slide show

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Trusting my mama-bear gut

As if he hadn't had enough trauma and change in the last month, unfortunately Ru broke his right arm last Saturday. Lest my caseworker think I was neglectful or even worse... he was in our back yard and broke it when he was trying to keep up with his sister and fell off the monkey bars. Pesky monkey bars strike again! Just last week Livy and I were commenting as we watched them running around in our back yard and were talking about how we were surprised that he has some delays in his gross motor skills. There're some gaps in things like skipping, doing a somersault, jumping and even his gate is kinda off when he runs. We also noticed that Ru has no idea how to fall and little awareness of his body in general. We were commenting that it was kinda dangerous because he's a go-full-tilt-boogie-all-the-time kind of guy and that combo was likely to result in an eventual injury. Ya, we said that a couple days before he broke his arm, and sure 'nough if happened. 

Since it was after hours, we took him to the little urgent clinic down the street. They x-rayed his arm and couldn't find a break anywhere. But my mama gut told me differently. The doc said to follow up with an orthopedist if I wanted. Radiology reviewed the x-rays and confirmed no break. Still my mama gut said the arm was broken and they just didn't see it. On Monday I called my pediatrician for a referral, and the "referral gal" was gone for the day so I couldn't get a referral. It seemed like the universe was telling me that Ru's arm wasn't really hurt that badly, and keeping it real, I really was thinking of dropping it altogether seeing as how I had both a doc and radiology telling me nothing was there. But seeing as how he just wouldn't move his arm for 2 days, and the swelling continued all weekend, my mama gut was still telling me something was wrong. I decided to book an appointment without a referral anyway for the following morning. Tuesday morning we went to see the surgeon, and he looked over the x-rays. Nope, no break and said something about an injury to the growth plate. Really, no 2nd x-ray? I asked and trying to look and sound as exasperated as I could. It sure would make me feel better if you'd just take another x-ray. Ultimately with a little push from this mama bear, we got got a 2nd x-ray. 

Now I'm no radiologist or orthopedic surgeon... but my mama-bear gut was right!
The 2nd x-ray clearly shows that his arm is broken! Actually it's broken in 2 places, on both the radius and his ulna, one of which even I, who has no medical training, can clearly see. I just remember thinking to myself, This is just so stereotypical reaction to a broken arm. I just has to be broken! Which is kinda funny seeing as how this is the first broken bone for any of the 10 of us, and  I obviously would have no idea what a stereotypical reaction to a broken arm would be. Nevertheless, she persisted (minus a pantsuit) and got another x-ray, and low and behold it was broken. 
Ru wasn't too happy when they had to squeeze and move the cast a bit before it set, but he snuggled right in to me for comfort so the silver lining is that he's coming to me for comfort when he needs and that's a great sign that attachment is making progress. And ever since the cast he's back to his normal ol' spunky self... and tells me every time he goes outside that those monkey bars are bad, and he's not going on them again!

So the lesson for the week is, trust your mama bear gut!
The cubs depend on it.

Awesome pics compliments of Livy the Unstoppable! Except for the x-ray of course that was taken by the 2nd technician that does know her left from her right!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"...little bit baseball and then sleeping."

I've been trying to get some video of how we're communicating. 21 days since we've been home and this is a pretty good example of how much he's talking these days. We were at a restaurant having dinner, (Chinese and Viet food. I think he really likes eating some real Chinese food whenever he can!) and Papa asked him what he was going to do when we got home. I'm pretty sure he wants to make very very sure that he gets his baseball tv time in before bed! Which we're more than happy to oblige since baseball is one of our love languages around here!

Yes, he's in a sling.
Yes, he has a broken arm that is not set during this video.
Yes, he's not only a trooper and still smiling through it all. Every day I appreciate more and more that Ru is just one of those people that's happy in his soul regardless of any crap that life throws at him.
Yes, he is amazing!

More on the unfortunate arm incident later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The little gardener

One of my very favorite things to do with our kids over the years has been gardening. Now I'm using the term "gardening" liberally. What I really mean is grow things in pots. Ish. I am not a gardener by any means, but I can keep somethings alive in pots by giving them water and sunshine... well not all the time but I can give it a sturdy go, and if it dies than that's an opportunity to teach the circle of life, yes? Especially for our adopted and foster kiddos growing things and the daily care  has been a life saver. It gets us outside in the sunshine, it fosters a nurturing and caring demeanor to another living thing, we get to be silly and splash our tootsies in the water and make feet prints on the sidewalk. We occasionally harvest our herbs or veggies and get to eat or cook with our bounty. Taking care of our plants provides many opportunities to practice direction following skills, gentleness and helps grow our English vocabulary in addition to the plants!
Thankfully in the desert we have about a 9 month growing season, and this year we are growing cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, oregano, basil, thyme, 2 types of mint, lemon grass, Gerbera daisies and several other pretty flowers, not to mention the orange tree in the back yard.
Right now, becuase it's spring and the desert goes crazy in the spring, the front of our home looks like an Easter basket threw up on it with a lush green lawn and a ridiculous amount of flowers in the trees, bushes, and blossoms of pinks, oranges, purples and yellow everywhere.
So far Ru has harvested a huge amount of oregano for me and then took it back to the kitchen and cleaned and prepped it so I could dry it. If you're local and would like to swing by for some organic oregano, holler! Or fresh sweet basil. Unfortunately he just missed the tomato harvest, but we'll plant again in the fall.
Seriously our little gardening venture is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I'm pretty sure is one of Ru's too!

Monday, April 24, 2017

How's he doing? (16 days home)

I had a big ol' post typed up. Murphy's law dictated that it disappear, so you now get the Reader's Digest condensed version. I'm not sure anyone even remembers those, but I remember my grandmother, Mimi, having lots of them on her bookshelves, and I was pretty fascinated by the fact that one could read a whole book in a condensed version. 
How's he doing? is the question we're getting mostly these days, and long story short, Ru is doing wonderfully! But his whole life has been so recently turned upside down so great is relative to the upheaval he has gone through when his world changed in the blink of an eye exactly 4 weeks ago. Like the first day he came to us, Ru is a giggly, smiley, fun and happy-go-lucky guy. He is eager to learn, and show off what he does know. He is still very eager to be in a family, this crazy family, but we are still learning about each other. Things change day by day, as as I told our social worker, sometimes even hour by hour.

Specifically if you want me to tell you what it's like around here in our day-to-day reality, I'd tell you that Ru is very very very much like a 4 year old inside a 7-year-old's body, and a naughty one at that! Most of the time he's giddy and full of life, but he simultaneously tests every boundary and crosses every line. His favorite word is no. He likes to literally point out other people's faults and laugh at them. He tries to get the upper hand in most every situation. He wants what he wants when he wants it and isn't afraid to let the fury of hell rain down when he doesn't get it. The car, the house, my shins and my ego have all taken a several hits.

On the attachment front he's doing fabulously. Ru has selected me as his special person, and I'm the one he looks for to soothe his boo boos and for extra hugs and kisses. But affection is definitely something he is learning. Hugging Ru is a bit like hugging a stiff board, and when he comes in for a hug it's similar to being head butted by yak. With time we know he'll soon start including Papa and Livy into the inner circle of his heart and eventually our whole crazy family. Until then they are all a little relieved to avoid some of the bruising. Literally. He also shies away from strangers which is another great sign of his attachement.

We're using time-in's when we need to, but we are (were?) also having some pretty big ugly tantrums when we were out and about. I'm not one to go many places with a newly adopted child. I think sticking close to home is best when you first get home. So by out and about I mean in the car driving the other kids to and from school and going to the doctor's office. Even with the minimal outings, there are things at every turn, like a picture of a thirst buster on the window of the Circle K to to not be buckled in a booster seat, that Ru wants immediately and cannot have. One thing that has really helped us is using a sticker chart. Like I said, it's like an unruly 4 year old so we went back to some of our toddler strategies. Now when we leave the house he gets a good-boy sticker. The sticker is a tangible thing that I can tap and say you're being such a good boy! when we are out to remind him of the upcoming reward. If he has been a good boy while we were out, the sticker is added to the chart when we get home. He's only lost his sticker 1 time. And for every 3 stickers he collects he gets the reward of his favorite thing in the whole wide world, a piece of candy.

Medically, we have had our first pediatrician check up, and it confirms that Ru is a little guy, but not as little as our other 3 Asian cuties. Currently he falls inbetween Jude and Mimi for both weight and height. We are scheduling a specialist to look into the on-going care of his special needs, which for right now is a non issue, which is a huge blessing.

Ru is a wonderful helper and really does crave attention which we are more than happy to give him. He's making huge huge progress on all fronts. He eats and sleeps like a champ and gets along well with all the younger children which is another blessing. To be honest, he's bored here at home with only me here. Unlike the the first 7 years of his life, he's missing school and being in the midst of the group of boys who were his orphanage family 24/7. He lives life to the fullest, and thank you God, I really think he's just one of those people who is genuinely happy in their soul! He's helping me learn how to be a better mama and a better me.
He has embraced his family forever.
And we have embraced him!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

To school or not to school (13 days home)

He asks to go to school every day.
Actually several times a day.
Every day we drop Tess, Jude and Mimi off at school and every single day we drive back in the afternoon to pick them up. Ru was attending a regular ol' public school in China and was in the 1st grade. Several people told us he was doing well there, a typical student. Prior to that he finished both preschool and kindergarten. And up until last month his whole entire life was surrounded with other children every moment of every day. It makes sense that he wants to go to school so badly.

Over this last week I've had 2 meetings with school and district administration re Ru starting school in the fall and what grade level to place him in. Ru has totally figured out that school is an option, so he's started asking when he's going to school rather than if he can go and getting a little insistent about it. Granted there isn't an answer to this question yet so we just say soon. He wants us to say today or tomorrow, which are words are in his vocabulary but the answer is only soon and he follows up with the next question, "Little bit?" He's pretty excited about the thought of going to school and also getting increasingly frustrated with each passing day that he can't go.

Over the course of these meetings the principal asked if we'd like to start Ru this year (ya, like next week!) going to just music class (or perhaps PE and/or art) and maybe lunch just to give him a little exposure to what school is like. This is an option that we hadn't even considered. We haven't decided yet becuase honestly there is so so much to consider about sending him to school, for even as little at 60-90 minutes 2 x per week, and I like I mentioned before my head is filled these days. His self esteem. His inability to speak to teachers. Indiscriminate affection... But we'll have to decide soon since there really only are 4 weeks of school left. Today we head off to the school again for an English evaluation test. Maybe it's wrong, but we're hoping he fails it miserably since he'll qualify for some extra services for next year if he does.
4 doing an Asian squat...
well not Jude so much but he's still in PT from his surgery and working on core strength so close enough. 
We're not ruling out the option of home schooling Ru, but from my previous experience homeschooling (I home schooled The Man Child for a semester way back when) I know that would be quite challenging for me and would also require a big sacrifice from the whole family, so we're leaning towards public school for now.

So that's where thing the whole school thing stands for now... ish.

Finding our new normal (12 days home)

I wish I could post more often and tell you how things are going.  I want to for those that follow in our foot steps. But my hands are full and my hours are full. And my head is full. And life... well it's just really full right now, leaving little time for anything superfluous.
On communication
It's amazing how much and how well we can communicate without sharing a common language. We're communicate with a combo of the very few Chinese words I've learned, (like maybe only 5 of them that I can remember) the very few English words he's learned, (he is probably using 50 English words and understanding 100+ already) pantomiming, a really undependable translation app (We are using SayHi and it's good, but really we think it words best to use it for single words and small simple sentences. Still it gets it wrong often.) and making and creating our own signs (like bathroom, wash, car, plane...)
We had a Cantonese translator lined up to come into our home and help us translate but there ended up being a couple problems with that plan. Ru won't talk to them. Actually he won't talk to much of anyone in any language when we need or want him too but rather snuggles up close to my side and keeps his head down which is actually a sign  we're moving in the direction of attachment so we don't push him. And we haven't really needed much translation because like I said before there really is very little that we can't communicate given some time and a little creativity.
Ru gibbers away in Cantonese a lot, especially when he's playing with himself. But he is using English words too. We've heard Ru using short 3 word sentences in English already, and I'm actually amazed by how much progress he's made in English already. I keep trying to get some video of him taking but he clams up.

So long story short, it's amazing how communication really isn't a big deal. Yes, it would much easier if we could just talk to one another, but we haven't found his English and our lack of Cantonese a huge hurdle. In fact it's been much easier to over come (knock on wood) that we imagined, but I reserve the right to change my mind on this at any given moment!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Baby birds

Today is Good Friday so no school for my kiddos so we are hunkering down and doing lots of being together as a family.
At this moment there are 3 teenage boys ages 14, 17 & 18, our 4 littles age 7, 7, 9, 9  and un-toothbrushed, jammie wearing, hasn't-bathed-for-days, b.o. smelling, greasy hair me in the house. Papa is at work and my helper extraordinaire, Livy, is at school. I'm thankful that we don't have anywhere to go today, but I'm pretty sure that there will be no time to get dressed or brush my teeth today.
Ru hasn't had a lot of time with his siblings since they've been at school all week so today is all about learning how to be a part of the team, learning to be in a family with them, having fun, learning where he fits in and we've had lots of opportunities to learn how to sharing, be nice and show compassionate. These lessons are presenting themselves all. the. time so I'm right next to them through it all. (Except for the 30 seconds that I ran to the bathroom this morning and just prayed the house was still standing when I got out. It was, but really this isn't a given right now since crises seems to arise nearly every minute.)
I was watching my own little baby birds play on the porch because it's the most lovely day here in the desert, when I heard a high-pitched squeaking from above. Low and behold right there on my back porch, while we were in China a mama bird had built a nest 10 yards from where the the kids were playing, and there were 4 baby birds peering down on me waiting for her return. Mama bird was about 20 yards behind me watching her babies. I was watching mine. This is something mamas of all kinds have been doing for a long time. I don't think she got her teeth brushed either.
Just maybe some aspects of this adding a new older child thing is less complex that I think, and it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps mama bird was hear to remind me of this. I have to remember to not over think it too much. Feed them. Keep them safe in the nest. Love on 'em and be there. Keep their world small and simple at first. Teeth brushing and a lack of bra doesn't really matter right now, right?

Thanks, mama bird. I'm gonna follow your lead.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Final day in Guangzhou and the Chimelong Safari Park

Not much time for writing much. By this time this is posted we'll be in the airport waiting to board our flight to the U.S! Eeeeek! I miss my family so so much and can't wait to be with them and wrap my arms around them, smother them is kisses and cuddles (Not that The Man Child will allow such things but I may just force it upon him anyway!) and just be with them again!
This one is for you Sunny!
The final day in Guangzhou was spend at the Chimelong Safari Park which is kinda like a zoo and kinda like a drive-through safari park all rolled into one. For a fee you can pop your head out the sunroof or leave the doors open to your minivan and drive through to see many of the animals! Don't have a car? No problem because you can hail a cab and get them to drive you through! I'm pretty sure there were a lot violations against the animals in the park. Because 1 or 2 or even 3 black bears is good but 20+ adult black bears all crammed in a little space has to be better, right? Or not. Same thing with the lions and tigers. We saw a lot of aggression of animals towards each other which or course is a crowd pleaser. I don't know a hill of beans about animal husbandry but seems like it was too many and I've definitely seen much worse in other countries.
It was a long day and the children did really well for the most part. We knew it would be too long of a day for Ru, and for the last couple hours we did just resort to the electronic babysitter to get him through till our ride came for us.
What's better than panda twins? Panda triplets! This was 2 of the three of them. 
We're not sure about throwing thing in the lower air or even the middle air, but evidently throwing things in the upper air is frowned upon. 
It really was a wonderful park and if you happen to be in this neck of the woods, I'd highly recommend it.
Okay off to the airport! I'm coming, Granna & Grandpa, Grammy, The Man Child, Jude and Tess, and will see you tonight! Can not wait to be with you again!!!

2 wonderful things happened today!

Somehow I got a little behind on our photos. Right now we are waiting to leave our hotel for the train back to Hong Kong, but I wanted to post pics about the final step in the adoption process, our visit to the U.S. Consulate here in Guangzhou to obtain Ru's US visa, evidently, as told by the U.S. officer that interviewed us, the hardest piece of paper to get int he whole world, the one that makes Ru an bonafide U.S. Citizen the moment he touches U.S. soil.

Then we asked our guide to take us to a bookstore. I think I could have wandered around there for hours and hours! But we were able to purchase several books (in Chinese) that we think Ru can read.
The other crazy ridiculously wonderful (maybe even more wonderful than obtaining the U.S. visa?) was the fact that Ru asked his new baba to pick him up and carry him! Subways can be long and tiresome and I guess he finally decided he was up for the ride.  Baby steps. It's all baby steps but on most occasions I think we're heading in the right direction!

Chen Clan Academy & 6 Banyun Temple

We had no appointment yesterday, so our guide, Molly, took us on some sightseeing on our off day. It was a holiday, and she asked ahead of time if she could bring her absolutely adorable 7-year-old son with her. We absolutely agreed thinking it might be a good for Ru to see another boy his age behaving in appropriately. We know that Ru knows what well behaved means, and he knows how he should act, but he just choses not to. And maybe it's the fact that Mimi is a girl that he doesn't seem the least bit interested in following her example. So went went sight seeing with 3 7-year-olds, all born within 3 months, in tow.
First we visited The Chen Academy, which is academic building dating back to the 1800's which is now something like a combo museum and art gallery for different modern craftsmen. We saw beautiful examples of pottery, porcelain, ivory carvings (yes they still do that in China apparently) ceramics... The children were somewhat interested. The two boys paired off like they were long lost friends.

This is what ususally happens when you try to put something in Ru's backpack. 
Maps tend to be fascinating to children in all cultures. 
Then we visited 6 Banyun Temple, where we came to learn that there are only 3 banyun trees remaining. It is a Buddhist temple and we were there on the Tomb Sweeping holiday which made it very very busy. Kinda like going to church on Easter Sunday. Normally I'm not into crowds, but on this occasion I have to say I loved seeing the hustle and bustle at the temple of the Chinese going about their holiday prayers to Buddha and their ancestors. We had a little talk with Mimi about prayer, since there was a lot of it going on in the temple, and about who we pray to is more important than how or where we pray. And yes, I prayed in a Buddhist temple. I prayed for our family and our sonAnd I surely stuck out like a sore thumb. Or maybe I'm just egocentric and think I did. Either way, Boo, who is more than happy to capture a plethora of pics of me, clicked away.
Ru prayed too, before a big golden Buddah, or I think that's what he did. Actually I think he was just copying what he saw other people doing, but there is an argument to be made that is how people learn to pray in the first place.
Mimi asked if she could pray too when she saw me do it. She was a little unsure how to pray so we did it together. And it made me giggle when we were done that she added and God please give me some candy to the end of her prayer. 
Tomorrow we head to the Safari Park. Then the following day we go back to Hong Kong! I must admit that so homesick. I'm missing the rest of my children and even though I'm dreading the jet lag that I always get so bad when I come home from Asia, I'm so so ready to get back home and try to start finding our new normal. 

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