27 February 2009

Willow's First Surgery Tomorrow, March 2nd

Take a moment to gaze at the beautiful little precocious vixen pictured below. If you've been following this blog, you, too, may have become accustomed to this face... You, too, may mourn the loss of the face you've come to love as as Bao Bei Bubelah embarks on her surgery journey. To remind you, all the parts are there: there is just "some assembly required."

Twenty pounds (head 10, body 10).
Obviously Willow is a baby who was born with a bilateral cleft. She is scheduled to have her first surgery on Monday 2 March (at noon), during which her orthodontic surgeon (with the assistance of her plastic surgeon) will place an ortho-cleft retainer (using screws) along her upper teeth and palate to move her teeth and gums back into alignment. The presurgical orthopaedic appliance--using a blend of physics and art--will be in place for the next three weeks. On March 22nd, they will remove this device, and at the same time, the plastic surgeon will repair her upper lip. Her surgery is at Gillette Children's Specialty Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is an out-patient procedure, so we should be home that evening.
Prayers for weeWillow on Monday will be appreciated. It is expected that she will be in a lot of pain, post-surgery (her upper gumline will be moved quite a bit while she is in the operating room, using wires, force, and skill). Ouch (try braces x 1,000). After a few days, she should be feeling okay? For the next three weeks, she will be wearing something called "no-nos", which go over each arm and covering the elbow to prevent her from being able to bend her arms (and touch her mouth). Some kids go with the no-no flow; some are wild little animals trying to take them off :)
I've been cooking and pureeing in preparation, and have concocted something I am loosely calling Baked Willow Lasagna Casserole (organic: ground beef, garlic, ricotta cheese, little round pasta rings, mozzarella cheese, and sauce). She can pack quite a bit into her pie hole (see below). She's also been scarfing pureed mango-blueberry-raspberry mix, with a little acai berry juice to put the antioxidant level about as high as it can go (the photo doesn't capture the depth of color ... the taste is so deep and complex). And, of course, we've got pureed hotdogs (nitrate and preservative free) mixed with basmati congee in the freezer as well. I'd love an idea for yummy green vegetables, too? (I gave her edamame, but she peels off the outer layer and throws the inner beans at the dogs). She doesn't like cookies; she's got a sodium tooth instead.

First bite of Willow Casserole ...

And, soon thereafter ... there wasn't much left.

Puree of mango-blueberries-raspberry frozen fruit mixture from Trader Joe's.
Have we told you lately how much we love her? She is wild abandonment. She is shrieking joy. She is bubbling over with love and happiness. She is mischief and mayhem. When not picked up, she is crocodile tears. Her batteries get recharged by hugs of reassurrance and security. She is overjoyed by the dogs and watching them play. She is stealth while attempting to tease them. She is quiet cuddles and baby kisses. She is foot-stomping and hand flailing when her music plays on the speakers. When asleep, she is fitfull. When awake, hypervigilant. May we tell you again how much we love her?

Future national park ranger.

Those who know me well are aware that I have a scarf fetish. It is genetic, carried on the x chromosome (the affliction was passed down by my Mother, who is double recessive). I've managed to get a few scarves onto Willow (around her waist) ... then it hit me, in a flash of brilliance (after purchasing some cute bibs on Etsy)... Why not spice up Willow's daily attire with a scarf-like bib! (image below) Although I should have been cleaning or attending to paperwork during her nap, instead I was obsessed with making a chintz bib (for drool, not food) to match that day's attire. Now that I have the kinks worked out, I should be able to whip out some more and spice up her attire much more frequently.

Chintz bib-scarf.
More pictures below ...
This may be one of my favorite pictures of Willow ...

Earlier in the day, while she still had pants on.

Pink Teddy basking in the luxury of the new "Rosebud" minky blanket I made for Willow (its softness can't be captured in a picture). Teddy likes it better than Willow does, though.

Running back to Mommy, after looking out the window at the new snowfall.

We sent the orphanage camera's this past November so that they could take pictures of Willow and document a small portion of her life before we became a family. We believe that the woman in the picture below is the woman who was most attached to Willow, and vice versa. The nannies ("ayi") have many children to care for, but certain relationships are formed, on some level that we aren't priivy to. I did get the name of Willow's primary caretaker, while we were in China, so I will try to deduce if this is the same woman.

This is a picture of 5 children that were going to be adopted in the very near future (i.e., they had been matched with their forever families). I have been able to find and contact the parents of 3 of the children; those children are now in the United States, too (haven't found the parents of the girl in the white and blue jacket). Behind them, standing, are the Orphange Director and Assitant Director (left to right, respectively).

12 February 2009

Surgery Postponed (Willow has Pneumonia!)

Bubelah is bouncing back quickly from her temporary lapse from pneumonia (which postponed her first surgery). Surgery is rescheduled for March 2nd (placement of a pin-retained device in the roof of her mouth whose purpose is to pull her pre-maxilla into place). Surgery to sew her lip is scheduled for March 23rd.

Trying out a new food item (in preparation for post-surgery). She licked it (but never did take a bite). Nevertheless it was fun!

Purple hippopotamus, purple child.

Dancing with Daddy and Chloe (to Mana).

Cutest tootsies in the world (not webbed toes like her frog-mother)

Happiness is Yobaby yogurt.

Modeling Auntie Kristin's sweater.

Thank you for the suggestion of a "pop-up" toy, Auntie Lara.

Our little tom-boy, with a scarf around her waist for flair.

The Flower Begins To Bloom

That's one big pie hole ! Bib came from Paisley Blue, a "store" on Etsy.com (one of my favorite internet sites; discussed below)

Self-explanatory :)

This child is very coordinated and has a great arm for throwing balls of all sizes.

Leaving the window (where she looks out on Chloe and Gus in the yard).

Helping me put BOB (the SUV-hybrid stroller) together. It is the most wonderful companion ...

Pine Needles Trail is just down the street. Our first outing went quite well (she fell asleep, even though it wasn't much above zero). The river is in view along this entire trail (which ends in a nearby State park).

Couch Potatoes: Willow and Gus

Two owls (and one owl ate some craisins!).

Augustus Wiggles, a.k.a. "Gus", is a good sport.

My buddhist frog is now sporting a cross. I was waiting with Willow at the pharmacy and struck up a conversation with a gentleman next to us. Willow captured his attention (and heart), and he shared a bit of his story. Anyway, we had a very deep conversation about life, adoption, and surviving cancer (which he had). After getting Willow's meds, we said goodbye (but, as you may know, it takes a long time to get down a hall with a toddler ... he found us again, and pressed a very special gift into my hands. I protested, but he insisted we had been his guardian angels that day. He took the cross off his neck because he wanted Willow to have it. Not only is it gold, but it is embellished with platinum (I think, see picture below). Though Willow will be raised with several religions and spiritual choices (Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, and metaphysical), I think this is a special gift. I don't know his name, but I hope we'll meet again outside the pharmacy so he can see Willow blossom.

01 February 2009

Chapter 3: Population 605 !

Rubbermaid containers make the best bathtubs for teensy-weensies who weigh under 20 pounds. Many more pictures below ... but first a little explanation:

Our time in China was mistakenly named Chapter 1 ... we were tired. It really was Chapter 2, with Chapter 1 reserved for the time period encompassed by dreaming about, then waiting for, The Little One.

Chapter 3 will comprise our initial time home as a new family, in a new house, in a new state. The title "605" will be explained below.
When we last wrote, we were preparing to fly home from China. The last day in China was spent packing, saying goodbye to new friends, and, of course, last minute shopping! After beginning our homeward journey on 1/16/09 at 4am (China date and time), it only took three flights and 20 hours of travel from Guangzhou, China to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. But, "WE MADE IT!" (to use an Elle Woods quote)., with Willow on Meryl's lap all the way, except for a couple hours break on the flight between Tokyo, Japan and Portland, Oregon. As long as the little one was held close to mom on the flights, all went well. I won't get into the projectile vomit that Willow covered us with on the first flight. She just wanted to make sure we were properly prepared for the remaining two flights; not that she did it again, but..."it" lingered on our clothing. No ear troubles on take-off or landing on any flights. On touchdown in Portland with her Chinese passport stamped by immigration, the United States of America welcomed its newest citizen: Wu Chun Qi (aka: Willow Noelle Chun Qi Stein).
We arrived back home in Minnesota at 2pm on the same day, Friday 1/16/09 (remember, China is in tomorrow while the USA is in today). On the plane, Chris was somewhat worried about the freezing cold weather we were traveling in to -- i.e., How would the wee one react to frigid weather?, Would the car start after sitting in a hotel parking lot for 3+ weeks covered by ice and snow?, etc. To our surprise, when we arrived "home" at the airport, Minnesota was experiencing a "heat wave" (our taxi driver told us it was 15 degrees above zero, which sure beat the 20 below it was a few days before). Our car also started without a jump. When we crossed the Marine on St. Croix, MN border, the population of the town rose to a whopping population of 605! (by the by, Meryl and Chris were residents number 603 and 604).

Chloe and Gus gave us such a warm welcome (only capable by members of the four-legged kind). But, they did think "who is this strange little creature in mommy's arms?" In China, our time spent familiarizing Willow with photos of Chloe and Gus paid off on Willow's end...she recognized them, yet remained very tentative...because, here the two doggies were (in the flesh).

The next few days were spent succumbing to "intense' biological clock adjustments. No one went to bed at a decent hour, but...when we did, we all slept for many hours (most importantly, the little one sleeps for 10-12 hours each night).

Chris also discovered a new place to take Chloe and Gus for a walk/run...out the backyard onto the frozen St. Croix River. He often takes a daily stroll over to Wisconsin (in the background); the St. Croix River forms the boundary between the two states where we live. Chloe and Gus are pictured above, on the river behind our house (note the snowmachine tracks ... also used by cross-country skiers. In checking with an ice fisherman if "walking on the river was safe?" , the fisherman said that "The ice is 16 inches in the middle of the river and 8 on the sides." So..."What's safe?" -- "4 inches" (or so they say).

For now, the river is a new playground for the dogs, although Chloe is fixated by a deer carcass and seems to become quite "primitive" after pulling on it for a while. "Wild" as she doesn't want to listen, and doesn't. She definitely has "deer on the mind," can only be pulled off the carcass (bones, hide, and hair at this point -- the Bald Eagles made good work of it earlier) by leash, and often brings a mouthful of hide/hair back up to the house with her.

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, little Willow watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, with mom and dad. She even wore an Obama button. Hopefully, great things for the USA and many people of the world will result from this momentous day! (apologies to my republican friends).

Inauguration on the tele in the background.

These past two weeks have seen Willow truly blossom. She walks, runs, walks backwards, laughs and cackles loudly and wildly, vocalizes quite a bit (like "uff-uff" for the dogs), climbs, plays tag, dances, pretends, rolls and kicks a ball, uses sippy cup, likes to feed herself, gives hugs & kisses, and is just an all round very special, precious little human being. This, despite the fact that she had to be taken to the doctor three times the first week. First, to have her skin bumps/rash attended to -- turns out she had a antibiotic resistant staph infection. Second, to have her physical as an international adoptee -- she screamed when receiving a TB test, flu shot, and blood work. Seems like she has a previous aversion to doctors?? Third, to return and have her TB test read. With all these trips to Stillwater, MN (and other nearby cities/towns) to visit the doctor's office and stores for needed equipment (like medicine, tub, etc.) and supplies (various ointments, formula, diapers, etc.), Willow is learning how to accept her car seat. She sits in the seat with the tip of her "ladybug" blanket shoved in her mouth alongside her thumb (to soothe herself) while we play a Chinese children's CD of nursery rhymes. Willow is also becoming a good "signer." She loves the "Baby Signing Time" dvd that we play for her at least once a day and actually signs as the dvd plays. She also independently signs for various objects (or ... it seems she is practicing). Her favorite signs at the moment are "daddy" and "horse".
Here is Willow perched on her pink throne, watching her Signing Times video. For those of you who don't know it, please make note of the fact that we haven't unpacked our boxes yet, as we are only temporarily in our house (thus things might look weird in the background of most photos).

1/27 - BIG DAY! This day was Willow's first medical appointment with Dr. Robert Wood (her surgeon) and Dr, Cheryl Cermin (her orthodontist) at Gillette Children's Hospital, St.Paul, MN. Now that the doctors have seen the wee one, we know what Willow's surgical schedule will be. First, Dr. Cermin will insert a fixture to the roof of Willow's mouth to pull back her little "bill" (top of lip). This could happen in two or so weeks. After a couple of weeks with the fixture, Willow will be "ready" for surgery, where her bilateral clefts will be repaired.

1/30 - After receiving a very special toy (a large wooden activity center called the Busy Zoo)from mom and dad, Willow showed her appreciation by running over us to plant kisses on us and giving us hugs, over and over again. Incredible!

1/31 - Willow kissed Chloe this morning. First time!

A few pictures more pictures to embellish Chapter 3 ...

Cousin Leslie and her family sent this lovely gift which arrived the day after we came home ...

Cashmere, can you believe it! It's a smidgeon big for Willow right now, so Pink Teddy is modeling the outfit (it is so soft, and I spent some time rubbing it against Willow's cheeks).

Giraffe print leggings and a zebra pillow. Isn't she cute (and yes, she is watching the baby-signing video again ... she looks intent, but really doesn't focus for that long).

Bubelah is very happy ... actually, both of them look pretty happy! Extra glee is also present (when she grabs her feet). Sitting on Daddy's lap and eating: it doesn't get any better.