Friday, September 30, 2011

Three Months Later

This past weekend, we had our three month follow-up visit with our social worker.  Ethiopia requires a social worker to check in on your family at 3, 6, and 12 months after bringing the kids home. After the one-year mark, you're required to submit a picture of your child and a summary of how they're doing every year until they're 18.  I appreciate how the country has implemented such a process to ensure the well-being of their kiddos, and it makes a great time marker for us adopted families.  Almost like the ebenezer stone of adoption...

It's crazy how much things have changed for us over the past three months.  There have been changes in our schedule: Sleeping in until 7 AM is a rare treat.  Our only quiet dinners are the ones we have after the boys go to bed.  There have been changes in ourselves: Prayer is a much more frequented activity in my life.  We are much more intentional in conversation with each other during our down time.  And thankfully, there have been changes in the boys: Micah no longer "log rolls" on the ground when we tell him no.  Sami sleeps through the night like a champ, no longer demanding bottles at 2 AM.

So to commemorate those early days of sleeplessness and border-line sanity, I'll share a story that fell through the cracks.  Originally, I had planned to post it as "Motherhood's Maiden Voyage," but then all the drama with Sami's seizures went down and that never happened.   So here goes...

We had been home from Ethiopia for about three weeks.  Kevin had been around the house more than normal in case I couldn't handle something with the boys.  But during that particular week, he had agreed to help out at an English camp out in the countryside, leaving me home alone all day long with my new little friends.  I felt I was up to the task and even wanted to honor the occasion by taking the boys out.  Again, I'll emphasize all by myself.

Just to set the record straight, taking the boys out all by myself is quite a different ordeal in China than in America.  There's no minivan with car seats parked conveniently outside my front door.  Instead, I strapped Sam up in the Ergo and figured I'd have Micah toddle along at my side until we could make it to the gate of our apartment complex to get a taxi.  It seemed like a feasible enough idea, so I loaded up all our stuff right after afternoon naps and set out.

These were before the days, however, where Micah really enjoyed holding hands.  And before the days where he realized that mama's voice carries authority.  The back alley where we had to traverse isn't actually the safest stroll either.  Zooming cars, careless bikes, open manholes, stray dogs, puddles of unidentifiable substances...enough to make a new mama hold on real tight to that little boy's hand, despite his many protests.

But catch a cab we did and off we went to the indoor play place at one of the fancy new malls in town.  I thought I'd even try to take a picture of us all on our little adventure.

Attempt #1: 

Attempt #2: 

Attempt #3: 

Well, you get the idea.  A happy mama and her little guys in a cab destined for a fun afternoon of playing.  We even exchanged pleasantries with the cab driver, which went something like this:

Driver: Are those your kids?

Me: Yes.

Driver: Both of them?

Me: Yes.

Driver: Are they twins? (a very common question here)

Me: No.  They're a year apart.

Driver: A year apart?!?!  Why did you give birth to kids that close together?  You should wait longer before wanting to have another one.

We finally arrived at the play place, where Micah had a blast and made quite a few friends.

But unfortunately, this is where our afternoon began to derail.  I knew there was such a thing as evening rush hour traffic but, being the avid bike riders we are, I forgot that rush hour starts at 4:30.  Now to a typical suburban American, rush hour might just mean sitting through a few extra lights or braving your way through gridlock on the freeway.  But for us urban folk, it means a battle to the death to get a taxi.  When cab drivers are heading for their shift change, nothing will convince them to stop for another fare.

So we left the mall and headed to the street.  Micah was not pleased about leaving, so he was screaming.    Micah got even more upset when I spotted even more open manholes in front of the mall and relinquished his walking privileges.  Sam was not pleased about something and I had lost his pacifier somewhere along the way, so he was screaming as well.  I was also convinced that one of my children had made a pleasant deposit in their diaper, which I wasn't about to attempt to deal with at the moment.

I walked and walked and walked, carrying both screaming children.  One strapped to me, one wriggling to get loose to reclaim his freedom that had so maliciously been scooped away from him.  Driver after driver turned me down.  Finally, in a moment of desperation, I spotted a cab and bolted toward it, despite the fact there were people already in it.  I knocked on the driver's window and gave him a nearly-sobbing spiel of my ordeal: how my kids were hungry & tired, how my apartment was very close, how I would leave him my first-born (or first-adopted in our case) if only he would acquiesce to help us. 

I doubt it was my well-composed Chinese prose that convinced them.  I doubt it was my offer to bestow upon him one of my crying babies.  More than likely it was the crying babies themselves (Chinese people HATE to see kids cry and will do almost anything to mollify them).  But whatever it was, the passengers in the cab paid the driver and left the cab to me.  I have no idea if they had even reached their destination, but I didn't really care in the moment.  I was just happy to be on the way home!

So perhaps the maiden voyage of this mother was a little harrier than I had anticipated.  But it made for a good story in the end!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Peek of Unprecedented Proportions

It's no lie that Peeks have skinny genes (and jeans for that matter).  When we were first married, I made Kevin try on my jeans, just to see if they'd fit.  And they did, minus the length of course.  When we were preparing to move overseas, our medical clearance was flagged because of Kevin's BMI.  All we had to do was reference his equally-skinny twin brother to prove our point that he was certainly born this way.

Then Sami came on the scene.  Sami with his chubby, chunky, cherub curves.  Sami with his manly mini-muffin top.  Sami with his plump, paunchy, portly proportions.  Sami with his rubber band wrists and lotus root legs (the China equivalent to ice cream cone legs). And our life has never been the same.

I do have to add that I took some other shots of Sami's squishy goodness that I find terribly cute, but Kevin told me they were not internet worthy.  Seeing that I would like to prevent any future blackmailing opportunities against my child, I refrained from posting any but these two.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sami On the Move

I've posited before that it's a rough life when you're immobile.  But then again, maybe it's not so difficult when mom straps you to her front and carries you around for endless hours.  

So then the kid got himself some classic wheels.  Seriously, I think eight children have taught themselves to walk using this thing.  It is well loved & well used.  He scoots himself across our wood-floor apartment, much to the chagrin of our unsuspecting toes.

I guess Sami, during one of his late night ruminating sessions, decided that it would be a little awkward to have mom carry him across the stage to collect his college diploma.  And perhaps wheeling down the aisle to meet his bride might not be very proper either.  So his little baby mind came up with a grand scheme: I will crawl.  I will attempt to move my 20 pound self all on my own. 

And crawl he did.  Well, sort of.  Crawling is probably too generous a word for what's actually going on with the little guy since it more resembles dragging and has yet to involve his knees, but he can get from Point A to Point B.  And that, my friends, is really all that matter when you're a baby.

But of course, as any physical activity does, crawling takes its toll on a body, so resting is surely in order.  And chewing on things.  I read in Runner's World magazine that chewing helps stimulate carbohydrate reserves and replenishes energy stores.  (OK, not really but that's what I tell Sam so he doesn't feel bad about taking a break.)

The thing about taking breaks, however, is that you often have unwelcome visitors attend to the drool that has collected on your face.  And that's when the mama has to put her camera down and intervene because she knows just where that visitor's tongue has been.

So at the end of the day, our little crawler is one step (yes, pun very much intended) to forsaking both his wheels and his mama.  And that most certainly is deserving of a snuggly night's sleep.

Friday, September 16, 2011

And He Does It Again!

A true picture of our family: Sam has no pants on, there's junk on the floor, and I couldn't find birthday candles so I had to use an IKEA tea light instead.

Another year, another birthday for this man that I love.  Last week, we celebrated rather unceremoniously, which helped me avoid another burned cake incident. I did, however, bust out the imported brownie mix.  You can't mess up when all you have to do is add eggs, oil, and water!

Some of our good friends finally returned from Thailand with their newest addition, so we celebrated Kevin's birthday with them and another family that make up our little community here.  I offered Kevin a Saturday morning alone at Starbucks but, being the simpleton that he is, he opted to seclude himself at home in the bedroom instead.  And that was about it for our wild, crazy birthday fun.  Not even 30 yet and this is how we live it up!

Maintaining Kevin's birthday tradition from last year (can you have a tradition after one year?  I think yes.), here are 29 reason why I'm thankful to be married to this man:

  1. He continues to put Christ at the center of our lives & family.
  2. He is intentional to spend quality time with the boys every evening, even if it's at the end of a long day for him.
  3. He spends hours & hours studying Chinese so we can really live a full life here.
  4. He always voices his appreciation for everything I do in the home, especially when all I feel like I've done all day involved poop.
  5. He sacrifices part of his lunch break to hang out with the boys so I can take a shower.
  6. He is still the most terrific listener.
  7. He happily gives Sami his evening bottle every night and loves the snuggle time with his little man.
  8. He gives me preference to use the Kindle whenever I want, even though it was technically his Christmas present.
  9. He supports my efforts to cook meat-less at least twice a week and doesn't even have to pretend to like my lentil "meat"loaf--he actually does!  
  10. He helps our family save money so we could afford to bring home our two greatest blessings from Ethiopia.  Whenever I felt anxious about the big expenditures it required of us, he told me that it's just money and that we were just going to spend it.  Simple as that.
  11. He has mastered the Denton Public Library online borrowing system.
  12. He is ever-patient with Micah as he identifies every animal he see as a dog.
  13. Since his Chinese vocabulary now far exceeds mine, he is intentional about teaching me new words because he knows I love this language but don't have as much time for it as I used to.
  14. He knows more about buying diapers & formula than I do because he has assumed this responsibility all to himself.
  15. He listens to books-on-tape in order to pass the time doing dishes. 
  16. He laughs at me when I'm being silly, even though the average person would probably just find my antics annoying.
  17. Before Sam was sleeping through the night, he once found me underneath the crib in search of a pacifier at 3 AM in tears.  After that, he took over night time baby duty.
  18. He has learned that when I dream about planning vacations in Australia and purchasing $1000, I usually don't actually intend on following through with these plans.  Usually.
  19. He is patient & gentle.
  20. He keeps giving our faithful quadruped (our new moniker for Beans, thanks to our both reading Swiss Family Robinsons) more chances to fit into our family, even though he tried to lick the boys' face far too often.
  21. He's not afraid to ride his bike in the rain.
  22. He eats Chinese food that I don't like off my plate when we go out with friends, even if he has to pay for it later in the bathroom.
  23. The simplest way to his heart is with a back massage.
  24. He fights to continue to date his wife, even though when we go out, we're both tired & ready to go home by 8:30.
  25. He insists on pushing the huge double stroller (Phil & Ted have not yet graced this family!) when we go for our evening walks.
  26. As long as dinner ends with pudding, he is a one happy guy.
  27. His birthday present to himself is a new bike because he wants something newer & safer to ride when he carries the boys.
  28. He is wise yet continues to seek wise counsel regarding work & family.
  29. He strives to always be the first to apologize.

To my best friend and father of my children: happy birthday!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

To Beijing And Back Again

Micah's one month thyroid blood test was due.

I still had latent TB and no medicine to kill those little buggers setting up shop in my lungs.

And I had a sneaking suspicion that Sam had an ear infection.

Yes, there are hospitals in the city where we live that most likely could have handled each and every one of those issues.  But the time & energy required to accomplish them all easily would have sucked up at least 5 days and possibly my sanity.  So my dear husband gave us the go ahead to hop on the train to Beijing to the international hospital.  The international hospital where everyone speaks English.  The international hospital where you can actually make an appointment.  Ahhhh...the international hospital!  

Micah traveled in style through the huge train station they just build in the western part of our city, through the bowels of the Beijing subway system, and right to the doors of our good friends' apartment.

Sam was just happy to be somewhere where he could continue to eat, drool, and sport a serious Mr. T impersonation with that amazing head of hair.  That's what he does most days.  And occasionally crawls too!

All our medical drama was more of less resolved in a mere 4 hours.  We took the boys to the pediatrician first.  I had to leave after about a half hour for my appointment in a different wing of the hospital to get my TB medicine.  I was trying to be resourceful by double-booking our appointments but instead I left leave Kevin alone in a tiny doctor's office exam room with two little ones full of lots of pent-up energy from a morning of travel and no naps.  Left him alone to hold Micah down while they drew his blood (which ended up being a terribly harrowing since the nurses couldn't find a vein in his dark skin).  Left him alone to answer a zillion and one questions about why the boys did not have immunizations when they were born.  Poor Kevin!  Poor Micah!  Poor Sami (who, in fact, did have not one but two ear infections)!

Meanwhile, while I was at my appointment, I found out that I was going to have to have my blood drawn for a liver panel to make sure that this TB medicine wouldn't destroy my liver.  I skipped back over to pediatrics, only to find a very stressed husband.  I took Micah back with me to hopefully reduce some of Kevin's workload.  Micah dug through medical supply drawers and wore the blood pressure cuff as a hat as the nurse dug through my forearm to find a vein.  Twenty minutes and several sticks later, I finally left.  Micah was thrilled that we both had matching Winnie the Pooh bandaids.

We spent the rest of the day Friday and Saturday morning with our wonderful Beijing friends and then caught a late afternoon train home on Saturday night.  A quick but very worthwhile trip!