More halloween hijinks...
 Just wandering around the 'hood.
 Speed Racer, slow down!!
 Not exactly in costume, but at least in her Stella band jacket.
 On the phone: Very important Q-business.
 Just hangin' by the carousel.
The alter-ego.


In preparation of ghost cake.

Design thanks to this post at Willie & Henrietta.
We lit it up just because the Q loves to blow out candles.
The littlest ghost.

Decorating ghost cookies (talk about the naked chef!)
 Q and her twin cousins at the Chatfield corn maze.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Q was a year and two months old when she had her first lip and palate surgery. Here in the USA, if a child is born with a cleft, they have their first surgery very early in life - somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 months of age. For an adopted child, it's a bit more of a roll of the dice. Some receive a preliminary surgery from a charity organization, either local or international, while they are still in an institution and waiting to be adopted. The age at which the first surgery occurs is generally later - somewhere around 8 or 9 months of age. Q was one of the rare cases in which the child does not receive their first surgery pre-adoption. Most cleft children have their lip repaired prior to adoption, though usually not the palate. When we adopted Q at nearly one year of age, she still had not had her first surgery, and both the lip and palate were still wide open. 

For those not familiar with the condition, any child born with a cleft lip and/or palate usually requires years of speech therapy to learn to pronounce sounds properly, regardless of the timing or severity of surgeries. There are so many muscles in the lips, tongue and soft palate involved in speech as we know it that it's difficult to wrap ones mind around the complexity of it all. Imagine if you were born without the muscles of your mouth connected. Imagine how long it would take to learn to use those surgically-attached muscles to create the sounds that we use for speech, much less to learn how to perform a simple smile. Know also that there is a great deal of scar tissue involved after a surgery performed to the hard and soft palate, and that the scar tissue makes the functional use of those muscles even more problematic.

Now think about how a parent anticipates the time when they will be able to understand the early babblings of a small child. As parents of a child born with a cleft, we have to wait even longer for that joyful and exciting moment.

Q learned sign language quite easily as an infant, but we were warned not to give her too much facility with signing. She needed the frustration factor in order to give her the motivation necessary to do the hard work involved in learning to speak. She needed to have trouble communicating, so that she would be motivated to begin the painful and arduous process of learning to use her mouth and facial muscles to pronounce words. For a many months now, we have listened to her experimenting with the process. We have heard her loosen up and grow comfortable with her own babbling, knowing full well that most of what she says will be incomprehensible to those around her. 

Because she is smart and quick and bold, we knew that her comprehension level was extremely high, even for one born to a very different language (Mandarin Chinese) which she heard and absorbed during her first year of life. Very early in life, Q developed her own form of charades, and had little trouble making her emotions and desires clear.

We did not know when to expect to begin to understand her spoken words, much less fully-verbalized sentences. Only in the past couple of months have we begun to see that process unfold. She is now three years old plus two months, and we are only just beginning to know the great joy of understanding her most, if not all, of the time. 

Yesterday, Q and I were sitting on the couch while daddy prepared dinner. Suddenly, she stood up and threw her arms around me. Q is an extremely loving and happy child, but she is not overly demonstrative in a purely physical sense, so this was rather rare. 

"Mommy, thank you for my Keroppi!" she said. 

Keroppi is the stuffed frog (friend of Hello Kitty, and Q's great love) that you will doubtless have seen in many recent photos. 

"Oh, you're welcome, sweetheart!" I said, surprised. 

"Mommy, thank you for my pink phone (tiny toy cell phone bought for a dollar from a vending machine)!" she said, throwing her arms around me yet again. 

"Goodness!" I said, a bit overwhelmed, "You're welcome, my pumpkin-pie!"

She released me from her embrace, sat back on the couch, and looked around her for a moment, her eyes stuttering around the room. Then she spread her arms wide to encompass the whole room, our possessions, our house.

"Mommy," she said, "Thank you for...all this stuff."

Now, I am not a crier. But at this point, I have to tell you, I started to tear up.

"Oh, sweetie," I said. "You are so welcome. Thank you for...for being you. And for being our daughter."

Then she plopped her butt down on the couch, let her hands fall in her lap in resignation.

"I'm sorry mommy," she said, very deliberately. "I!"

The process of verbalization has officially begun. Just when I thought my heart could not be stretched any larger.
Halloween hijinks...a dimestore wig, and hours of fun.
My husband looking very Kurt Cobain.

 The last days of New Mexico.
 A chestnut at sunset.
 Truchas, high in the hills.
 Breakfast in Taos, and some memories of my childhood.

 The amazing Twirl toystore and playspace. If you're ever in Taos...
 It's a real wonderland. 
From the hobbit-esque balconies and coves to the paper lanterns and fairylights...
 to the marvelously-imagined musical instruments and brightly-painted gates.
At a certain point, when it was time to hit the road again, we had to bodily carry Q out of here!
Well, you can see the attraction.
 Kiddie of the wonderful discoveries at Twirl.
On the road back up North, with stunning Sange de Cristo vistas dusted with snow.



For absolutely no reason except just because...because the tree with the crook in it, because the smile with a crook in it, because the wicked eyes, because the pigeon toes, because the... everything.
The adobe churches of New Mexico always make me want to paint. I rarely paint in oils, and even watercolor - my medium for many years - has been scarce in my studio of late, since I've been working mainly in pen and ink on recent projects.
But this territory is very familiar to me.
We lived in Taos for a couple of years when I was in grade school.
These places, their smells, the quality of the sky and the sage and chama shrubs...
it is all very evocative to me.
The sculptural forms of the local churches have inspired so many,
including my father,
and so these images bring back for me images of his studio spaces with their cement floors,
their odors of paint and charcoal, of heated metal and freshly-carved wood.
It isn't likely I'll paint these places anytime soon.
Life is too full, and I have too much work as  it is.
But at least I have my camera.
Who knows, maybe painting places like this
is reserved for another phase of my life.
It's nice to have things to look forward to, isn't it?

btw I snapped these photos very quickly after hopping out of the still-idling car to photograph this church, which I have photographed so many times before. Q was in the car sound asleep (finally) and my husband waiting in the driver's seat, and we were making time for Taos to have dinner. It was one of those afternoons so bright and hard and flat and glass-clear that you can't imagine you'll get a single good shot...and yet, sometimes...