Category Archives: Saige

One year a Magnuson

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Saige actually became a Magnuson on 12/11/12, but the 10th was her Gotcha Day, and it is, in fact, already the 11th in China, so the title stands.

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Our Saige Annalise came to us a serious, quiet baby who watched much and said little.  At least the first day.  Then she became this angry spitfire, constantly on the verge of a tantrum, especially when food was in sight.  Fast forward one year, and her brother dangles animal crackers in her face and she begins to sniff.  I remind her that I will give her some too, but first I have to finish changing diapers, so she holds it together and patiently waits for her “cackers.”  Then, as I brush Glory’s teeth before bed, I hear her singing away, “Jesus is with me,” reading the book of the same title.  Coming to a page she doesn’t know, she bursts into the bathroom, holding the book out to me, demanding, “Whadisay?”  Upon receiving an answer, she says, “Oh (pause to process).  Oh tay,” and marches back to her room to continue reading/singing her song.

And I go on to sing in my heart, “What a mighty God we serve!  Oh, what a mighty God we serve!”

Up and at ’em!

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After teasing us for nearly 2 months, Saige finally took to her feet tonight after dinner!  We are so proud of her, and she’s pretty pleased with herself 🙂

This wasn’t our only first today.  This afternoon the 5 of us ventured to Walmart on our own.  Let me tell you, we were quite the scene!  Glory rode in the carrier on my chest, Saige sat in the seat in the cart while the boys hung off it like monkeys.  The kids all behaved quite well, and I was truly impressed.  The boys often struggle with wrestling and being rather rowdy in stores; today, I saw none of that. What I did see were some rather amused shoppers, gawking at our little Parade of Nations 🙂  Can’t say I blame them, we are quite a spectacle.

All in all, it was a good day of firsts.

Update on Saige

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It has been quite a while since I first posted about our struggles with Saige.  I just reread my post and am amazed at how far she has come.  I thank God for His goodness to us!

Most of our difficuDSCN3096lties seem(ed) to stem around food.  That is still true.  However, I can’t remember the last time Saige screamed to get food.  As she would throw a fit as I prepared our meal, I would hold up fingers for her as I counted to three.  If she did not calm herself down while I counted, I would explain to her that is is not ok to throw a fit and scream while waiting for food, and then I would take her to her room and put her in her crib.  After a few minutes (of continued screaming, more likely than not), I would go get her, put her back in the high chair or exersaucer or floor, wherever she was sitting before, and give her another chance to wait patiently.  We would repeat this as many times as it took for her to wait without screaming.  Now that she doesn’t scream any more, she whimpers, and we are using the same technique to teach her not to whimper and whine while waiting.  She can usually compose herself with the count of ‘1,’ and it sort of makes me laugh to see her eyes get big as she does all she can to avoid being put in her crib.  Just this week, she has been quiet through the prayer before meals, even without milk in her hands at the time.  We are really proud of her!

She is growing in other ways, too.  She took her first steps a few weeks ago, and likes to call the family’s attention to herself whenever she is standing unassisted.  Often she gets too excited to walk to me, and ends up diving, smiling and giggling as she lands in my arms.  She likes to be held, and will sign ‘DSCN3118up.’  Once in our arms, she’ll start pointing at everything and asking, “Muh?  Muh?”  She likes to look at pictures of our family, pointing at each member.  When she crawls, she chirps to herself, and slaps her hands on the floor- it’s hard to loose her!  She gets into everything- dirt from the potted plants, tissue boxes, bath toys when it isn’t bath time, and, her favorite, whatever her brothers are playing with.  She likes to play peek-a-boo (or ‘Where’s Saige?’), and will often only cover one eye, or simply put her hands on her head because she doesn’t want to miss anything by covering her eyes 🙂

She is doing really well health wise.  We took the girls to Riley Children’s Hospital’s International Adoption Clinic to see Dr. Keck yesterday, which was really good.  We’re going to have Saige checked out along with Glory at G’s craniofacial appointment at the end of the month to make sure both sides of her face are growing at the same rate, and she’s got an appointment with a hand surgeon as well.  Perhaps surgery would allow her greater mobility in her left hand.  Tonight she isDSCN3076 sleeping in permetherin cream to treat her lingering scabies, and today we submitted her stool sample to the lab which I expect to reveal giardia.  She’ll need an eye exam in the near future, too.

As far as attachment goes, we see her clinging to us in new environments and preferring us to anyone else.  She is comfortable crawling around the back of the sanctuary during church, but is still hesitant to be held by anyone else.  She makes good eye contact, gets excited when Daddy gets home from work, and is concerned about being left out if I have any other child in my lap.  When we walk into the girls’ dark bedroom at night to put them to bed, she lays a big, wet, open mouthed kiss on both Mommy and Daddy, whether we’re ready for it or not!

Her Daddy will spontaneously say, “She’s a sweet girl,” and smile really big while he says it, and I’ll agree, whole heartedly.  She’s doing well, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Saige’s orphanage

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I promised this post long ago, and am finally getting to it!  We visited Saige’s orphanage, Xuzhou SWI, on Wednesday of the week we were in Nanjing.  I don’t know what SWI means exactly, but often orphanages are called CWI, which means Children’s Welfare Institute, so I’m sure it is something like that.  In fact, it might be “Senior” because on the same compound as the orphanage, there is also senior citizen housing.  Anyway, we traveled by bullet train, which took about 1.5 hours, and allowed the boys to enjoy the landscape… or if not the landscape, the ads played on the TV monitors in the train.  I did my best to manage an unhappy Saige, and Glory sat happily on Daddy’s lap.

The orphanage was impressive.  It was new, beautiful, and bright.  The kids had just been moved to the new facility the week before, so Saige only spent 2 nights there!  We were honored to be the first family to visit the new location, and had the privilege of proof-reading signs.  Jesse discovered right away a discrepancy- both restrooms were labeled “girls’ bathroom,” but one sign was pink, and the other blue.  We also suggested that the room identified as the “Isolation Room” be renamed to “Quarantine” better reflect its true purpose.

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Ms. Tong, the orphanage director, has been with the Xuzhou SWI for a number of years, I forget how many.  But ever since she took over, she has been saving money in order to build this new building.  Funds were contributed by various companies, and the donations/fees received from adoptive parents were also utilized to make this facility a reality.  I doubt that it is representative of orphanages in China, but I am still glad we made the trip.

Backtracking

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I need to write about last week.  I probably should have written daily, as I tried to do the week before, but I just couldn’t.  For one thing, with two babies, four arms are occupied almost constantly.  For another thing, I’ve been sick for the last week or so with a cough and congestion, so I’ve preferred sleep to blogging. But those might just be excuses for the big reason I didn’t write: I was afraid to write what I felt, and then look back later and be ashamed of what I had written.  No, it’s more like I was afraid of expressing something in a way that later on would be hurtful to Saige.  I don’t want that, but I do want to be real about what we encountered with her, as I believe it is a trial God gave us for the purpose of further developing our faith and broadening our experience for the purpose of ministering to others.

Here’s a post I wrote on the 12th, a day without internet.

A new road

The last couple of days have been altogether new to us. Transition into our family has gone so smoothly for Emet, Jamin, and even Glory, but Saige is a different story. So far, her entrance has been a bit choppy. We’re learning how to help her deal with mealtimes, waiting to be served rather than whimpering and screaming between each bite. And we’re praying for discernment regarding her almost perpetual discontent. We suspect we will wind up having some attachment issues with this little daughter, and I’m not very excited about that.

I feel blessed to have just recently completed a study of James with the ladies at our Foreign Fellowship in Wuhan. Through that study, I began to understand that to James, considering trials joy was not merely finding a silver lining, or looking on the bright side of things. It isn’t optimism, it is surrender to the God who sent the trial, and genuinely looking forward to the result: steadfastness. And here is my trial. Here is my test: a child who screams to be in my arms, then, once there, pushes me a way. A child who, when put down because she’s screaming about being up, throws herself down and bangs her head against the floor or the wall. A child who, when I do not feed her quickly enough will slam her head into my sternum as she yells about there not being food in her mouth, though she has food in both of her hands.

Please pray with us for Saige. And please pray for us- it is difficult to care for (and, dare I say it? love) a child who is inconsolable, but the challenge increases when there is sweet, happy Glory who rarely makes a fuss, and two energetic boys that need attention, too. There have been shining moments, for which we are thankful- a chubby cheeked smile, a wave of the arm, or an appropriate silence between mouthfuls, but these glimmers seem so faint given her more frequent behavior.

On Monday, December 10th we received this quiet little girl.  She happily played on the bed with her new sister, Glory, banging two cups together and smiling occasionally.  She ate slowly.  Very slowly.  So slowly I wasn’t really sure how we were going to manage mealtimes for the next 17 or 18 years.  She let out a little cry at bed time, then passed out, on her back, little fists on either side of her head.

Tuesday we signed her adoption paperwork, and Han Huixiu became Saige Annalise Magnuson.  She was a little fussy.  I figured she didn’t really like the carrier.  And then we had started the day crazy early, too, so being tired, in a new place, exposed to a new language and people, all seemed sufficient reasons to be grumpy.  But then in the evening, when we stayed in for dinner, we began to see a different side of Saige.

As we ate dinner, she became angry when I took a bite if there was no food in her mouth.  She would hold food in both of her hands, but then demand that I put food into her mouth.  It wasn’t fun, but we thought she was just very hungry.

On Wednesday, we had another early morning as we went to visit Saige’s orphanage in Xuzhou.  We took the bullet train north 1 1/2 hours, then toured the brand new facility that Saige called home for a whopping 2 days!  We have a picture of the exterior of the orphanage where she did actually live, but that was not the building we saw.  I’ll post some pics of the orphanage later; I don’t want to detract from the subject at hand.

She was angry all through breakfast, unwilling to feed herself, and demanding food be ready to fill her mouth the second she swallowed.  During our travel and our orphanage visit, Saige was grumpy.  She griped and cried whenever I sat down instead of stood while holding her. At the orphanage she eagerly went to her former care givers, and did not reach for me when I took her back.

Following the tour, the orphanage director, Ms. Tong, along with several people who work in the orphanage office, took us to lunch.  It was wonderful food, and there were many new things for us to try.  But Saige was hungry.  And the moment she saw food, she went ballistic!  She screamed any time her mouth was empty.  She held food, and refused to feed herself.  She banged her head backwards on my chest, and arched her back.  She threw herself forward, hitting her head on the table.  She knocked food she didn’t like from my hand, and spat it out of her mouth.  And all this in front of the orphanage officials!

Our guide, Jin, and Mrs. Tong both offered to hold Saige so I could eat.  I declined, telling them I did not want Saige to think that this kind of behavior would change her situation.  She continued in this uncontrollable behavior throughout the meal.  Ms. Tong told me, as Jin translated, that she thought I had “spoiled her already.  She was always so gentle and easy going.”

My “gentle and easy going” baby cried whenever I sat down in the car or on the train.  She fought us at dinner, and screamed when she saw her bottle until I could get it securely plugged into her mouth.  It was a hard day.  And Thursday was more of the same.  If she was awake, she was screaming.

Jesse and I prayed.  I felt really disappointed, and unprepared for the challenges that seemed unavoidable.  Attachment disorders scare me.  I’ve seen friends go through some really serious stuff with their children with attachment disorders, and it is a lot of work.  A whole lot of work.  Not like a quick-fix surgery that requires a couple months to recover.  Attachment disorders can take a lifetime to overcome.

Thursday night we had a little break through.  Jesse, who had been taking care of our other three while Saige and I tried to work things out, and with whom Saige did not want anything to do, decided he would feed Saige at dinner. We sat down at the table, and Saige began squawking. When the food came, it intensified to a screech as she screamed through our prayer and banged on the table with her hands. She pulled all the same stunts, but then Jesse took her off his lap and sat her on the high-backed bench behind him where she was safe, but separated from both the family and the food. Boy, did she howl! Never have I been more thankful for a noisy restaurant and a big table to keep the waitresses from attempting to comfort our baby!

Y When she calmed down a bit- I don’t think she was quiet, but she wasn’t screaming any more, Jesse brought her back up on his knee and fed her some more. As she began to scream once again, he removed her from the table, and the whole process cycled through at least 5 times. By the end of the meal, it was taking her less time to calm herself, and longer for her to get worked up into a frenzy.

I think it was that evening, and if it wasn’t it was the next morning, that Saige began to smile again. She would wave at me when I looked at her playing on the bed, and yell to me, “Ma! Ma!” She was less adverse to Jesse holding her, and in the next few days even reached for him when he put out his arms for her.

I was dreading our Friday flight to Guangzhou because she would have to sit on my lap the whole time, I was afraid she would scream throughout the flight, and they would serve us a meal on the plane. God provided that Saige was happy to sit on my lap. She played with me, and even with Emet across the aisle. Then she charmed the grandpa sitting next to us, and was asleep when they served the food, which meant I got to eat some, and could concentrate on feeding her. And truthfully, it is easier to deal with a cranky, hungry baby when I am not cranky and hungry myself.

Since arriving in Gunagzhou, things have been so much better! We have continued to remove her from the table when she is throwing a fit, and we’re helping her to sign “More,” to replace the screaming. We’ve also made a point of snacking in front of her and not giving anything to her. Not in a torturous way, of course, but after she has eaten and is full, we’ll eat a cracker as we straighten up the room. The reason for this is we suppose she never, or rarely saw a caregiver eat in front of her. All day every day of her life she’s been part of a schedule that is all about caring for babies. Whatever food she saw was for her, and it was only out when it was her mealtime. The food was never too hot, and she wouldn’t have to wait on it because it was prepared and cooled before she was ever plopped in her chair to be fed. But in a family, she has to become accustomed to not always eating the same thing at the same time as every person in the family, and she also has to get used to the idea that her parents do, and need to, eat.

We’ve applied the separation consequence in other ways as well. For instance, when it is nap time and she is screaming in her bed, we’ll cover the rail with a towel so she can’t see us until she has calmed down, then we remove the towel.

She seems to be responding well to these efforts to correct and direct her behavior. She seems happier, and is becoming more active. She gets excited when she sees the carrier, because it means we’re going out. She likes to give me her toys, and receive kisses in return. She can balance a cup on her head like a champ. She likes to chew on the socks Glory sheds as soon as her shoes are off. She is throwing fewer and fewer fits, although if she is awakened prematurely, watch out!

I am so thankful to see this progress. It is such a great encouragement! I know that we are not out of the woods. Not with Saige, and not with any of our kids. There will always be challenges to overcome. And God will always be there to lead us through it. Thanks for your continued prayers for our family! We could not ask for a more precious blessing!