Friday, October 24, 2008

Sam is 1!

Dear Sam,
Today you turned 1 year old. "Chuc Mung Sinh Nhat!" (Happy birthday in Vietnamese, as I learned from the cookie bouquet sent by Catalyst Foundation.) I had always hoped you would be with us by the time you were 1, and I'm so glad you were.

Your birthday was the beginning of a very exciting weekend. We started the day by taking you swimming at the park pool. It was a bit cooler than last Friday, but you still loved it. You seem to be trying to swim, moving your arms and kicking your feet. You also try to drink the water. Yuck!

I bought you a balloon at the dollar store (big spender!) and you played with it for almost an hour. You can hold on tightly and love to pull the balloon up and down.

In the afternoon, you got to meet your "Baba" (Grandma in Bulgarian) and Pop-Pops and your Auntie Trish. They all thought you were too cute. "Just like a doll," Grandmother Margie kept saying.

The grown-ups had pot roast. Your birthday cake was pumpkin with cream cheese frosting, which I knew you wouldn't eat, since you are still being a very reluctant eater on solid foods. You hold a spoon and when you put the spoon in your mouth, we sneak in the food. It's very slow going.

You didn't eat any, but you played with your cake and made it into a yucky mess. After cake, we did the Thoi Noi ritual and put out several objects representing careers in front of you:
  • * a dollar bill for business
  • * your soft Sears Tower for office worker
  • * a pen for writer or scholar
  • * a play wrench for carpenter
  • * a measuring spoon for food service
  • * and a paintbrush for the arts.
You went straight for the paintbrush.

At 1, it's still hard to tell what your personality is like. You are laid back most of the time, but scream and cry when it's time for bed. You take very short naps, 1/2 hour or less, sometimes two or three of them a day. For morning nap, you usually wake up happy after 1/2 hour. But for afternoon nap, you wake up crying, really sad-like. Sometimes I rock you back to sleep and you get a longer afternoon nap. At night you sleep 10-12 hours, getting up 2-3 times for a bottle. With all that liquid, your diaper always leaks and you leave a big wet stain on the bed that you share with Mama.

You love to play, but are more interested in things in the house than toys (the strap on your high chair, a wooden spoon or empty yogurt container). You like having stories read to you and you seem to follow along and sometimes turn the page. You like "Is This the House of Mistress Mouse?" and "I Love You As Much" and "Where's Kitty?" Auntie Trish gave you a book called, "What Do You Say" and you love that one too. You also love bathtime.

You can crawl now, with your tummy off the floor. And you can stand up, with help or by the coffee table. You're always exploring and have bumped your head more than a few times. We have some major babyproofing changes planned for the condo. You seem so much bigger than when we first got you (it's amazing to watch the video from just six weeks ago) but really you have only gained a few pounds. But your hair is quite a bit longer and your face fuller and less baby like. You also have so much more muscle tone than in the orphanage.

Your Daddy and I cannot believe how lucky we are to be your parents. We say it dozens of times a day. That and, "He is SO CUTE!" You smile a lot and laugh when you're tickled. You seem happy, but we can also tell that sometimes you are very sad, like when you cry when you wake up. Today we remembered your birthmother by lighting a candle and praying for her. We are so grateful she gave you life, and so grateful that we get to help nurture that life.

Happy birthday, Samuel Dieu. We love you!

Love, Mama and Daddy

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sam Dieu Fan Club

This will be a big week for Sam, culminating in his birthday and baptism this weekend. It also will be a week of lots of visitors, namely Ed's parents, brother and sister, who arrive Friday. We are so excited for them to meet Sam! The week started with a visit from the other side of the family: my sister, her husband and three kids, AKA the Sam Fan Club.

Sam is wearing a hand-me-down from Jack, who is now almost 16. I love this photo of the two of them. Jack is my godson, and I can remember taking almost as many photos of him as I am now of Sam (and that was before digital)!

Clare is ready for babysitting duty. She was so sad that Sam took a nap while they were here.

All three kids would just laugh at every little cute thing Sam did. Kevin was good at making Sam laugh.

Everyone got a chance to hold him. We're being careful about not too much holding by other people, and no one feeds or changes him. We also make sure we're in his sight when others are holding him. This is all part of helping with a healthy attachment. Although he seems to really like us, it will be awhile before he understands that we are here forever as his parents.

Amy looks a lot like me--and has the same high-pitched voice for baby talk--so maybe Sam was especially comfortable with her. Or maybe it was the Obama button, which he went straight for!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Fall is my favorite season, so I'm so happy to have Sam home during the fall. Here are some adorable photos of him while playing in the leaves at the park.

Eating a leaf. Notice his reaction below.

At the park

What a glorious fall day! Ed, Sam and I just got back from the park--the new one over at River Park. The Chicago Park District has been redoing a lot of the city playgrounds with the new soft floor and great new equipment. Sam goes to the park at least once or twice a day. And on Friday we went swimming at the Welles Park (indoor, obviously) pool with our friend Flo and her little boy Anton. Sam loved the water even more than he did in Vietnam!

Sam enjoys swinging with Mama, who is wearing her Wisconsin Badgers sweatshirt, despite today's loss to Iowa. Sam is wearing his new fleece jacket from my friend Bridget. Too cute!

Look at that adorable smile. I love when you can see his teeth. Despite massive amounts of drool, he still has only six, those four on top and two on the bottom.

Every couple of days he crawls a few steps (is that the right word?) but then goes right back down on his tummy.

We are settling into a routine here. He's still sleeping fairly well at night, somewhere from 8ish to 6ish, getting up two times a night for a bottle. He stopped eating solid food for a week but is starting a bit again. Might have been teething or his cold. He was most interested in the macaroni and cheese (baby food) at lunch today. That's my Cheesehead.

He still takes very short naps, only a half hour, if we're lucky, in the morning, but sometimes I can get an hour or even two out of him in the afternoon, but I usually have to rock him back to sleep after he wakes up crying.

He has had constipation problems since we got him--not that he doesn't go, but they HARD! We are trying to introduce water in a sippy cup and have switched formulas. If that doesn't work, we'll be trying prunes or prune juice next.

OK, so I've covered eating, sleeping and pooping: his three main activities. Other than that, he seems happy and loves to play with both of us. He is very excited about meeting his grandparents and aunt and uncle from Ed's side of the family next weekend when they come for his big birthday/baptism bash.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sammy loves Daddy

Sam has been getting lots of Daddy time lately, since Mommy is trying to get some work done. (I've got two book projects that are calling my name.) It has turned out perfectly that Ed is working part time as a substitute teacher, so he is home a lot. So far, he's been subbing a few days a week, mostly at Lyons Township High School.

Sam loves playing with Ed: They go to various parks twice a day and often go for long walks in the Bjorn baby carrier. I do most of the rocking to sleep, but Ed is the bath giver. It really has worked out well, so far, sharing the baby duties and both of us getting to have some time for work.

Ed also has been initiating Sam into Philadelphia sports, what with the Phillies in the playoffs. They often go down to our neighbor's, who have a big-screen TV. Here is Sam in all his Phillies paraphenalia--a onesie and hat from Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie Trish, and a jacket from our neighbors, Kathy and Anthony (he's from Philadephia, too.)

Don't worry: we don't mix up these two bottles.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gifts 2: Orphanage director and officials

*** Second in a series of posts on gift-giving for Vietnam adoptions.

In addition to gifts for the nannies at the orphanage, we also brought gifts for the orphanage director and other orphanage officials. (Just to clarify: these gifts are optional and should never be cash. I was horrified to read on a listserv that an agency was telling families to bring thousands of dollars in cash for orphanage directors and nannies. This is why Vietnam is now closed.)

This photo is us with Mrs. Duong Thi Thao, the orphange director at Go Vap in HCMC, just before we left with Sam. I remember feeling like she was so stylish and put-together, while I was sweating like a pig and a big blubbery, crying mess. When we saw her at our G&R, she was equally stylish, in a nice suit--and I was again sweating, nervous and crying. Our agency suggested a handbag or scarf for her, in the range of $25. Again, American-made goods preferred.

Super shopper that I am, I went to the Coach outlet near Aurora University and got a really cute handbag for well... not $25 but closer to $50. Still, it was regularly like $150. Again, I felt strongly about being generous to the people who made our family happen, and this woman was instrumental in Sam's care the first 10 months of his life, not to mention in matching him with us.

We were told to bring 2-4 other small ($15) gifts for orphange officials, and I believe it ended up being three gifts for males (there might have been one female--I can't remember now. If so, I gave her bath products). I got three Chicago baseball caps (thinking that since we live in a big city they might recognize that name). I confess I cut the "made in China" labels out of them. I put them with some candy and a Cubs pen in a gift bag (again it is important that these gifts be equal). I think I added some chocolate to the director's bag, too.

Lesson: You can't bring too much chocolate or candy.

Next: Gifts for the kids at the orphanage

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Operation solid food

Newly adoptive parents are encouraged not to change too much in their babies' lives, since they are already experiencing so much change. So we have been slow to introduce new foods to Sam. In the orphanage, he ate a thin, soupy rice gruel in the morning, but our caseworkers told us most of the babies didn't like American rice cereal. They suggested trying yogurt, which Sam did like.

When we got home we added some rice cereal to his yogurt, plus switched to a formula with some rice in it for a little extra sustenance. But it has been clear that this baby is hungry and ready for more food. He takes a full bottle almost every two hours or so, which means he produces a lot of very wet diapers!

On Saturday afternoon he had his first real food: sweet potatoes. He loved them! My baby book says to let them play with their food and make a big mess so dinner time doesn't become a battle of wills, and he is very good at making a mess with his food.

He's also very insistent about feeding himself. He likes to hold the spoon and will put it in his mouth. Of course, a lot of it doesn't end up in his mouth, but it's pretty impressive (I think) that he wants to feed himself at 11 months.

Here he is with the yogurt/rice cereal combo on his face. I love the dot of sweet potatoes on his nose in the previous photo. He's even cuter with food all over him!

Obama baby!

Sam is definitely a Democrat. And he's a big Obama fan. Check out his "Obama Baby" onesie, a gift from our friend Kristi Kubicki in Indiana. Speaking of Indiana, which is a swing state with the potential of turning from red to blue... Some friends may remember that my sister and I (and my niece Clare) went to Indiana on primary election day to canvass for Obama. The closeness of that race helped change the narrative for an Obama win.

On Friday, Ed did baby duty while I once again went with Amy to Indiana, this time to register voters before the Oct. 7 deadline. We got 14 new voters in about three hours at the Purdue Calumet campus. We also helped sway some opinions, I think. Most of the students were already registered. Apparently there have been lots of new registrations in Indiana these past six months. I've got to tell you: that Obama campaign is organized!

And since I never promised this wouldn't be a political blog, I have to say I was disgusted by Sarah Palin's performance in the debate on Thursday night. As a woman who has worked my whole life to be taken seriously as a professional, I am sad to see someone use cuteness and flirtation to try to deflect from not being able to--or not wanting to--answer a question seriously. I know the whole "charm" thing is a tried-and-true diversionary tactic for politicians, and I don't like it any better when a man is doing it. But as a feminst, I was really sad to see a woman at this level not only use these tactics, but be applauded for doing so. Of course, I disagree with her on most of her policies, too, but I was especially sad to see a woman at this level resort to such juvenile actions. I was embarrassed for her.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gifts 1: Nanny gifts

I've had lots of other Vietnam families ask for advice about gift-giving in general and at Go Vap Orphanage. So I'm going to write a series of posts about the gifts we gave while in-country. Hope this helps.

The most important gifts, in my opinion, were for the nannies who cared for our son the first 10 months of his life. The suggestion from our agency and other families was to put together a small gift bag with a few things in it. I took the advice of another LSS family and bought mini photo albums (on clearance at Target!) and put a few photos of Sam in them.

It also was important for me to include a personal part of me in this gift, so I made each nanny a felt flower pin. I was going to include a note explaining that they are violets, the state flower of Illinois, but I never got around to doing the note. Hand-stitching these is one way I stayed busy and sane while waiting for I-600 approval! I also hand-painted the gift bags, using plain white ones from Michael's (using a 40% off coupon--always!). I stamped them with flowers and polka dots. (For more detail about the hand-crafted part of these gifts, see this post on my craft blog, Spiritual Knitter.)

(As you can see, Ed worked hard on the assembly of these gift bags at our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City!) Since it was important that all gifts be Made in America, or at least not Made in China or Vietnam, I bought Burt's Bees travel-size lotions and shampoos (through ebay), a Chicago Cubs pen (also through ebay) and finally some squares of Ghiradelli chocolate (all dark--less likely to melt).

Because of my thrifty shopping, I was able to put together these bags for about $5 each. The most important thing is to have enough of them for all the nannies in both the infant and toddler rooms, since Sam had been in both of them. I was originally told there were 20, then later 23, nannies. I had exactly that. But when I arrived at Go Vap, they told me to distribute them and I accidentally handed one to a nurse rather than a nanny. Oops. The nurses are in white; the nannies in blue.

Next: Gifts for the orphanage director and other orphanage officials.