Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Update

Today is Wednesday, August 12, 2015.  It's hard to believe it's already the middle of August!  Ezekiel has been in our family for six weeks now, and we've been home from China for a month.  The time is already flying by, and I know it will continue to do so more and more, so we are trying to make the most of every minute of our family time together this summer.  

Ezekiel is progressing by leaps and bounds in his eating, and now he sits in his high chair and eats meals with the rest of the family every time.  He does not always eat what the rest of us are eating - sometimes he will just eat one of his healthy muffins (we've tried zucchini/banana, carrot/apricot, beet/apricot, and zucchini/carrot, and so far he likes them all) - but it's becoming more common for him to eat a chopped-up version of whatever we're eating.  He still loves his bottle, and we give it to him usually four times a day still.  But the way he's eating is really quite amazing compared to just a month ago - we did not imagine he'd make progress so quickly!

He says several words now: Dada, Mama, gege ("guh guh" - big brother in Mandarin), "uh" (up), "duh" (down, or done), "buh" (this is his catch-all word that usually means he wants something, or wants more), "dodo" (doggie, for Albert), and "nar nar" (bottle - that's what they call it in China),

He gets around really well by walking, but still crawls sometimes, especially if it's in an unfamiliar setting.  He's pretty good at catching his balance if he starts to fall, but he does crash into things sometimes although not as much as we expected for a kid with impaired vision.  Ezekiel has started to wear his hat sometimes, but only if we make him keep it on and he cries for the first few minutes and then resigns himself to the fact that he has to wear it.  It's not always practical to use an umbrella to shade his head from the sun, like if he's in a swing for instance.  Or if we forget the umbrella, ha ha.  We're still working on trying to get him to wear sunglasses, but that's not as important as the hat, since the sunglasses are mostly just for his own comfort in the bright outdoors.  

TongJie, for the most part, has been settling into his role as "gege" (big brother) quite well, and that includes getting jealous of Ezekiel and bothering him a lot (and reveling in the fact that Ezekiel is crying yet again), but also making him laugh, helping him, and bringing him toys.  It's funny how very different their personalities are.  TongJie, although quite competitive, is generally pretty easygoing about most things and it's usually not too hard to convince him to do things that we want him to do.  Ezekiel, on the other hand, is very strong willed and definitely NOT easy to please (at least not yet)!  I'm sure we'll see more and more of his personality come out as we get to know him better and he becomes more comfortable with us.  But I think it's safe to say that he's going to be strong willed.

Here are some pictures of what we've been doing lately:

Ezekiel eating some beet apricot puree - yum! 

TongJie playing in the water in our backyard on a hot day

TongJie likes to play with his train set in the carport where Ezekiel can't mess it up

TongJie and I slept out in our shed the other night - sort of like backyard camping, but without having to set up the tent :)

Jeff and the kids at Smallwoods

Ezekiel on the swing at Smallwood's

On a walk to Wenatchee Valley College - they have lots of nice grassy areas

Ezekiel having fun

TongJie and his car for the zucchini race at the farmers' market

Ezekiel in the swing in our backyard

More swinging - at Pioneer Park

TongJie at Pioneer Park

Both of them can ride in the stroller

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26 - What we've been up to lately

We've had Ezekiel in our family for a month now, as of Saturday.  He's learning new things all the time, and we're all getting more and more used to our new family dynamic.  Just as suddenly as Ezekiel began walking, he suddenly began eating some real food last Tuesday, much to our amazement (and relief)!  TongJie and I decided to try making some muffins, since Ezekiel seemed to be getting slightly more tolerant of bready things.  I figured we could sneak a lot of nutritious ingredients into the muffins that would give Ezekiel some much-needed nutrients.  Up till then, we could only get him to eat (drink) formula with some rice cereal mixed in, and the Gerber Puffs or Baby Mum Mums which contain barely any calories or nutrients because they're mostly air.  Our first batch of muffins was zucchini and banana, and we broke off some little pieces of the muffin to put in Ezekiels mouth.  After spitting out the first couple of bites, he finally was able to keep one in his mouth, and I guess he decided he liked it.  The funny thing is, after he realized he could eat the muffin, he's been getting a lot better about trying other textures as well.  He's eaten some yogurt, baby food, beans, and peaches, with mild to moderate success.  But the muffins have been his new favorite food, which is great!  TongJie helped me make a second batch and we tried sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, and banana.  I also significantly reduced the amount of sweetener (we use maple syrup), and Ezekiel still likes them!  He's even beginning to be able to pick up pieces of food with his hands and put them into his mouth.

We had an appointment on Monday with Dr. Bledsoe at the University of Washington Medical Center.  Dr. Bledsoe specializes in international adoption, so she is very knowledgeable about children who come from orphanages and their unique medical situations and needs.  She is the same doctor who reviewed Ezekiel's medical file with us over the phone back in November when we were first matched with him.  Dr. Bledsoe has a few other patients who are children with albinism also adopted from China, so she seems like a really good doctor for Ezekiel for the next few months until we transition him to a local pediatrician here.  She was really impressed with Ezekiel's growth and development and thinks he's doing great, so that was good to hear!  He is in the 50th percentile for both height and weight, which is quite impressive for a child who has been in an orphanage in China.  The not so fun part of the appointment was when Ezekiel had to get shots and then get a lot of blood drawn.  We were expecting the car ride to be just horrible, but it actually wasn't too bad.  TongJie stayed with my parents that day, so he had a fun day with Grandpa and Grandma and didn't have to ride all the way to Seattle and back with a grumpy baby.  As it turned out, Ezekiel slept a lot of the way, so he wasn't crying the entire time.  I sat in the back seat with him, so that helped a lot too.  Since that day, we haven't had as much success with the car.  Pretty much every time he gets in, he cries and screams the whole time.  It makes it no fun to go anywhere with him, but there's nothing we can do because he just has to get used to it.  TongJie puts up with it pretty well, but he did ask me on the way to church this morning, "Mama, can you make Ezekiel stop crying?"  . . . I wish I could.  It's the kind of screamy, frantic cry that just puts everyone on edge.  Earplugs do help a little.

Ezekiel is walking really well now, and even walks on his own outside.  It's hard to tell how his vision is.  I think it really depends on the lighting, because sometimes it seems like he can see pretty well, but sometimes it's obvious that he just doesn't see stuff that other people do.  His depth perception is very inaccurate, so usually he can see if something is in his path but can't tell exactly how close it is.  He's pretty good about being cautious when he's walking or crawling.  At first we were watching him closely and always ready to intervene when we thought he was going to hit his head on stuff, but we realized that he doesn't hit things that often so we've become a lot more relaxed about letting him wander around and explore things.

I took Ezekiel to church for the first time this morning and he was a little overwhelmed but did great.  TongJie, who loves to dress up and usually wears ties or bow ties to church, wanted Ezekiel to wear a bow tie to church too.  The bow tie didn't stay on Ezekiel much longer than the time it took for me to take a couple photos of the boys.  I told TongJie he's going to have to work at convincing Ezekiel to like bow ties, ha ha!  TongJie has really been doing a good job of being a big brother.  It's a difficult adjustment for him, but he's been doing quite well, especially the last few days.  He likes to try to make Ezekiel laugh, and he's so helpful to run and bring toys to Ezekiel to try to make him stop crying.  I took a picture of them walking together in our backyard.  Ezekiel still doesn't want to have anything to do with holding hands with TongJie, but he sometimes tolerates TongJie holding his wrist and walking with him.  They're pretty cute together!

I feel like I'm starting to get back into a normal routine again with stuff other than taking care of a new kid.  I've gone running twice now with Ezekiel in the stroller.  The first time was much more successful because I just ran in our neighborhood, so no driving was involved.  The second time, I decided to try going to the loop trail, so that meant putting Ezekiel in the dreaded car seat, then the stroller, and then the car seat again.  That did not go so well, so next time I'll just take him around the nearby streets again.  I've also had a chance to sew two tee shirts for Ezekiel lately.  I've not been brave enough to try the kind with a normal neckline yet because I'm afraid his big old head won't fit through the neck opening, so I've made both of them with the envelope style of neck opening.  I don't like that kind as much, but it looks okay for a baby shirt, and at least I know I can easily get it over his head!  TongJie helped me with the design on one of the shirts.  We taped a random diagonal design on the front piece with strips of painter's tape (after I cut the fabric but before sewing), then dabbed paint all over it by dipping crumpled up newspaper into the paint.  When the paint was dry, we peeled off the tape, and it turned out pretty neat.  TongJie loves to do painting projects, so he really got into it and had a great time.  Now I want to do one for TongJie, but all he wants is a Thomas shirt!  We've also been going for walks as a family and that has been fun.  Ezekiel is hit or miss with the stroller - it depends on what kind of mood he's in if he's going to scream the whole time or be okay in it.  TongJie sometimes gets a little jealous because he wants to be in HIS stroller.  We thought maybe he'd be thinking that riding in a stroller is too babyish now that he's almost five, but that's not the case.  A couple times, I've carried TongJie in the Ergo pack on my back while Jeff has pushed Ezekiel in the stroller, and TongJie likes that a lot.  He looks kind of funny in the Ergo pack now that he's getting taller - his legs look so long dangling down like that.

Here's some pictures of what we've been up to:

Ezekiel at his doc appointment last week
Trying some yogurt - he successfully took a few bites before spitting it out
Dressed up for church in their bow ties.  Ezekiel does not feel the same way about bow ties as TongJie :)
Getting ready to go running
We went to Smallwood's and TongJie had a great time in the "trike track"
TongJie still fits in the bumblebee swing at Smallwood's!
Ezekiel would only go in the wagon if he was on my lap.
Checking out a leaf in the back yard
TongJie and Ezekiel walking together in the back yard
Going for an evening walk
One of the shirts I made for Ezekiel
The other shirt I made for Ezekiel - this is the one TongJie helped me with

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday, July 16 - Already walking!

We've gone for a few walks now, and I think it's safe to say that Ezekiel feels the same way about his stroller as he does about his car seat: he hates it at first (usually lots of crying is involved), but then seems to get used to it and ends up being okay during the trip.  TongJie has been enjoying being outside and riding his bike and stuff; we all really missed that when we were in China.

In the stroller for the first time - this is after Ezekiel had calmed down :)

TongJie on his balance bike

All of us on our first walk together, photo taken by Lisa Stroming as we were walking by their house

We also set up our slack line in our backyard the other day, which is another way for TongJie (and me and Jeff) to get some exercise and work on balance and coordination.  It was a Christmas present from my parents and is really fun!
TongJie walking on the slack line (he used to call it the "snack line," but now he says it the right way)

Ezekiel is wearing the little shoes that TongJie used to wear.  I thought they might be too small for Ezekiel, since he's quite a bit bigger than TongJie was, but apparently his feet are not as big as the rest of him.  If the shoe fits . . .
Ezekiel wearing the shoes - his little legs are a bit chubbier than TongJie's were

This is a photo I found of TongJie wearing the same shoes when we very first bought them.  They looked a little newer back then.  They've gotten some good use I'd say.
The big news from the last couple of days is that Ezekiel is walking now, all of a sudden!  It's kind of weird, like it just clicked for him and suddenly he knew he could walk on his own.  With TongJie, it was like a couple steps at a time between me and Jeff, and with a lot of coaxing he slowly worked up to being able to walk more than two or three steps.  With Ezekiel, I think developmentally he was more ready to walk, but the reason he wasn't trying much was because of his low vision.  Once he got the layout of our house figured out, he got brave enough to walk where he wants to go.  The only place he's walked so far without holding onto someone's hand is in our living room and kitchen.  I'm trying to post a video, so hopefully it will work.
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Speaking of videos, I'm going to try to post one more because it cracks me up every time I watch it.  TongJie got out his collection of musical instruments this evening and put some bells around his ankles and then proceeded to gather up all the jingly instruments he could hold in his hands and was doing a very loud and silly dance.  The funniest part is how Ezekiel is just sitting in the background looking so serious and confused.  He wasn't really scared or anything, it's just funny how he looks in the video.

Finally, a picture of both boys this evening sitting on the kitchen floor, each with a light-up baby toy that plays music.  They were each holding the toy up to their ear to hear the music, and it sort of looked like they were trying to talk to each other on the phone.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday, July 13 - Starting to settle in

It sure is nice to be home as a family of four.  I think kids must get over jet lag faster than adults, because TongJie seems to be completely back to normal by now, and me and Jeff are still having a hard time sleeping at night.  For the past two nights, both boys have slept in their shared room - Ezekiel in his crib, and TongJie either in his toddler bed or on the floor (he often prefers the floor, maybe because it's cooler, and sometimes will go back and forth between bed and floor a couple times in one night).  Ezekiel has been waking up in the middle of the night, thinking it's time to get up.  I remember TongJie doing that, too, when we first came home from China when he was a baby.  Probably because when it's the middle of the night here, it's the afternoon in China, and time to wake up from naptime.  It has been taking a few hours of being up with Ezekiel before we can get him to fall back asleep, so it's usually been around 3:00 or so when he's finally back in his crib sleeping.  Luckily, TongJie has not been woken up by Ezekiel waking up in the middle of the night.  But once me and Jeff are done getting Ezekiel back to sleep, we can't go to sleep!  It's very frustrating to be laying in bed, trying to sleep, and seeing it slowly begin to get light outside, knowing that your kids will be up in a few hours and you haven't slept one wink yet.  At least we've managed to get a couple hours in every night, and Jeff has taken naps while Ezekiel is napping in the afternoon.  It's going much better this time around than when TongJie was a baby, so we can't complain.

We went on a short excursion in the car to the post office this morning so Ezekiel can start getting used to the car seat.  He sure can cry and scream loudly!  This time, though, he didn't scream quite as long as last time, so that's encouraging.  He'll get used to it soon, I'm sure.  We're going to try out the stroller this evening to go for a walk and TongJie can ride his bike.  I'm sure Ezekiel will not be a fan of the stroller either, but he'll have to get used to it too.

The big news in TongJie's life is that he got a new train set!  It all started about a year ago when we found a "Trackmaster" Thomas train set at a yard sale for I think $10, so we bought it secretly, knowing what a great deal it was, and thinking we'd give it to TongJie for his 4th birthday in September.  We bought it so hurriedly that we didn't get much of a look at it until after TongJie was in his car seat and I checked it out more closely in the back.  We then realized that the engines required batteries, and we were a little disappointed, because TongJie (at the time) was not really the kind of kid who liked to sit and let trains run around the tracks on their own - he preferred to push the trains himself.  Anyway, we'd already bought it and we knew what a good deal we got, so we figured we'd just hold onto it.  As luck would have it, that same day, we went to another yard sale and found ANOTHER Thomas train set, but this one was the wooden rail kind, with little magnetic wooden engines that could be pushed around the tracks.  So, we secretly bought the wooden one as well, and that's the one that we ended up giving TongJie for his fourth birthday, and it's gotten lots of good use to be sure!  Over the past several months, he has learned about the Trackmaster sets by seeing them in stores and stuff, and he has really been wanting one.  So, before we left for China, Jeff and I decided that we would give the hidden Trackmaster set to TongJie as a surprise when we returned from our trip.  We gave it to him on Saturday morning after he woke up, and he loves it so much!  He has been playing with it almost constantly for the past few days, and he must have said "Mama?  Daddy?  Thank you for the train set!" at least 15 times on Saturday.  He's such a fun kid!

The weather has been nice (not too hot, like it was here the entire time we were in China), so we've been out in our nice shaded backyard.  Ezekiel seems to enjoy being outside, and we're really grateful that we have nice big shade trees so he can easily stay in the shade.
At the Hong Kong airport

At the Hong Kong airport
The first night we got home, TongJie and I slept on our sofa bed.  I was so exhausted, I didn't even put any sheets on!  This is TongJie the next morning.
TongJie eating rice at home with his new "invention" - he's holding a spoon and a fork together, apparently to make eating more efficient.

Outside at home

Ezekiel walking in our back yard

The new Trackmaster train set!
Me and Ezekiel at home

Looking out the window right after Ezekiel got up this morning.

I tried out cloth diapers with Ezekiel for the first time today, and he doesn't seem to mind them.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday, July 11 - Home again!

Friday morning, we took a taxi from our hotel in Hong Kong to the airport and checked in for our flight around 8:10.  Our flight left at 10:55, but we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get through customs and security and everything.  We ended up with plenty of time to spare, so we had lots of time to get breakfast, which everyone really needed!  The flight was about 12 and a half hours from Hong Kong to Seattle.  It's strange to leave Hong Kong on Friday morning and arrive in Seattle on Friday morning earlier than when we left - like traveling back in time!  The long flight actually went really well and both boys did a great job.  Ezekiel slept a lot and TongJie watched a lot of videos.  I made him turn off the screen to take a nap about halfway through, but he only slept for about an hour.  Neither me nor Jeff could sleep at all.  My parents met us at the airport after we went through immigration wiith Ezekiel, which didn't take very long at all (although the people who work in customs and immigrations at Seatac are not very friendly).  It was so good to be back in Washington again.  My parents drove us straight home and it was a pretty good drive, other than the first ten minutes or so when Ezekiel screamed and cried about being in his car seat, poor kid.  He slept most of the way home.  TongJie was so tired he was starting to act kind of crazy, but eventually he fell asleep too.  We got home around 1:30 and it was so good to be in our own house!  TongJie was so tired that I just put him in bed for awhile.  Me and Jeff wanted to stay up till at least 6:00 before getting everyone to bed.  We were so tired, we barely made it to 5:30.  We each took a kid and went to separate areas of the house - me and TongJie on our sofa bed in the living room, and Jeff and Ezekiel in our bedroom on the bed.  I let TongJie play with some of his trains on the bed so I could sleep.  Ezekiel actually slept pretty well most of the night, but after the first few hours, the rest of us couldn't sleep.  We all stayed in our beds in the dark.  Me and TongJie finally fell asleep around 4:00, and slept till 6:30 and I made some breakfast for us.  Jeff and Ezekiel were still sleeping.  TongJie went and layed down again after we ate, and then we both fell asleep till Jeff and Ezekiel got up at 9:30.  So I'd say it was a pretty successful first night!  We're not too worried about Ezekiel getting attached to sleeping in our bed since he's such a good sleeper.  I think we'll be able to start putting him into his crib pretty soon, but we'll see what happens.

No pictures today, I'm on my iPad and don't have any of our pictures on here.  Thanks for following on our exciting journey!  It's so good to be home!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thursday, July 9 - Train to Hong Kong

Hey, we're in Hong Kong now so I can finally see our blog and I've been reading the comments from people!  As you may remember, many websites are blocked in China, including Blogger (the website for this blog) so we've been emailing the blog posts to our blog even though we couldn't access it.  But now that we're out of mainland China, those sites aren't blocked anymore.  And I can add more than four photos to a blog post!

We checked out of our hotel at 9:00 this morning and took a bus to the train station.  Helen is super nice and she went with us all the way to the gate of our train, and she made sure that we knew what to do once in Hong Kong and how to get to our hotel here.  Although it may have had a tinge of sadness to leave the Garden Hotel where we've stayed for the past couple of weeks, mostly we were happy to leave because we're one step closer to being home!  I do feel sad for Ezekiel though, especially when I was putting him to bed last night and thinking about it being his last night in China and he doesn't even know it and won't remember anything about this.  Adoption is in some ways very joyful and happy, but in many ways it's also quite sad.  For Ezekiel, I think he will have some especially unique challenges that even TongJie will never have to deal with.  At least TongJie looks Chinese and can identify with other Chinese people.  Ezekiel will feel like he doesn't really fit in with either - he looks Caucasian, but he's not . . . he's Asian, but he doesn't look like it.  There will always be people who don't believe he's Chinese.  It's just something I've been thinking about as we've been getting ready to leave his old home and take him to his new home.  We plan to come back to China when both boys are older, maybe in 10 or 12 years or so.  Really, we've had a great experience here and although we're looking forward to coming home, there are things we will miss about being in China.

So, anyway, our train left around 10:45 for Hong Kong and both kids did great on the train ride.  Of course TongJie was happy to be on a train again!  We were on one with two levels and we got to sit on the upper level, so that was even better because we could see everything really well.  We sat with two young women who were from Ireland, so it was nice to sit with people who spoke English.  We had to go through customs when we got off the train and then walked to our hotel, which is right next to the train station.  Got checked into our room, and Ezekiel promptly fell asleep for a nap.  We have a much smaller room, so it's good we're only here for one night - the crib barely fits in the room!  Jeff is napping with Ezekiel and TongJie is doing a good job of playing quietly.  Tomorrow, we take a taxi to the airport and then our looooong flight home.  We will arrive in Seattle around 8:30 am on Friday morning.  The first few days at home are going to be exhausting with jet lag and getting used to how everything works at home with a new family member.  Thanks for following along on or blog - it's been quite a journey!  You probably won't hear from us on here till after we're home, so we'll "see" you all then!