Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh What a Difference a Year Makes

On Tuesday, March 30, 2010, we will celebrate a year since finding out about Sidney. As I sat down at the laptop after church a year ago tomorrow, I began working on one of my work projects. Suddenly, the phone rang. Tom began a strange conversation on the other line. He mouthed the words "America World," while frantically writing down the words, "Hunan, girl, 1 year." When our agency began discussing Sidney's anomalies, Tom gave his standard line, "I better let you talk to my wife." As I tore the phone from his grip, my heart beat so fast I could feel it in my throat. Before I knew it, I hung up and was looking at the most adorable face looking back on the email. Some adoptive parents will readily admit they do not immediately fall in love with their child. Many children have a far off stare or something that does not register with parents. I can say none of this. We fell in love immediately. Two days after this phone conversation Sidney turned 1. If there are prospective special needs parents contemplating this process, it was a journey we took after a lot of prayer. When referrals came to us which were out of our capability, it was a gut wrenching and agonizing process but oh so worth what we got in return!

Tuesday is Sidney's birthday. She will turn 2 in a place so different from where she was last year at the same time. Her last birthday, mom was forcing her way into the doctors office. Our family doctor said, "I don't really have time today." "This MUST go back to China in 24 hours," I said. With a look of genuine concern (probably for my sanity), he said "let's go into my office."

After learning a bit more about Sidney's condition, we took a leap of faith. For the second time in my life, I have gained so much perspective on what is truly important in our family. The first was, of course, when Tom's mom passed away suddenly. OK, I am done with my kum by ya moment.

On a fun note, Tom and I got away for an entire night on Saturday. Sidney had her first overnight stay with her brother Eli at my parents house. BobBob/Gimpa Bob and Grandma Jean have always had some kind of rock star status with Eli. BobBob spent may hours playing with Sidney while Grandma Jean enjoyed a snuggle which I know was treacherous. Eli, always the independent child, said he was glad, because he "needed a break from Mom and Dad." Remember, when we left for China, he was more excited about moving to step 3 on his Lego kit than worried about saying goodbye. Sidney did very well with my parents and only broke into tears the next morning when she heard the word Mom. This was so great, because Tom and I have always made a point of getting away by ourselves. Today, I expected some kind of altered behavior, but she exhibited none of this.

Tom and I spent time at his schools annual Spring Fling. It is a fundraiser for the school. It was fun to enjoy of couple of glasses of wine and the hilarity that always ensues when we are hanging out with our friends down the street. The event had a luau theme. When we showed up, Jill was standing in all form of Hawaiian garb. To say she cracks us up is an understatement. I personally thought the plastic grass skirt was fashion forward.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Unpeeling Another Layer of Sidney

We contacted Half the Sky about a week ago. This particular organization works in the Chenzhou Children’s Welfare Institute where Sidney lived. As I have written in prior blogs, Half the Sky implements additional training and staff. One of the many benefits is more interaction with children in the orphanage. On Wednesday, I opened an email indicating that Half the Sky’s office in Beijing had information on Sidney with 5 individual photos ranging from 5 months of age to a one of the last photos taken 11 days before we first met in Changsha. Tom and I talked about the people who work with and become attached to children in China. I am certain it is bittersweet to say goodbye. Saying goodbye to a future and life, yet letting go of a child who has become so much a part of your life. There were also written reports to go along with the photos.

Most interesting was the last report. This was written 7/2/2010, and we traveled to Changsha for Sidney (approximately 5 hours from the orphanage) on 7/13/2010. The volunteer indicated Sidney always asked her to go out to the garden and pick a flower. About three weeks after we arrived home, we went and visited my parent’s house. Though she had met “BobBob or Gimpa Bob” prior to visiting, she started taking a particular interest in my dad after the visit. As my mother waxed philosophical about Sidney’s reasons for becoming so fond of my father, he interrupted saying,” all I did was take her out to see the flowers on the deck.”
Such a cool connection he made without even knowing.

We also found out Sidney’s physical health was not good when she first arrived at the orphanage. We are unsure if this is one of the reasons why she was left in the hospital in Chenzhou. I don’t think we were aware of how bad her condition was or we just don’t think about it, because she is thriving now. Her report indicates that Half the Sky started working with after about 2 ½ months in the orphanage, because “when she first came, her health condition was not good.” We are unsure of what exactly was going on, but we feel very lucky that Sidney is here to be our daughter. Typically, as we witnessed traveling, there is a tendency to have an answer for all health concerns, like “the baby has a fever from the air conditioning.” I remember thinking when our guide gave us this information, hmmm, air condition, virus, bacterial infection; they are all the same right? Sorry, a bit of sarcasm.

I cannot get the photos to upload to blogger but will figure out a way at some point.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tales of TaekwonDo and Temporal Thermometers

Eli had the opportunity to participate in his first taekwondo tournament over the weekend. His coach thought it would be a great way to build confidence when competing in the sparing portion of the competition. Eli started lessons at the local civic center in June. He is not a fan of baseball, so this was just another great way to keep him active. That is apart from running around for hours in the backyard with the neighbors. Nine months later, we still attend twice weekly lessons, and Eli loves it.

We were unaware this was a tournament drawing kids from Chicago, Twin Cities, and Kansas City. It wasn’t until afterward that the coach explained a majority of the kids participating, in his words, “eat, breath, and sleep taekwondo.” I had been made privy to this fact by another parent. As we watched scads of participants in all form of coordinating jacket and t-shirt, I suddenly felt like I was sending my child into a fight club. I also might be prone to drama. According to his coach the scoring was stricter, however Eliab did well. He did not score against his opponent but mom and dad were so proud when he without hesitation made the first kick! Like a warrior in shin guards, arm guards, chest guard, and protective head gear, he made his way into the ring like a professional and never once flinched at the experienced competition. Mom, who is usually fairly subdued in such situations, was taken with the moment, screaming “get in there,” when what I really wanted to scream was “give him hell!” OK, so maybe that would have been unsportsmanlike.

It is never uneventful with two kids. When we showed up at Tom’s parent’s house to pick up Sidney, her little body was baking. Eli was already finishing a round of antibiotics for something similar, and our doctor warned us this particular bug went downhill quickly. After only one day of coughing, she had a 103.6 fever, and mom was a complete wreck! We live in such a small area that we were able to decide to take her to the doctor, visit the convenient care, pick up the antibiotic at Wal-Mart on a Saturday, and circle back to Tom’s parent’s house within a span of an hour. How many ways can I say I love Iowa?

I am always very freaked out by fevers. With Motrin and Tylenol the fever is gone, however Sidney has been cranky all day. Who could blame her? This made mom quite stressed. I had a few errands that had to be completed before the beginning of the week, so Tom took care of Sidney while she rested and Eli tore around outside with the neighbors, and I ran to the mall. Something about finding a pair of jeans, hearing John Meyer piped into JC Penny, and gulping down a large coffee that made me feel human again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

After School Antics and Mayhem

Eli wanted me to post a video for the entire world to see that his sister can, in fact, be naughty. I could not get it to post to blogger. This particular situation ended with a pouting Sidney, complete with head down and lip out. Instead, I will post the photo of them making up. For the first several months home, we watched a shier Sidney playing with her brother, initiating none of the crazy play. Now the tables have turned, and she initiates craziness as much as her brother.

Saturday morning was Eli’s pinewood derby race. He was there for the fun of watching the cars, and hanging out with the boys in his troop, without getting stressed out about winning. He is fortunate to have a dedicated mom in charge of his troop. For once, it is not me. I say this because once your children start becoming involved; it is the same 20% of parents who do everything in a small community.

We are enjoying time between surgeries without worrying about casts or splints. Sidney and I went for our first outdoor stroller ride since last fall. 44 degrees seemed almost unseasonably warm, and she loved being back outside again. We are unsure how much time she spent outside in China. It seems like she was outside, because she had a suntan. We think it was probably concrete versus grass. Last summer, Tom put her feet into the grass and she was quite unhappy.

We believe much of the reason that Sidney has made such a great adjustment is that her orphanage was involved with Half the Sky. This is an American based nonprofit which gives resources to a handful of orphanages in China. One of the benefits of the organization in Chenzhou was additional women from the community to hold and interact with children. Sidney’s paperwork indicated she had spent time with “grandmas.” I am faxing in the paperwork and will let everyone know what we find out. Half the Sky gives children additional medical care, so we are curious to find out if they have anything else. All of this conflicts with the lack of information we received on Sidney’s referral about her medical conditions however we are happy to simply have additional photographs.

Tom is home, and my sanity has returned!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Between taekwondo lessons, Boy Scouts, school conferences, taxes, and trips to Iowa City, I am finally finding time to catch up. Tonight, Eli is working on his pinewood derby car. He and Dad are throwing back and forth ideas for supping up this year’s model. What a different March we are experiencing than last year. March marks a year since we found out about Sidney. On the 30th, we walked into the house after church only to have the phone ring with a call about a girl in Hunan province. It still makes me excited to think about finally sending in our Letter of Intent. March is also special because, the 31st is Sidney’s second birthday.

I am trying to come up with ideas for a child who is really just learning how to play. We were at my parent’s house on Sunday for dinner. My parents also observed how much her nature has changed in the last couple of months. She played when we first came home, in very brief amounts of time, before simply standing on the side and observing. Now she is in the thick of it, wrestling on the floor with her brother.

Sidney is doing beautifully with her newly separated fingers. I suddenly became panicked yesterday as I looked down at Sidney’s newly healed fingers. I realized the outside finger was a bit crooked. This was something Tom and I talked about, back and forth, for several days. I made a quick call to Iowa City. Despite the size and what I am sure was a very busy Monday, the nurse called back within 2 hours. Dr Lawler advised the nurse that this was the shape of Sidney’s finger prior to surgery. A bone was removed in this portion of the finger, however it will retain its original shape. This was totally fine. I was worried we did something incorrectly with the finger and freaked out for no reason.

Finally, I am happy to say, other than Sidney working on cutting her 11th tooth since being home, the entire family is well! Sidney only had a few teeth when we first brought her home. I had not considered teeth might not come in if there was not proper nutrition. We know much of the nutrition Sidney was getting was taken by giardia. Once this was taken care, the teeth have not stopped erupting. I think I saw her with her entire fist in her mouth today.
OK, off to put Eli to bed and relax!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Syndactyly Release Released

Sidney and Mommy headed to Iowa City today for a check on the hand. She was released from wearing the splint today! It is so bizarre to see her without anything on her hand. One finger is completely healed, and the other is partially scabbed over. I had a brief conversation with the resident about skin grafting. I asked if new skin is generated underneath the grafting, and the grafting falls off. He advised this is part of the process. As residents seem to do, he gave the precise scientific term. After I gave him a puzzled look, he explained other materials are used in combination with the graft. Dr Lawler confirmed the hand looks great, and the scabbing should fall off in a couple of weeks.

The other portion of the visit was spent going over our plan for the left hand. This surgery will be more complex. As I explained in a previous posting, the growth plate is causing the bone to grow in the opposite direction or causing the base of her middle finger to grow wider versus longer. Dr Lawler explained the growth plate is in the shape of the letter C. She will cut out a notch out of the arch on the C and replace it with a fat graft off Sidney’s upper arm. This will be the size of a mosquito bite. There is a possibility this will require another graft off the upper hip, however the doctor will need to wait until she has opened the finger to see. Surgery is scheduled for Thursday, May 6th. She will likely have it early in the morning again.

This might sound a bit overwhelming to the outside observer; however it really is not a huge deal. Yes, it kind of sucks to take a healthy child in for surgery, but it is one day out of our whole lives. It has absolutely nothing to do with the way we function in our daily life. Sidney is not gravely ill, and it could be so much worse. Sidney and I saw three children in wheel chairs in the short time we were in the waiting room. They all smiled and greeted us, conveying that a smile and a positive attitude can overcome anything.

As I write this, I notice the room has finally gone silent! Eli and Sidney typically have one game, making noise! Eli and Sidney have a normal dynamic as brother and sister. I remember during the three year wait, there were so many times I wondered what it might be like to watch them playing together. Sidney and her small 18.3 lbs frame and Eli and his lumbering 85 lb frame are hilarious. They have learned how to push one another’s buttons. Eli by getting in her face and Sidney by throwing Eli’s Lego’s off the table.

Lately, there is a change in Sidney. She carries herself differently and is somehow lighter. She smiled from the first day, but it was not a smile like one might see on the face of a typical 16 month old. It was like seeing a baby smile for the first time. Mouth wide open and not really sure why she was making the expression other than to please her parents. Now she understands happiness and instead of simply reciprocating our smiles, she initiates her happiness. It was the coolest experience to look over at her and see her face light up. It was the first time she smiled at me without being smiled at first. It was a huge moment and something I will never forget.