Friday, February 24, 2017

Thursday - 2/23 - Training Day!

Thursday, 2/23 -

"I am a mother," Aimee began. "I have five children." (Intake of breath from impressed ayis!) " I have a daughter and a son in high school, another daughter in middle school, and I have two children adopted from China. They are my heart and my joy, and although you were not the ones who cared for them, people like you did. I want to thank you for loving them. And starting the process of them knowing love."
Aimee presenting

Aimee and Vivienne working with nannies

Thus started Aimee's training for 38 nannies from XuChang and Lily Orphan Care rooms from 7 orphanages in Henan. She reviewed baby and child development. She then talked about how their movement comes to have purpose and how they build muscles in their bodies in order to strengthen their body and begin exploring the world. She illustrated using a a model baby and showed what healthy sitting should look like and what nannies can do to encourage sitting, rolling over, and crawling. After lunch, the training continued in a large playroom but this time with First Hugs kiddos. Peter, CY, Vivienne, and XT were amazingly cooperative models. Small groups of nannies then practiced different activities that could be done on therapy/yoga balls. There are exercises that the child sees as fun but which serve an important purpose.

Ayis from First Hugs and from Lily Orphan Care Centers stayed behind and asked questions about specific children. What if her hand is always in a fist? What if one side of his body is weak and he cannot roll over? What if she slumps to the side when sitting? Aimee patiently answered all the questions, excited that they were so interested and passionate about they children in their care.

Moya also presented to the nannies in the morning. She talked about the cycle of needs, both met and unmet ,and how that affects the brain. She used toys to show how ayis could work with children on connection, structure, regulation, engagement, and nurture. She also talked to the nannies about the importance of communication: imitating cooing sounds in babies and talking to they kids about toys, labeling things like toys, colors, and body parts, and using books throughout the day as well as songs and hand games. Even children who may remain largely non-verbal should be communicated with and be mirrored. She also talked about the power of touch.

Very little of the day was left after training was completed but it was encouraging to see the nannies use massage and talking through play in First Hugs with the children.

We know it is overwhelming to staff when we come and watch them all week long. Thursday evening when we got back to the hotel, we got a message from QiRui saying how the ayis in First Hugs liked what we taught, that they hoped they continue to learn and that they want us to come back each year. We have some great staff in First Hugs!

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Some play therapy! Toys like this work on manipulation and fine motor skills. How cute is Vivienne?

Swing therapy for Kendall

Sweet WL working on balance and core muscles

SB getting some swing time!!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday - 2/22 at First Hugs

Today was our middle day at XuChang.We started out with lots of activity in our First Hugs room. As we entered the orphanage and our room, we saw the kids being loaded up for their trip from the sleeping room to the play room. Unloading them was the first task and then we settled into play. What fun it was to introduce new toys from our wish list and seeing the kids engage. Favorites include the pig with coins and farm animals that fit together, as well as a peg puzzle.
Aubrey, WL, and Vivienne with a nanny
Moya and Peter
new toys!
AK doing the puzzle
QiRui brought out balloons and then bubbles and those really kept the kiddos busy. Aimee took out Lycra material and provided sensory input, giving the kids a chance for movement that they don't already have. All three kids who tried it really enjoyed it.

Morning snack was an egg pancake with vegetables that was enjoyed. Aimee continued to work with nannies and babies on the best ways to feed them. Two of our littles are feeding themselves. Sam and CY are doing a great job...and are so proud.

 Vivienne and  Sam played a great game of hide and seek with their nanny. They would stand quietly in the order, then pop out and run to their nanny and jump in her arms....again  and again and again. Repetition is such an important part of learning for babies and toddlers.

Vivienne and Sam playing
Tomorrow is a big day as Moya and Aimee Will be training nannies in a more formal setting.

Tuesday at First Hugs

Tuesday 2/21/17 - It was a long day but much was accomplished. It had been a beautiful day on Sunday, a little windy on Monday, and on Tuesday we had snow and freezing rain and slush.

Our morning started with more evaluations of individual children by Aimee. We were especially interested in several babies' eating issues. Aimee took video of Taylor Shae, MZ, YT, and ZY as they were being fed bottles. Luckily she has not only her own expertise but that of her friend Laura Woodring, a speech language pathologist. Audrey also has trouble drinking bottles.

After a while we went upstairs to the newborn nursery to see some of the new arrivals and some of the sicker babies. It is always very hard to face such joy with sadness combined. We did see several beautiful newborns, one with a severe cleft lip/palate, one with a simpler cl/cp, an absolutely gorgeous little one with albinism, and another baby with limb differences and hydrocephalus. Every single one, precious.

Next we went to visit some kids whose files had recently arrived at CCAI. Some lucky families will welcome these cute kiddos soon!

Aimee continued evaluating kiddos and giving the a nannies tips on positions for kids to play in to continue to build strength and incorporate engagement.

Aimee working with kids
ZY getting a massage
relaxed baby!
Sam gets her hair done in little pigtails after naps and she just loves the bows and ribbons. Even CY ( a boy!) asks for the ribbons some times.

beautiful Sam

Bubble time this afternoon meant fun for all the kids. They stand around QiRui while she blows bubbles and try to catch them. So much fun to watch.

We finished the day with a ride home in snow and freezing rain. Luckily we have a good driver; I don't think I could have made the drive without incident.

And all of our donations made it to First Hugs! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and who shopped our Amazon wishlist to help provide all of these supplies for our little ones.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 2 in XuChang - BABIES!!!!

Our director, Moya, and an awesome volunteer, therapist, and First Hugs supporter, Aimee, are in XuChang this week at First Hugs, working and visiting our babies! Stay tuned for daily updates and lots of pictures!!

Monday 2/20/2017

It was wonderful to drive into the orphanage courtyard and recognize the giant giraffe and Kung Fu Panda. We were so excited to see the children again. We were met by QiRui, our First Hugs room manager, and by Director Dan. There were hugs all around and then we headed up to the First Hugs room. Everywhere we looked, children were interacting with nannies, being loved on, and nurtured. It made our souls happy.

As we were going over the files we realized today is cute LB's first birthday! We got lots of funny looks as we sang to him in English and in Mandarin. Look at that smile!

I held Peter, a boy we remembered for his easy smiles and laughs a year ago. This year, it wasn't so easy but we saw him with his nanny and there were those smiles! We spent a lot of the morning with a few of our kiddos with more challenging needs. Our Taylor Shae is alert and looking around but Aimee, our pediatric physiotherapist and volunteer extraordinaire, got to watch Taylor Shae eat and gave some thought about how to make that easier for her. Aimee also looked at movement and tone for each of these babies and came up with some preliminary training ideas for the nannies.

Moya and Peter!
Aimee also looked at two of our newest additions, WL, who is a beautiful round-faced boy with repaired club feet and a left ear difference. He has the roundest, most beautiful face and can roll over even with his leg braces. He also sits independently now and freely gives out smiles.
Sweet YT is just 9 months old (as is WL) and has repaired heart disease. She sits up independently and rolls over. She is petite, especially next to WL!

Princess YT
The afternoon meant more time with all. Aimee set up a swing which a few kids tried. XT seemed to put up with the swinging but was somewhat distracted by all the praise from passing nannies.

Sam was up and walking around when this time last year we were not sure she would ever walk. The cuteness factor is high with her. She is happy to put the coins in the pig... over and over... but as soon as CY passes by with the drums, she is up and after him!

The beautiful miss Sam

We ended today with a trip to the bank to see about opening a bank account so we can receive donations in local currency. We will be back tomorrow morning to do further evaluations and plan for training on Thursday.

More soon! Stay tuned!

And all of our sweet babies are in need of sponsors! Want to get regular photos and updates on one of these sweeties? See more on how to sponsor a baby here -

First Day in XuChang - 2017 trip!

Our director, Moya, and an awesome volunteer, therapist, and First Hugs supporter, Aimee, are in XuChang this week at First Hugs, working and visiting our babies! Stay tuned for daily updates and lots of pictures!!

On Sunday afternoon Aimee and I arrived in XuChang- excited to get to the orphanage the next day. We were a little tired but were afraid if we took a rest, we would mess up our sleep schedule. So we went for a walk.

And what a walk it was. First there were just many many shops. And lots of people. We noticed there were many electronic shops and phone stores. We took a right and saw many things for sale by street vendors next to a beautiful large park.

Families were flying kites and children driving little cars and riding rides. Colorful kites were for sale and two sisters rode unicycles. One little girl came up to Aimee and shyly offered her a postcard and said proudly "I know English". She giggled and ran back to her mom.
Across the street from the park was a group of building whose architecture dates back to 200 AD . There is a large courtyard, a drum tower, a treasure room, a knife and seal tower and more. It is an important historic site in Henan.

As we walked back to the hotel, we took back streets and saw interesting entryways to homes and a few signs for businesses that made us smile- most notable "Crabby Patties" and "Good sister-in law food".

We passed a primary school. Would love to go back and see the kids but won't have time. It was good to see a little more of XuChang and we may head out for a walk again some evening.

It was a balmy 65 when we went for a walk yesterday. Monday calls for a high of 42 with strong winds. We cannot wait to see the babies! Look for pictures of gorgeous babies later tonight!!

Moya and Aimee

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Who doesn't love to shop? And isn't shopping for babies the most fun of all?

Some of our First Hugs volunteers will be traveling to China in a couple of weeks and they are hoping to carry over with them a list of needed items for our little ones.

You can shop directly from our Amazon Wish List and the items will be sent right to our Executive Director, Moya Smith, to be taken to China!

Our Amazon Wish List can be found here. Thank you for shopping for our babies!!