vest, basically two pieces of neoprene that wrap very tightly around him. He is not crazy about the vest, but darned if it doesn't calm him right down.

Entrance evaluation for the speech and language preschool: OH MY GOD! In our first phone conversation, the director told me that Quinn sounded like more than they could handle. She agreed to test him, but made it very clear that if he couldn't finish the test - which can last up to 90 minutes - he wouldn't be admitted. Friends and therapists told me not to worry, that it would be games and fun activities. Wrong!

I swear, it was like the test was created just for Quinn to fail. It was 90 minutes of this poor child sitting at a table answering questions. I could not believe this was being expected of a 4-year-old. At two points I had to sit with him on my lap because he got so squirmy. And once we took a break at my dear mother's absolute insistence. (Also, I put the compression vest on wrong and he immediately tore it off.) But, by God, this child FINISHED that test. Even when the tester came out into the hall afterwards and told us SHE HAD MISSED AN ENTIRE SECTION OF THE TEST AND WE HAD TO COME BACK IN - he did it. I was so proud of him I just hugged him afterwards and tried not to cry. The speech pathologist who administered the test took a quick look at his results and said his receptive language skills are absolutely normal, meaning he understands what he hears - he just doesn't necessarily answer or follow directions based on what he hears.

So is he in? We don't know yet. I phoned the director the next day to ask her what's next, and I could tell she was gearing up to say they weren't going to take Quinn - even though she admitted she hadn't seen his test results yet. So I offered to enroll him on a trial basis, and take him out after a set period if they thought he was too disruptive. She seemed open to that, but we'll have to see.

So why am I so determined to get him into this horrible-sounding school? Because when we visited last spring I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the programming, the love the teachers showed the kids and the results I have heard about from friends who sent their kids there.

We're supposed to hear this week. I swear, I'll post an update before another month has passed!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A big (as in important) week for Quinn

Please keep Quinn in your thoughts this week.

Tuesday morning he starts a play group with "normal" kids - something I know he needs, and something I have avoided because it's so hard to sit there and listen to the bragging about how Jimmy is already reading Shakespeare and how Susie has mastered long division. My issue, not Quinn's - and it's high time I get over it.

On Tuesday afternoon he meets a new therapist who has been recommended to us by our doctor and Quinn's speech therapist. She is a PT, but works with kids with sensory processing disorder. I'm happy with the help he's been getting for SPD, but I'm sort of starting to feel like I'm not learning anything at therapy that I'm not already doing at home. So even though I'm sad to leave our current place (owned by a fellow adoptive mom) a change feels right.

On Wednesday we go for Quinn's long-awaited evaluation at a local university-affiliated preschool that specializes in kids with speech issues. I took him for a visit last spring and LOVED the place. Such a high level of teaching and such an impressive place. They were less impressed with Quinn's sky-high energy level, however. The director indicated his lack of ability to sit and listen may render him more than the school can handle. However, she agreed to test him at the end of the summer to give him more time to mature. Amazingly, here we are at the end of the summer - school starts here in mid- August.

This is a big week for Quinn - please think of him, especially at 8:45 a.m. west-coast time Wednesday!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Gotta go poo-poo on the potty, get Lightning McQueen!"

Yes, friends, we have resorted to full-scale bribery to get Quinn to poop on the potty. Why? Because he's 4 years old and fully capable of using the potty. Because his sensory-seeking tendencies make him unusually nonplussed about sitting around in a stinky diaper. And mostly because, well, it works.

Yes, indeed. On Wednesday I told him that if he went poo-poo on  the potty he could go to Target and pick out a toy. "Blue Star?" he negotiated. That's what he calls Toys R Us, whose logo is, yup, a blue star. In other words, the kid won't poop for a trip to Target, but if we up the ante to Toys R Us, he's in. And he was. On Friday, bingo. He was VERY proud of himself and we got off fairly easy with a $16.99 Lightning McQueen car. Of course, now each time he heads to the bathroom, we hear a very excited boy tell himself, "Gotta go poo-poo on the potty, get Lightning McQueen!"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One stupid study

Well, here's a headline sure to give adoptive parents a little panic attack:

"Study: Adopted kids more susceptible to mental, physical woes," http://azstarnet.com/news/science/health-med-fit/article_7d188a39-87ac-56e0-b2ad-a3e87e4fed83.html

The researchers determined that adopted kids are three times more likely to have physical and mental-health disabilities than kids raised by their biological parents. BUT... all the kids in the study were adopted from foster care, so likely suffered some abuse and/or neglect in their early months or years, plus the likely trauma of moving from one foster home to another. As I know so well from Quinn, early neglect - even in the fairly benign form of a lack of stimulation - leaves a lasting impact. So are those kids likely to have problems down the line? Absolutely. Would they have those problems whether they were with biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents or in a group home? Absolutely.

I'm no researcher, but it seems to me that this study measured the long-term impact of a rough beginning, but attributed that impact not to the rough beginning, but to adoption.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A (fleeting) wish for a sis

We have pretty much decided that Quinn will be an only child. So of course, when I told him this morning that his friend Nate was going to have a baby sister soon, he said, "We gotta go get a baby sister! Quinn want a baby sister." Just how deep is his desire? This afternoon, I was looking at a blog by the mom of a boy from Quinn's orphanage - they're in China now and welcomed a beautiful, smiling baby girl just yesterday. "Look!" I showed Quinn when he came to see what I was doing. "Matthew got a baby sister!" He leaned in close, squinted at the screen and proclaimed, "All done baby sister!" Then he went to play with his toy garbage truck. And that - at least for today... - was that.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The boy and the arm

This month has been so busy - and so blisteringly hot - that I totally neglected to post a report from the doctor who operated on Quinn's brachial plexus injury last year.

The good news is that Dr. Waters is very happy with Quinn's progress. He has almost complete "passive" use of his right arm - if someone moves it around for him - which is a good indication he'll have good "active" use as he gets stronger and stronger. We have to have him checked every year (a good excuse for an annual trip to Boston!) and there is always a chance he'll have problems when he has a growth spurt. The biggest challenge is that he continues to favor the right arm quite strongly, so we need to work on that. We worked with Dr. Waters' physical therapist to tweak his twice-daily exercises, and we learned that he'll probably never be able to reach behind his back with his right arm because the tendon that does that is one of the tendons they transferred to give him the ability to lift and rotate his arm. A good trade-off, I think.

So the news was good. But the visit itself? Not so much. We had a longish wait, during which Quinn was quite angelic, playing games happily in the waiting room. But the minute we went into the examination room - the same one he was in that horribly traumatic day last year that his cast was sawed off - he pretty much freaked out. The physical therapist came in right away, and he cried every time she looked at him. He wouldn't let her touch him, he wouldn't do anything she asked and he kept either hiding behind the curtain separating the room into half or hurling himself on the floor. Then he started spinning uncontrollably. Not a good scene. Eventually, the PT gave up and left the room. It wasn't until then that it hit me: Pull out the puzzles. Thankfully, that worked as well as it always does and Quinn sat on the floor happily doing his puzzles, even after Dr. Waters came in. In fact, when he wanted Quinn to lift his arm or reach in a particular direction, he just held up a puzzle piece. Worked like a charm. Surprisingly, Dr. Waters knew a ton about sensory processing disorder and we talked a lot about how to integrate his treatment and his arm exercises. My goodness, how grateful I am for that man.

In short, the visit got better, we learned what we wanted to learn, and we left and had a good rest of the day. But the next morning as were eating breakfast, I noticed that Quinn - who is NEVER cold - was shivering. And he was not eating, which is equally odd for him. I thought maybe he was sick, and then it hit me what was wrong. I bent down, looked right in his eyes and told him he didn't have any doctor's visits that day. Boom. New kid. He started chattering away, ate his breakfast, put on his shoes and announced he was ready to get on with the day. I just felt horrible. I knew that we were finished, but it didn't even dawn on me that he didn't know that. Poor little guy was just plain terrified. Definitely not one of my best moments in parenting...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quinn is 4!

Today is Quinn's "Happy Birthday," as he calls it. We're still in Boston, so we had a fun and relaxing day with no medical appointments and lots of stuff Quinn likes to do.

We brought him a couple little presents and Nana sent a recordable story book that he loved (but he kept looking at it when he heard her voice and asking, "Nana? NANA?") We also took him to a local toy store we've been to on previous visits and let him pick out a toy. He picked a small dump truck - no shock for the Things That Go kid - but the surprise is that this kid who has never liked stuff animals and is not what you would call the nurturing type took to this new friend like it was a doll.

First came the greeting - "Hi, Rocky!" - and then came the hugs. Then he started showing Rocky the ropes - when the waitress delivered our food and removed the number from our table, Quinn shared his concern with his new charge. "Oh no, Rocky, she took our sign!"

Best of all came after dinner, when he held up Rocky and asked me, "Go change diaper?" I took him into the bathroom, where he pulled down the changing table, put Rocky on it and asked for a paper towel. We wiped the truck down good, and then Quinn directed me to lay the truck on its back and put on a new diaper (made from paper towels). Quinn gave Rocky a once-over and proclaimed, "Okay, he's all clean!"

Tonight Quinn let Rocky watch us do a puzzle and brush our teeth, and now the two are now sleeping side by side. Many a therapist has tried to get this child to engage in pretend play with dolls and action figures. Turns out that all he needed was a yellow dump truck!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Catching up with Cousin Anna

While in Boston to see Quinn's surgeon, our wonderful friends and China travel companions Susan and Russ drove in with their three kids, including Quinn's Cousin Anna, who joined her family approximately five seconds before Quinn joined ours. (Cousin Malia was the other child adopted in our trio, and we were lucky enough to catch up with her and her sister Cousin Ari at a reunion of kids from the Beijing CWI last year.)

It was so incredibly wonderful to see the kids together again. Anna, nine months older than Quinn, tried her darndest to get him to interact with her. Quinn, being nine months younger and a boy and generally unwilling to make eye contact unless forced, was less interactive but enjoyed himself in his own way. He also dug the "big boys," Cousin Spencer (during a visit to the aquarium he kept hollering, "Cousin Speeeeeeeeen-sur!") and Cousin Kent.

It's amazing how far these kids have come. They went through so much we'll never know about before they came to us, and they've been through so much since. But here they are, growing, smiling, thriving. Anna charmingly sang us a Justin Beiber song during dinner Saturday with the sweetest smile on her beautiful face, and Quinn ran joyfully around every square inch of the New England Aquarium, exhausting him and all of us.

It was a beautiful reunion, and a fabulous weekend. And it made me realize how incredibly blessed we were to be thrown together with two really wonderful families in China who we immediately liked and quickly grew to love. Sometimes you end up with your family, sometimes you get to choose. We chose to bring Quinn into our family, and now - for his sake but also because we just plain want to - we choose the families we traveled with to be part of our own patchworked, embroidered, crazy quilt of a forever family.

Monday, May 30, 2011

We are peeing on the potty! (but not pooping...)

It was no small feat for a kid who is quite content to spend the day in a dirty or wet diaper (thank you, sensory processing disorder...), but we are doing it! Quinn is peeing on the potty! No poop yet, and honestly, no real reason to hope that's going to change any time soon.

Me: "Quinn, where do we go poo-poo?"
Quinn: "On. The. Potty!" (You wouldn't believe the enthusiasm!)
Me: "That's right! And where did you just go poo-poo?"
Quinn: "In. The. Underpants!" (Equal enthusiasm.)

No remorse from this kid. I guess this is the downside to taking the potty training thing nice and easy...

Still, we'll take our successes where we can find them. After all, QUINN IS PEEING ON THE POTTY! After an appalling lack of success with regular reminders, and after discovering the impracticalities of letting him run around naked (it worked, but ONLY when he was naked) we jumped on the prize bandwagon. Oh, my. We had a little basket with some cheap stickers and freebie toys, plus a few toy cars. Within hours the kid had the system licked, and was fishing about for the toy cars. That eventually morphed into demands for toy cars upon peeing, and eventually into determined but not very convincing fake tears when one was not produced. Oops.

So we have moved on to the "prize chart," which was greeted with wailing and desperate cries of "Basket? Toy car?" But finally, a week in, he is on board. He gets a sticker for each time he goes, and works toward prizes - a trip to the "car washer" or the little train ride at the zoo or "Old McDonald's" playland - that was his first choice.

So we're progressing, and we're wearing big boy underpants right out in public. Which is darned inconvenient. It means having to pull over when he says he has to go, spending way too much time in dirty public restrooms and trying to remember to take him to the potty at regular intervals. He's shockingly good about it, and sometimes funny to boot. Yesterday he was trying to pull down his underpants at lunch and was stymied by the drawstring. "Mama," he finally said, quite exasperated. "These pants are locked!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One year (!) post surgery

Incredibly, it's been an entire year since Quinn's tendon transfer surgery to repair his brachial plexus injury - the "SN" that brought us together. He has almost complete use of his right arm - before the surgery he had almost no use of it - but he still has to be reminded, constantly, to use it.

His one remaining challenge is reaching behind his back, which makes dressing himself quite a challenge. In fact, one reason we decided to go ahead with surgery was meeting an 8-year-old girl with brachial plexus injury who was begging her parents for surgery because she couldn't dress herself, put on her backpack or hang on the monkey bars at school. Anyway, his PT suggested some exercises that didn't really work and I've tried some other things that didn't really work. So not much progress, until about a month ago when I ran into his former feeding therapist, who is the easily most brilliant person I've ever met when it comes to children. "Hmmm," she said, "What could we do?" And on the spot she plopped down on the floor and came up about three exercises THAT ARE WORKING. Incredible. Quinn had no strength to sustain them when we started, but I already see that changing. Score (another) one for the feeding therapist!

We head back to Boston in a couple of weeks for his one-year check up with Dr. Waters. I'll be eager to hear his report, and eager for our strange little family vacation that has become our medical trips to Boston!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just another way Quinn has changed me for the better

A few years back a woman came to our neighborhood picnic with her son, who has severe autism. He sat down to eat, but quickly got perturbed by something and soon was screaming and flailing. She apologized, explained his autism and they left. I remember feeling so sorry for her but having NO IDEA what to say or do. Sort of a social paralysis.

Flash forward to last Sunday. Same picnic, same woman, same son - but this year she left him home with a caregiver. I joined her in the food line to ask about her son and whether she had watched the "Autism Now" series on PBS a couple weeks back. We started chatting about Sensory Processing Disorder and schools and she offered to share her volumes of knowledge - and house full of SPD gadgets - with me. Cool.

It didn't strike me until later how I couldn't have had that conversation before Quinn came into my life. I didn't have the knowledge, obviously, but I also didn't have any level of comfortable with the subject or, really, any understanding of the challenges and joys of her life.

Once again, I find myself immeasurably grateful to Quinn for opening my eyes to new parts of the world and teaching me about things I didn't know existed. My life is better because of him, and I am a better person for having met him.

To me, that's one of the surprises of parenting a child with special needs. You learn. You grow. Your world expands. And how awesome is that?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The best day ever

If we search the world over for the rest of our lives we probably will never find anything Quinn loves more than the "Keep On Truckin'" show held each year at a local synagogue. All kinds of working vehicles gather in the huge parking lot and kids get to climb aboard.

Operating the lever to lift a garbage can was a BIG hit - and this guy was so nice.

This tour bus driver about had a heart attack when Quinn grabbed his expensive microphone and started talking into it.

Start this baby up!

Guess who came out of here with a black bottom?

Fire truck!
 Oh. My. Lord. Quinn was in true nirvana from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. While he loved it all, we quickly established a pattern: garbage truck, skid steer, fire truck, skid steer, police car, skid steer, front-end loader, skid steer. Luckily, he and the skid steer guy bonded so he patiently lifted him into the cab and lowered the safety bar around him time after time and after after time after...

The biggest smiles were reserved for the skid steer.

More skid steer smiles.

Friday, April 22, 2011

We're done wif no?

Quinn has developed a clever little pair of techniques for getting out of trouble as soon as he gets into it: distraction and charm.

When he first started speaking sentences, any time he was corrected - and I mean the tiniest little redirection, like, "Here, Sweetheart, try it this way" or "Let's do that after we put our shoes on" - he would immediately ask, "Go outside?" We kept remarking on how much he loves being outdoors, until - slow parents that we are - we finally noticed that he was trying to distract us so we'd forget the correction. Crafty little kid, this one. In the last week or so, with his language skills expanding, he added an even more effective technique. When corrected, he gets a very sad look on his face, lowers his high-pitched voice and asks very sweetly, "All done wif no?" As predicted, the answer is pretty much always yes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are you the little king?

Quinn has become quite obsessed with Old King Cole, which he discovered on TWO different Barney videos. First, he started using my company-issued blue fleece blanket as a cape. Then, one Friday - boy's day - he and Tom (actually, just Tom) spent most of the day making crowns out of manilla envelopes and aluminum foil.

Quinn still mixes up his pronouns, calling himself "you" and everyone else "me," which kinda makes sense since that's how he hears everyone referred to. Anyway, most mornings I get up to find him in his cape and crown in the living room, and when he sees me he looks up and asks, "Are you the little king?" I tell him he's the king of my heart, and he nods, very seriously. Mind you, the picture at the top of this post is an anomaly. When he is in his regal regalia he is VERY serious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The good, the bad and the honest truth

I subscribe to a bunch of China adoption message boards, and enjoy them all. But with all the challenges we have faced with Quinn, and with all the challenges most all adoptive parents I know have faced, it worries me just a little to see so many people jumping into international adoption without an apparent understanding of what MIGHT not go according to plan.

Before Quinn came home, I read time and time and time again that kids may be behind when you meet them but they'll catch up practically instantly, like when you're still in China. Um, not in our case. I stupidly expected that because I had read it so often, and I really panicked when it didn't happen.

So the other day a prospective parent posted a message to one of the boards asking for advice. One of her concerns was which SNs might work best for her family because they already have a special-needs child. In our case, the SN is not the issue, it's Quinn's 16 months of institutionalization that left him so challenged in so many ways.

I truly don't want to scare anybody waiting to adopt, but I think it's vitally important that we're all aware of the negatives along with the positives. So here's what I wrote to the prospective mom, and here's what I believe more every day:

Let me preface this by saying that adopting my son was the smartest thing I ever did, and my life is changed immeasurably for the better from having him in it. I would not change a thing and I love, love, love being a mom to this incredible child.

Next I will say that now more than ever, I think it's vital in international adoption to prepare the worst and pray for the best. When I say now more than ever, what I mean is that from what I've read, China's orphanages increasingly are filled with special needs kids, many with visible differences. Many people in China still consider people who look differently to be "unlucky," and sadly, some of those people work in orphanages and are caring for kids. That means it's possible that some of the kids in orphanages today are not getting the care that kids in orphanages even a few years ago got. I don't mean medical care - I mean someone to hold them and coo at them and make faces and sounds at them. All the stuff that fosters healthy development.

For us, dealing with our son's special need has been a breeze. It truly is one of those minor, correctable things so many of us seek. He had one surgery and we do some follow-up exercises. Honestly, that is the least of his issues. He came to us at 16 months seriously developmentally delayed. He could sit up only with assistance, would/could not eat solid foods and did not make a sound. I had read time and time again on these boards that kids arrive delayed and catch up almost immediately, but that is not what happened in our case - and the same is true for many, many, many parents who have contacted me not on these boards but privately after reading my blog. After 2 1/2 years Quinn is still seriously delayed in pretty much every area. He gets speech therapy, occupational therapy, is in a therapeutic play group and attends special-ed preschool. He displays several symptoms of autism - he does not like to make eye contact, often won't acknowledge spoken directions, does a lot of self soothing behaviors like swinging his head around. But every therapist we've seen says he does not have autism, but simply missed out on learning the basics of normal human interaction. They think that with some pretty intensive therapy while he's young he can catch up to his peers. So when he's not in formal therapy we're working with him on in-home therapy. It's fun and seriously rewarding, but it takes a lot of time. So much so that both my husband and I cut back to part-time hours.

We went into adoption fully expecting to have two kids, but have decided that it's in Quinn's best interest that we focus on him utterly and give him the very best possible chance in life. Honestly, right now I think that if we had another child, they would both suffer for it. I know many families have many special needs children and juggle it all very successfully, but for us this feels right.

I think you need to go into international adoption assuming you may deal with serious developmental delays as well as disorders associated with a lack of stimulation in the early months (Quinn has sensory integration disorder, which is common among institutional kids.) You also need to research reactive attachment disorder and realize that this could be your reality. These kinds of things do not show up in reports from the orphanages. If your family situation requires a child who needs very little intervention or extra attention, honestly I would rethink whether international adoption is for you. You may get lucky and end up with a child who has no issues at all - I hope so! But you need to be prepared that might not be the case.

I truly do not mean to scare you off. Had I known three years ago all that I know now, I still would have traveled with very same road with joy and enthusiasm. But I wish I had gone into it knowing more, which is why I share my story - the good and the bad.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yay, Barney!

Yes, I know the world is full of Barney haters. But our family will not throw a single dart at the giant purple dinosaur. Music-loving Quinn gets bored with most DVDS, but Barney - with song after song after song - he LOVES. And you gotta admit, some of the songs are pretty catchy.

It's no surprise that Barney has good, positive messages - I've read criticism that he shouldn't teach children the world is such a good place. But we didn't expect to find a positive adoption message tucked into the final moments of  "Let's Go to the Zoo," which Quinn dug out of the cabinet this weekend. Baby Bop, the baby dinosaur, asks Barney to help her leave her beloved stuffed baby elephant in the elephant enclosure so it will be with its family. Barney tells her he thinks the baby elephant should stay with her because she is its family now - she loves it and cares for it and "that's the very best part of being a family."

No, there was no acknowledgment that the baby elephant might be missing its birth family, but none of the characters in this video was adopted - they were talking about someone else who was adopted. And of course, Barney is for very young kids.

I'm trying to build a library of books and videos with positive messages about adoption, and I must admit that a lot of the books I've collected so far I don't really love. Most are about girls, of course, and some I just don't care for. Here are my  fave books so far:

A Mother for Choco
Motherbridge of Love
Letter of Love from China

Help me build my library! What are your favorite books, music or DVDs with positive adoption messages?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Life, narrated

Now that Quinn is attempting full sentences, we're having a blast hearing what's going on in that head of his. Mostly what we hear is narration. The moment he wakes up in the morning, he starts talking to himself, narrating each and every move he, the dogs or either of us make. "Go see Rosie? Eat? Go for walk? Look! Mama getting out of bed. Mama is putting coat on. Baba is walking up the hill."

Just this week, after MUCH work, he is starting to answer our questions about things that have already happened. What did you do in school today? What game did you and Nana play? What did you do while you were outside?

And just today, he started expanding on those answers, turning them into actual conversations. At dinner tonight he told me that he and Baba watched the sun go down. Now it is dark, he said, but he wanted the sun to go back up in the sky. I told him that the sun would go up, but not until he woke up in the morning. "Sun go up now," he said. Not yet, I told him. Just like you need sleep, the sun is sleeping. We went round and round about that and you could really see him trying to wrap his head around the concept. After dinner, while he was playing with my cell phone, he hit some feature that activated the voice control and the phone invited him to "Say a command." "Tell it to do something," I told him. He looked at the phone and commanded, "Wake up the sun!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pee pee on the potty!

Every day since last July when I bought this "Cars" potty seat, I have dutifully sat Quinn on top of it. And every time he has dutifully sat there, looked at toy catalogs or played with an envelope of potpourri, and then smiled sweetly at me and announced, "All done potty." Never has he deposited anything in there, mind you. Until now! One night I noticed a drip or two and made a BIG deal out of it. A couple nights later we got a tiny little squirt - bigger deal - and the third night an actual, bonafide pee pee. "Look!" he announced, pointing. "Pee pee come out the penis!" BIG PARTY. All the excitement prompted him to put the potty on his head and christen it a "potty hat." This kid is immature in many ways, but his sense of humor is crazy sophisticated.

Since then he has been doing his thing almost daily -- If I get him to the potty at the right time, he'll go; if not, he'll just use his Pullup (now known as "underpants."). One day he even added a bonus feature: "Poo poo come out the bootie!"

So we're getting there. Finally.

Monday, January 17, 2011

When bad news hits home

As a journalist, I've covered lots of terrible stories. But none has been quite so personal as the shootings last week at a grocery store in Tucson. The grocery store where my mom shops. The grocery store where Quinn and I take her regularly since she stopped driving.

Tragically, the little girl killed in the shootings was the daughter of a high school friend. One of the men who was shot but survived is a friend's father-in-law.

When I got the call about the shootings I had just left Quinn's monthly "Barnyard Fun" occupational therapy session. It was the first time EVER that he participated in a group session - he did the hand motions during the songs, played the name gave with the other kids, threw styrofoam "snowballs" into a bucket on command - and we were just thrilled.

We had plans for the rest of the day, but instead I rushed to work and stayed until the next day's paper was on the presses. When I came home I went into Quinn's room and just sat and watched him sleep for a while. Someone's child had died that day. One minute here, the next minute gone. It could have been anyone's child. It could have been Quinn.

I remember once, years ago, a friend telling me that her sister had decided to have a second child because she didn't think she could survive if her only child died. At the time, just married and not even contemplating parenthood, that seemed so bizarre to me. Now I get it.

The next day, again at work, I mentioned to a colleague who has a son a bit younger than Quinn that I had sat by his bedside when I got home. "I did that, too," he said. "Me, too," piped in a colleague with a 5-year-old girl. Turns out every parent in our newsroom had done the same.

The shootings here are such a terrible tragedy. They're a terrifying reminder that life as we know it is so fragile, so fleeting. But also a reminder to hold fast to what we have, and appreciate every single second - no matter how many we are given, or how few.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My little "helper"

Christmas with Quinn was a true joy. He loved lights and Santa and Frosty and "Ru-fall" (Rudolph). And after watching "Barney's Christmas Star" he came to believe that every tree should have a star on top.

We had a really nice visit with Tom's parents, and while there we took Quinn to see the lights at his beloved Candy Cane Lane TWO times. Tom set up a string of lights in our room and hung the star that was too heavy for the tree but looked very nice on top of the curtain rod. (Every day when Quinn would see his grandparents' tree he'd suggest to them, "Star on top tree? Angel down?")

This picture has nothing to do with Christmas, but it's my fave of the season. A few days after Christmas we went shopping to spend our Macy's gift cards from Obaachan (Japanese for grandmother). I was shopping for a coat and Tom was corralling Quinn. Suddenly he called me to come quick, and I happened to have my camera in hand. Here is what I saw: