Friday, August 31, 2007

Chinese American AG Doll: Ivy

On September 10, American Girl is unveiling a historical Chinese American doll, Ivy. Ivy is the best friend of the first new historical doll to be released in five years, Julie, who is of course blond. Julie and Ivy's stories are set in the 1970s in San Francisco, and Julie's books are written by Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody books that Doodle loved back in second grade. I remember hearing that Megan McDonald has a niece adopted from China, so perhaps we have her to thank for introducing the Chinese American character and for AG's decision to create a doll. Ivy appears to be a main character in at least several of Julie's books, and there is one Ivy book, written by Lisa Yee.

The China adoption community has been asking AG for a Chinese American historical doll for years. I'm not sure that a sidekick is what the beseachers had in mind, but it is better than nothing. I called the New York store and ordered a Ivy doll for each girl as Christmas presents. Wouldn't it be interesting if Ivy's sales surpassed Julie's? To learn more about the new dolls, go here and there.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Family FotoFun Friday Challenge: BFFs

Both Doodle and Tootle make friends easily and have a lot of friends. Tonight at the back-to-school picnic, Tootle had the chance to play with both of her best friends: her preschool best friend (top photo) and her neighborhood best friend (bottom photo). Over the first few days of school, she has even convinced them that they can all play together at recess so tonight they climbed and ran and jumped as a threesome.

The neighborhood best friend spent six weeks in Turkey (her mom's homeland) this summer. Tootle kept asking when we were going to Turkey so she could have a playdate with her friend, whom she missed a lot. I explained over and over again that if we were going to endure such a long flight, our destination would be China.

I should have included a photo of photo of Tootle and Doodle together in this collage because they often proclaim themselves to be best friends, and I hope that they continue to feel that way as they grow up. To see more BFFs, go here .

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fifty Five Pounds

Until her mom and her sister, Doodle struggles to put on weight. Being elbowed by her or having her chin rest on you is a painful experience because she has so little fat. Tonight I looked at her and noticed that her face looked fuller, so I asked her to step on the scale. Drum roll please: Doodle now weighs 55 pounds, 3 more pounds than she weighed just a month ago and 7 more pounds than Tootle. While the girls are four years apart, Tootle only weighed 4 pounds less than Doodle when she came home two years ago. The gap is now the largest that it has ever been. My girl is still skinny but at least she now has a bit more meat on her bones.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another First

Before traveling to bring Tootle home, one of my biggest concerns about adopting an almost three year old was that I would miss out on a lot of the firsts: first tooth, first steps, first words, etc. But I quickly realized that there were still firsts to celebrate; they were just different. Today we marked one of the traditional milestones: Tootle's first day of kindergarten. Tootle's first words when she woke up this morning were: "Today's the first day of school." And she leaped right into it, without a tear and with her usual tenacity. She sang one of the songs she learned for us tonight and reported that her big problem of the day was that a preschool friend and a neighborhood friend, neither of whom is in her class, both wanted to play with her at recess, and they didn't want to play as a threesome because they didn't know each other. I gave her advice, but I'm sure she will smooth out this problem, and before long, she will be playing with new friends from her class as well.

Doodle had a terrific first day of fourth grade as well. Doodle begged for several weeks to see the movie "Hairspray," and over the weekend, we all went to see it. The girls loved the music so much that we bought the soundtrack. Last night, the girls were bopping to "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now." I quickly grabbed the camcorder and recorded Tootle's interpretive dance to symbolize that she's a big girl now. So she is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Conversation That Made Me Smile

I had to take Doodle for an emergency orthodontist appointment early this morning because one of her wires broke. On the way home, Doodle called Tootle, who wasn't awake yet when we left, and this is what I heard:

I love you. Let's pretend we're hugging each other over the phone.


I said let's pretend we're hugging each other.


Oh alright. What are you having for breakfast?


Do you like the Frosted Flakes at home better or the ones at the hotel?


You like the hotel ones because they come in a little box? I love you. Bye.

Doodle reported to me that Tootle told her that she loved her too, but she didn't like the idea of the virtual hug. Ten minutes later, when we got home, they had a real hug.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Phrase of the Month

The girls have a new phrase to describe their misery over the heat: "I'm hotter than a hot chicken mama." I'm not sure I fully understand it, but it is unique.

Unveiling the Final Portrait

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Progression of a Portrait II

Clare Waterwash's portrait of Tootle is nearly complete; she got overrun by house guests and had to put the project aside for awhile. She plans to make the dress pale green, and I've asked her to make the hair a bit longer and lighten the eyebrows.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Waiting: Family FotoFun Friday Challenge

Waiting to exhale...

Waiting for the ball to drop into the net...

Waiting for mom to put down the camera and get in the pool.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Same Camp, Different Result

Last summer both Tootle and Doodle went to gymnastics camp for two weeks. At the end of camp show each week, Tootle didn't really participate, simply doing a few somersaults while looking like a zombie.

This year I expected it to be different from day 1 because I caught Tootle doing the top secret moves around the house, and she repeatedly told me that I would scream from happiness during the show. What a difference a year makes. Tootle was up front and center stage during her age group's portion of the show, dancing around with great expression and effortlessly doing three cartwheels that our family's official photographer for the event, Doodle, was not able to capture except as a blur. Doodle didn't go to gymnastics camp this year; she chose to go to math camp, something that I'm pretty proud of her for doing. She also did a good job with the photography. In the second photo, Tootle is running over to us after taking her bows.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Special Needs

There has been a lot of discussion in the China adoption community this summer about whether all adoptions are special needs. I agree that all China adoptions are special needs, with a wide variety of physical and emotional needs, from virtually nonexistent to major life altering ones. It's important to be prepared for possible special needs, just as birth parents need to be prepared.

Doodle was adopted when she was 7 months old. Until she came home, she spent her days at the orphanage and her nights with a family that clearly loved her. She came to me with a plastic heart necklace from the foster family and the ability to give wonderful wet sloppy kisses. Yet, despite adoption at a young age and the loving care that she received, she has both minor physical and emotional special needs.

First the physical: the back of her head is flat from spending too much time on her back, which led to two neurological assessments to find that the problem is purely cosmetic. She also required a brief stint of physical and speech therapy when she was 1-2 years old due to low muscle tone from her time in China; she responded very quickly to the therapy, and by the time she was 20 months old, no one would have known that she once had low muscle tone. (On the plus side, she remains highly flexible, probably due in part to the low muscle tone. ) Somewhat more seriously, she had to have six baby teeth capped because of a combination of poor prenatal care and molars with deep crevices in which food gets caught. She also had to get braces at age 8 because her teeth were severely overcrowding. She will have to have several adult teeth pulled so she won't have as many teeth as most people do. None of these are serious physical needs; they have simply required many appointments and some expense. Fortunately she is a model patient.

The emotional needs are somewhat harder to pinpoint. I usually look at all of my worrier's concerns through the adoption lens, to evaluate whether there is any link. Sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't. I probably coddle both girls more than I would a biological child. I sit with/lie down with both girls until they fall asleep most nights. Doodle sometimes lack confidence, and I spend a lot of time building her up. It is simply her personality to be a worrywart perfectionist with somewhat low self esteem, but I also think that the stresses of having such a personality are compounded by the stresses of being adopted and a bit different than most of her best friends who are for the most part Caucasian children from two parent households. She has friends from families that look like ours, but they aren't at her school and as the kids have gotten older, they see each other less often because of scheduling conflicts. She is creative and is a talented musician, so I hope that this will give her both an area in which to shine and a way in which to release stress.

Despite being a special needs adoptee at nearly age 3, in some ways Tootle has fewer special needs than Doodle. Tootle's cleft lip and palate has translated into three surgeries in two years, with multiple additional ear tube surgeries expected until she is a teenager. The ear tube surgeries are pretty routine, but I did worry quite a bit about the palate surgery and the three weeks of liquid diet that followed. Tootle came through the surgery and the aftermath with incredible ease. She didn't mind the liquid diet and still occasionally asks for her hamburgers to be blended. She also goes to the craniofacial clinic for a day of appointments every six months. But other than that, she is very healthy and has only had one fever in two years. She did not qualify for speech therapy, despite being tested twice. No one has any trouble understanding her; she is very vocal about her needs and wants, as well as her opinions on virtually any subject. She is a strong kid in every way: she is off the charts in size, is a natural athlete, is a leader, and has a strong sense of self.

Tootle is one of the most emotionally healthy children I have ever known, despite being in an orphanage/foster care environment for almost three years and having some scarring on her face from the cleft lip. She was with the same foster family from the age of 8 months until adoption, and they took excellent care of her. She easily expresses her emotions and works out any troubles. Her stubborn/bossy/leader personality appears to have blessed her with great resiliency. A more fragile child would have been more traumatized by going from her foster family, back to the orphanage, and then to strangers who she had only seen in pictures, all within two weeks. Tootle grieved, but only briefly. Her strong sense of self will serve her well throughout life. Parenting Tootle involves making her understand that the things that I require her to do are for her own good/safety (in other words, taming her stubbornness), while keeping her big personality/spirit intact. I look at Tootle's issues through the adoption lens too, but at least currently, it doesn't seem to be as relevant for her.

My girls have many nonadopted friends who have had surgery too, or who lack self esteem, or who are learning disabled. If you apply enough spin, you can probably find a special need in virtually any child. But I think internationally adopted children must be "handled with care" so that their parents are always alert to their needs and can monitor possible adoption-related problems. Not to pat myself on the back, because I can be clueless too, but a less alert parent wouldn't have sought physical and speech therapy for low muscle tone quite as quickly or spent hours helping alleviate a worrier's stress. My girls are very special kids. I may spend more time than the average parent dealing with health and/or emotional issues, but I can't imagine my life without these precious girls.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Relief from the 100 F Heat

Sharing a cold drink, with Cocoa Krispies Straws

A cool dip in the pool

I can practically see the heat waves

More diving fun

Saturday, August 4, 2007

They Know Me Too Well

Trying to talk me into taking her somewhere, Doodle says: "Pretty please with dark chocolate and a cherry on top." When I stopped laughing, we headed off to the requested destination.

Fountain Fun

Friday, August 3, 2007

Single Parenthood and Travel

Sometimes being a single parent is harder than other times. This especially comes into focus when I am on business travel. I've just returned from 6 days away from home. This trip was especially hard for Doodle because a classmate's dad died on a business trip over spring break, and Doodle had convinced herself that I wasn't coming back, just like her friend's dad. I reassured her until I was practically blue in the face, left little presents for both girls to open every day, checked in by phone daily, and exchanged e-mail with Doodle every day, but she still was a bit apprehensive. I'm relieved to be home again, and fortunately I don't have another business trip for at least three months.

Ever since Doodle was a baby, she has punished me when I return from a trip. When she was 15 months old, I was a bit hurt when she turned her head away as I hugged her tight when we were reunited (even if the standoffishness only lasted for 15 minutes). Now I expect her to misbehave or have a meltdown of some sort. She didn't disappoint, probably because she had been worried for six whole days, and I was the only one to whom she could unleash her anxiety. Everything is back to normal now; routine is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007