Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back To School

Well, Jeff went back to school today, so I guess summer is over.  In honor of Jeff being back at work and no longer home all the time, here is TongJie's sad face:

TongJie has this book with pictures of all sorts of different things, and one picture is a boy crying.  When we point to that picture, TongJie scrunches up his eyebrows and gets his sad look, as you can see from the video.  It's hard not to laugh.  He also uses that same look in conjunction with his sign for "hurt," but it doesn't necessarily mean that he's physically hurt.  It could be anything from not wanting to get his diaper changed to actually bumping his head or pinching a finger.  It's nice that he has such a diverse range of facial expressions!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Waterville Fair

We took a trip to the fair in Waterville yesterday morning.  TongJie traveled in style in the wagon.  I think it was a little overwhelming for him, especially in the animal barns where it was crowded and noisy, plus many of the animals were big and he'd never seen them before.  There was a model train exhibit that seemed to be his favorite.  It was in a nice, quiet room with very few people, and TongJie was happy to watch the trains go by again and again, waving as they passed.  I have been woefully delinquent at taking pictures, and the one picture I took while we were at the fair didn't turn out very good.

On the way home from Waterville, TongJie kept busy in the car with his new yard sale find.  We call it his "laptop."  Looks like a pretty sophisticated piece of machinery, doesn't it?

Finally, here is a video of TongJie cleaning up this morning before church.  He had been picking up his toys and signing "clean," and then I got out the flip cam and was able to capture a little bit of it before he started whining to be picked up.  Unfortunately, I was talking over him saying "all done," but you can still see him doing the sign for all done as he says "ah ah," and then he signs "clean."  He does the signs fast, so you might not know he was even signing if you didn't know to look for it, but he definitely knows what he's doing.  He has been doing so well with signing.  I'm trying to get more videos of him signing, but once he sees the camera out, he usually loses focus on whatever he was doing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TongJie's fun new water table

We hung out with some friends on Saturday morning who love to go "garage sale-ing" (I don't know if that's a word) and always get great deals.  They have two kids, ages 4 and 3, and had some extra garage sale finds that their kids don't use anymore.  They gave us some books and a really neat sand and water table.  We set up the table in our yard and filled it with water (no sand for now) and TongJie LOVES it!  It's just the right height for him to stand at and play with his toys and splash to his little heart's content.  He's already gotten quite a bit of use out of it and it's only been three days!

 As you can see, sometimes playing is pretty serious business

Aside from the outing with friends that I mentioned, we've also been to a couple other gatherings in the past few days where there were a lot of people.  Jeff and I can tell a definite difference in TongJie when he's been overwhelmed with lots of people.  He had a good time at all the events we went to recently and did great being around the people, but we can tell it was a little too much for him and he's been extra clingy to us at home.  He cries and wants to be carried and not put down, and he wants to sit on our laps which is unusual for him.  Even more unusual was when he snuggled up on my lap and let me read to him for quite awhile - I don't think that has ever happened before!

Since TongJie loves bags so much, I decided to make him his own little bag for him to put his toys in to carry around, or for when we go places where he might need to bring something to do.  The other bags we have are way too big for him and he trips over them, plus they look kind of girly, so it was time for him to have a little boy looking bag with short handles that wouldn't get in the way.  I found a cool monster fabric for the lining and pockets, and used green canvas to make it durable.

It's just the right size for a selection of smaller toys, with a couple of pockets for things like cars or who knows what.

TongJie loves to carry it around, and now he picks it up and starts waving and saying "bye" because he knows he always takes it when we go places.  I haven't been able to get a picture of him with it yet, though.

Speaking of having difficulties getting certain pictures, I've been wanting to get a picture of the inside of TongJie's mouth for quite some time.  It's hard to see in his mouth, let alone to take a picture of it, but when he gets laughing really hard and the angle is right, you can see the large cleft in his mouth very clearly.  I finally got a pretty good picture of it today when he was laughing on the changing table.  Mainly we wanted to have a "before" picture because after he has his surgery on October 16 it's going to look a lot different and someday he'll probably want to see what the inside of his mouth looked like for the first two years of his life.  I wondered whether or not I should post the picture on the blog, but I finally decided to post it because a lot of people who read this blog probably have never seen what a cleft palate looks like.  You can really see how having a cleft would affect your eating and speech - there is nothing separating the mouth and nasal cavity.  Cleft palates can be different degrees of severity, where some people have a partial cleft that is only through the soft palate in the back and some people have a complete cleft that goes all the way from the gum line to the back.  TongJie's is a complete cleft (they call it "3rd degree" in China, which is the most severe, but I don't think they really use that terminology to describe it here in the US) that starts all the way at his gum line in the front and goes all the way back.  Can't you just almost hear him laughing when you look at this picture?  Well, maybe not, but I can!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Play Dough

Our friends West, Courtney, Jax, and Maxine gave us a large ziploc bag filled with small individually wrapped gifts before we went to China, so TongJie would have something to keep him busy on the long flight home.  What a thoughtful idea!  Anyway, some of the toys were beyond TongJie's developmental level at the time so we've been saving them to introduce to him later.  One of the items that we had sort of forgotten about was a little container of play dough, which we got out yesterday.  I had to take a video because TongJie's reaction to it was so funny!

We've enrolled TongJie in a Birth to Three early intervention program, and he was evaluated yesterday to see if he would qualify for speech therapy services.  He was evaluated last week for his development to see whether or not he would qualify for occupational therapy, and he did not qualify, which was great news.  A child must have at least a 25% delay in order to qualify for services, so it was nice to find out that TongJie's motor skills, although a bit delayed, are catching up to where they should be.  At his speech evaluation, however, it was clear that he will certainly need services for speech.  That's what we were expecting, and we're really glad that we'll be able to start on speech therapy with him soon.  His speech therapist has a lot of good resources for sign language, and she said that we can expect him to probably have a vocabulary of 100 to 150 signs by this time next year, with the way he's been picking up signs so fast.  She said it's really common for kids with a cleft palate (especially if it's repaired when they're a little older like TongJie is) to have their speech delayed until three years old or so.  So we're really glad that he's learning sign language so quickly because it helps us to be able to communicate with each other much easier.

This evening we went to the playground at Pioneer Park for the first time and TongJie had a great time.  It was nice and shady and not crowded at all, and most of the time we had the whole playground to ourselves.  I forgot to bring the camera though, so there are no pictures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

TongJie's sign language vocabulary

We started keeping track of TongJie's signing vocabulary, and it's now up to 20 words.  We only count words that he signs on his own, not words that he has signed once or twice just imitating Jeff or me.  Of course, those words that he hasn't quite got on his own yet will probably soon be added to the list!  Here are the 20 words that he can use in the appropriate context, more or less in the order that he learned them:

  1. more
  2. all done
  3. shoes
  4. cat
  5. mama
  6. eat
  7. dog
  8. milk
  9. daddy
  10. please
  11. diaper
  12. fan
  13. help
  14. water
  15. brush teeth
  16. pain/hurt
  17. cheese
  18. down
  19. hear
  20. clean up
It seems like once he really started using the first few words, he started picking up new ones a lot faster.  He realizes that he can communicate by signing, and it has cut down on his frustrations a lot.  He says "help please" all the time now and points to what he's trying to do.  We're proud of him!

We got a wall sticker growth chart for TongJie's room.  It's made of those wall stickers that are removable and reusable, so if we ever want to move it to a different wall we can.  I think it looks nice in his room, and sort of goes with the forest animal fabric that I used for his curtains.

I mentioned in my last post that we got some clothes and shoes at a yard sale all for $2 - you can't beat that deal!  One of the items that we got was a pair of Superman overall shorts.  Guess who was the one who picked them out?  (Hint: it's the other adult who lives in this house)  They're size 24 months and they're too big for TongJie right now, but they might be too small by next spring.  They were just too fun to pass up though.  I put them on TongJie and he wore them around for a little while at home.  It looks like they fit in the pictures because he's sitting on his car, but they don't really fit him that well yet, unfortunately.  Aren't they good lookin' overalls?

Whenever TongJie sees one of use reading, he goes and gets a book and climbs up onto the couch with it to "read" too.

He usually doesn't last too long before he gets down to find something else to do.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Popsicles and new shoes

We gave TongJie a homemade popsicle the other day when it was really hot.  He didn't eat the whole thing, but he really liked it!

He got cleaned off in the sprinkler afterwards:

I mentioned in another recent post that TongJie has learned to climb up onto chairs.  Now he likes to sit in the big chairs whenever he can.  Here are some pictures of him eating a snack of Cheerios at the table.

We went to a yard sale this morning and got some new clothes for TongJie: a couple of shirts, a pair of overalls, and a pair of shoes - all for $2!  The clothes are all in the wash, but he's already trying out the shoes this afternoon.
I think the shoes are very cute, and so is the model who's wearing them!

And here is one final picture from this morning after breakfast:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cooling off in the sprinkler and reading

TongJie had fun cooling off in the sprinkler yesterday evening before bed.

Even Caspian came over to say hello:

TongJie has been "reading" by himself lately.  He usually chooses reading material that belongs to me or Jeff, instead of one of his many children's books.  In the pictures below, he is reading Jeff's planning calendar, but he also seems to enjoy Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible.

We've been making lots of smoothies - TongJie loves them, and it's a good way to sneak in veggies since he doesn't like veggies anymore.  So the smoothies are great, but since TongJie can't use a straw yet we've been giving him his smoothie in a bowl with a spoon.  He's getting some good practice using a spoon.

And here are a couple of pictures that Jeff took the other day:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Albert's foot

Our sweet dog, Albert, got a cheat grass seed (some people call them foxtails) embedded in his paw, which then formed an abscess and turned pretty nasty.  This is the second time that has happened this summer . . . grrr!  We've been trying to check his paws regularly but I guess we missed that one.  The vet said that they've seen a really high number of cases of cheat grass in dogs' paws this summer, and we've been out walking a ton, so he probably picked it up on a walk.  Poor Albert has stitches in his paw right now from the surgery to remove the darn thing.  We're trying to keep him from licking and biting at his stitches.  A sock seems to work for awhile, but he can get it off pretty easily if he tries.

So, we ended up buying one of those cone collars for him, which he absolutely hates.  And I don't blame him.  We're trying not to use it much, unless we absolutely need to.  TongJie had to try it out, so Jeff helped him put the silly thing around his waist like a skirt.  TongJie thought it was the best!

TongJie is now big enough to climb up onto the couch and onto chairs by himself.  He's also smart, and he knows how to scoot a chair over to whatever he wants to reach, and then climb up onto the chair.  Needless to say, our days of carelessly leaving things laying around on the table and countertops are over!  TongJie has been climbing up on the couch and pretending to sleep.

And pretending to sleep on the floor, too.

In the above picture is TongJie's blanket that we sent to him in a care package last February while we were waiting to travel to China.  Actually, there are two (almost) identical blankets.  We mailed one in the care package, and we brought the other one with us when we went to China.  We didn't know if the care package would even make it to his orphanage, so it was really neat when we visited the orphanage and the director returned the blanket to us.  So now TongJie has two blankets, each with a tag with his Chinese name.  Here is the blanket we kept to bring with us to China:

And here is the blanket we sent to China, along with the photo album that was also returned to us.  I took this photo back in February, before we boxed up the care package to mail to TongJie's orphanage.
That seems like such a long time ago now.  It's hard to believe that just a few months ago, we hadn't even met our son yet!