Wednesday, April 23

Google breakthrough

It’s another two weeks before we take Ani back to the adoption clinic and meet with the occupational therapist. I want to know so many things, but I do not know what to even ask.

So I keep coming back to Google and refining my queries.

[I am already weary of having the “Ani doesn’t eat” conversation with people. Because I’ve had it several times now and it goes like this:

“She won’t eat? Have you tried…” And then they suggest something really obvious.

Um, yes. We have tried that. We have like, three other kids? (Did you notice? Most people notice.) We’ve been around this block.

This is different. I can’t explain how to you yet. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT MYSELF.

Do I sound snarky? I’m sorry. It stresses me out that my kid doesn’t eat.]

Here’s what I am learning:

• Feeding is a learned activity
• Hunger is instinctive; eating is not (source)

The homework we have been given so far by the OT was to get a Nuk toothbrush and get it near Ani’s mouth. Apparently to desensitize the area.

No, I don’t even know what that means.

So I began my Google search with Nuk and desensitize. And then, because I feel sure this was not something she was born with but happened because she lived in an institution, I added “international adoption.”

Best results thus far.

Ani shows signs of oral defensiveness:

Oral defensiveness occurs when solid food is not introduced on time; it can result in atrophy or lack of development of important muscles in the mouth and face, causing or exacerbating speech delays and sensory-integration disorders.

The Complete Book of International Adoption by Dawn Davenport

This page would also deem her “discomfort with bathing, with having fingernails and toenails cut” as tactile defensiveness.

Y’know, it helps me to have some terms to Google. Give me an idea of what I’m dealing with here, people.

And to just read about other families undergoing anything similar. (How much does help to know you’re not alone, right?!?)

After reading a bunch of stuff like this, I get depressed. That things like this are “a very common description in post-institutionalized children.” Because kids shouldn’t BE in institutions; they should be in homes.

So I close all my open tabs and windows and just tell Kris “hey, I think we’re dealing with ‘oral defensiveness’ and here are the symptoms…”

Monday, April 21

Easter expectations

Easter weekend supper club

Kris and I had really low Easter expectations this year. We had color-coordinated clothes for the kids, with the goal of getting a photo of all four children. That’s it. Total Easter plans.

When the kids came home from school on Thursday, Ben was bummed that he and Zoe didn’t get to have an egg hunt. (Cash had his last party at FBC that morning, but neither Kris nor I made it since we are just now back at work.)

“How about I get some eggs and we have a hunt on Saturday during supper club?”

This mollified him.

Friday morning, Zoe began looking for her white shoes, mentioning something about MawMaw’s house.

For Zoe’s first Easter, I bought her white shoes, as is Southern Tradition. And then for the next two years, she was able to wear the same low-heeled pair.

“If they aren’t in the shoe basket and they aren’t in your closet, then you probably outgrew them and I gave them away,” I told her.

But I was making a thrift store run anyway, so I made sure to go down the shoe aisle. Fortune favored my hunt, as there was a white platform sandal in Zoe’s size.

The Catoe Good Friday routine is to go on some mini-adventure since the schools are closed. Noccalula or the zoo. But Friday was so rainy, we opted to do all of our Saturday errands instead (laundry, menu-planning, grocery shopping).

So Kris took the boys fishing on Saturday morning. I hung around the house with the girls: breaking graham crackers apart for Ani in the high chair (because she’s learned how to get down from the bed) and having Zoe try on clothes to see if they fit yet (not really, but of course she wanted to wear them anyway).

When Carol and Eric arrived, they were immediately roped into plastic egg hiding.

Easter weekend supper clubEaster weekend supper club

We had 22 eggs (the store I went to only had ONE sleeve of eggs left; Cash came home with nine from his class hunt and Zoe had one a kid at school gave her). Each egg was filled with three pieces of candy.

To be as fair as possible, we told the boys to save the pink and purple eggs for Zoe. (It’s hard to have a fun egg hunt when you’re legally blind and searching at the same time as your well-visioned siblings.) And then we made them divide up the candy inside so that no matter how many eggs you scored, you got the same amount of jelly beans and egg-shaped bubble gum.

Eric also took pics, because the kids killed my phone battery watching cartoons on it. (Guys. We have TWO televisions, both of which access Netflix. Cash didn’t like it when he realized I took the Netflix app off my phone Sunday.)

Sunday morning, we got everybody clean and in their matching ensembles and took ‘em to church. A pretty, floral, happy springtime background was not an option. I knew the pic would need to be indoors to have a chance of Ani looking anywhere near the camera. We went upstairs to try and find good light and a plain-ish background.

Easter 2014

I had just finished snapping a pic of all four kids and was asking them if they wanted me to set the camera on a table and have one where Mommy and Daddy joined them when my Dad appeared in the doorway. He was instantly wrangled into taking a family photo.

Easter 2014

Zoe follows most closely in my footsteps when it comes to photos. She wanted a picture of her with GrandDad, and one by herself, and one with her sister.

Easter 2014Easter 2014Easter 2014

So I also took one of the brothers (which was cute because neither wanted a solo shot but both were immediately game for a brother pic, but they look SO SERIOUS).

Kris liked this in B&W

And then Zoe wanted to take one of Kris and I. We look SO TIRED. This is what happens from wrangling children over a 3-day weekend. Pleasant exhaustion.

Zoe wanted to take one of us

Kris’ parents took Ben and Zoe to the grands, and Cash cried at first. But he had an okay time with just Mommy, Daddy and Ani. (Wow, is having only two at a time much more serene!)

We had Jack’s for lunch, and let him pick out a toy at Dollar General. We played in the backyard, took a walk, ran into neighbors and played frisbee. Rode on Daddy’s tractor and ate an ice cream cone.


A lovely Easter.

Ani had a bit of an Easter miracle: her first bath that she did not cry through. (She has hated every bath so much that she learns to make new vocalizations in order to give her dad a better, more thorough “down the country" tellin’ to.)

And she didn’t cry when I stood her on the grass in the afternoon. (She hated the swing when I tried that, though.)

It reminded me of Frodo. We got him when he was a six-week-old kitten and then kept him inside until our vet would neuter him at six months old. After that, when he was allowed to go outside for the first time, it terrified him. Like the sky was too enormous when he was used to eight-foot ceilings.

Ani has photophobia and no depth perception. The outdoors is just too… much. Loud. Green. Uneven. BIG.

She has moments of such joy. I know it is but a matter of time before she will experience the delights of family and food, play and the outdoors.

Thursday, April 17

The Mandarin connection

I have to concede that I have no Beijing Mojo.

If you guys recall, a couple summers ago, I did a lot of poking around on Chinese search engines. I found oodles of images of Zoe.

This week, I have been looking for the Beijing orphanage. I can find nothing, except the entrance.

“Man, I was really ruined by finding Zoe in the first page of returns,” I thought to myself.

I did another Huainan search out of habit. And found ANOTHER photo of Zoe that I didn’t have. (It included a boy that was adopted the same year; I sent it to his mom, too.)

May 2010

I quit doing the Baidu searches when the girl we hoped to adopt was moved into foster care. I might try to do them every so often, because it seems you never know what an algorithm will turn up. (And if/when that girl is adopted someday, I hope to be able to send her family the photos I found.)

While I didn’t manage to find any images from the orphanage, I did locate a very small image of the paper that ran Ani’s finding ad.

Since I didn’t have a translation of the ad, I asked LWB if they had any connections. A fellow volunteer translated it for me, and now I know what it says!

I also have the characters for Ani’s Chinese name.

Everything in her file was a JPG, so I didn’t have a way to cut & paste. I knew her name was YanQi. We learned in China that they called her QiQi (pronounced sort of like “chee-chee”).

But I wanted the individual characters. I love useful websites. let me draw the characters and now I have them cut & pasted at my disposal.

So. Beijing image searches? Nada. Chinese characters of Ani’s name? Check. Finding ad translation? Check.

A reminder to be thankful for all the Huainan & LWB connections I’ve made? Check.

Monday, April 14

Skating rinks and fishing rods

First time fishing

Saturday was Elizabeth’s 8th birthday party, and it was a Girls Only celebration at the skating rink. I asked Patti if it was okay for us to just drop Zoe off. (The party was during Ani’s nap time.) She said it was, so Kris took the boys on their own adventure: fishing for the first time.

Add the ice cream cones we had to celebrate my birthday (and Kris' mom's birthday belatedly), and what a Quintessential Childhood Weekend.

Something delightful, that I should blog so I won't forget: Ani laughs herself to sleep.

We put her down at the same time as the big kids go to bed, and she cruises around the crib. She flops herself down, laughing. Kicks her feet between the slats. Shoves her feet against the wall to move the crib. Giggles.

The television in our room is in an armoire, and Ani can reach one of the doors if it's open, so she bangs it back and forth. Kris tied a piece of fishing line to keep the door out of her reach, and we've been watching TV before bed again.

We keep missing dialogue because Ani is making so much noise and laughing to herself.

"It took her an hour to go to sleep," Kris commented the other night.

"Yeah, but she wasn't crying," I pointed out. "She laughed herself to sleep."

So, Ani. Still getting to know you. You seem like a happy kid. More than one person has had this to say upon meeting you: "she has a sweet spirit." And I think, like your big sis, you like music. Song you have lit up twice to so far? "Home."

And, because she's the only one visibly absent from this post, a pic of Zoe that ETW snapped when he saw her at the Special Olympics on Friday:

Friday, April 11

Matriarch at 36


When Mama Juanita sent my birthday check last year, I saved it. I had a feeling it would be the last one. I knew I'd rather have this piece of paper than the $25. (After her death, I found this in one of mom's calendars. It's been on my bulletin board ever since.)

It struck me hard this morning that this is my first birthday without all of them.

I am the family matriarch at 36.

(You could say "but Laura, there is Kris' mom and your dad's wife..." But that is not the same. I did not grow up with them. Of my familial ladies, I'm all that's left.)

The wisteria is blooming. That always reminds me of GJ.

So are the dogwoods.

Three outta four

And Zoe's azalea.

The sadness of this morning's realization aside, I plan to have a good birthday. I mean, I painted my nails and everything. (A nice coral color to coincide with Mindy's nails at the beginning of season 1.)

Monday, April 7

Forty dollar doughnuts

Donut time

One of the Moxie's clients brought doughnuts last week, and the kids enjoyed them for dessert. I enjoyed the last two for breakfast one morning; Cash cried when he discovered this.

"Hey," I offered. "How about Daddy takes you guys to pick out your own doughnuts tomorrow while I cook dinner?"

They have done this, like, one other time. The big kids are doing so well with their little sister; we want to celebrate that.

So they went and picked out doughnuts, and then even better, Jason came by and got to have one with them. (Jason is an older kid who lives a couple streets over. The kids love it when he cuts through our backyard and like to run out and see him.)

But in the parking lot adjacent to the doughnut place, a traveling fair had set up. The kids LOVED the fair in summer 2012. (FYI, if I link old posts and the pix are broken? Blame the Flickr creeper who made a photo set of Zoe.)

We missed the fair altogether last year, so the kids were set on going to this one.

"Don't worry," Ben told them. "We'll come back on Friday."

And Kris and I are like, HEY, we're the parents, we say. (And Cash was doubtful Friday morning, as it was raining.) But fine, okay, let's hit the fair on Friday evening.


They picked the dragon coaster first and then some race cars. We were probably the only people at the fair for the first twenty minutes, so you couldn't tell what a ride was like until it started. The cars jostled them pretty well and midway through, began to go backward. Zoe did not like that, but there was no way to rescue her. But she'd rallied by the next ride.


Cash didn't ride any more, saying his stomach hurt. He just wanted to watch Ben and Zoe.


I'm glad it looks like they had fun. The mass insanity of picking up both sets of kids and then Kris and navigating the closed streets for First Friday... and wearing Ani and wondering how long she could wait for an evening bottle... and then Cash puking once we got home... and then Kris and I both getting sick in the middle of the night... yeah, looking at these pics make me queasy. I'm sure that won't always be the case.

Still, this time? I threw away the last of the doughnuts.

Monday, March 31

Ani Bo-bani


As we are wont to do, the kids get silly nicknames.

In China, Ani had the tendency to head butt us a lot. We explained this to the kids in case she did it to them.

“We should call her Princess Bony Head,” Ben declared.

We used to call Zoe “Princess Bony Hiny.” Because she always had a knack of jabbing you with some bone when she sat in your lap.

And like I used to call him Cash Potato (why? who even knows; I've never even seen an episode of the Wiggles), I have started calling her Ani Bo-bani. The kids didn’t know why, so Kris and I did several rounds of the Name Game song.

Cash LOVED this.

Cash, Cash, Bo-bash, Banana-fana fo-fash, Fee-Fi-mo-mash, Ca-ash!

We also shared Labyrinth with them. Oops, kinda scared Cash. After the movie, we got the bummer news that Ani has a parasite. Not how you wanna end a spring break.

BUT it meant we could hit the pharmacy on Saturday and Ani has now had 7 (of THIRTY) doses toward killing the thing. We have to force the medicine on her, much like with Zoe. But Kris says Ani's version does not taste as rancid. Which is helpful, since we can't stir it into anything else like we did with Zoe.

A better way to end the break: Ani took her first solo steps on Friday. Kris and I made a big deal out of it, a lot of clapping and “look at you!” But it was cool to see how excited the twins were, as well. So proud of her.

Zoe and I missed it (she with Monk on a food run and me at WalMart buying more bottles), but Kris said Ben got Ani to walk a pretty long distance at his parent’s place on Sunday afternoon.

And at church, Dylan came to find me and ask where Ani was because he wanted to see “Ben’s baby.”

Wee one, you have so many champions now.

Sometimes, it’s a team effort. I still can’t smell, so the kids have been sniff testers to see if there is a “booty bomb” that needs changing. As I cleaned her up this morning, I realized I left her shoes upstairs, so Zoe and Ben went to fetch them.

Today is her first day at FBC. Kris said Cash talked about this very excited on the way, that they would be at the same school. (Until August anyway!)

I think she’s warming up to us, though she also seems pretty indifferent. I like that this hasn’t deterred her siblings. They just keep loving on her.

We keep talking about how much we have to teach her: to walk, to eat, to speak, to play, what a family is.

“First we have to teach her love,” Ben informed me on Sunday.

Yeah, Ben. First we teach her love.

(Seriously, I am SO PROUD of my Big Kids. Especially the Benster on how effortlessly he takes to sisters.)