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.

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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good News Worth Getting Locked Out For

Having been locked outside of our home for one hot, muggy hour today with two young children, I was relieved to come inside and be deluged with good news from several St. Lucy's families.

Jackie, Lucy's mom, just received word that her daughter's adoption case is finally on the verge of entering the court system. In a unique and trying twist, they waited 9 1/2 months for closure on Lucy's guardianship case. Their whole family deserves a medal for tremendous endurance.

Tiffanie received a first decree on the adoption of her daughter, Gracyn and will likely receive a travel date soon. At this rate, Gracyn should be home to celebrate her second birthday.

After 5 weeks of uncertainty, Sarah W. and K.B. finally received approval from St. Lucy's to adopt their children, Hannah Claire and Andrew. Their cases will soon enter the courts for what will hopefully be a shorter wait than the typical 3-6 months.

All of this comes on top of Marina and Lora's big news. They finally met their daughters, Sarah and Allie this week at St. Lucy's.

Need I say it's fantastic to see so many of William's roomates making such great progress towards coming home?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One Year Old and All Is Well

We've been a bit occupied here in the K. household. Free time, which constitutes the hours of 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., has been occupied with pulling together an update package for William's birthmom. We plan to send it shortly after his first birthday on July 19th.

Although she only requested a pictorial update on each birthday, I want to do everything I humanly can to fill in the gaps for her and to reassure her that William is happy, thriving, and well-cared for. In short, I'm doing what I'd want someone else to do for me if I had just permanently handed over my baby to a family I didn't know. Considering the overwhelming emotional toll she has had to endure, something tells me that my best efforts will always fall short of satisfying her need for assurance.

Nonetheless, I've tried. There is first and foremost the very long letter. I stuck my poor parents with the gnarly task of translating all four, single-spaced pages. On them are details on everything imaginable. There are the mundane facts about his food preferences and sleeping habits to anecdotes about his peeing on the doctor and how the sound of flip flops slapping on the ground makes him laugh hysterically. Hopefully she'll read the letter and see glimpses of herself in the child he has become. Hopefully those connections will bring a smile to her face.

I've also compiled a photobook for her that currently has 55 pages of pictures. I'm not finished yet. (You can never have too many photos, right?) The pages will span the period from when she first held William at St. Lucy's all the way up to his first birthday party and baptism, to be celebrated on July 26th and 27th respectively. If I can get my act together in time, I'm also planning on including a short video.

Finally, we'll be sending over a set of questions we hope she will answer. While we did get responses from her to the first set of questions we sent last December, we have no answers for the second set we sent over soon before we traveled to Taiwan. She had made her last visit to St. Lucy's just a week before the questions arrived.

Needless to say, we really hope to get some responses this time. I fear that the answers may be harder to obtain as more time passes. While we really hope that William's birthmom will want to keep in contact with him throughout his life - if he also desires contact - we know this is something we can't necessarily expect.

For now, it's up to us to keep the trail of information "hot" on his behalf. We have what appears to be her address and phone number and it would be so easy and tempting to just pick up the phone and call her... but to do so would be to breach her privacy in a very serious way. We are then left with the tin can telephone route of contacting each other through St. Lucy's, then through our agency, which is better than nothing. At the end of the day, we have to be grateful that a) William still has a birthmother and b) unlike in many international adoption cases, we could probably contact her if the situation warranted it.

But I digress. St. Lucy's staff, if you're out there in cyberspace and reading this, please be on the lookout for a package from us. It comes with all of our fondest wishes, respect, and gratitude for William's birthmom, as well as a big hug and kiss for her from everyone's favorite one year-old-to-be.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Walk on the Wild Side

"Hey, Babe... Take a walk on the wild side."

Lou Reed's words echoed in my head as the boys and I meandered through a local zoo yesterday morning. William was very interested in gazing at all the animals, or at least what he could see of them through the wire and wooden barriers. He even got to feed a piece of an ice cream cone (provided by the zoo) to a goat in the petting barn.

Unfortunately, I didn't get many good pictures of him next to the animals except for this one of him trying to grab at a prickly, miniature hedgehog. There's a reason the handler is wearing thick gloves, dear child.