Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings in Many Forms

Last Thursday began in much the same way. Suddenly our darkened kitchen was a buzz of quiet activity around 4:30am. Tom made quick work of prepping the turkey while I put together my grandma’s stuffing recipe. After an hour, a stuffed bird barely fit into the roaster as it went into the same working oven. Each year Tom’s boss gives us a turkey. This year he outdid himself with a 30 lbs. bird. Throughout the remainder of the morning, Mom slept, and Eli helped Dad to prepare the feast. 

Attempting to capture my parents is never a simple feat.
Grandpa Bob and Grandma Jean arrived for a noon meal. This contributed to the kid’s level of excitement. Something I enjoy so much about the Thanksgiving holiday is Eli’s genuine level of enthusiasm. He loves the preparation, helping Dad make an apple pie and getting out the good dishes. If you notice a Tom centered cooking theme, it requires a bit of explanation. Tom does a majority of the cooking in our house. Yes, I stay home, and work intermittently from our home; however this is a responsibility Tom assumes. It does not go with the uniformed look of someone in the trades. Tom loves nothing more than getting out of his uniform, putting on a pair of khaki’s, and cooking up a storm.  It is his “thing.”

It topped my weekend to see my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. Our nephew is one year younger than Sidney, and she is about an inch taller. She continues to catch up on growth as a result of contracting a severe case of giardia in the orphanage. As she played with our nephew, gently putting his pacifier back into his mouth and handing him toys, we were reminded of her ability to nurture. We constantly hear about very young children caring for babies, in an orphanage environment. If a child is able to do anything, they are purposed. We know this was the case for Sidney. She has always loved babies and young toddlers. 

Sidney was only a couple of months older than my newphew when she came home. Her eyes revealed much more. Frankly, they looked old and tired. It was obvious, she had endured a lot. My thoughts have revolved around her transformation over the last few months, because a parent recently adopted from Sidney’s orphanage. We are part of the same online group. From what I can gather, she is either a professional photographer or very good in her craft. She was allowed to go into the orphanage and take photos in the infant rooms and around the grounds. If an orphanage allows a family to visit, it can be contained to one small area. Sometimes lunch is served with the director in a common room, or the family might be given access to one area used by the children. I believe this is in an effort to save face. Accessing a baby room makes the visiting party aware of the lack of resources and availability of care for the many, many children within its walls. Therefore, on many occasions, parents arrive expecting to visit the facility, in its entirety, only to go into one room. Tom and I were not allowed to visit as a result of H1N1. There were and continue to be a mix of emotions about not seeing where Sidney dwelled all of those months.

I am not going to post the images, because I feel I need to protect the privacy of other families given access to the same group of pictures. A majority of the photos are not happy, and I feel it is not something which should be glorified on a blog. We have photos of the orphanage, however this parent captured life.  The photos depict a human suffering which took me a few days to process emotionally. It is a beautiful tragedy. Despite the understood realities of an orphanage environment, and the poverty surrounding the building itself, it is a blessing to have the photos for Sidney’s life book. There are a couple which will definitely go into frames in our home, taken on the streets, in the city of Chenzhou. 

Whew! That was a long post. Thanks for sticking with me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everyone remembers the beginning stages of the adoption process. Handing over check after check. In our case handing over check after check of our life savings.  In the midst of this, we needed a new couch. Not wanting to spend the money on something expensive, and prioritizing our savings for the adoption, we sucked up our pride. We knew our money was going to a better cause. A used 1980’s era couch graced our doors. It was butt ugly. While I bemoaned its presence, Tom loved the couch. It was long enough to fit his frame for a good nap. I was horrified by its presence. Skirting around it, I was forced to finally sit down.  Though we found different used furniture during the three year period we waited, Tom insisted the ugly couch stay in the back of the living room. Our living room is a long space, so if I arranged the nicer furniture in the opposite direction, I didn’t have to look at it. After much begging and cajoling, I was finally able to convince Tom we no longer needed this piece of “vintage” furniture.  On Saturday, when I was helping with a fund raiser at Eli’s school, he was able to maneuver it onto my dad’s trailer by himself. I am overjoyed!

This furniture moving took place while Tom took over childcare duty for the day. While I was cashiering all matter of crafted items, Tom took the kids out for breakfast. This is typically Tom and Eli’s territory; however two Saturdays in November, Eli has been forced to share Dad. He has done so willingly. I am proud of him. Their time is precious with Tom working to build our business. Eli is out early from school the next two days and off the remainder of the week, so I will be sending him on adventures by himself with Dad and Grandpa. This includes duck hunting. Tom is avid about the outdoors, and Eli seems to be gaining the same appreciation. According to Dad, after about an hour, whining ensues. His story is never the same as Dad’s. When he comes in the door, he typically has a smile on his face and tells me about all their great adventures. 

Sidney had milestones this week. She used the potty today for the first time! Her other milestone was Friday, visiting a daycare for drop off of a few hours. Everyone has encouraged me to use this to my advantage to stay caught up on the house and Tom’s paperwork. She hardly batted an eye when I left. They reported she had a very fun morning and lunch and never cried. Not only does this relieve me, it makes me feel like we have established a great deal of trust.  I will continue using it when I have appointments or times when Tom’s schedule is chaotic. It is also good for Sidney to have the interaction once every couple of weeks.
I am off to continue the deep pre-Thanksgiving clean.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Day of Thankfulness

Mom, do you have to squeeze me so tight? 
One of our constant underlying questions over the last 15 months has been the health of Sidney’s heart and kidneys. Given her missing digits and fibula, it is common for other abnormalities to occur. In May, Sidney’s geneticist suggested an echo cardiogram and renal ultrasound. This was shortly after her last hand surgery, so we decided to wait a couple of months, giving Sidney a reprieve. Over the summer and into the fall, we knew the test was coming. I had a hard time shaking nerves, thinking another underlying medical issue might reveal itself.

Her renal ultrasound was completed first without sedation. I was immediately at ease when our ultrasound tech walked out with a very large lift on his shoe. He saw the lift in Sidney’s shoe, and there was an instant connection with his pint sized patient. He began discussing the many ways a diet heavy in fish and a lack of prenatal care could affect the kidneys. He was able to confirm both kidneys were present, however we would have to wait until later to receive the final results.

Renal ultrasound complete, we were shuffled to another room, on the other side of the hospital. As the oral sedation was administered, Sidney fought sleep. The gig was up. She was probably wondering if she was going to wake up with another cast. Half an hour later, she was still unwilling to let herself go to sleep. Our nurse reassured us children older than an infant typically resist sedation. A second dose was given, and it was bedtime for bonzo. Tom and I left the room for a portion to allow the ultrasound tech to do her job while the nurse monitored Sidney. In the instructions for the procedure, it talked a lot about keeping things quiet, indicating it was better not to make a lot of noise and cause Sidney to stir. However, I don’t think that would have been a problem, considering the soft snores we heard. 

We came back for the last ten minutes of the procedure. As the ultrasound tech held a poker face, I continued analyzing her expression from my seat looking in her direction. Finally, I had Tom trade chairs. I am a person who likes to be in control, and this was putting me over the edge.

Finally, the echo cardiogram was complete, and we waited for a very groggy Sidney to come around. She took so long to wake up, the nurse had to call ahead to the pediatric cardiologists office, indicating we would be a few minutes late. Vomit bag, kidney dish, and absorbant pads in hand, we arrived in the pediatric clinic of the hospital. Sidney typically gets sick from this type of medication, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. It was nice our nurse was on the ball and sent the items along for an emergency.

Eli had this test completed four years ago for an innocent murmur, and it took three days to get the results. We were very grateful to get the results a few minutes later. Dr. Chandra finally came in. His first words were “everything looks great.” This was the answer to many, many prayers since we received Sidney’s referral. He was also able to look in her file and tell us her kidneys were fine.

After arriving home, a loopy Sidney alternately attempted to dive off the arm of the couch and do all things without caution, wobbling around like a little drunk sailor. Tom and I had a full time job containing her. Our nurse advised she could get ornery coming out of the medicine. A few hours later, she was fast asleep. She had zero issues overnight, and she is back to her spunky self today!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Early Morning Thoughts

I am going to need a nap by 7am. Tom has an OSHA safety class this morning, and he was as quiet as a mouse. Sidney decided it was time to start the day. It’s not even 6am, and she is stuffing a muffin in her face happily running around, preparing for the days adventures. I am certain this will include building tents out of blankets.  Eli and Sidney are honing their abilities. Eli uses the end of the couch for a wall, furnishes the interior with Sidney’s beloved MoMo (Elmo) chair, and uses her doll stroller to support the side opposite the couch. Eli typically tires of this game while Sidney continues yammering on from the inside, thrilled her brother has created such a fun place to play.

Did I say after 15 months home, we are getting to the really good stuff? So much of what occurred last year was an exercise in trust building. There are still times we see faint glimpses of all she experienced; however her bold personality is taking over.  She is an equal combination of tomboy and girlie girl. She comes in with rocks stuffed in her pockets, only to go upstairs and attempt to change clothes for the fifth time that day. She typically sneaks up, knowing mom will make her put the original outfit back on, and says “SEE!!” It amazes me to see her when a package comes in the mail with clothing. “For me” she says and hugs the piece of clothing to herself.  She is delighted to be given the smallest of things. There is something deep inside which recognizes going without, appreciating everything around her.

Going from not enough to abundance still plays out on occasion. A couple of nights ago, Tom the master of bedtime, went through her familiar routine. Many nights she happily drifts off to sleep after Tom  leaves the room, however  there are a few nights she wants mom. On this particular night, she would not settle down. She doesn’t typically get this upset.  She only wants me nearby.  I finally asked if she was hungry, to which she said yes.  Tom returned with a ziplock of Goldfish crackers, knowing she would never touch them. We put them in the corner of her pack n play by her pillow, and she rolled over and was asleep within minutes.

Morning is typically her grouchy time. I think she must have been very hungry in the morning in the orphanage. Her schedule indicated she did not eat from 7pm to 7am. I know some kids do this all the time, however I wonder if there was no 7pm, and she ultimately ate the last time at 5:30pm. Meal size could have also factored into all of this. Again, this is just a guess according to the bits of information we have. Obviously whatever she got was not enough. For all the indicators we witness of deprivation, there are many more of amazing resilience.

Tom sits in his boring class, I will continue my cleaning. I am attempting to sort through the toys, deciding what exactly if anything Eli needs in his room. We are seeing another phase of heavy reading. He either reads constantly or wants nothing to do with it. Much to my chagrin the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is his newest favorite. Legos are a constant. This eliminates the collection of trucks and cars he amassed over many years. We live in an old house, so storage is a premium.

OK it is past 6:30am,I think this is a civil hour to start the  day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mission with Mom to Mars

Ah, the silence that only comes after Sidney is in bed, and Eli is reading. Both kids were in a great mood today after spending Saturday with dad. Yes, you heard correctly. I was sprung loose. My mom and I volunteered for a Mission of Mercy event. Mission of Mercy is a free dental clinic, funded entirely by donations and grants. It is a two day clinic, and on Friday alone 750 patients were seen. It is a massive operation, and it is fascinating to see how it is all set up. Equipment travels from one state to the next, and over a thousand volunteers take part. It is really quite amazing. 

Coming out of the parking ramp at 6am, we walked past several hundred people through winding halls of the event center. Many spent the night on the floor and in the chilly skywalk, leading into the building. We quickly gathered our t-shirts and took a job in what I came to think of as the “bowels of the operation.” On the floor were curtained areas with rows upon rows of dental chairs on the floor of a large event center. My mom was a dental assistant for many years. She was quickly able to explain the different treatment areas. I felt like I had landed on mars, but I was relieved to find out I only had to match colors to find the appropriate treatment areas. It was our job as volunteers to make sure patients were taken to the correct treatment areas.  

What started out as a fairly quiet area suddenly became a buzz of drills and other dental equipment. Our receiving area for patients was positioned next to endodontic (root canals). Aren’t you impressed by my new dental vocabulary? I also watched as row up row of people were shuffled in and out of another area where people received anesthesia with chair upon chair of people receiving pain numbing medicine. At the beginning my mom advised me that not everyone could volunteer in the environment. I will readily admit, I was grateful for a drape separating me from seeing the majority of what was going on. My mother, however, was fascinated by any glimpse she might catch of a procedure. We plan on making this an annual event, so I am hoping it is a decent distance next year so we can take part again. 

It seems walking on concrete floors for 11 hours was a tiring experience, and I was thankful for the extra hour of sleep. On a totally unrelated topic, Sidney is wearing sunglasses right now, pointing to herself saying “pretty me.” No confidence issues there. I have signed Sidney up for a drop off child care service. There are only 6 kids in the room and 2 adults. They have a great reputation, and I am hoping this will help me to find a bit of balance. I will only be using it a couple of times a month for a morning here and there, but I think it will help me stay caught up.

Today is Orphan Sunday, so I thought would close my blog with the following statistics:

·         -In the world, there are 143 million children who have lost one or both parents.That is almost half the population of the U.S.

·         -Every year 12 million children become orphans. 

·         -87.6 million orphans live in Asia. 

·         -43.4 million orphans live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

·         -More than one third of all Americans have considered adopting, but no more than 2% have actually adopted.

·         -Only 4% of families with children contain adopted children. 


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding My Sanity and House

I thought I would share that we have a time scheduled for an echo cardiogram and renal ultrasound. We had Sidney’s second hand reconstruction completed in May, so we waited a few months to give her a break from the inside of the many clinics and hospitals we have visited in the last year. Both are preventative tests. A very small percentage of children with fibular hemimelia have heart and kidney issues, however we want to be sure.

As everyone in my family knows, for me, this has been a source of anxiety. I don’t really know why. We have been through two surgeries and sailed through with flying colors. When I feel this way, I am angry with myself. I know God has watched over, orchestrated, and guided this entire process, and He will continue to do so. However, there are still nagging anxieties about more surgery. Tom reminded me, if they find anything, it is not so much that it will be something surgical but something that needs to be monitored when she receives health care. Tom is eternally my voice of reason and calm.

I am still not thrilled that she has to be sedated with an oral medication, but I know they can get the most accurate results if she is still. This is because, she is FINALLY eating regularly. Maybe I should whisper those words, she is finally eating regularly. Three meals and snacks, finally her weight and her height are the correct ratio, and any type of medication that knocks her out does crazy things with her appetite.  At first we were told her echo cardiogram is separate from her renal ultrasound, and there was no way to schedule them on the same day. After scheduling the test for the heart, I received a call they were both scheduled for the same day. On Nov 16, we go in at 9am. She receives a bubble gum flavored oral medication, gets loopy, and then has her renal ultrasound at 9:30. Half an hour later, she has the echo cardiogram. She stays in recovery for a little while, but the best part is we have the results the same day. I was unaware this is standard procedure. Eli had an echocardiogram which later turned out to be an innocent murmur, and we had to wait a few days. All things for which I am very thankful.

Sidney and I took the opportunity to visit a small local daycare. I have been toying with the idea of taking her one morning a week. Tom works many, many hours each week, and this leaves much of the responsibility to me. This was fine when we didn’t have a business and I didn’t write. Sidney is a really easy toddler to take care of, so this isn’t the issue. I am falling behind on Tom’s paperwork and the house. My largest motivation is that Sidney’s normal is being around other kids. I think it might be good for her to do something a morning a week.

I find myself getting exceedingly picky when I hear there are aggressive children in the room or biters.  Sidney was the toughest looking one year old I have ever seen. She looked like she could take me in the alley and show me a thing or too. Maybe it was the hockey outfit she was wearing the first day we met her. Of course (despite it being a boy color in China), pink softened her look significantly the next day.

I have decided that I am going to continue being picky. She was pinching and hitting a lot when we came home, and I do not want to provoke those behaviors again. I will never forget feeling a sharp pain to my backside, only to turn around and see her grinning ear to ear. This was only a couple of days after we came home. We have all been victim to her right hook. This has all settled down, but it still comes out at odd times. Typically, it is when her brother is provoking her, and it is actually warranted. Brothers have a way of bringing out aggressive behavior in a sister, just ask my older brother Jason. The place I looked at didn’t have any kids like this, so I know they are available. Hopefully by next week, I will have decided on a place I can plant her a morning a week.

OK, off for homework and baths.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Snapshots of a Fun Saturday

More candy?

I kept up with everyone despite being half the size of any of the bigger kids.

Back to the car to check out the loot!.

Mom, get the camera out of my face!
It didn't take me long to understand how to say trick or treat or get the bag open.

Do you remember getting Cheetos in your Halloween bag? I do not!