Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Race, First Doctor, First Dentist, etc etc etc

Well, it's almost Christmas and we've had a few more Firsts in the Life of JJ. Not surprising.

First of all, let me say that he has stopped saying "HI" and "NI HAO" to every Tom, Dick and Harry Stranger on the street. Thank GOODNESS! I had to explain to him that in America that is not so cute after the first day. Seriously.

So, JJ had his First Race last week at the Walter's Run that our running club puts on every December. The proceeds go to Charity and scholarships. Joseph and I volunteer every year. And Joseph runs the race, finishes, and then finishes his volunteer assignment all while cheering people on. But this year was a little different. He volunteered for the kid's race. It was divided into two heats - one for 7 year olds and under, and a second one for 8 and above. Not sure what they did with the 7-8 'tweeners but no one else seemed to mind this omission so I didn't say anything.

JJ was with the big kids since he is 8 years old. They had to run up the street to the orange cone, do a u-ey and run back. Well, I had to explain this to JJ in broken Chinese with lots of gesticulations, facial movements and general charades. He did this all with me. We must have been a sight! But he totally understood.

The race was about 200 yards. And as soon as they said "GO" he ran with all his might. But he couldn't muster up the power of the bigger kids and ended up being 4th from the back. The determination on his face was incredible. He did great. After, he was all smiles. Now he knows what a RACE is! I bet he starts training. LOL. I know I couldn't keep up with him.

JJ has also been going to a series of doctor appointments. So far in December, he has a total of 6 scheduled (2 more to go) and another 5 in January.

All of the doctors are at Children's Hospital. The pediatrician is wonderful. And there was a Chinese translator there who would also be at subsequent appointments. The doctor did a complete check up, reviewed his xrays and said he was generally healthy, considering. He had ear wax - which she deferred to the Cleft Team we are seeing on the 18th. And she referred him to a cardiologist and a urologist.

The next appointment was the following week with the urologist (they work fast at Children's), followed by the International Development Doctor. I was away on a business trip so I couldn't make these appointments but I wrote up a lot of questions. Joseph took a lot of notes and told the Dr that I come from a family of physicians. And he said the Dr gave him a knowing look. Jeez. Anyway, JJ will have his first surgery - not cleft related - in January 4. What a way to start the new year.

After urology, the Adoption Doctor didn't want to classify him as normal or not normal since there isn't a control group of kids from Beijing, orphaned, adopted at 8, with Cleft Lip and Palette III with VSD, post op. Good grief. So clinical! Is he NORMAL or NOT? Not complicated is that??

Anyway, he seemed bright, is in the 5th percentile for weight (skinny), and the 30th percentile for height (not as tall as I like but it'll do). Question is, is this for Chinese kids or American kids? Or Kids adopted from China? He has ear tags and she said that could indicate kidney issues - deferring to the Cleft Team. Speech, language, audio - deferring to the Cleft Team. Jeez. And the hearing test he failed at school two days earlier? Yup. Deferring to the cleft team.

At one point, the doctor asked him what he found the most shocking or surprising about America and he said, "...that mama and baba love him so much." The doctor said, not about people. What else? So he said, "the house is very beautiful and there are a lot of lights."

This was interesting. He probably lived in a very institutional style setting and our house is brightly colored Victorian. And he has a fascination with lights. He has a little flashlight he carries around and he loves anything that emits some type of light. I imagine they didn't have a lot of light in the orphanage. Ok. "A Lot" is relative but I doubt they had 8 recessed lights in a single room with a chandelier to boot.

We also found out that he knows he was abandoned by his mama and that he was living in an institution, didn't have a family, and that he now has Mama and Baba and a family. This kind of freaked me out. I can't imagine how I would feel as an 8 year old to know all this. I know I would not be as well adjusted as JJ is. I'd probably be depressed and in therapy!

The doctor said the kids know the difference between family and no family between the ages of 4 and 7. The light slowly dawns and they start to ask questions. Well, I certainly didn't know that!

He also has some eczema which could signal asthma - which we will watch for, and dry skin issues which could be the environment, water, air, etc - all of which is different from China (aka cleaner or more antiseptic). Or not. We will watch what happens. It could take 6 months to clear up. SIX MONTHS?? Lord.

So nothing more until the Cleft Team evaluation. But we have a Develpment followup in May to see where he is so we can do a plan for the summer while school is out.

Yesterday, we had JJ's First Dental Appointment. Ok. Can I just say, "GOOD GRIEF!!! WHAT A SEWER MOUTH!!!!!!" Everything was so dirty! GAH. They cleaned his mouth. Lots of blood. We were told it's the water (again) here, the lack of flouride in China, etc and general getting used to the environment (again). Can take SIX MONTHS! It's a pattern.

He had tons of xrays taken. The bottom line, baby teeth with cavities, baby teeth that had fillings with more cavities, cavities on top of cavities, cavities under fillings, inflamed roots, baby teeth that didn't fall out, teeth growing behind teeth. Ok. So, can I just say what a fanatic I am about teeth? I like them white, clean, straight... The first thing I look at are people's mouths (or smiles and their teeth), second to their eyes! At least JJ has beautiful eyes so no issues there. Yah. So. I guess a mouthful of teeth is an understatement. And typical for Cleft kids. So for the Major Work (huh?) aka Orthodontia aka LOTS O' MONEY we will need to wait for the Cleft Team. Sigh... But in February, he has four dental appointments for teeth extraction, fillings and root canals. Yeah. ROOT CANALS. For baby teeth that won't fall out until he's older. Good GOD! They are sectioning his mouth into four quadrants and tackle each a week, four weeks in a row.

So, I told Joseph, well if JJ bitches about flossing, I'm gonna remind him about this! No problem!

And at one point I said to Joseph, "ya know... I get a kid that pushes my two pet peeve buttons - he has BAD TEETH and he babbles when he talks (unclear because of his cleft issues)." And then in the same breath, Joseph and I both said "God gave him to us to teach me patience!" LOL. Whatever. Believe me. I know, it could be infinitely worse!

JJ was a trooper. He hung in there for a 2 hour dental appointment. At one point I could see what this cleft/mouth weakness does to him. He has no control over his tongue. Almost none. He can stick it out but when it closes his mouth, it goes back in and only with great effort, can he maintain the stuck out tongue while closing his mouth. The last xray was really bad. Deep in his mouth and he couldn't keep his tongue out of the way. And he could just breath through his nose. And so he gagged. What should have taken 30 seconds took 10 minutes. I went in to help. I told him to say Ahhhhh the whole time and it worked by moving his tongue out of the way. What an ordeal. But when he refuses to do his tongue exercises in future speech therapy, I can remind him of this. LOL. Ok. Bad Mama. LOLOLOL.

Oh. And at one point we looked up and saw something about the tooth fairy. We both looked at each other and shook our heads. We are soooo not going to do any "tooth fairy" stuff. No Santa either. We can't even explain the Christmas tree as it is! Poor kid. When he's older, he can go to therapy and talk about how not knowing the tooth fairy and santa ruined his life. LOL. I know I know. Heartless!

JJ also endured Mama's first Domestic Business Trip during the week of the Development Doctor appointment. We talked on the phone every night after his dinner. At one point, he kept saying I was coming home earlier than I was. Joseph said he was worried about the doctor. Anyway, what this taught us is that the phone is ineffective! You can't talk to a kid who can't speak English over the phone! And one that babbles when he talks fast! ARG! So, next trip we agreed I am taking my home laptop that has Skype on it. TWO LAPTOPS! Like I don't have enough to carry. Whatever. Anyway. I'm going to wait to tell him that Mama is going to Indu (India) for two weeks in January.

JJ also survived Li Laoshi's Chinese class with Mama and Baba. It's been fun so far. She calls him her TA! It also slows the class down for which Joe and I are infinitely grateful! Laoshi did a little "testing" and he is at second grade Chinese level and his stroke order for characters is a MESS!!! A MESSSS!! Good Grief. At one point, she had him watch Mama because Mama's characters are Piaoliang (beautiful). LOL.

We were not too worried about the grade level because he finished second grade and had third grade for only a month before we pulled him out. On top of that, we are realizing that he probably did not go to a Chinese public school but a school at the orphanage. Now it made sense. He had told his Nanny that he lived at school! Ahhhhh.

Now I am thinking he is enrolled in the wrong grade level here. But we'll see what happens.

The doctor said first and foremost, he must learn the language. She said it would take him 4-6 years to fully integrate. I assume, it takes longer the older you are. We know he can understand the American teacher during any classes, like math. They are using this touchy feely method of boxes instead of equations. What the...??? So I have started asking him to do some grade three math in a book I bought after he does his American homework.

JJ and I continue to battle over appropriate homework behavior, diligence, character, and a lie (he was totally busted). He's 8. I know I know. But he needs a good foundation of discipline and character in thought! He knows Mama hates crocodile tears. It's one of my character flaws - I know. He knows Mama likes good studying and working hard. He knows Mama hates cover ups and evasiveness. And Mama likes sitting and discussing instead of a buncha hokey emotions! I know I know! Poor kid! LOL.

Thank goodness we have the Nanny to explain to him that what he does and says or doesn't do, reflects on Mama and Baba. And that it's not all about him. And if he doesn't do homework, teacher will think he can't do it when we know that he can.

Overall he is doing well. He is adjusting to the routine and seems to be attaching ok for now (Mama the pessimist is looking for the other shoe). And he continues to gauge his progress by my facial expressions and body language. He does grab my hand when we are walking (a good sign). But I am not sure it's totally dawned on him that we're IT. That this is as good as it's gonna get. That there is no back door, no safety net in the stranger's smile (I think we're over this one) or a friend of Mama and Baba, many who drop in to visit (not sure we're over this one yet). Attachment is a whole other topic but it's seems to be progressing ok for now.

Anyway, JJ had is First Realization about Mama and Baba. We work. Sometimes we work a lot. I explained to him a little of what we do. He was VERY impressed that Mama manages a lot of people. And that Baba does too. VERY. IMPRESSED. He was so impressed , he clapped and jumped up and down and made up a little song. He even said that we were "principals." We thought he meant at school but when we looked it up, it was Principal of a school, a group of people, a company... And he was very impressed. So much that if one of us isn't home, he says, we are at work, working, with lots of people. LOL. Not bad for an 8 year old.

One last thing. He keeps talking about his mei mei. His little sister. He is increasingly comfortable with the idea of going to China next year and talks about it with his teachers and with some Chinese friends we have had at the house. And with me. Last night he brought out the photo album we sent him and he said he would give it to mei mei. When I said we would put in his pictures he counted out three empty slots, said he wants a picture of himself in front of school in his running clothes with his race number from the race he ran. And he would put that into the photo album and send it to mei mei.

I guess he figures he is here for the long haul. Or at least until mei mei gets home!

Ok. That's it.

Onto the first Christmas, which is pretty unspectacular for him now. And the First Parent Teacher Conference on Monday.

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