Tuesday, September 23, 2008

See You on the Other Side (and Win a Contest, Too!)

As I mentioned before, Rebecca has worked tirelessly to create a new blog for our family. She patiently withstood my persnickitiness and turned out a final product that is truly gorgeous. Thanks, Rebecca!

In a shameless attempt to drag as many of our readers over to the new site as possible, I'm giving away the following items: a hardcover copy of Chinese Children's Favorite Stories and a softbound edition of A Mother for Choco. Even better, a $50.00 donation will be given on the winner's behalf to the Morning Light Home, a home in Taiwan for children in need. Hop on over to our new blog, Anatomy of a Family, check out the new site, and enter the contest.

And now, dear readers, we come to an end. This is PHL to TPE's final post before I shut down the blog. Please do join us at our new site. You'll still get all the adoption-related stuff and more pictures of William than you shake a stick at. But you'll also get a peek into the lives of the rest of our family.

It's life's unpredictable twists and turns, the beautiful moments mixed in with the pratfalls. Come along on a new journey as Craig, Judy, Andrew, and William take on the world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who, Moi?

I've won an award! Sara/Sofa, Milana's mom, has graciously bestowed upon me the following purple thing:



Hold up! Before the orchestra interrupts my 10.5 seconds of fame, I want to first and foremost thank my Savior, Jesus Christ, my husband, who is the epitome of the nice boy next door, my two beautiful sons, Andrew and William, the Mars Company for all the M&Ms, and... doh!

I think there was a mistake. If you read the qualifications for the award, you'll see the problem. Surely Sara/Sofa meant some other Judy. The one I know is unfailingly puffy-eyed, tired, and ever locked in a heightened state of PMS, pre- and post.

In case you're wondering, here are the Smile Award rules:
1. The recipient must link back the the award's creator
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must choose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself.
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

Characteristics for the Smile Award:
1. Must display a cheerful attitude (not necessarily at all times--we are all human).
2. Must love one another.
3. Must make mistakes.
4. Must learn from others.
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world.
6. Must love life.
7. Must love kids.

On the contrary, here are 5 people who actually do deserve to win the award:

A. over at Occupation: Mommy. Yeah, I have a teaching degree, too, but do I actually put it to use with my children like she does with hers? It would never occur to me do routine Montessori lessons with my child under 2. No wonder her three girls are brilliant. Besides being a top-notch educator/parent, A. always impresses me with her gentle spirit and easy going nature. (Please Sir, may I have some of that?) Oh, and the girl can sang...

D. at The Years Are Short. What I appreciate most about D. is her transparency. Not many people have the honesty to admit publicly that they get frustrated when their 4 year-old has difficulty recognizing letters of the alphabet (admit it, we've all been there in one way or another - but how many of us would say so?) Still, D. has the ability to make tending to lots of children, whether hers or others, look easy. Oh, and did I also mention that she is one fierce cook? I think I'll pretend to be gravely ill just so she can bring us by some more of her Thai Chicken Salad.

Tiffanie at Blessed with Sweet Peas. Tiffanie should win the award for Miss Congeniality among Taiwanese adoptive bloggers. The girl has sweetness oozing out of her. She always finds a way to see the proverbial glass as half-full. I've appreciated the honesty with which she has shared her recent experience meeting her new daughter, Gracyn. Her continual reliance upon Christ both inspires and challenges, and it definitely shines through in her recounting.

Heather at The Journey to Olivia. The most organized lady I know is also one of the friendliest people I've met in a long time. Even a stuck-in-the-rut introvert like me finds my tongue suddenly loosened when chatting with her. Also, most people wouldn't freely give up their weekends to take in a young girl so her widowed father could have a break. However, she does this every month. Hmm... does she love children? What do you think? Olivia, whoever you are (please make yourself known soon!), you will be very well-loved. You already are.

KB at Standing on God's Promises. What a shame that she moved out of my vicinity before I even had a chance to meet her in person! KB strikes me as a down-to-earth woman, someone who is open about her joys and frustrations, open to new experiences, and most impressively, open to letting Christ have his way in her life, though the path has not always been easy. She is a woman with a big, selfless heart. For all those things, she has my deepest admiration.

So, you 5, consider yourself hereby simultaneously awarded and spammed. Congratulations!

Friday, September 19, 2008

14 Months Old

Happy 14 month-old birthday, Wonderchild.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chinese or Bust

If what I've been told is correct, children as young as William can learn a new word only after hearing it spoken 2-4 times. Children who are Andrew's age (4-6-ish) will need approximately 5-7 repetitions. Adults require a staggering 20-40 repetitions. If true, these figures present a compelling case to teach children a second language as early as possible.

For those who are interested in raising Mandarin-speaking children - or at the very least, kids who can pull off a decent Chinglish, here are some sites and resources to check out:

Language Immersion Camps:
The more I research these, the more I'm starting to rub my hands with glee at the thought of sending our boys to overnight camp when they're of age. They'll see see their Mandarin skills grow by leaps and bounds, make new friends, and... um, Mom and Dad finally get time to themselves for the first time in who knows how long.

Here are two that are look-worthy:

Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy in White River Junction, Vermont. This program is open to 7th through 12th graders for a few weeks in the summer. English is only allowed during certain parts of the day, so it's pretty much sink or swim when it comes to learning Mandarin.

Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead, Minnesota. This program sponsors weekend and full-week immersion programs for the whole family, as well as sleep-over camps for older children. Daytime immersion programs for children as young as 2 1/2 years old and up are also available.

Media Resources:
The Chinese school that the boys will be starting in this Saturday lists some Mandarin media resources on its website. There are links to children's DVDs, Chinese pop music CDs, online radio, and links to even get Chinese children's satellite television broadcast in your home. If you explore the site futher, you'll also see some useful links for learning Chinese and even typing it.

Local Chinese Schools:
This national directory lists schools in each state that have Chinese language programs. It is by no means comprehensive. You may do better to just Google "Chinese school - XYZ city" and see what you come up with. It's definitely worth visiting the school to make sure the curriculum, teachers, facility, and student population will be good matches for your child.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The End Is Near

Warning: Rebecca, the genius behind PHL to TPE's current blog design, is at it again. I've commissioned Her Artistic Highness to create a new blog that will focus on our entire family. I'm thinking that it's time to move on. Yes, Sir William is truly a rock star in his own right, but there is more to the K. family than its newest member and over the last year and a half, the stories of its other three members have largely gone untold.

By the way, if you're in the market for a stylish blogover, do check out Rebecca's site, Uptown Design Studio. You can get the design you've always wanted and in the process, help bring home her beautiful toddler, Owen, who is currently in an orphanage in China.

Custom blog makeovers by Rebecca

In the meantime, prepare to be hit with so much bloggy fabulosity sometime over the next several days that you won't know what to do with yourselves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Overheard


Andrew to a fellow kindergartener: "Being a big brother is hard work."

Hey, no one said it would be easy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Learn to Speak Chinese, Volume II

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're trying our best to raise William to be as bilingual as my faltering Mandarin will allow. His comprehension, evidenced by his basic vocabulary and responses to our questions, shows that we're off to a good start. In the process, it has been really great to see how Andrew, who has been raised hearing English 95% of the time, has picked up pieces of the language.

However, I realize my limitations and know that a day will soon come when our conversations must move beyond, "Look, Mommy sees a big, white dog!" or "Who farted? Was it you?! It wasn't Mommy!" Since kids minds' are like sponges at this age, now is definitely the time to enroll the boys in Chinese school.

With William, there is an added incentive to learn. Unlike most adoptees from China, there is a very real possibility that he may be able to reconnect with his Taiwanese family one day. I have been following the blog of a young lady named Meiling, who herself was adopted from Taiwan by a Canadian family. She has made contact with her biological family and experiences a great deal of anguish over not being able to communicate effectively with them. While she is working hard to learn Mandarin, she has found the language difficult to pick up as a young twenty-something. I'm saddened for her and am reminded this may very well be William's reality one day.

Thus, I've been researching Chinese language schools in our area. Thankfully, we're blessed to have a few different options from which to choose. In fact, there is one that meets just a mile away on Sunday afternoons. As easy as it would be to get there, I've already nixed that choice. We're trying our best to keep Sunday as a day of rest and going to school is anything but relaxing.

Plus, looking through the website and having spoken to a representative of the school, it strikes me as a very traditional program, much like the one I attended for about 7 years of my younger life. The children are predominantly first generation Chinese-American. Many of them have the advantage of speaking and/or understanding spoken Mandarin. The families all "match." Browsing through the photos on their website, it's hard to spot adoptees or any Hapa children. I don't want my kids feeling like anomalies. As it is, there are already too many threats against our children's self-esteem in the world. I don't need to pay for another one.

Another school that has caught my eye is located about 25 minutes away. Its student population seems to have a broader representation of adoptees, mixed-race children, and non-Asian kids. Its language immersion classes encourage parent participation so that the children aren't the only ones learning. The school also offers classes to children as young as one year-old, so both William and Andrew could attend.

However, the classes and homework stress the use of a lot of Mandarin DVD watching. Since William is not yet a big fan of television, I don't know how well this will go over. I don't want to force him to watch t.v. just so he can do his "homework." The school also meets on Saturday mornings, thereby obviating any possibility of Andrew joining any Saturday morning sports teams. Sorry, Andrew. I guess that's what middle school sports teams are for.

I figure we'll try out the latter school when it starts up two weekends from now. If it's not a good fit, we may consider rounding up some local families with adoptees and/or Hapa kids and hiring a tutor to teach them. I might look into some of the nearby universities to see if there are any students there who speak both English and Mandarin fluently (growing up, I found those Chinese teachers who couldn't speak English well to be less credible). I want a candidate whose experience includes working with young children, someone who is energetic and creative. Learning the language must be fun.

Whatever we opt to do, I know that we need to strike while the iron is still hot. By the time our kids become tweens, they may very well start to complain about giving up their free time to learn Mandarin. Who wants more homework, anyway? They may just want to "fit in" with everyone else and not have to sacrifice their weekends for something that stresses their differences.

But for now, while their minds are young and pliable, they are under Mommy's dictatorial thumb, and Mommy says it's off to Chinese school with them.

They Just Keep Coming

We went out to a local Chinese restaurant the other night. At the end of the meal, we cracked open our fortune cookies just for fun. I don't know about you, but I don't place much value in less-than-pithy messages that have been pre-fabbed by some bloke at a bakery. Still, I find it fun to read what's inside.

While Craig, Andrew, and I all received the generic message about good things coming to those who wait, William's cookie yielded the message to the left. Considering all the predictions made about him, I guess it's just par for the course. Ah well, it could have been worse.

Speaking of good things coming to those who wait, Lucy and Noah have now been united with their families. Congratulations to the M. and S. families!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Early Autumn

It's hard to believe that in the midst of a muggy, 85 degree September day, the leaves were already falling. It looks like my favorite season has arrived early.

While the boys manned the rakes and made a leaf pile (William's efforts lasted a valiant 25 seconds), I went nuts on the camera. Here are some photos from the afternoon:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

6 Months Home and Proud as Can Be

When Andrew first learned how to roll over as an infant, I swore the heavens would part and a dove would descend with an offer for a Fulbright scholarship grasped in its beak. On that day, I was so full of pride that I immediately emailed the grandparents to proclaim the good news. I would've shared it with more people if Andrew hadn't interrupted me with one of his colicky fits. Good thing it was because I'm sure I would have caused many folks to roll their eyes and snort behind my back.

Stop and think for a moment: why is it that many of us get turned off by braggartly parents? To take pride in our children's accomplishments is only natural; after all, they are our kids and we delight in seeing them grow. We cheer with them when they succeed because we're madly in love with them. There's nothing wrong there.

On the other hand, the cynical side of me suspects that we sometimes take undue credit for their achievements. After all, our kids - at least the biological ones - bear our genetic imprint. It's so easy to flatter ourselves in light of their progress, even though their accomplishments have little to do with our parenting and everything to do with the grace of God. We can so easily wrap our identities and self-worth in what our children can and cannot do.

Considering William is of no blood relation to me, it's much easier for me to look at his development and to see the hand of God at work. Hubris doesn't - can't - get in the way. Looking back on the last 6 months William has been with us, God really has done a lot. And in that, I take great pride.

(Now say the following in your best, booming Charlton Heston voice:)

"Behold - the hand of God..."

Walking. Every day, William walks further and further. You can witness the difference for yourself in the video below. Compared to the video 3 posts ago, he's gaining more distance and now walks about 60% of the time, crawling the other 40%. Whenever he falls, he fusses, not because he hurt himself, but out of frustration. He wants so badly to walk well.

He is also getting proficient at turning as he walks and can even pull himself up to a standing position without support. What a far cry from the slithering baby we brought home 6 months ago.

video

Talking. To date, we've counted a vocabulary of 8 words: "Ma," Da," "Gege," "Andrew," "Gou" (dog), "Dien deng" (light), "truck," and "Elmo." I don't suppose that "woof!" counts as 9? I'm surprised William has picked up this many words at 13 months since we are trying our best to raise him bilingual. From what I've read, many children who are raised to speak two languages often experience delays in picking up any vocabulary simply because they have twice the number of words to learn.

Comprehension. In tandem with his newfound speaking ability, it has been wonderful to see William beginning to understand the things we tell him. From time to time, he still tries to bang on the television when Andrew is watching, but at least he now understands the meaning of "no." You can see the comprehension register in the thoughtful look on his face and the "Should I? or Shouldn't I?" glances back and forth at the t.v. Of course, this doesn't mean he always obeys but the fact that he often does is something to shout about.

In other news, William has learned to hold his own bottle. When he finally figured it out, he was so proud of himself. Weeks later, he still sets his bottle down just to cheer and clap for himself. He's also getting better at using a fork.

There's so much more to report but I'll save it for another time. I'm aware that even adoptive parents can begin to sound obnoxiously proud after a point. And anyhow, I think I hear the sound of fluttering bird wings descending from somewhere above. Excuse me while I go check.

Double the Warm Fuzzies

In the mood for some feel-good stories? Then follow along as Jackie and Tami travel to Taiwan tomorrow to get their children, Lucy and Noah. You may remember those two from earlier posts. Their families will meet at St. Lucy's on the same day. From that point on, life as they know it will never be the same.

I am simply delighted for these families. They have both waited so long and experienced so many emotional twists and turns. To witness the culmination of their waiting will be truly satisfying.

I am also thrilled for the children. While they may be in for some dramatic transitions after leaving St. Lucy's, nothing can beat the nurture of a families who've waited so long to receive them with open arms. They are so loved already.

Finally, I'm thrilled to report that, with Lucy's and Noah's departures, all of William's roommates who shared space with him from September 2007 through March 2008 will have gone home to their families. There may be others who are still there (I desperately hope not, but if their families are out there and haven't yet come across my radar, please leave a comment below; I'd love to get in touch).

Until then, it's of great solace and joy to me to witness the "graduation" of William's last two roommates. I wish them all the blessings and fullness of Christ.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gracyn Goes Home

I know it's been posts-aplenty today, but I want to take the time out to root for Tiffanie, who is currently in Taiwan right now picking up her 2 year-old daughter, Gracyn. Gracyn has been living with a foster family in Pingdong, my mother's hometown. Her new family has waited a long, long, long time for her case to exit the courts, so their rejoicing is doubly great.

If your'e a fan of Meeting Day stories like I am, hop on over to her blog and follow the action as their family of three goes one up.

Out of the Office

We just returned from a week away in the Adirondack Mountains with Craig's siblings, parents, and grandmother. For more than 50 years, his family has spent every summer there in a small cabin community by a lake. Continuing the tradition, William took his first dip in the water and wouldn't you know? He loved it.


Thanks to Aunties Kaity and Christine for taking some of the great photos above.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walk the Walk

Over the last few weeks, William has started taking his first steps. I won't officially declare him walking as he still prefers to get around on all fours. But with every day, he is making progress. He took a record 8 steps earlier this morning.

Here's a little video of him right after lunchtime.

video

He has truly come a long way from the baby we met almost 6 months ago. Do you remember the little guy who used to slither about on his tummy and couldn't yet sit up? Looking at William now, I barely can.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scuba Man Meets Mr. Mouth

Yes, yes, I know you're not supposed to let young children put inedible objects in their mouths. And if they do, you're supposed to swoop in with the intensity and precision of a SWAT team and extract said slimed item. I have the routine down pat as I do it at least three to four times daily.

However, on the day that William decided to nibble on the helmet of Andrew's Rescue Hero scuba diver, I couldn't resist delaying for a photo op. The helmet was too large to get lodged in his throat anyway.

Heh, heh, heh... just add a mangy hairdo and a 70's inspired suit and William could play the role of the Joker's baby in the next Batman sequel.

Happy 13 month-old birthday, you silly boy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Twice Adopted

This morning, the four of us got all gussied up and headed to court. Ahh... litigious American society. Thankfully, our case was one of the few consisting of a happy nature. I'm delighted to report that as of today, William has been officially re-adopted in the United States.

William automatically became a U.S. citizen upon our adoption of him. However, he came home on an IR-4 visa, requiring that we re-adopt him in order to guarantee him an American birth certificate. The process will also make certain things like changing his name, getting a social security card, and even qualifying for college loans much easier.

The procedure lasted less than ten minutes. I was called up to the witness stand (what a creepy experience!) to answer some simple questions. I had to think extra hard when the friendly judge asked me for my age. Apparently, time and sleep deprivation have robbed me of brain cells.

William held up like a champ despite having missed his morning nap to be in court. He played the part of cute, compliant baby very well. Afterwards, the judge invited us up to the stand for a family picture with him. I'd show it to you but I don't know if Your Honor wants his picture on some random family's blog. Afterwards, we headed to Friendly's to chow down on some celebratory pancakes.

I must note that we owe a tremendous debt of thanks to our friend, Paul, a local attorney who was kind enough to take on our case pro-bono. He, along with his wife, Heather, are inching very close to receiving the referral of a daughter from Taiwan. We can't wait to find out who William's newest friend will be. Whoever she is, she will certainly have two top-notch parents. Thanks, Paul!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bring Him Home

See the picture to the left? I think you all know who the cutie patootie lying on the floor is. The handsome fellow sitting behind him is Noah, William's roommate from St. Lucy's. While there five months ago, I recall seeing Noah and being taken with his serious face and bright, sincere eyes.

Noah is just weeks away from meeting his anxiously awaiting family. His parents, Tami and Bobby, are fundraising like crazy to meet the deadline. He has been waiting over 9 months for this day.

Please take a moment to check out their blog and read more about this beautiful boy. If you click on the link on the sidebar of our blog, you can make a contribution. Most importantly, you can make this family's dream a reality.

Friday, August 8, 2008

All the News That's Fit to Print

Long time, no blog. For those of you who are wondering, here's the latest news from Williamworld:

Now You See Us, Now You Don't: Over the past couple of weeks, we've been working on acclimating William to the church nursery. At the recommendation of our adoption pediatrician, we waited until he was 1 year old to start. Unlike leaving him in weekly daycare, the once-a-week nursery visits don't occur with enough regularity for him to get used to be left alone in an environment reminiscent of an orphanage.

We've kept him with us during the singing portion of the service, then have tried to leave him in the nursery for progressively longer 15 minute increments. We'd hang out with him for a while, then say a quick goodbye. Sometimes he would let us leave with no protest, sometimes he'd unleash the waterworks as he did with Craig the previous week.

I'm happy to report that last week was William's first successful week alone during the whole sermon time. He was so happy to see me that he did a semi-jump into my arms and squeezed me as tightly as his little arms could muster. Score one for bonding!

This Fish Has Gone to Heaven. About a year and a half ago, we purchased three goldfish for Andrew. He named one Franklin and the other two Franklin's Mom and Franklin's Dad. Two of them have since passed. Since they all looked alike to me, I couldn't tell who had survived. Several days ago, Fish #3 departed for the pearly gates via the commode (shhh... don't tell Andrew). William really loved looking at the lone fish swimming about in his tank. He'd get very excited at the "Yu" and would slap at the aquarium glass, scaring the poor fish. Swim free, #3, swim free.

Gimme Three Steps: I won't call it walking just yet. It was more like not realizing he was moving from the glider ottoman to his nightstand in three quick steps. Andrew and I gave William a hearty round of applause and he received it shamelessly, clapping for himself and cheering, "Yaaaaaay!" He's done this a few times over the last couple of days but overall, the m.o. still comes down to crawling along on all fours.

The Book Is Finished! Sadly, I don't mean my novel, though I have been making some slow progress on it lately. The photobook which we had sent off to be printed and bound for William's biological mom was shipped back to us. Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out.

We ordered two copies, one to send to Taiwan and one to keep for ourselves. Gracyn's mom, Tiffanie, who is on her way to Taiwan in just a few weeks, has graciously offered to transport a copy to St. Lucy's for us. If you have a free moment, hop on over to her blog and cheer for her soon-to-expand family.


Bottle Boot Camp: I decided this morning that it was high time for William to learn how to hold his bottle and sippy cup by himself. I'm told that the caretakers at St. Lucy's would prop up the bottles for the babies who wouldn't/couldn't hold them by themselves. You'd think that a good eater like William would be the first to learn to hold his own, but alas, no.

William was none too pleased about the new policy. He couldn't get the hang of tipping the bottle upwards to get the milk flowing down into his mouth. Every once in a while, he'd get it right, but for the most part, it was I trying to prop his elbows up high while he gripped the bottle. There was a lot of crying and a lot of spilled milk. We definitely have our work cut out for us. It's Mommy vs. William in the battle of the bottle. Who will triumph and who will be left in tears?


The Early Bird Makes Nice (for Now): You know that feeling of being so tired it feels like you've been punched in the head a couple of times? So do we, thanks to our little early riser. For the past few months, William was in the habit of waking between 5:00 to 6:00 a.m.

This past week has seen a welcome shift in his wake time. He has arisen between 6:00 - 6:45 a.m. God be praised! What a difference an extra 30 - 45 minutes of sleep can make.

By the way, if you happen to know when Daylight Savings Time falls, please don't tell me. I don't want to know. Let me just savor the feeling of being able to get through the days without that fuzzy-headed feeling.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Human Hoover

I am flabbergasted. I have never seen a young child eat so much in my life.

Yesterday, I decided to take the boys to Ikea for an impromptu lunch while out running errands together. Once we made it through the checkout line, I carried the heavy tray laden with our lunch plates. Andrew followed behind me, doing his best to push William in his stroller.

The moment William caught sight of the food on the tray, he began frantically squealing, "Heeeee! Heeeee! Heeeee!" Finding a table near a row of highchairs was trickier than I thought, so he "Heeee! Heeee'd!" for quite some time as we wound our way around the tables.

I couldn't buckle him into the highchair quickly enough (actually, I couldn't buckle him at all; the seatbelt wouldn't fit). The elderly couple nearby was laughing at the site of desperate William shrieking away for food. Once we were situated, I couldn't scoop the macaroni and cheese and fruit onto his tray quickly enough. By meal's end, he had wolfed down a scoop of mac and cheese as large as my fist, three Swedish meatballs, some of my mashed potatoes, at least 10 chunks of melon, and some milk. He never paused once. I'm sure he wanted more, but I had run out of food.

The other day when my parents were in town, we were driving home from the local Asian grocery store. I had bought the kids some fish-shaped pancakes with red bean filling. My mom was eating one in the backseat next to the kids. When she looked the other way, William snatched it out of her hand and started eating it. Incidentally, she and my dad have a nickname for him: Xiao Pangze, Little Chubby.

I know I should count myself blessed to have a child with such a hearty appetite. So many parents struggle with just getting their toddlers to take a bite of anything. However, part of me wonders how much of his voraciousness stems from the 6 months he spent in an orphanage. I'd venture to guess that St. Lucy's Center is probably one of the best facilities in all of Asia. I'd also venture to guess that William is a naturally good eater, but having to continually watch other babies get spoonfed while he waited likely brought out the extreme reaction I sometimes see in him. Three staffers can only get bottles to hungry babies so quickly.

If my theory is true, I pray that time and love will reassure William that we won't fail to feed him and attend to his basic needs. Hopefully he'll figure this out by the time he's 16 because I can't imagine feeding a teenaged son who at the age of 1 year old eats like Human Hoover.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Counting the Cost

Hip, hip, hooray! We have successfully weaned William off of formula and on to cow's milk. I cheer not only because mixing formula can at times be a pain in the neck, but because our weekly expenditures have dropped by some $20.00.

Naive that I was, I had never expected to have to shell out so much money for infant formula. Andrew was primarily breastfed for his first thirteen months since he refused to take a bottle throughout most of his infancy. What little formula we did have to use came free, courtesy of the salespeople who frequented my dad's medical office. The whole time I never guessed that one 25.7 oz. can of Nestle Good Start* would run me $24.99 every 5-7 days. Thankfully, we only had to formula feed for four months.

We still have William drinking out of a bottle. Previously, the evil sanctimommy in me would have jumped on my soapbox and lambasted the current me for keeping my one year-old on a bottle instead of transitioning him to a cup. However, these are different times and this is a different child. William has undergone so much change in under five months. Having just moved him off of formula, I think we'll wait a while longer to make the switch to a cup. I don't want to rip the rug out from under his feet by taking away from him everything that is familiar.

Here's another thing I hadn't thought about: laundry. Of course I knew that my weekly loads would increase, but I hadn't figured they'd go up by that much. Already into the third day of the week, I have done four loads. I anticipate having to do another two in a few more days. I know those of you with 3+ kids are laughing at me and thinking, "Aww, that's nothing!" I just never anticipated that a (relatively) little guy like William could put such a spike in the weekly wash.

Finally, we come to the part where I'm supposed to quit whining and say that when I look at our precious William, it's all worth it and I'd wash 10 more loads on his behalf. So, there you have it. I said it - and I honestly mean it.

* Incidentally, Nestle Good Start is the brand our adoption pediatrician recommended we use because, according to her research, it has the most optimal casein to whey protein ratio, making it easier for babies with digestive problems to consume. That being noted, if you act now and buy one SuperGutDustBuster, I'll throw in three free with a bonus attachment. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Child of the Covenant

... and a heavy one, too!" were the words our pastor used to describe William as we handed him over to be baptized this past Sunday.

He held up like a champ when Pastor Terry took a big scoop of water and doused his little head. Considering the boy has no fear of water (well, except perhaps for oceans), we didn't anticipate any resistance. His face registered some confusion over getting an apparent hairwash at 11 a.m., but once the shock wore off, he took everything in stride.

William had the privilege of sharing his baptismal day with his two year-old friend, Anant. You may remember that Anant was adopted from India just days before we picked up William in Taiwan. The two were the very picture of cute as they reached across the stage to hold each others' hands.


Some of you may wonder why we would go through all the hassle just to watch our dolled-up son get drenched in public. We believe that baptism is a public profession of our intent to teach our son about God's love and saving grace for him. It's also a promise on our parts to do all that we can to influence him toward a faith in Jesus Christ. We don't believe the act of baptism makes William a Christian; at some point, like everyone else, he will have to make that decision for himself. However, we owe it to William to do what we can to share with him the great hope and strength that we have found in Jesus.

After the baptism, we all headed back to our house for a lunch. Thunderstorms forced us to eat a brief part of our meal in the dark, but power was soon restored. We send a big shout out to all our family for traveling from near and far to celebrate the special day with us. Thanks, too, to my sister, Sherry, for taking all the great photos above. Finally, thanks be to God for his covenant promises of faithfulness and love to the sweet boy with whom he has entrusted us.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Party Like You're One Year-Old

The one year-old birthday festivities continued this weekend with a joint party for both William and Andrew. Four generations of family members gathered at our home this afternoon for a cookout.

One highlight of the afternoon was watching William enjoy his first bite of cake. The ginormous stacked delight was homemade by his adoptive grandmother, Nana, from a recipe that is now three generations old. Nana also made Andrew's first birthday cake. Growing up, Craig celebrated his birthdays with the same cake, prepared at the time by his Grandma Mc. Thus, it was truly special to see the tradition continued for our newest family member. Oh - and surprise! William loved it.


Also noteworthy was seeing my mom's delicious made-from-scratch dumplings on the menu alongside J. Bacynsky's unbeatable kielbasa, brought all the way from New York City courtesy of my sister, Sherry. I love the mashup of cultures and all that it represents.

The last time our two families gathered together was a year ago for Andrew's fourth birthday. If you've been following PHL to TPE since its infancy, you may remember that that was the day we publicly announced our intention to adopt. It truly is amazing to be on the other side of the wait and to be holding our answer to our prayer. Thank you God, for rounding out our family with not one, but two of the most special boys in all of creation.

Friday, July 25, 2008

12 Month Checkup

Who doesn't love a good set of chunky baby legs? You'll note this particular model comes with extra rolls around the knees and reinforced ankles. Squeeze value is guaranteed.

These gloriously chubby legs and the rest of the charming baby to whom they belong weighed in at 23 lbs. and 11 oz. at today's 12 month-old well-visit.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the numbers come up on the scale. I had anticipated William to weigh at least 25 lbs. Either way, he remains squarely in the 70th percentile for Western children, no change from his 9 month-old appointment.

William measured in at 31 1/2 inches tall, placing him in the 90th percentile. At this rate, he is on track to become the tallest person in our family. And who says Asians are short?

I'm happy to report that 45 minutes and 4 vaccinations later, William checked out healthy. Healthy, happy, and squishy - I couldn't ask for anything more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Up and Away

Here are some pictures from our family kite-flying outing this past Sunday. Unfortunately, there wasn't much William could do other than point at the kites, then decide he had his fill of watching colorful fabric flapping around in the wind.

I am reminded of our last post-placement visit with our social worker two months ago. As part of her routine questioning, she asked, "So, what kinds of activities do you do together as a family?" That question gave me pause because frankly, there aren't that many things we can do together in which everyone - including 1 year-old William - can be actively involved. Fortunately, she has children herself and understands the complexity involved.

Speaking of reports, our next post-placement report is due in two months. Our final report is due in March 2009 when William will have been with us for a whole year. Then - hallelujah! - we can finally put to rest all of the formalities of the adoption and carry on with our lives together like any typical family.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Year Wonderful

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yesterday was the day. William officially entered the world of toddlerhood when he turned one year old at 12:50 a.m.

He started off the day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:15 a.m., his new trend. Though we weren't feeling half as spry, we still managed to pack the car, turn his carseat to face forward for the first time (you should have seen the bewildered look on his face), and hit the road.

To make the day extra special for him, we decided to take him to one of the world's biggest swimming pools: the Atlantic Ocean. We figured he would have a blast since he loves bathtime and going to the pool. What's a couple billion gallons of water more?


Unfortunately, the massive scale of the water, its frigid temperature (it was 95 degrees yesterday!), and the unfamiliar feel of so much sand made him uneasy. You can see him looking hesitant in many of the pictures above. Eventually he worked up the nerve to crawl on the sand with his rear end sticking up so his knees wouldn't touch the ground.

Later, we headed to a local pizzeria. There, William noshed on a mushroom slice and had his first taste of french fries (the corruption begins young). He was in all his glory in the presence of three of his favorite things: food, music - you should have seen him bopping along to Gwen Stefani on the house radio - and plenty of ceiling fans at which to point and gawk. If we had known lunchtime would've been the highlight of his trip, we could've saved ourselves the 5 hours roundtrip drive and visited our local pizza shop!

Both boys were conked out on the drive home.

Next weekend, the birthday festivities continue with a proper party. Family members are driving in from near and far, many of them as much as 5 to 7 hours away. We'll have a family gathering for both boys that will be more weighted toward William since Andrew already had a kids-only party. The next day, William will be baptized at our church. We would've liked to have held both events this weekend but couldn't move the baptism date. Either way, we are glad we'll have so many family members there to celebrate both big events.

In the meantime, the realization still hasn't set in that our baby is 1 year-old. Can you believe it?

Happy birthday, sweetie. We love you very much and are so blessed to have you in our lives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet My First-Born Son. And Meet My Other.


Sometimes I get a good chuckle when I consider that I am the mother of two first-born sons. Come again? What's the likelihood of that?

You know the common stereotypes about birth order: Child #1 is motivated and bossy. #2 is both conciliatory and competetive, perhaps a rebel. #3 alternates between being an even-keeled crusader and an insecure left-out. #4 is a risk-taking dreamer who may be spoiled.

According to an article in Time Magazine, some additional distinctives of first born children include greater intelligence, an increase in height, better healthcare, and higher salaries than their subsequent siblings. Considering the unusual circumstance of both being firstborn, I wonder how much Andrew and William's firstborn identities will have an impact. To what extent will biology trump environment?

I tend to think that most of the birthorder stereotypes are environmentally driven rather than the result of genetics. Already, I find that I expect much more of Andrew simply because he is older and "should know better." Could my expectations eventually motivate him to grow into a leader? Perhaps. Will I go lax on William because he is the youngest child whom I'll want to baby continually? I hope not, but I've seen it happen repeatedly in families I've observed and realize I am not immune to the weaker tendencies of the human heart.

(Incidentally, William's adoptive status may also make me want to spoil him. According to research, many adoptive parents tend to lavish just a bit more attention on their children than biological parents. After waiting so long for their kids - in some cases, enduring the agony of infertility - and after pursuing the adoption with such purpose and having to make such proactive efforts to forge a bond, spoiling can sometimes be a side effect.)

For now, stereotypes be dashed. William appears to be going toe for toe with Andrew when it comes to both smarts and height at his age. He may even be a little taller than Andrew was at one year old. Considering he has a very tall birthgrandmother whom he resembles, he may eventually win that race. As for motivation, well, it can be hard to stop William from going after what he wants, especially when that something is food that has fallen on the floor. (Ask me sometime about the pasta salad that I spilled all over the floor this afternoon.) And as for being wealthier? If the fortune cookies have anything to do with it, Andrew will be asking William for a loan one day.

So, nature or nurture? In the end, only time will tell. I surely can't.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Death by Peekaboo and Other Tales

Here's a sample of what's been going on in William World lately:

- William has begun cruising along furniture. It's slow going, but it's a start towards walking. He is also beginning to get the hang of walking when held by one hand.

- Sadly, he has also figured out how to climb stairs and is drawn to them like a pig to mud. We've now got so many gates by our stairs that getting upstairs to grab that one thing we forgot is harder than trying to break and enter the Oval Office.

- It's all Mommy Dearest lately. I'm trying to take it as a sign of healthy attachment that William has a strong preference for me nowadays. Other people can hold him, but woe if he sees me. It's his cue to stretch those chubby arms outwards, to screw up his little face, and to begin the pleading whine. Ergo baby carrier, work your magic!

- Just 5 more days and William turns 1 year old! Wahhh... I can't technically call him a baby anymore.

- And finally, oh, that peekaboo... Andrew received a Cranium fort builder set for his birthday (on clearance now at Toys 'R Us for $21.00!). Not only does it keep Gege happily occupied, it provides an excellent place for Didi to play his favorite game. If you never thought a round of peekaboo could kill someone with laughter, you haven't met William. I thought I was going to have to call 911 the first couple of times. He's not cracking up anywhere as hard as he initially was, but you get the idea in the video below.


video

Friday, July 11, 2008

The First Decade


Today marks our tenth wedding anniversary. On July 11, 1998, Craig and I said "I do" in New York City and locked ourselves into a lifelong commitment to love, serve, and protect the other.

In an era of rocky relationships and uncertain marriages, I am especially thankful to have married a man who remains as mature, dependable, funny, and integrous as he did ten years ago. Here's to many, many more years, Bear. Together, may we wind up wizened and wheezy as we creak away on our front porch rocking chairs.

(By the way, I Googled "traditional wedding gifts" and found that one decade of marriage only garners a gift of tin. Tin? As ceremony goes, it's just one level up from a chunk of concrete. That being said, you may now send your scraps of tin to the following address...)

Addendum: Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes. I did not receive a gift of tin, thankfully. What I did receive was much more sparkly, heh, heh, heh.

As Craig and I were leaving to go out for a dinner date, Andrew wished me a "Happy Universary!" and told me, "You look nice in your costume." (I was wearing a black dress with pearls). I'll take this to mean I need to dress up more often.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monkey Turns 5

The best big brother in the world turns 5 years old today. We love you, Andrew, and thank God for the blessing you are. We admire your gentle heart, your matchless exuberance, your super silliness, and lately, the love you have expressed for Jesus. Happy birthday, Special Monkey.