Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coco the sweet

Oh, stole my heart. Coco has quite the mysterious background. She came to Starfish a couple weeks before we arrived, right before her 2nd birthday. As I mentioned before, she couldn't sit up when she came. Amanda said that she would fall back immediately after being sat up. By the time we arrived, she was holding her own bottle with both hands. Both of her hands have movement but one isn't on your normal wrist. I'm not sure what the medical term for it is. She also came with some mystery scars and they aren't quite sure what surgeries they came from. I do know that she had a colostomy surgery, which causes her to have horrible diaper rashes. (and I mean horrible...the worst I've seen.)

We are not sure what Coco has been doing in the orphanages for the past two years, but you can't help but think that she spent a majority (or all) of her time laying in bed with little interaction with people. To see her improve so quickly makes this seem like one of the only likely scenarios. While we were at Starfish, she started sitting up better in her high chair and pretty much holding herself up. Although it scared her in the beginning, they started sitting her on the floor for a little bit and we found she could hold herself up there and became quite happy playing on the floor. Before long, she was looking through her books and playing with toys while sitting on the floor! We also started playing with her "other" hand...the one that is basically on a shorter arm and lacking a wrist. (I hope I am not slaughtering her medical conditions here!) It has movement but she wasn't using it. We started playing with her fingers and putting toys in that hand and within a day, she was grabbing toys with it and turning pages of her books with it. Our last experiment was to teach her a new greeting. Coco has this adorable signature greeting that everyone at Starfish knows. It is similar to the sound one says when someone calls their name (huh?) but with more of a mmm to it. Adorable. But we thought we would try a wave. So every time someone would walk into the isolation room, we would go through a big back and forth "hi" session, complete with us waving to her and us waving her arm. A day later, she held her arm up a little longer after someone waved for her. The next day, she wiggled her fingers when her arm was raised. I wouldn't be surprised if she is waving like crazy now. Her learning curve is amazing and I just can't help but wonder where she would be at now if she hadn't spent the last 2 years being neglected. Don't worry, have an army that is going to help you catch up. (and love you to bits and pieces all along the way.)

And on that was so encouraging to see the many, many volunteers that come through Starfish. I can't blame them as I can't think of a better way to spend a vacation. But bigger than all of the traveling volunteers were the local Chinese that come volunteer rather regularly. I see their attachment to the babies at Starfish and their concern with the plight of these sweet babies to be a gigantic sign of hope for generations to come. We also got to meet some wonderful volunteers that got to stay much longer than we did and got to see many more miracles than we did. Jealous? Yeah, just a little.

ps: Keep your eyes open. I know of a certain thirteen year old that is working like crazy to open a special etsy shop pretty soon. Shopping with 100% of the proceeds going to Starfish sounds like guilt free shopping to me, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

China: better late than never

So I wasn't such a faithful blogger in China. This was partially because we were pretty busy and also because China isn't super keen on blogs. I was lucky to have access to a vpn/remote access sort of thing at the Starfish House, but blogger still didn't work 100% of the time using the vpn. Now I am left with the I start where I left off or just summarize the whole expedition?

I guess I will start by giving the rundown of our time at the Starfish House since Rachel and I both have agreed that this was the highlight of our three weeks, hands down. The last 3 months at the Kang house have been full of preparing all sorts of goodies (mainly sheets and pillow cases) for the sweeties of the starfish house. We ended up with almost 100 sheets and a little less than ninety pillowcases. I can't express enough how prepratory this project was, as I saw Rachel go from being giddy about our impending travels to being truly invested in helping the babies at the starfish house. She went from talking about which hotel to stay at to asking if we could just cancel the rest of our trip and stay at the starfish house the whole time. It was amazing, watching her float around the foster home, finding ways to help and really working like crazy the whole time we were there. She spent the majority of her time in the isolation room, which is where the new babies stay until Amanda feels they are ready to join the rest of the munchkins. This is not necessarily the easiest place to be (even though we would all love to hold sweet tiny babies all day) because some of the babies require a little more care, some of the babies (cough, cough...Luke...) are harder to get food down and some the babies are more likely to spit up all of their food back on you. Outside the isolation room, time is easily spent playing with the toddlers of the starfish house who are anxious to have some one on one time with anyone who walks by. Inside the isolation room, the time flies by as you get one baby asleep only to have another one (or three) crying or needing a diaper change. Think octuplets with special needs. :) Oh, how quickly you become attached to those sweet little babies!

A couple of weeks before we arrived, Amanda had received a couple batches of babies, making the isolation room nice and full. Over the next week or so I thought I would tell a little about each of the isolation room babies as those are the ones we spent the most time with. I'll start tomorrow with one of my favorites, Coco....for reals this time.

It didn't take Rachel long to decide that she wants to make another trip back to the starfish house. This time, she wants to raise enough money to pay for a few surgeries and her trip. (and, of course, she wants to stay a little longer.) She started off talking about going a few times a year, but I talked her down to a goal of once a year. I think what really fed her passion was seeing the full spectrum of babies, starting with the ones who were coming to the house malnourished and needing care, babies healthy and awaiting their surgeries, babies who had already received their surgeries and the ones who were moving on to their new families. What it really boils down to is that we are both inspired by the amazing things that are going on at the starfish house and the sacrifices that are being made by volunteers all over the world, but especially the sacrifices made by Amanda to make sure that these children get to not only be loved and placed in families, but that they also receive the medical help that they need to get healthy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

China and the whatnot

Well, here we are in China. I have a little (and I mean little) Chris in my lap as I type away. He was brought to the starfish house last week and they aren't quite sure what his story is. He has cleft palette but he also has a lovely little scar. They think the scar is from a mystery surgery that went amiss, leading to his abandonment. He is a tiny guy and didn't gain any weight this last week so I am trying my best to get lots of food in that mini tummy of his. I have a learned more about the comings and goings of the Xi'an-ites but I, in my paranoid little being, am not sure what I can write about while here. All sorts of social issues and of course, I've learned a little more about the orphanages around here. The things I feel more at liberty to talk about? Funny thing, but kids in China love all of the things that kids in America love. Being sung to, being read to, being held and being loved. Surprised? Yeah, not me either. The littles that are newer to Starfish (3 weeks or less) all are in the isolation room where they are extra loved and doted on. We're doing what we love to do: spoiling babies with lots of holding. A particularly interesting case is Coco. She has been here for two weeks and is 2 years old. (and so stinking cute!) When she came, she just laid there, not able to move much at all. She gets daily acupuncture (which she hates) and has since been able to hold her bottle, sit up in a high chair and now she can sit up by herself while playing with toys. Amazing progress for 2 weeks! I can't wait to see some of these babies that we are trying to nourish as they get some chub. We were talking with another volunteer about how quickly we got used to their little cleft lips and other difficulties. These are some wonderful little spirits that inhabit the starfish house and my favorite thing is to see them go from cast offs to treasured children in their adopted homes. How I would love to show their birth moms' pictures of how the babies have exceeded their (the birth moms') expectations. I'll talk more tomorrow about our adventures at the Muslim Market and my close call with a squatty potty.