Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 14th: Play Date with the Walshes

Cheryl and I met while I was working at Standard Register and what began as a business relationship grew into a friendship. When we first met, she was still single and Michael and I were just a couple. Over the years, we have shared the joys of Cheryl's marriage to Mike, the birth of their first child Lindsay, the ups-and-downs of our adoption and the pending birth of their second child (due in July) not to mention the myriad of daily life and work stuff.

Never one to miss out on a party (or to throw one herself), Cheryl suggested that they stopped by our house on their way to a birthday party in the area. They arrived bearing sub sandwiches for lunch and a busy box toy for Willow. (Lindsay was very generous to give this to Willow from her own toy supply.)

In return for Lindsay's generosity, Willow shared her baby doll and Bounce 'n Spin Zebra with her.

Then they both worked on one of Willow's puzzles together.

Willow had a wonderful time playing with Lindsay (and of course, we enjoyed seeing Cheryl and Mike). We all are looking forward to more play dates with the Walshes once the new baby arrives and things have settled down a bit.

P.S.-Baby Leah Walsh was born on Tuesday, July 29th. Congrats to the Walsh Family!

Friday, June 13, 2008

June 13th: Dinner with Bob & Linda Gleason

For a number of years, we have been involved with the New Jersey Lighthouse Society (NJLHS). It is here that "pharoligists" (also affectionately known as lighthouse nuts) gather to pay homage to these sentinals of the seas in general and to New Jersey's sentinals in particular.

As we moved through the adoption process, we shared our progress with members of the Society who are not only fellow lighthouse lovers but who have also become friends. Within a few weeks, Willow is going to attend her first NJLHS meeting and we thought it might be nice for her to meet some of our fellow lighthouse lovers/friends before the meeting so that she could get some idea of what her new family was getting her into! Tonight, Willow met Bob & Linda Gleason.

Bob and Linda are a wonderful couple and in addition to sharing the love of lighthouses, we share a particularly intense but very rewarding weekend together while volunteering at Barnegat Light State Park during the annual New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge®.

With Willow all dressed up and ready to go, we headed off to the local Perkins where we met up with Bob and Linda. After a lovely dinner (which really seemed more like breakfast since I had been dying for pancakes for a couple of days), we all came back to the house and played for a while.

Together, they stacked some blocks, played with a puzzle and read a book.
Willow had such fun that she cannot wait to meet with them for dinner again! (And she truly appreciated seeing a friendly, familiar face at the meeting. Thanks, guys!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12th: Play Date with Gran & Willow Meets Jan

After I stopped working and long before we left for China, I have enjoyed a weekly "date" with my mom. Now that Willow is with us, Thursdays have become "Play Date with Gran".

This week, Willow sat in Gran's lap and shared her breakfast with her.

Then they played with blocks in a way I never would have imagined!

This week was extra special because after lunch, Gran's friend, Janet Blam, came over to meet Willow and they played with the Raggedy Ann doll that Gran bought for her because "..every little girl should have a Raggedy Ann doll!" (It is true isn't it? Don't you still remember yours?!)

These are special days for Gran, for Willow and for me. Gran gets to see the changes in Willow from week-to-week. Willow gets to do the things that only grandparents would let them get away with (and that their parents have to deal with when they get back home). And I get to watch their very own special relationship blossom and grow.

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 8th: Willow Meets Uncle Paul & Aunt Jackie

A visit today from Willow's Uncle Paul & Aunt Jackie just about concludes her introduction to the immediate members of the Portée clan (with the exception of her cousin Carolyn who she hopes to meet real soon!)

A little shy at first, she soon warmed up to them and had some fun playing with her blocks with Aunt Jackie.

When block play was over, Willow and Aunt Jackie begin to play with their gift to her, a baby doll that came with her own bottle, changing pad and training potty! (Aunt Jackie was very impressed that Willow knew that the bottle went into the doll's mouth and not her own!)

Uncle Paul became Willow's new best friend when he snuck her some french fries while Mama's back was turned. (She's been a french fry addict ever since the Central Park Zoo. Thanks, Stacy!)

After dinner, Willow entertained us with her musical instruments puzzle; showing how well she can make each of the instruments play "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". (Notice how she looks to be sure everyone is applauding her efforts. Destined for the stage, I think!)

When it was time for Uncle Paul and Aunt Jackie to leave, Willow gave them a wonderful send-off with one of her emphatic and loud "Buh-byes" as they pulled out of the driveway. (This was later confirmed by our neighbor, Carleen, who said she could hear it all the way across the street!)

Willow really enjoyed her time with Uncle Paul and Aunt Jackie and cannot wait to see them again!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

June 4th: Medical Merry-Go-Round, Part 5

Well, now that Willow has qualified for Early Intervention (EI) services from the state, we had our Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting to determine just which services were recommended for her based on the evaluation (May 21st).

Each week, she will have a Developmental Intervention (DI) teacher to work on her socialization and communication as well as a Physical Therapist (PT) to work on her gross and fine motor skills. (Can you tell that this is a government program what with all of the initials involved?!)

Having passed this stage of the game, we now wait to hear from the DI teacher and PT to schedule Willow's first sessions.

May 31st: Two Months & My, How She's Grown!

Where to begin?!

Changes are happening fast and furiously these days! The one that means the most to us is that Willow continues to sleep through the night. Whew! I think our endless days of constant waking during the night are over. (Notice I said constant. I know it will still happen occasionally.)

The one that will mean the most to her and mean more exercise for us is that Willow is walking on her own more and more. She still likes to take the easy way out and crawl or be picked up and carried but she is really beginning to like this bit of independence.

Speaking of which, I have come to believe that when she uses the word, "No." (and what I really mean is when she shakes her head which is quite often) that it too is a form of independence for her. It cracks me up when I offer her something and as she is taking it from me, she shakes her head as if she doesn't want it! Of course, there are times that she really does mean, "NO!"; we are able to discern the difference in her desire by the more emphatic head shaking she uses. We are also trying to add "Yes" to her head movements.

It also seems as if she is really trying use words. (I swear that she said, "red" when I asked her what color the balloon was in "Good Night Moon". I suppose I could have been delirious.) We are having to listen more closely to what she says because her usual sounds - "grrr", "bunn", etc. - are being used to identify other things than just Tigris (one of our cats) and the bunnies and in the right context. Michael and I often have to stop and try to make the same connection that she is. She recognizes things familiar to her such as the logo of a lion on a truck on the highway which amazingly enough looked a lot like the lion walker/rider she received from Aunt Kathleen, Uncle Howie and the girls. Again, as she pointed out the windshield and exclaimed, "Huh", I had to think what she was connecting it to.

Willow's interest in music continues to grow. She will stop whatever she is doing when she hears music so that she can sway and move her hands to it. Sometimes, it looks like she is conducting! (And this could be the delirium talking again but it seems that she is even trying to move to the beat. What do you think? The next Zubin Meta or Arthur Feidler, perhaps?!)

She shows more interest in learning how things work (rather than just throwing the pieces around!) She tries really hard to get shapes into their right places the right way and just loves the various designs she can come up with on the Rainbow Stacker from Aunt Lynn! This has lead to her being willing to spend more time on her own playing by herself. (Yippee! Maybe now I can get something done! Okay; don't all laugh at once.)

Willow has learned to work her Learning Puppy like a fiddle and can find the one song that she wants to listen to over and over and over and over and over... And, after I do "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" or "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" a couple of times she is trying to imitate the movements. We had some challenges with Peek-A-Boo (she would put the backs of her hands over her eyes and then not move them); however, just yesterday, she picked up the "Baby Moves - A Flap Book" from Aunt Valerie and Uncle Rick and when she saw the "Peek-A-Boo" flap, she immediately began doing it right! (Thanks, Val!)

She is also beginning to show an interest in soft toys. Each morning, she will point to a different one in her room and hug it with the biggest smile on her face.

Willow is more trusting and warms up to people more easily. Although she is still reluctant to be held by others at first, she is much quicker with a "hello" to passers-by and makes sure to sound an enthusiastic "Buh-Bye" to announce that she has left a store or restaurant.

I have heard parents say that it all goes by so quickly. That their children change and grow in the blink of an eye. I often wondered how that could be when they are with them 24/7. Now I understand. Willow does so many new things over the course of a day, week, month (or two) it is hard sometimes to remember them all. But oh my, how she has grown.

May 26th: The Full Night's Sleep Trifecta

Now I know how Secretariat felt winning the Triple Crown...

Yes, Willow has now slept through three consecutive nights! We are feeling more confident that this is a new way of life and not just a tease.

Now if only I could get out of the WTZ (Willow Time Zone).

May 25th: Hitting the "Nightly" Double

Once again, Mr. Sandman took pity on us...

In spite of nodding off on the way home from Long Island, Willow slept through the night for the second night in a row! Perhaps it was all of the activities of a very long day or that she is (finally) beginning to settle in. Regardless, we thanked our lucky stars and got a much needed good night's sleep.

At the risk of jinxing this wondrous event, we are hoping for three-in-a-row tonight!

May 24th (con't): Dinner with The Roths

On the way home from Jonathan's 1st Communion celebration, we stopped at the Roth's for dinner. (I'll bet you are thinking, "Again?! Didn't they just see them last week?!" It is amazing the ties that bind when you have spent the better part of two weeks sharing the emotional roller coaster that is adoption. People we have never met before, never even knew existed, became our "family" during the time spent in China. Such is the case with Stacy and Steve. Together we shared the myriad of emotions that comes with bringing our children home. Without their companionship and support, the stress and emotions would have been magnified a hundred-fold and nearly unbearable. So pardon us if we post about them almost as much as our family because to us, they are family! Not to mention a lot of fun too!)

Before dinner we spent some time in their backyard oasis; it was so relaxing we almost felt like we were on vacation! They have a wonderful play set and we could not resist giving Willow her first ride on a swing.

Chiropractic Appointment Alert!
Sorry, I didn't pay attention to how I held the camera.

Although Adyson and Sabria love being on the swing, we are not sure if Willow has taken to it just yet. She also had a maiden voyage on the slide but according to Michael, it was not very successful!

With the girls settled down to watch a Baby Einstein, we sat down to a fabulous meal. Steve marinated and grilled up some delicious steak and Stacy's choices of sides for the meal were terrific!

During dinner we swapped "adjustment period" stories. It is a relief and a comfort to know that others are facing some of the same challenges during this time such as sleep issues! Which as we prepared for the trip home, was front and center on our minds. We feared that if Willow slept on the way home, she would be up half the night thus dashing our hopes for a continued trend of sleeping through the night. With fingers crossed, we headed home.

May 24th (con't): Willow Meets More of the Portée Clan

After a full night's sleep (at least for Willow and Michael), we are off to Long Island to celebrate Michael's cousin Kitty's grandson's 1st Communion. (Got that? It's okay; even the family often refers to scorecards.)

Traveling to Long Island on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we expected to hit traffic just about everywhere but amazingly enough, we just about flew through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Island! The only tie-ups were at the bridge tolls. (I know, I know...that is what we get for not having EZ Pass.)

We would have arrived at the church on time except for the fact that I misread the invitation; the service began at 1:00 pm not 1:30 as I thought. Fortunately, we were just in time to see Jonathan and his family take Communion together for the first time.

What proud parents and grandparents they were!

Meanwhile back at Kitty's, preparations were under way for the Post-Communion celebration. Never ones to miss out on a party, we headed over there to join the fun.

Willow was finally able to meet her Aunt Patty, Uncle Joe and cousins Sarah, Joey and Jake. (Unfortunately, cousin Carolyn was working and could not be there.)

Willow also got to see Aunt Kathleen, Uncle Howie and cousins Megan, Courtney and Delaney. (Here is where those score cards are particularly helpful.)

After lunch, Willow showed off her "walking to Baba" skills...

enjoyed some running practice with Aunt Kathleen...

Totally exhausted from the day's events, Willow takes a well-deserved nap so that she is ready and rarin' to go, for the day is not over yet! (We are stopping off at the Roth's on the way home!)

May 24th: Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Willow Finally Sleeps Through the Night!

Oh happy day!
Yes Virginia, Santa Claus does exist.
There is a God!

The unthinkable happened last night: Willow slept through the night! Just when I thought I could not take another night of 1-2 hours of sleep. I was at my wit's end; yesterday, I even went to see the pediatrician to be sure we were doing all the right things.

Out of sheer desperation, we made some modifications to Willow's room. We hooked up the iPod for soothing music. We plugged in a fan as "white noise" in the hopes that it would cover up the sounds of the creaking stairs. We gave her Motrin for the 2-year molar that is coming in. And I removed the bumper from the crib.

I think this was the catalyst to her sleeping through the night. Without the bumper, she is able to see as she lying down. We have suspected that she might be somewhat claustrophobic because of her reaction to being in smallish spaces but I have to admit that I did not think that she could feel that way about her crib because of the bumper. If this was the reason for her poor sleeping habits, I have only myself to blame; I liked the way it looked and resisted taking it off. (We plan to use it as a wall hanging instead.)

We put her down for the night at 8:00 pm; she cried for about 30 seconds and was out for the night! How do I know this? Because I am still on "Willow" time: up at 12:30 pm, 2:00 am, 4:00 am and 6:00 am. I hope it won't take me as long to get back to real time as it did to get over the jet lag from China! In the meantime, when I am up I will enjoy the sounds of a sleeping child. (Please, please, let this be a new trend and not an anomaly!)

May 22nd: Paying Off a Bet (aka Willow Meets Carven, Alan & Mrs. Look)

I spent most of my free time in high school (and some of the time I should have been in classes) with my best friends, Carven and Alan Look. We hung out together most of the day, most of each night and on most weekends. I loved spending the night at their house as well as joining the family for dinner and trips into Chinatown. I imagine it seemed to Mr. & Mrs. Look as if I was their fifth daughter!

One time, we were looking through a magazine and saw a cartoon where the caption was a mother coming home and asking her husband where the children were. The picture was of three kids clothes-pinned to a laundry line. My remark about this was that this is what should be done with all children. (I wasn't particularly kid-friendly back then.) Somewhat appalled, Carven and Alan said, "You won't do that when you have kids." I replied that I did not intend to ever have kids. Well, they bet me $10 (each) that I would someday have children. I would imagine that they were losing hope of ever cashing in on that bet - until today. Our lives have taken us in many different directions and to different locales. Carven and her family are in Connecticut, Alan is now in Dallas and I am here in New Jersey but today the Gods of Friendship saw fit to have us relatively close to one another so that we could we arrange to meet.

I met them at their old homestead on Sanford Avenue in Flushing, NY where their mother, Mrs. Look, still resides. Oh, what memories came back to me as I drove into Flushing on Northern Blvd, turning at Bowne and then again at Sanford. It all seems very different and yet somewhat the same. The first order of business, after introducing Willow of course, was to pay off the bet. They looked at me strangely until I reminded them of it; then they wanted to know where the interest was and why the cost of inflation wasn't figured in!

We spent some time letting Willow get to know them and after Carven plied her with Cheerios she was ready to have some fun!

So off we went to downtown Flushing for some Dim Sum and then a bit of leisurely browsing in the Hong Kong Market. Carven and Alan were happy to carry and feed Willow. (I appreciated the break!) And she reveled in all of the attention! (Of course it meant almost constant explaintions to people that they knew that Willow was my daughter and not one of theirs.) Before long it was time to head back to our lives as we now know them.
Looking forward to August when Alan returns for another visit and we can do it all over again! (Hopefully, without all the traffic.) Willow should be walking and won't need to be carried! Until then, give my best to your mom.

May 21st (con't): Willow Is An American Citizen!

It's official! Willow is now an American Citizen.

Along with the certificate, Willow received a letter from the President welcoming her as a citizen.

Now we have to find out what happened to her Social Security number and apply for a NJ/US birth certificate!

May 21st: Medical Merry-Go-Round, Part 4

The infamous Early Intervention (EI) evaluation.

Actually, it was really quite interesting and informative. Willow was evaluated by a Physical Therapist and a Speech Pathologist. We were very involved in the evaluation, voicing our impressions, experiences and concerns of her development as well.

After working with her for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, Willow's overall development was determined to be in the 12-15 month range. Here is how it breaks down:

Cognitive: 16-19 months
Communication - Receptive Language: 11 months
Communication - Expressive Language: 15 months
Social/Emotional: 10-15 months
Gross Motor Function: 12 months
Perceptual/Fine Motor: 12-15 months
Adaptive/Self-Help: 15 months

Since Willow demonstrated at least a 25% delay for at least two of the developmental areas, she qualifies for Early Intervention Services. In addition to recommending EI services to address the delays, it was also suggested that we consider a consultation with a Developmental Pediatrician (who knew they even existed?!) to monitor her overall development. Great, another doctor! It was also suggested that we put some of her "learning" toys away for the time being and have her concentrate on simple toys such as blocks, shape puzzles and stacking toys.

An Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting was scheduled for June 4th to go over a detailed therapy plan and the cost, naturally!

May 19th: A Day with "Aunt" Lynn

Last year, Lynn and I celebrated the 25th Silver Anniversary of our friendship. During this time, I have had the pleasure of celebrating each of hers and Tom's (her husband) additions to their family: Sean, Elyse and Ryan.

This year, they joined us in celebrating our new addition.

"Aunt" Lynn came today for a play date with Willow bearing gifties and food and loads of fun! One of the gifties was a ring stacker which has become one of Willow's favorite toys. (It can keep her entertained long enough for me to empty the dishwasher or put on a load of laundry!) She just loves to see what kind of shape she can make out of the rings.

After the initial "getting to know you" period (and a wonderful lunch of ravioli, Caesar salad and a berry crumble), Willow was ready to join Lynn in some musical fun and was really intrigued when Lynn snapped her fingers!

It was the first time that Willow had seen this and before long was trying get her little fingers to make the same noise. (She is still practising.) Since she just could not get the hang of it, she decided to show off her much improved "standing alone" skills. Lynn was very impressed and they both had a good giggle over it.

As is the case with most great times, this one also ended much too quickly and Aunt Lynn had to be on her way home to her family.

But we had leftovers from lunch (which lasted us for 2 meals - Many Thanks, Lynn!) and great memories of today's play date with Aunt Lynn to share with Baba when he came home.

Lynn, Willow wants to know when the next play date is?! (I promise not to oversleep again and I'll supply lunch! XOXOXO)

May 17th: The Roth/Portée Reunion

Today we met up with the Roths for the first time since we left China. What a treat to see Stacy, Steve and Sabria again and to met Adyson, their 5-year old daughter! Willow and Sabria recognized each other immediately and were so happy to see each other!

We met at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. After a quick hot dog, we browsed at all the cool toys that were really out of our price range! Since we left without any stuffed animals, we walked over to the Central Park Zoo to see some real, live ones.

Before we could begin the animal tour, we needed some real food; the hot dog just wasn't enough!
Willow was really in for a treat because she had her first taste of French Fries (thanks, Stacy) and naturally, wanted more.

With full bellies, we headed off to see the penguins who were also being fed as well as some of the other residents at the zoo.

Although most of the pictures show Michael with Willow, somehow I seem to identify with the picture of the Snow Monkeys and the Turtles.)
My favorite part? The Dueling Gulls!

Of course, no trip to the zoo would be complete without a stop in the gift shop where Mama makes Willow pose with the silly hat on! (I thought the hat was definitely her but Michael helped me to see the error of my ways; plus Willow kept pulling it off. I was lucky to get the picture!)

Ah, but it ends much too quickly and we must all be on our separate ways home.

So Willow takes the opportunity to dream about the day's fun and when we get to see the Roths again, next weekend!

May 16th: Medical Merry-Go-Round, Part 3

All of yesterday's sunshine left for cold and rain today. The weather was quite appropriate given today's tasks. We had to return to the lab to drop off the stool and urine samples and have them try to draw the remaining 4 vials of blood for the myriad of tests that Dr. Tang ordered. I knew neither of us would enjoy this trip.

We tried twice already this week to get a urine sample and had one more shot at it this morning. (Do you know how to get a urine sample from a toddler? All I can say is, "Ouch".) Willow guzzled as much as she could. I figured with all of that liquid some of it just had to make it into the bag. No such luck.

Willow diligently tries to zipper up her sweatshirt to protect her from the nasty weather.

She gave it a really good try! (Now why doesn't she work on stacking blocks as intensely?!)

We drop off the collected samples; the prescribed amount of blood is finally drawn with much crying, screaming and flailing. Lucky us, we are given more urine collection bags and head back home to recuperate from the trauma of the day.

Next up is the Early Intervention evaluation on the 21st.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

May 15th: Fun Stuff

It was a beautiful day here in the Garden State! A perfect day to go outside and enjoy the neighborhood.

While we were out and about, we met our neighbors from across the street, Mariella and her son, Lucas. Lucas is about 15 months and his mom and grandmother cannot wait for him to walk. In fact, his grandmother has been working with him hoping to see him take his first steps before she has to leave on Saturday.

Willow took her first steps a couple of weeks ago and is still working on doing it on her own. She may one or two steps as she did today. When Lucas saw how brave she was as trying to walk, it gave him the courage to try too. And so, Lucas took his first steps in our driveway!

Mariella was so excited and proud! And so was I. It is pretty neat to see your child try to imitate the the things you do but to have another child imitate what she can do?! Well, it really gives your confidence as a parent a big boost!

We have known almost from the beginning that Willow has a real passion for music. What we did not realize was just how discerning her taste in music is. As you can see from the video, she carefully chooses just the right music to accompany her dinner!

(And she has become pretty good at feeding herself, don't you think?!)