Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Comforts of Home

Henry on his 8th birthday is a model of happy consistency. He'll find a way to have fun just about anywhere and has adjusted well at school. But given the choice, he still prefers the comforts of home. It’s where he can most comfortably test his boundaries and playfully pester his sisters and Ting Ting, our little cat.  He is still mostly interested in familiar subjects like Thomas the Tank Engine and Curious George, but uses a computer now to explore them.  Henry has mastered his two-wheel bike, can do flips on the trampoline in our backyard, and is a very strong swimmer.  This past summer he attended camp at the Audubon Zoo nearby, quickly overcoming his shyness on the first day. Now he has started second grade.

Medically we are still in a holding pattern as we wait for the bones in Henry's face to grow some more.  Sooner or later his doctors will next seek to widen the curvature of his maxilla (which was squeezed together in the early construction of his palate) while also bringing it forward to rest more evenly above his lower jaw. Henry seems perfectly happy for now with things as they are. His speech is remarkable.

Each day starts for Henry like turning on a switch just before the sun comes up. “Can I have my breakfast please … and don’t stop,” he will say first thing, having cheerfully marched down the hallway from his room, usually with a handful of toy trains. Breakfast is a routine that must include a bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and sausage. He is more flexible about lunch, especially at school, but dinner mostly involves noodles. Not long after dinner he asks on his own for a warm bath, gets himself into his PJs, and asks to be tucked into bed at just a little before 9 pm each night, always with his soft baby jaguar safely close by.

It says a lot that at the top of the list of Henry’s favorite activities is still playing hide and seek with his dad. It’s his own special version of the classic game and played inside the house with only the barest attempts at hiding.

The main point of the game and its best part is simply to be found.

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At the Pingliang Children’s Welfare Institute, the orphanage where Henry started out in western China’s Gansu Province, the number of children there has increased to 178.  As has been the case for some time, nearly all the children have special needs but there are now more boys at the orphanage than girls. Some have mild or moderate issues but many have serious developmental disorders or other conditions that require special care. With so many special needs children the orphanage has traditionally had a difficult time placing children in adoptions. An international adoption agency called WACAP has been able to match a number of Pingliang children in foreign adoptions during the past year or so. In February 2013 it established an adoption partnership with the orphanage by agreeing to provide it with some modest but more regular financial support. An agency representative reports that WACAP has renewed this partnership for 2014 and will soon be receiving files for more Pingliang children eligible for adoption.   Meanwhile, Love Without Boundaries (LWB) is exploring the possibility of establishing one of its Believe In Me school programs in the orphanage.  LWB would likely be able to cover the set-up costs for the school but would be looking for monthly sponsors.

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