Sunday, March 31, 2013

Update Easter 2013

Hello to all who visit the blog occasionally.

About a month ago I was shopping for some Easter decorations and found the little statue pictured to the left.  I HAD TO GET IT!  What the PERFECT decoration for the Hen house -- Mama Hen, Little Zo Peep and Libby Doodle Doo back together again.  This statue reminded me of the  bygone days when I loyally posted to this blog.    Then 2 days ago I received a blog comment from someone who just re-visited this cobweb-laden site.  That was the motivation I needed to take some time today to let all you lovely readers out there know that all is well with the Hen and Chicks.

So I just finished this post and have started re-reading it.  This post is  long -- really, really long.  Sorry.  I guess I just had a lot to say.  But I also promise to throw in a lot of pictures so that you can see the amazing  transformation of my beautiful girls.

Zo Peep -- Pre-teen, Pitcher, Paramour

Age 10 Fall 2012
Little Zo Peep is sprinting into adulthood with breakneck speed.  My 10 yr. old -- that's right you read that right 10 YEAR OLD -- is now 5 ft tall, sports a size 9 Ladies shoe (bigger than Mama Hen) and is probably (according to my pediatrician) going to hit puberty in the next 12 to 18 months.  Her doc also says that she'll probably top out at 5'6" to 6 ft tall.  Zo Peep can't wait until she is towering over me (I'm 5' 5").  Me? -- I'm not nearly as excited.

She also continues to advance her athletic skills. Zo Peep has very powerful shoulders and arms and can throw anything (softballs, footballs, basketballs) with tremendous force and accuracy (scares the bejeezus out of me when I'm on the receiving end).  With these natural skills  it was little surprise that she started to fast pitch last fall for her softball team.   Zo Peep is still a novice in the pitching department, so she's  been taking some lessons from a former college pitcher.  The coach is making sure that the Peep is learning proper techniques from the get-go.  I admit that I don't know much about pitching, but other parents at the weekly clinics are shocked that she's a beginner.

Also Fall 2012
Zo also joined a basketball team during the winter to learn the sport and to keep active.  What a great sport for her to learn -- a tremendous cardio-workout.  As I said, she was a total newbie to the sport, so even though I thought (Mommy bias alert) she showed lots of potential, she got very little actual playing time.  Gotta say this "not being the star" was a good life lesson for her to learn.  She was frustrated at first, but eventually realized that she needed to work harder to prove to the coaches that she was a viable player.  By the end of the season she still wasn't getting much playing time, but she  was showing more skill and more confidence.  I'm looking forward to watching her next Fall.

And then there's the "paramour" part of her update.  My oh my!  I mentioned last year how Zo Peep had become a favorite among the 4th grade boys.  No change there.   Boys love her.  LOTS of boys love her.  Of course being in love in the 5th grade means that you sit together at lunch, stand on the same corner to do crossing guard duty and play football together at recess. I can handle this kind of "dating."   At first I admit that  I got the  heebie-jeebies every time the Peep would come home and inform me that another boy told her that he liked her.  But she has shown me that she has a level-head about this kind of stuff.  No boy-crazy antics at all.   I'm still scared silly about the inevitable day when she gets more serious about boys, but I guess this last 2 years of  4th & 5th grade romance is preparing me for those frightening teen years of romance that lie ahead.

With the impending arrival of puberty, Little Zo Peep has also gotten much more interested in her birth family (she has long been fascinated by her birth parents).  She's asked me questions about how tall she'll be, whether her feet will ever stop growing, and even how big her breasts swill be.  I hate answering these questions with, "I don't know, but I guess . . .

Z cut her hair this month March 2013
In the last year we've talked about whether I should try to locate her birth parents (knowing that the task may be impossible) .  She wanted me to try, so I've started this effort in earnest in January.  I've consulted with some adoptive families who have successfully found birth families to get tips.  I'm currently looking for an in-China contact to do some investigations for me.  Also as part of this effort, I had Zo Peep take a 23andme test to see whether we can unearth clues from her DNA.

My gosh -- I HIGHLY recommend this test to any Chinese adoptive family.  Not only did I get some important health information (nothing scary but important info to pass to her pediatrician) , but also some specific information about her ancestry.  I found out that my girl who was adopted in Shaanxi in the north, has some southern Chinese in her background.  Her mother's line (passed down from mother to daughter to daughter to daughter) is almost pure Dai ancestry.  Now that specific ancestral  line doesn't contain all relatives on her mom's side NOR any of her dad's ancestry.  In fact her entire make-up is 99% Chinese and a little NORTHERN AFRICAN thrown in for good measure.   The DNA from Northern Africa may indicate that Zo Peep has some Hui minority in her too -- they are the descendants of Han Chinese who married visitors from the middle east back in ancient times.  The Hui  practice  Islam -- passed down from their ancient Middle Eastern/Northern African ancestors.

Another section of 23andme connects your DNA with other people in their database to see if you have any relatives.  Zo Peep got 16 matches -- the closest being a 3rd cousin and most 4th, 5th, or more distant cousins.  One of these distant relatives contacted me.  His 4 grandparents all emigrated from Guangdong and Fujian provinces -- showing more evidence of southern Chinese somewhere in Zofia's background.  Can you imagine how excited Zo Peep was when she got to see the photograph of an ACTUAL BLOOD relations of hers.  It was priceless.

Silly face  March 2013

I know this DNA stuff can make one's  head spin, but I must tell you that I am so excited by how this info has helped Zo Peep.  One section of the data lists traits found in her DNA (like eye color and hair color).  Most of it was quite obvious -- but some quite eye-opening.  For example, the Peep has a genetic marker in her muscle composition that is shared by many world class athletes.  You should have seen the smile on her face when I told her that info.  We always suspected that her athletic prowess came from her genes -- but she LOVED this verification.  Also the test told her that she has a high likelihood of having seasonal allergies.  She actually does suffer from hay fever.  When she found out this info she said, "Oh, that's where that comes from."

Why am I so in love with this test ?   I think it's because so much of the info about my daughters' early lives are unknown or unreliable.  There is so much Randomness in their background -- how did they end up here? why did they end up in an orphanage? that they -- especially Zo Peep -- sometimes feel unmoored.  Reviewing these un-refutable facts with her , gave her a sense of belonging and an anchor that she can hold on to.

5 yrs old Fall 2012
Libby Doodle Doo -- Dancer, Debutante, Devil

My baby started Kindergarten this year.  Kindergarten!  How could that be?  Where did those first 5 years go?

So this year has been a whirlwind of learning to read, mastering basic math, spelling tests, and Friday show-n-tell.  Our public school eliminated full day kindergarten in 2011 due to budget cuts, so -- after a lot of considerations -- I decided to send the Doodle to a local (still walkable)  Catholic school for full day Kindergarten.

It was a good choice.  The class size is small (only 17 kids) so the teacher interaction is great.  And I really like the teachers and principal at this school.  Plus the families are so  hospitable and accepting.  It's like one big family.  I'm amazed at how the bigger kids (even 7th and 8th graders) warmly welcome the Doodle at school events.

Libby Doodle Doo's School Pix
 And the icing on the cake is that Libby Doodle Doo wears a uniform to school -- so no more morning dramas with my little Diva on which outfit she wants to wear each day.  Our biggest "getting dressed" discussion centers around navy socks or white ones.    I used to think school uniforms were silly, but I've become a big believer.

So this school is great for her.

The original plan was to send Libby Doodle Doo to public school for 1st grade, but now I'm re-thinking that idea.  The Doodle LOVES this school.  And now my public school has announced that they are in another budget crisis and plan to eliminate 1/3 of the Elementary teachers.  33% GONE!!

I assume that the furloughed teachers will consist of those with less seniority -- and they make up most of the teachers that I like best in that school.  In fact my first choice for Libby Doodle Doo's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers will probably lose their jobs this summer.

Fall 2012
So now I'm considering leaving Libby Doodle Doo at the Catholic school.  Plus I'm even considering moving Zo Peep there too.  At first, the Peep was appalled at the idea of moving schools.  And I understand her concerns.  After all, she's been in her current school since Kindergarten.  She has lots of friends (including all those male admirers).  But the Catholic school is looking better and better.  Zo Peep's class size at her public school will be over 30 per class once they reduce the teachers.  At the Catholic school she'll have only 15 in her class. (and only 3 of them are boys!! )  Can you imagine how great that would be for a quiet kid like her who doesn't ask for help (even when she needs it).  Little Zo Peep spent Wednesday at the Doodle's school shadowing the current 5th grade.  Her assessment --  She said the kids were nice and she told me that she'd like to go back for another  shadowing day.

Back to Libby Doodle Doo.

On her 6th birthday March 2013
I called the Doodle a "debutante" in the title, but a better term would be "socialite"  or "extrovert" ("Debutante" gave me the desired alliteration).  Libby Doodle Doo is a child who CONNECTS with people.  The opposite of her big sister who holds back and waits for people to approach her.  The Doodle is out there pressing the flesh, introducing herself and making friends.  I feel like I'm raising a little politician.  I commented on how I'm amazed at how older kids interact with the Doodle.  I think some of that happens because Libby Doodle Doo is so friendly to THEM.

But that friendly, outgoing warm socialite has a dark side too.  Libby Doodle Doo has some  DEVIL-like behaviors that drive me insane.  She's very particular about inconsequential  little stuff -- the size of her shoelace loops, the precise location of her ponytail in the back of her head, how much milk goes on her cereal in the morning.  Annoyance turns to petulance  and sometimes turns into disrespect.  When that happens she goes to a time out.  Many mornings include a trip to the time out step for Libby Doodle Doo.     Now that she's turned 6 , I'm putting HER in charge of many of her requirements.  Since initiating project "Big Girl" the number of morning time outs has dropped off noticeably.  I should have pushed her to take on more responsibility for herself  long ago.

February 2013
And the final word on Libby Doodle Doo has to do with Dance.  Like her older sister, the Doodle studies Chinese dance.  Last year was her first year and she was ok - nothing to write home about.

Oh what a difference a year makes.  Libby Doodle Doo is the leader of her class.  She learns the choreography quickly and helps her classmates too.  Her teacher has told me that the Doodle has all the attributes of a great dancer -- she's strong and flexible, she emotes on stage and she is petite.  The teacher is so impressed with her potential and performance that she wants to move her into an advance class next Fall.

To take advantage of the Doodle's new found dance skills, I convinced my two lovely daughters to perform a duet this year.  It was soooo cute.  They danced to the Chinese children's song Ni Wa Wa.  The song tells the story of a young girl (Zo Peep) who makes a doll out of clay (Libby Doodle Doo).  The little doll comes to life through the girl's imagination and they run and play and dance together.  Everyone who sees the dance is so charmed by both girls and impressed with the Doodle's dance skills.  I wanted to capture this special event that may never occur again (I think Zo Peep will abandon dance soon in favor of more sports).  So I had them dress in their costumes and perform the dance for our regular photographer.  Now I have lots of photos capturing the chapter of their lives when both of my beauties studied dance.

BTW  I also have done genetic testing on Libby Doodle Doo and have started to investigate her early days in China, too.  The DNA results didn't reveal any surprising clues to her heritage (she's  99.9% Chinese).  I must admit that I thought Libby Doodle Doo might have some Caucasian in her mix.  NOPE.  She is actually more Chinese than her big sister.

Zo Peep coaxing a smile out of Doodle
But the most important information that I got from the Doodle's DNA analysis is that she has 5 times the average likelihood of developing Glaucoma.  What priceless information to have at her young age.  There are supplements (like lutein and Omega 3) that we can add to her diet to possibly prevent this condition. Plus, eye doctors begin testing for glaucoma at 45, but do it earlier if an individual has a family history of the disease.  Well she needs to be tested earlier and she and I would have never known this without DNA info.

I'll leave you all with some photos from today -- Easter.  Our weather was gray and damp, but like all days my girls brought sunshine and color into my Sunday (just as they did to  my week, my month, my year, my life).

Happy Easter to all of you.  Until next time.

Mama Hen

Size 14 on my 10 yr old!  Those legs won't stop growing!
Doodle lost her 1st baby tooth this week


heddiluella said...

Wow! I'm so glad I stopped by! Zo Peep and Libby Doodle are beautiful! I sure wish I had the opportunity to send our kids to a Catholic School. Good choice! Thanks so much for the DNA info. Our daughter is two years younger than Libby Doodle. I like the idea of knowing more about her DNA in the future. I did try my best when we first came home to find out more about her Foster Mom, Police report when she was abandoned, pictures of her Foster Mom's home... and I do think I will search for more some day. Is there a web page that you used that you can share?
Thank you again for sharing your story. I have followed you since a few months before we traveled to China in the Spring of 2010. And I was also a Single Mom many years ago. I admire your courage!

mama hen said...

Hi Cathy. Thanks for stopping by. I know I sound like an advertisement, but I've become a HUGE advocate of DNA testing -- both for health info, but also for heritage info. can give you some info about their services (they recently dropped their price to $99. It was over $900 when I first considered doing DNA back in 2007 when Zo Peep got intensely interested in her birth family.) You also may want to join a facebook group AsiaAdoptionDNA. It's a private group but you can request membership. Since the price drop of 23andme, lots of members are joining and we're all learning from each other. For example, since most of our kids are under 13 -- 23andme won't share our kids information with others on their site. So I can get links to Adults who match my kids' DNA -- but not other kids who may match them. The facebook group is helping the kids connect with the kids -- to possibly find close relatives (siblings, cousins, etc) or even distant relatives. Distant relatives (and BTW all the adults who have been matched with my girls are distant relatives) can give you clues as to the location that different parts of the family tree came from (remember people in China didn't move around until quite recently). I have some evidence to suspect that Libby Doodle Doo was born somewhere far from her orphanage. I'm using these DNA matches to try to pinpoint where she may have been born.

Grammy Connie said...

I, too, am so glad I peeked by in and found your post. Indeed, your girls are growing up ... quickly and beautifully. What a joy and blessing they must be. Thank you for posting. I started following your blog when you had just brought Libby home ... and while my single adult daughter was waiting to bring our granddaughter home to all of us. She has been in Pre-K this year; graduation is next month and kindergarten comes in August. Yes, time DOES fly ... and watching our grandchildren live and grow and love is the ultimate joy. Thank you for sharing your journey. I know we've never met; but it does not feel as if you and your young ones are strangers. You gave this Grammy hope and anticipation as we all waited ... and your sharing tidbits here feels a bit like "old home week," when you post from time to time. Thank you ... and many blessings to the Hen and the Chicks.