Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Settling In

So, just as I’m thinking that Miss Katie pie slept late and may not need a nap, I look over to find her swaying and bobbing in her booster seat/high chair, and Kevin smiling, also watching her. No, I guess her little body has become used to the routine of eating lunch, then taking a nap for a couple hours. Sweeeet. She did open her eyes and look at us, but was so tired, her eyes just closed again.

Kate's interest in Murphy has grown. She watches him and the way we interact with him, and a few times has been brave enough to pat him from the back. The other day she was tired of her dinner (which does not happen often) and looked down to see Murphy standing close...Hhmmmm... a piece of food somehow fell off her tray...Murphy ate it instantly. A moment later, another piece of food somehow jumped off the tray...Murphy, good dog that he is, picked it up for her (and ate it). You could just see the wheels turning...Kate holds out a little piece of meat and you-know-who came and gingerly ate it out of the outstretched baby fingers. We have now progressed to partners in crime.

Okay, it really was raining lightly, I promise (with big drops coming off the house and the umbrella we were standing under) when we took these pictures...somehow the rain just didn't show up in the picture! Kate seemed interested as to where the water was coming from. Has she ever been out in the rain before?

We're not sure how, but Kate seems to have inherited the family 'goober' gene. :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Corrective Surgery & Daddy's Voice

Corrective Surgery - Today we met briefly with the head of the craniofacial team at Children’s Hospital. I had visualized having every minute question answered, and Kate thoroughly examined, but the surgeon sort of breezed in, talked to us briefly, and breezed back out. He didn’t really even look at Kate’s mouth, at least not closely. (Let me interject here that this doctor has an outstanding reputation, and is nationally recognized. He was also recognized by his peers as being one of the best plastic surgeons in San Diego) He noticed her head shape before we said anything, but felt that it was “relatively minimal”, at least in her facial appearance. Since she is not an infant, the bones are not as pliable and are largely already fused together, so wearing a type of corrective helmet would probably not help. That leaves us with surgery…He very calmly goes into how it is done, and my eyes must have been as big as saucers, while my mouth hung open. “You can think about it, after her palate surgery” Ya, uh, we’ll get back to you on that.

Her lip and palate surgery is scheduled for May 8th, in 6 1/2 weeks. At that time, they will fix her lip, correct the nose opening (to the mouth), and close the palate. (They can do it all at once since she is older, whereas in infants they do each stage about 6 mo. apart.) It will probably be a 2 night stay in the hospital, and the surgery will take 2-3 hours. The cleft in her gumline will not be completely repaired until she is older. The nurse was clear to mention that it may not be exactly perfect after the first surgery, and will need small revisions as she grows, but “he is very good”. Oddly enough, the nurse, Julie, actually grew up largely in China and surprised Kate by speaking to her in Mandarin. Kate had been smiling and acting charming and coy, and when Julie said something to her, the smile instantly disappeared from Kate’s face and she stared at Julie, looking very interested.

A visit to the E.N.T. (ear, nose and throat doctor, a few days back) let us know, not surprisingly, that she will probably need ear tubes put in. They will do the 20 minute procedure, also on May 8th, when Miss Kate is already sedated, prior to the lip/palate surgery. I foresee May 8, 9, and 10 as being long days.

Daddy’s Voice – When we were at church, Kate was sitting on my lap, looking straight ahead, then the Praise Band starts up, off to the right. There are two male singers, one of which is Daddy. She had not looked over, or even noticed Kevin over there, until he starts singing, and then she whips her head in that direction and signs ‘daddy’ to me with the thumb part of her little fist touching her forehead. (The sign is actually a flat open hand, with the thumb touching the forehead, but this is her version of it.) Then, in case I’m not understanding, she starts pointing at her forehead. She did not take her eyes off of him for the rest of the song.

Prior to that, we had been in the nursing mother area and the music played through the speaker system…on comes Daddy’s voice and Kate is craning her head back to stare at the speaker on the ceiling, as if wondering how Daddy got in there. A friend with me says, “Look at her…she knows Kevin’s voice…she’s trying to figure it out! She’s pointing at her forehead.” Oh, you smart little thing. That’s right, that’s Daddy singing! Good girl.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First trip to the park…I’m allergic to sand!!

Kate and I met a friend at the park. Sounds benign enough, doesn’t it? I don’t know if Kate had ever been out to the playstructure at the SWI. She did not look comfortable at this park, and let us know she was pretty sure she was deathly allergic to sand, and that she did not want the sand to come in contact with her person in any way, shape or form. No, no, no, not even the shoes…do not get sand on the squeaky shoes…not one little granule. If you insist on trying to stand me up in the sand, I will refuse to put my feet down, and act as if my legs are made of spaghetti….cooked spaghetti. I will also cry, and I know neither of us wants that. So just pick me up, and no one will get hurt, okay? And no sand. No.

(The friend at the park with us is Chris. I met her when she worked at Adoption Options, our homestudy agency. She was excited to meet the little one that she had helped to bring home from China.) Kate evolved far enough to play with a toy that touched the sand, as long as she did not come in contact with the sand...ya know, what with her sand allergy and all. :)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Miss Katie-Pie Lays Herself Down For A Nap.

By 10:00 Saturday morning, Miss Kate had already had a bath, eaten so much for breakfast that her little tummy was just sticking out, and had company stop over. We were all puttering around the house cleaning up…I had Kate with me and was picking up her room after Hurricane Ryan had passed through. I set Kate on Ryan’s transition bed, and went back to picking some things up. I assumed she would just “climb” off, but she lays down, and begins changing positions, (I thought just being silly). Over and over, she moves, and flips around, like Sid the Sloth, getting comfortable on the rock in Ice Age. Then it happens…the eye lids start looking heavy, she nuzzles into his flannel pillow case, and just as she is ready to drift off…she looks right at me (more awake). Trying to pretend I'm not watching her, I go back to my puttering around the room. I see her out of the corner of my eye fade off to sleep in a sunny room, on her brother’s little bed. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her fall asleep on her own like that (except once in the carseat). We’ve had her for almost 3 weeks, and I’ve never seen her relax and...just...fall asleep. The funny little things you take for granted when you have a child since infancy…feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep on a Saturday morning.

In so many ways Kate seems to have just acclimated so quickly, amazingly quickly. And then there are little ways, when you can see, it will take quite a while until she feels, really…safe…and knows she does not have to worry about food, or having a family forever or falling asleep and feeling secure .

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Miss Kate Occupies the Throne

On March 7th, 2007, Miss Kate (lovingly called baby-Kate) took the throne at McLaughlin Manor. She has since seen fit to assume her rightful place as princess over all residing there. Her royal subjects, Mommy, Daddy, Bryson, Brendan, Colton & Ryan (Murphy & Kitty) have showered her with love, tickles, and many choices of food.

Her Royal Highness has blossomed in the 5 days in which she has been home. Unbeknownst to her parents, she not only can crawl, or walk a few steps, as she did in China, but is quite capable of cruising the entire downstairs, smiling, while swinging her little chubby arms, as if singing to herself, “I can walk around all by myself, and no one puts me in my crib! I’m free! I’m free! And I’m gonna push the buttons on the T.V! Yeah!! It’s a great life, and a hap-py day!” One onlooker stated that “She looks like a tiny bird who has just learned to fly, and flies (walks and twirls) for the sheer joy of flying.” The Princess seems to be unfamiliar with the freedom given, but is enjoying it immensely.

A visit to the royal pediatrician showed that aside from her cleft lip and palate, she was as healthy as a horse. When asked how tall she may be, the pediatrician answered, “If she keeps on this growth rate, she should hit 5’5.” (Mommy starts laughing…Great! I have one kid that, in all likelihood will hit 6’5”, and one 5’5”? :) There was one issue of a sad nature, in that her little baby princess head is flattened in back, mostly on one side, due to being left in her crib for so long, and not lifted out. She had turned to the side to watch whatever was going on in the room. Mommy plans on speaking to the head of the cranio-facial team, (the person who will do her cleft surgery) to ask if it will now round back out.

Verbalizing has become commonplace at McLaughlin manor, whereas in China it was relatively unheard of. Giggles and smiles for no apparent reason have also been frequent. The Princess is discovering the video and dvd drawers as I write, and for some reason, the computer scanner holds much allure. If Miss Kate tires of those things, there is always the toilet or the kitchen pantry…(both of which are due to have child-locks installed by Daddy…very soon.)

Murphy and Princess Kate have evolved into a mutual live-and-let-live agreement. Kate gets first dibs on food, and Murphy agrees to wait patiently for anything that may hit the floor, then doing cleanup. Murphy is still allowed to join in the van on trips to drop off and pick up boys, and Kate promises not to holler. Murphy will exercise caution to prevent mowing Princess Kate over in moments of excitement, as when the UPS man comes to the door, and the Princess will try to understand the family’s love for this big, gentle soul of a dog.

Aside from her first night in the States, there have been no night wakenings. The Mommy person was a bit sad to realize that Miss Kate sleeps better alone in her crib, than in bed with Mommy & Daddy. If held or rocked, she will stay awake as long as the person holding her, but if laid down in her crib, will show her displeasure and holler, in what sounds like Mandarin, then be sound asleep in about 5 or 6 minutes.

The royal carseat no longer promotes stress, but is actually quite cozy to fall asleep in. While in China we realized that being held on someone’s hip was also new to the Princess. (It does make sense…you carry a child on your hip when you plan on lugging them around for a while, and if she was not carried around much, she would not have learned this simple skill) We literally had to show her how to sit like that. Miss Kate also did not seem to know what to do when nuzzled or tickled, and seemed to laugh quietly in spite of herself. I was told by the orphanage that she was not ticklish. Are we talking about the same kid? Over the last 2 ½ wks., Princess Kate has shown herself to be very ticklish and seems to have a great sense of humor. One just has to pretend they are going to tickle her and she laughs and raises a shoulder, as if preparing herself.

Princess Kate has found her niche in the world, and we’re so very glad that she has.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Bringing Kate Home

Well, we left at the crack of dawn to head home. I was kind of dreading this flight home, (what with getting airsick at the very end last time, and now with a 20 month old) but I was missing the boys so much, that was my focus. It was still dark, and very chilly and windy when we stepped outside the hotel. The weather had gotten cooler each day that we had been in Guangzhou. It was hard to believe it was the same place that was so balmy and warm 5 days earlier.

As we get to the airport, Leila walks us in, and gets us set up and pointed in the right direction, and we realize we’re going to be on our own when we get to Hong Kong, transferring flights. Leila reassures us that there will be many English speaking foreigners there, if we need help. “Have you ever been to Hong Kong Leila?” “No.”....Great...O.K. We’ll just figure it out. The first 45 min. flight leaving Guangzhou is uneventful…excellent. I start feeling more confident.

Two hour layover in Hong Kong…I’m gonna check out the bathrooms…(I promised my female friends I would report on the bathroom situation! :) This time I’m armed with my T.P.(most public restrooms don’t have tissue in there…it’s a BYOTP thing), and my camera…hidden in my pocket. I know, I’m a goober, but you know you want to see ‘em, just admit it! I open the stall door (which goes all the way to the floor), and there it is…the squat toilet. I close the door and turn off the flash so no one can hear me taking a picture, then I start laughing…there’s a pretty darn big hole that goes straight down, a good 10 or 12 feet, and I was visualizing having to tell Kevin I just dropped his digital camera down the pooper. LOL. O.K….there’s an art to this…and I only have one question, okay two actually,…how are you supposed to get back up without touching…….anything? (At this point I start giggling again, hoping that there is no one close enough to hear me laughing), and 2, you can make an automatic flush (which used a TON of water) but you can’t make a seat? Interesting.

The mountains in Hong Kong were SO BEAUTIFUL. I’m afraid my photos (taken through the airplane window), did not capture how incredible it looked. They’re steep rugged mountains, but instead of being jagged and pointy at the top like they are here, they’re rounded off. There was mist hanging in between the mountains, as if it was just waiting for someone to come with their camera or paints and easel, and capture it’s beauty. It was really, amazingly pretty. Like some movie about ancient China. I could not stop looking out the window, wondering, ‘why do their mountains look like this, and our mountains in California look so different?’ They are so beautiful. I’ll always have this vision of the misty mountains in my mind when I hear the name Hong Kong.

We learned some things, on our first flight with Kate a week ago…bring lots of Cheerios, snacks, and a bottle to suck during takeoff and landing. Do not attempt to lay her down if she falls asleep…better to be uncomfortable with a sleeping child. We all three emerge from the last of 3 planes approximately 22 hours after leaving our hotel, and it was still the same day! But now our boys are waiting for us, and I cannot get them in my arms fast enough! I think I heard Colton, our 8 yr. old, squeal with delight before I even saw them. My beautiful guys smiling at us…it was a very joyful moment. Finally, all my babies together.

My sister, who watched our 3 youngest boys, walks up with the 3 yr. old, Ryan. (She has had 7 little boys for 2 weeks.) Ryan latches on to Kevin with a vice grip, and the tears come. He starts sobbing uncontrollably, and has the saddest little look on his face, as if he had thought he would never see us again. He looked so relieved that we had come home, and he now had permission to be vulnerable. You try to prepare them for your absence in different ways, but with the little ones, you’re never really sure how much they understand. I felt bad that he had obviously worried, although my sister said he did not cry or seem upset while we were gone. Poor little guy. A stowed away new Herbie Volkswagen (his favorite thing) “from new sister Kate” helped pull him out of the tears, and paved the way for baby Kate to make friends.

The carseat was not a hit (she had never been in one before), nor was Murphy, our big male golden lab/chow mix dog, or our gray Kitty. (She undoubtedly had never seen a dog or cat before either). The boys, on the other hand, quickly became a comfort zone. She kept looking at Bryson’s blond hair, like, “why isn’t your hair black?” They all smiled at her, and put out their arms for her, and she would go to them. It did my heart good. Ryan more just watched her…although I did see him pat her on the head, and quickly, but gently stroke her hair. O.K., good, progress. No one bonked anyone else on the head with a bottle, or took their toy. I think we’re off to a good start.

Kate did not have an interest in getting down and exploring, especially if Murphy was around. As I was sitting on the couch with her, Murphy walked by and licked her head, as if welcoming a small cub into the wolfpack. It was very sweet. Kate did not agree. Then later, as I was holding her in the kitchen, Murphy “kissed” the bottom of her foot as he walked by. Again, not the response Murphy was undoubtedly going for. (shriek!!)

Her referral information stated that Kate had an incredible ability to adapt. They weren’t kidding. Within an hour, she was already doing little things that she had not done in China. The three of us collapse in bed that night, completely unaware off what time it was in China. Until…..2:30am…..”So what’s on the dinner menu? I would appreciate food now, please.” Kevin and I must have looked like something off a sitcom…he stumbles down to make her a bottle, and I am seriously falling asleep holding up a handful of Cheerios in bed, while Kate happily munches away. The morning brings a cheerful smile, a cute case of bedhead, and hungry little girl. “Well, good morning my little American citizen! Welcome to your first full day in America.”

Thoughts I had that let me know I had gotten a little too used to “the hotel life”!....
Where the heck was that bellboy when we came home with all this luggage?
I miss that petite Chinese housekeeper that could change the duvet cover and sheets on a kind size bed in 3 minutes flat. I really wanted to bring her home! She was small…I bet I could have put her in my suitcase and gotten her through customs.
What’s up with this lo-flo water conserving shower? A real shower should just blast the shampoo out of your hair!
Don’t these towels seem kinda small to you?
Oh, I could really go for some room service right now.
I have no idea – call the concierge.

Our Last Days In China

Our last days in China were spent in Guangzhou, getting to know Kate, and watching her bloom, like a little flower. We bought little Chinese dresses (and more squeaky shoes!), walked around the little shops, and went out to a farewell dinner with our new friends. It was peaceful, and I’ll always hold this time close to my heart.

We have met the most incredible people on this adoption journey. A man who, with his wife, has 2 or 3 children at home, had 2 stillborn babies, and now was in China adopting a little 2 ½ yr. old blind girl. As soon as they get back, will be in the process of adopting a little girl with heart issues, who will need numerous surgeries and may live for quite a while, or may pass away early in life…but he wanted what life she had to be lived out in a home with people who loved her.

We also met a shop owner who was a new Christian, and wanted very much to learn about the Lord and read the Bible, but had a hard time understanding the some of the reading, due to the language. When she would email friends to ask how to find a Bible in her own language, or a simpler version, her emails would be returned to her, saying they were undeliverable. She said that if I email her, not to use the words Lord, Jesus, or Bible…or the email will not go through. Kevin said there is a filter that blocks them.

We met wonderful May, who had us rolling as she answered my question, ‘how do you have a brother with the one-child policy?’…”Oh, you know (she giggles) I’m the extra-one.” My parents had a son, but wanted another child, so they accept the punishment.” “The financial punishment?” “Yes, they have to pay a lot of money, and go to classes to tell them ‘you have done wrong, (she says authoritatively, shaking her finger at us) You have not followed the policies of your country, and you have done this bad thing. It is very bad not to follow the rules of your nation”. "What did they do, accept the punishment, and just go on?” “Yes, pretty much”(she laughs). She said it much funnier than I can write it. She would practically bounce up and down like a little girl when she was excited…it/she was very cute and endearing.

The days have been filled with incredible people, things I have never seen before, things and people I will miss, and things that make me appreciate, to my core, my own country.

As I felt the back wheels of the plane leave the ground in Hong Kong, I looked at baby Kate with misty eyes and smiled, “You don’t live in China anymore baby girl…Let’s go home and meet your family. They’re waiting for us.”