Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Birthday Hannah

Hannah is now 4 years old! Wow!! She is having a small party this weekend, but her actual birthday was Thursday. It was a school day, but after school, we went to Sweet 'N Sassy (fun kids' salon in hoover) for a princess makeover. It was so much fun...they totally gave her the royal treatment, and she loved every minute of it. Her birthday present from me was a tutu dress. She's been asking for one for months. I gave it to her in the parking lot of Sweet N' Sassy and she changed before she went in. Here's some photos of her "Pampered Princess" treatment.

Loving her tutu dress! (before princess treatment)

Look at all these choices of nail polish colors! (She chose a light green)

Getting her manicure

Foot soak before her pedicure (This is the part I was jealous of! ha! She loved it!)

Getting her pedicure

Ah - this is the life!!

Getting hair washed

Princess haircut

Checking out her new haircut

Princess Hannah making her debut!

Princess Hannah

Seated on her throne

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing in the Rain

As our other Alabama / Georgia bloggers know, it has been HOT HOT here lately. With highs in the range of 101 - 105, we've spent a lot of time inside. So, when we got a "cold spell" this week (think highs 91-95) due to some rain showers, we couldn't resist going out to play in the rain.

Here she is, dressed in her raincoat and kitty boots.

Close-up of kitty boots (turned sideways, I know)

This is fun!!

THIS is more fun though!! (Notice, even though she lost the raincoat AND her clothes, she still has on the boots! Must keep those feet dry even if everything else gets wet! ha!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baseball Girl

We picked up a bat and ball the other day at the dollar store and Hannah has loved it. She's actually gotten to where she hits the ball more than she doesn't when I throw it to her, which I think is impressive. Of course, we don't have pics of that because I can't pitch her the ball and take pictures at the same time! But, when she wanted to play longer than I did (it's hot you know!), I taught her to put the ball on a milk jug and hit it. Then, I sat back and watched.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

School, Feelings, and Donny


School has begun. Hannah has adjusted beautifully. She once again loves her class and her teachers. She did cry today (on the 6th day of school) for the first time, but not when I dropped her off. She cried when it was time for speech (which is was the first one. She has always cried the first time she's gone to speech anywhere..she never cries the second time) for just a little. And she cried when her class went to they gym. For the first time, I wasn't there. Our classes have the gym at the same time. So I always see her there. But today, I had stayed in my room to deal with a situation I needed to handle and sent my class on without me (with my aides of course!). So, Hannah saw my class and not me and when I got there she was crying. But, after a quick hug, she was fine and ready to go play. That happened several times last year where I needed to not be in the gym, and it usually didn't bother her. But, she's still new at this school so not quite as confident I guess. Though, you'd never know it by her attitude the rest of the day. She marches in her classroom and announces "I'm here!". She parades down the hall with me before and after school (as we're heading to her room and leaving) and stops EVERYONE to say "hey! I got a new backpack. It's sparkly!".

She is getting pretty good at talking about her feelings these days. Which is also kind of funny. She's always SHOWN her feelings, and it's neat to see her now name them. "I am happy". "I sad", "It's scaring me", "I mad!". Today after school, I asked her if she went to speech. Here's our conversation:

Me: "Did you go to speech today?"
H: "Yes"
Me: "Did you have fun?'
H: "Yes" (she really did too, once she got past the first few minutes)
Me: "What did you do there?"
H: "I cry. I sad"
Me: "Why were you sad?
H: "I miss my class".

On the way home, she was happily chit chatting about other things such as her snack, circle time, etc. Then she got quiet for a while. And then she said "mommy, I sad in gym. I missed you". So, we talked about how I was sorry she was sad, and sometimes I had to do work in my classroom for a few minutes, but I was still at school and would see her later. And then she was fine, off on some other conversation about drawing with chalk in art.

Later she started telling me about a little boy in her class (who she named, but I won't) who touched her and she didn't like it. (He wasn't being mean, she was just in one of those moods at the moment I guess and didn't want him to touch her). I said "Did you tell him 'please stop?'. She said "NO WAY! Keep hands to yourself! Be nice Hannah!" (translated: "no way! I said keep your hands to yourself. Be nice to Hannah!")

Hannah's speech and language still has a good ways to go, but I've been reminded this week just how far she has come! That she can not only tell me what she did at school, but answer some simple questions (though that one is still hard for her), and even describe how she was feeling. That is amazing to me!

(this cool bus loft is in my classroom. Hannah loves it and plays on it after school while I finish whatever I need to do before we head home)

As far as MY first week at school: I love my school, the people I work with, and the kids. I do have a challenging group this year, but that's okay. I had REALLY easy classes the last two years. I guess God knew I needed a break during the time I was doing the paperwork and in Hannah's first year home. And it was very nice that I had that. But now He's said "hey, I got some kids I need you to work with. Get busy!". And that's good, because I like a challenge.

Speaking of Hannah expressing her feelings, she has two "mad faces". One is her genuine mad face that kids get when they are really mad. But the other is her "I want you to think I'm mad, but I'm really not" face. When I tell her to do something that she doesn't particularly want to do, or she asks for something she can't have, she gets this look on her face:

(This one was "staged", but it's pretty close to what I actually get spontaneously!)

I think at first, she really thought this look intimidated me. But now, if I just look at her and wait, she can't hold it in for long. She'll break out into a big smile and start laughing. Then, we move on to whatever it was she was supposed to be doing. I must say, it's a FAR better thing for both of us then the meltdowns and mini-meltdowns of her early days and better than the whining of her later days. Not to say those NEVER occur, but now they are reserved for when she's really tired or REALLY upset over something. So, my friends who just returned from Wuhan with your own strong-willed children: take heart! The "fall apart everytime they're told no" thing won't last forever! :-)

And who is Donny from the title of this post? Well, tonight Hannah wanted to look at her "China pictures". So we did. And we looked at the ones her foster parents had taken with the disposable camera I'd sent to her. We've looked at them before, but not in a while. All the pictures are of just Hannah except one that includes an older boy (maybe 7ish). I've always thought that was her foster brother. I know she had a foster brother that was older and the orphanage director had said that was who she was most attached to. But, when I showed Hannah the pictures earlier, she did not react to the picture of this boy at all. And her language wasn't to the point she could really explain or answer questions about what she remembered. Now, I honestly don't know if she remembers much about her foster family or not. I wish I had pictures of them for her, but that's not allowed from her orphanage. But, I really do think this boy is her foster brother. So anyway, we were flipping through the pictures and when we got to that one, Hannah said "Look!". I asked "who is that?". She said "that..that..that..somebody else". I asked "was he your brother in China? Did he live in your house in China?". She said yes. (but I don't really know if she really remembers or was just answering that way). I asked "What was his name?". Her answer: "His name Donny". Ha! I don't know where she heard the name Donny, but I really doubt that was his name. Although, I'd love to know if in fact his name was something Chinese that sounded kind of like that..hmm..some questions may just always be unanswered.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Good-Bye Summer

It seems like this end of the summer has been so busy! Unfortunately, my camera has not been quite as busy so I don't have pictures of all of our fun events. But, I do have some.

Two weeks ago, I went to Tuscaloosa for Alabama's Wesley Foundation reunion. I was very involved in Wesley in college and have many good friends from there still. It was fun to see everyone again and Hannah enjoyed playing with all the other kids. Our group's kids now range in age from infancs (5 weeks old) through 18, so it's quite a group. The oldest is starting college at Alabama this fall. That's one that makes you feel old - when the people you went to college with are sending their kids to college. Of course, his parents were graduate students when I was a freshman, but still...

A couple days later, Hannah and I got to meet some new friends for dinner. Beth (not the same Beth that went to China with me) is a friend I actually "met" on a yahoo group for parents who have adopted children with cleft palates internationally. Beth adopted two girls from India, and her youngest one (2 years old) had a cleft palate. They were in Birmingham for her cleft clinic follow-up visit. I enjoyed getting to visit wtih their family and Hannah enjoyed both girls.

Last weekend, we went to Lifeline's annual China families reunion. We had so much fun hanging out with everyone and getting to meet new friends as well. And I finally got to meet Sonya Hodge and her daughter Katie Lin. I *feel* like I've known them forever through their blog. Sonya said she though everyone seemed smaller when you met them in person. I really think she meant *Hannah* was smaller, but I decided that it could mean *I* was smaller too! ha! Katie Lin is just as cute in person as she is in all the pictures I've seen. We also got to see Rebecca again. This next picture is Rebecca and Hannah. Rebecca was our guide for the 2nd part of our trip to China and was FABULOUS! She was at the reunion, so I was glad to see her. Rebecca was the one that so helped me out when Hannah was melting down on the sidewalks in Guangzhou by "shooing" all the well-meaning but not helpful other people away who were all trying to see what was wrong and give Hannah candy!.

Then, in the middle of last week, Hannah and I headed to the Shelby County Courthouse to *finally* finish her re-adoption. I've basically procrastinated it all year just because it was never on the list of "urgent" things that had to be done. But, I decided at the beginning of the summer, that I would finish this summer. I did, barely. Our court date was July 31st. It was very informal and very quick. Just so you know, a re-adoption in the US is not actually required when you adopt from China (except in certain situations like when a married couple adopts and only one parent travels to china). But, it is highly reccomended because it's the only way to get an Alabama birth certificate. Now, if you're like me when I heard that, you may wonder, why on earth would a girl born in China need an Alabama birth certificate? She obviously wasn't born in Alabama. Well, anytime an official birth certificate is needed (passport, drivers license, to pass a homestudy to adopt a child!, whatever), it would be a total pain to try to get one from China or convince all these goverment agencies to accept a copy of a birth certificate written in Chinese (although I do have a translation!). So, now she'll have a local place to get official birth certificates. It's all very fascinating to me. Before I started the adoption process, I just had no idea that a little girl born in Wuhan, China could have a birth certificate from Shelby County, Alabama. It also legally changes her name. I actually though we'd done that in China. The adoption decree in China lists her American name and her Certificate of Citizenship from the US goverment lists her American name. But social security would not. They had to have a US Birth Certificate to give her a card in her American name. And so, since her social security card is in her Chinese name, she is officially enrolled in school under her Chinese name as well (but most people don't even know that...just the registrar because she keeps the computer record). Now that her readoption is done, I will wait about 6 weeks to get her new birth certificates and then I can go hang out in the social security office in Birmingham for hours (last time anyway) to get a new card in her *new* name. Then, I can turn all that in to the school and they'll change her name here. Seems like a lot of paperwork to me! Anyway, the actual court appearance was quick and smooth. This lady pictured with Hannah is a probate clerk, I think. The judge wasn't there, but I was assured everything was still legal. She was very nice and made Hannah feel very comfortable in the courtroom. Honestly, to me this whole process was just kind of a formality. But, I took a couple pictures just because I felt like I should. The funniest part of the whole thing was that Hannah LOVED all the women's shoes. You know, people who work in a courthouse wear nice, high-heeled shoes. Hannah kept pointing and saying "those are my favorite". At one point as we were leaving, she was on her hands and knees before I knew what was happening. I turned and looked at her, just as she was lifting some strange woman's pants leg up to admire her high heeled shoes. She just said "wow! these my favorite!". We hurried out of there after a quick apology to the woman, who thankfully was good-natured about it all. I've since infomed Hannah (and role-played) that it is fine for her to admire someone's shoes and say "I like your shoes" but she can NOT get on the floor to do it and she can not touch their shoes at all, especially if we don't know the person.

The next day, we headed to the Adoption Clinic for Hannah's one year follow up. Everything went well and the time we spent with the OT / developmental specialists was especially valuable to me. Because she has also adopted a child from China who was older (not a baby) and had a cleft-palate, she is very in-tune with what to look for. We mostly focused on Hannah's expressive language. That seems to be the only area of concern (other than articulation of speech sounds which she didn't test because we already know that). I was able to get some good suggestions of things to watch for and work on.

A couple days later, my mom came in town and we spent a whole day shopping. (except for the trip back home for a quick nap for Hannah and actually I went back out shopping while my mom stayed with Hannah while she slept). We had fun and both got "back to school clothes". That's the great thing about being a teacher - you can still go "back to school shopping"!

The next day (yesterday), we spent the day at the zoo for their "UAB Cleft and Craniofacial Family fun Day". It was a lot of fun and very well done. We were greeted at the entrance with a table for registration where we got admission bracelets and train tokens. Once in the zoo, we headed straight back where a huge tent was set up and lunch was provided. So, we ate lunch, got free t-shirts, and then headed off to enjoy the zoo. Hannah *really* wanted to see the hippo. Mainly because of the reaction she got every time she tried to say hippopotamus. It cames out more like hippippyponamus. ha! We finally found it under the water cooling off. We saw several animals, rode the train, and spent a good bit of time at the water play area. Before we left we stopped back by the tent for cold drinks and a goody bag they provided the children.

It was so much fun because we kept running into other families with their admission bracelets that identified them as a family with a child with a cleft lip / palate or other craniofacial disorder. It was neat talking to all the different families and hearing a wide variety of experiences. We ran into a couple other China adoptive families too. I was watching all these beautiful, healthy, happy children running around the zoo, splashing in the water, and playing and I was struck by how much we all have to be thankful for with our medical care and insurance systems here in the U.S. I've complained about insurance before, and about medical care before, but really, compared to most of the world, we are so fortunate. A surgery to close a cleft in China and other developing countries is so very expensive for most families. Many can't afford it and it's not unusual for them to either abandon a child they can't provide for in hopes that someone else will provide, or sometimes, keep the child but not provide the medical care. That's a decision no parent should have to make. But, it happens more than we would like to believe. Hannah's lip was repaired because she was in the care of an orphanage that worked very closely with Amity Foundation - a charitable group. Her palate was repaired because I live here in the US and I have insurance. I know there are older children in China (and other countries as well) walking around with unrepaired cleft lips or other facial issues, even as teenagers. That just shouldn't happen with the medical knowledge and technology we have today. I was reminded to not take it for granted and be thankful.

Well, in the midst of all that activity, our air conditioner also went out for 2 days. (And many many thanks for our friend Denise who let us stay in her home!). Thankfully, it is fixed now and turned out to be an "easy fix". And, I've been spending as much time at school as I can getting ready for a new year. I have transferred schools and will be at a new shool. Hannah will be coming with me and will once again, be in the class right next door. Although I was happy at my previous school and will miss the friends I have there, this was a move that I just felt was right, for several reasons. I'm excited about the new year, which is a good thing because it officially starts tomorrow. We have two days of teacher-only days and then our students come Wednesday. So, with that, summer is now officially over for me! It's been fun, and now new adventures await. This last picture is one I just like, posted for no special reason except I realize there's lots of words and few pictures in this post.