Saturday, February 27, 2010

Doctors, doctors and more doctors

Cassie and Chloe had appointments with the pediatric craniofacial surgeon at Children's Hospital on Thursday morning. Here's what the doc had to say.

Cassie -- might need a bone graft on the left side of her upper gum when she is 8 or 9. She'll also need a lip revision and possible nose revision at age 4. Other than that -- for now -- she looks great.

Chloe -- her lip repair looks very good -- but we already knew that. Her palate repair has healed well. The white spot on her palate is either food or a tooth. Since the spot has been there since we've had Chloe and her breath doesn't smell we are guessing it's a tooth. If it's a tooth, it will almost certainly need to be extracted. We'll let the dentist or orthodontist advise on that. Chloe will need a bone graft on her upper right gum line when she's 8 or 9. Right now it's not known if Chloe will need a lip or nose revision.

Either way, no surgeries for either girl for a while. This makes us very happy.

Both girls have an appointment with the craniofacial team to be evaluated on May 6th. We will spend a 1/2 day at the hospital -- starting at 7:30am -- and see an ENT, a dentist, an orthodontist, a speech therapist or doctor -- I don't remember now. They'll also have their hearing tested and see a bunch of other doctors and other testing that I don't remember. Then we'll take a short lunch break while the team goes over the results and they will come up with a plan for Cassie and a plan for Chloe. We'll then meet with the team after our lunch to hear the results. I'm sure this will be a really long day for everyone but at least we'll have a comprehensive plan for them when we finally go home for the day. Naps will likely follow. :)

We were very comfortable with the new doctor and will be using this doctor and team long term.

On Friday we went back to the pediatrician. Cassie and Chloe are both still wheezing, have coughs, and more boogies than I care to think about. Chloe also still has fluid in her right ear. We go back in 10 days to check on the fluid and pressure in Chloe's ear. Chloe is still having some poop issues, even with being on a dairy free diet. We have now added in soy yogurt to her daily diet and probiotic supplements. The doc also advised that we add white rice, bananas, and squash to her diet, so we'll be doing that too. If the poop issues aren't better in 6 days then we'll follow up with poop tests. I'll spare you the messy logistics involved in collecting a sample. Suffice it to say that we are crossing our fingers that we won't have to go there.

Chloe's blood work was also back. Her Hep vaccines from China are good but we'll be re-doing all her other vaccines. But not until the wheezing is gone. Hopefully, that will be on her appointment in 10 days. One of Chloe's liver enzymes is a little high but the other liver functions are all in normal range. So for now, no real worries. Chloe's red blood cells are slightly abnormally shaped. The doc wants to wait on this too and retest in 4 - 6 months once Chloe is adjusted to her new routines, her digestive issues are gone and we know she's getting good nutrition. If the rbc's are flagged next time on the blood work we'll do further testing to see if Chloe has a form of anemia. All Chloe's other blood work looked great.

It had been 7 days since we had last seen the pediatrician. At that time, the pediatrician observed that Chloe had almost zero muscle tone, and advised lots of "floor time", meaning that we should just let her roam the floor, crawling, getting up and down, etc. We did that, and she has made excellent progress. So much so that the pediatrician noticed and was pleasantly surprised to see such a dramatic change in this short time. That made us feel good. It's pretty clear that little Chloe will be walking soon.

For now we'll keep doing what we are doing and pray this cold virus flees soon.

PS -- I promise to add some pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The start of a better week

We are all doing better the past few days. Us girls all still have colds and coughs but for the most part everyone is on the mend. Cassie still has a runny nose and at times a slight fever but everyone is eating and drinking now. That makes life around here much better.

Chloe has an appointment with the cleft doctor at Children's Hospital on Thursday -- we are going to 'interview' two doctors and then decide which one to use. The appointment with the second cleft doctor is next Wednesday the 3rd. This is the doctor we have already seem with Cassie about her lip revision. We just want to make sure we are picking the best doctor for the girls -- that's why we are seeing two of them. Nothing but the best for my two little girls.

Chloe also sees the pediatrician on Friday this week. Hopefully she'll be completely better by then and we'll be able to start her vaccines. We'll also be getting her blood test results on Friday.

Here are a couple of pictures of the first few days at home -- before the plague hit.


Friday, February 19, 2010

It's either laugh or cry

I'm choosing to laugh at this point. At least for now.

It's been a long first week home. Jet lag, sleeping (if you can call it sleep) on the couch, a sick 20-month old and a sick 23-month old, and a sick momma. Makes for a nice combination. NOT. At least dadda is still healthy.

The good news -- Cassie is feeling much better. The blisters in her throat are all gone -- we know this by her wanting to drink orange juice and being back to her happy little self -- well, most of the time. She still has a cold and a cough but right now that's a piece of cake. What Cassie had was - Herpangina - a form of the Coxsackievirus.

Chloe isn't so good. She was up screaming most of the night. She was miserable. So back to the doctor we went. Chloe has caught the Coxsackievirus from Cassie - yes, it was just a matter of time. But in Chloe it's worse and is in the form of hand, foot, and mouth disease -- the same virus as Herpangina, just a different form of it. Chloe has blisters in her mouth and throat and a red dotted rash on her legs, arms, and face. At first the doc thought it was chicken pox. Thank goodness it's not -- I'm thinking chicken pox would be worse -- but maybe not. Chloe now has an ear infection, a cold with a nasty cough, is wheezing, all along with her hand, foot, and mouth disease. Between the Amoxicillin, Tylenol with codeine and Benadryl I'm hoping she'll be feeling better soon.

I know I owe people emails, phone calls, thank-you cards, and packages and I'm sorry I'm behind. I'm thinking I'm going to be behind for another week or two.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has a sleep-filled healthy weekend. We'll be fine - eventually.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3 sickies and 1 very tired dada

Here's what's been going on:

Sunday morning -- Cassie woke up with temperature of 101.8. We started her on Tylenol but could only get it down to 99.5. We added ibuprofen on opposite 2 hours but still couldn't get it below 99.5. Now she's not eating and it's a Sunday. Since Chloe already has a doctor appointment on Monday afternoon, I'll call in the morning about having Cassie seen too. It was a long night, as Cassie was up about every 20 minutes.

Monday morning -- Cassie still has a fever. Now her throat hurts. She tells us this by opening her mouth really wide and pointing inside it while screaming. We get the picture. And when she throws her orange juice across the room as if we gave her gasoline to drink, we now know she's really sick. We called the doctor to let them know we'll be bringing both girls in. Have I mentioned that neither Sonny nor I have had much sleep? Not that it matters. And he was planning of going back to work on Tuesday. The key word here is planning.

Doctors visit:

First up, Cassie. Still has a temp. I have to undress her and fight her to get her weighed -- because this means momma will set her down on the scary scale. She weighs in at 22.5 lbs. Then I have to hold her down on the table for them to do a throat culture. Cassie also has a little fluid in her ears. The doc thinks it's just from the long flight home from China. Cassie is negative for strep but has huge red blisters in the back of her throat. The doc tells us the name of the virus Cassie has -- don't remember what it was now -- not that it matters. Sonny says it's "ouch-o-coccus", but he's not a doctor and didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express, so I don't believe that. :) All I remember hearing is it will take 3 - 5 days to clear up. The Doc writes a prescription for Tylenol with codeine liquid to give to Cassie 30 minutes before she eats. This requires two of us to hold her down to force her to take it -- because it hurts to swallow, and they don't bother to flavor it for the kiddies. And the doc said we could give her Benadryl to help her sleep at night.

Next up, Chloe. She weighs in at 22.5 lbs. 31.5 inches long -- 2 inches longer than at the Guangzhou medical exam. (So was Cassie -- 2 inches longer -- at our doctors office when coming home -- must be the way they measure.) Chloe isn't fat -- per our doctor -- she just appears that way because of her age and lack of tone in her muscles. (Sonny wants to apply this theory to himself) Her little body is proportionally correct. Chloe's legs and feet are fine -- just no muscle tone. Our doc isn't worried at all about them -- she knows it's only a matter of time before she catches up. Chloe is very itchy -- I have always used powered buttermilk and powered dry milk in Cassie's bath water -- she had really bad skin when we came home from China and this has really helped. I took some to China with us for her and Chloe's baths. The doc thinks Chloe might be allergic to lactose and/or casein (both present in milk). We have to put her on a complete dairy free diet and bath -- for now. And she is to stay on the soy formula for now too. Chloe's head is a little mis-shaped. (So was Cassie's and it rounded out after being home about 3 or 4 months). Because Chloe will be 20 months old on Saturday the doc said her head wouldn't change shape. But on further examination it was discovered that Chloe still has a soft spot on her head. The frontal one. Because of this the doc thinks her head still could round out a bit. Normally this soft spot is closed by 18 months old. Still no worries about it not being closed -- our baby girl is just a little behind. Chloe also has a fair amount of fluid in both ears. Her ears were clear at the medical exam in Guangzhou. The doc thought it might be from the flight or the start of an ear infection. We were told just to watch her for now since she didn't have any other symptoms.

Because of the doc being afraid Chloe might catch what Cassie has or be developing an ear infection she didn't want to start her vaccines. We have an appointment for that on the 26th. We did have 4 tubes of blood drawn for blood work and a chest x-ray taken. But for now -- our baby Chloe is healthy.

Tuesday morning. Dada didn't go to work. Like I said -- planning was the key word. He's shooting for tomorrow. But is trying to get some work done from home today.

Cassie was up every few hours during the night. Chloe was up about every 45 minutes and spent half the night sleeping on my chest. Chloe woke up with a fever of 101.3. We called the doctor and got a prescription for Amoxicillin for an ear ache. Between that and Tylenol she should be feeling better soon. I hope.

During all of this I'm sick too. I'm sure it's the same virus as Cassie, because our symptoms are the same: slight fever, a sore throat, and a cough. I can take lots of OTCs for my symptoms. Poor little Cassie has to tough it out.

And just for fun, the dog also threw up Tuesday mid-morning.

Through this all Cassie and Chloe only want momma. Poor dada can't do anything right. He is however a great help to me. It would have been really difficult without him. Or, I should say more difficult.

To paint the picture for you - I started typing up this post at 11am this morning. It's now 6pm, and I'm just now ready to submit. Tomorrow will be a better day. That's the plan, anyway.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day & Chinese New Year!!!

Hi all,

Just a quick post -- we are all still very jet-lagged. The girls are still taking naps on opposite schedules and still seem to be on China-time at night. Last night I slept with Chloe downstairs in the living room and Sonny slept upstairs with Cassie in our room -- this is where she normally sleeps. We'll try this for a few nights and see how it works.

Chloe has her first pediatrician appointment tomorrow afternoon. It will be nice to see what our doc has to say.

We have nothing planned for V-Day or CNY. It would take too much effort at this point to plan something. :) We are just going to hang out at home as a family of 4 and count our blessings.

I hope you all have a great day. And of course I'll leave you with a few more pictures from China.

More Red Couch

Sunny skies on our last day in Guangzhou

Our last meal in China -- at Lucy's

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Home at last

We landed in Detroit this morning at 7am. The kids did pretty well. Cassie slept through about half of the actual flying time; Chloe about a third. Two little problems along the way. First, Chloe had a diaper blowout on the way from Guangzhou to Los Angeles. She had been squirming for a while, and apparently the diaper shifted out of position, so most of the "stuff" went elsewhere. And by elsewhere, I mean pants AND socks. And it was the latter that was the problem. Momma is a pretty good planner, so she had extra pants packed in the carryon luggage for just such an emergency, but socks? Why would we need an extra pair of socks? Chloe made the rest of the journey in pajamas. Shoes, but no socks. The second little problem came in Los Angeles, where Delta decided that they couldn't find our reservation. It apparently didn't matter that they charged our credit card, or that they sent us an email 24 hours earlier asking us to register our flight. We were able to resolve the problem after about 45 minutes at the ticket counter (no exaggeration). Delta has bolted up to the top of our list of REALLY CRAPPY AIRLINES.
But that's all behind us now. We're home. Jet-lagged, grumpy, tired, sore, etc. A 37 hour nap sounds good right about now. Tehya and Sage are back from the vet. We are now a complete family of 4, or 6 if you count the menagerie. Either way, that number sounds about right.
For your fix, just a few pics:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10, 9, 8, 7...

It's just a few moments after 5pm here.   We need to be downstairs and ready to leave at 6pm.   I know it's a bad thing to wish time away, but if I could just make the next, oh, say, 24 hours go by in an hour, I would do that.     We are not looking forward to this trip but we are definitely looking forward to the destination.   May the next 24 hours go smoothly, and quickly.  

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Miscellaneous Updates

Just one more night in Guangzhou.  We are ready to go home.   Well, Momma, Dadda, and Cassie are ready, but Chloe is probably not ready.  

While we've been in Guangzhou, it has rained every single day.  However, only once has that really been a problem.   That was the day we visited the Chen family temple.   It was raining heavily then for several hours, and we all got drenched.   Other than that, it rains for 20-30 minutes 2 or 3 times each day.  


You may recall that when we adopted Cassie in May 2009, we had a last-minute paperwork glitch.    The U.S. Consulate's office here in Guangzhou was looking for one of two magic words to appear in our home study - either "recommended" or "approved" as it pertains to the social worker's opinion of our ability to deal with a child who has special needs.   The home study clearly implied that to any native English speaker, but the U.S. Consulate here is staffed by native Chinese, and they are trained to specifically look for one of those words.   That was a hair-raising incident but we were able to reach our social worker, have her add the appropriate words, and forward a copy to the US Consulate here in Guangzhou.   This time around, there were no last minute glitches.  Chloe went through the "swearing in" procedure today.   That procedure did not make her a U.S. citizen, but it did set up a legal transaction that will be complete once Chloe clears customs in Los Angeles.    There remain two hurdles for us to get home.   1. We need to get Chloe's entry Visa, which will allow her to enter the U.S.    2. We need our flight to Los Angeles not to be delayed or cancelled.   Both of these hurdles are relatively low, so we expect to be wheels up at 9pm tomorrow night, which is Wednesday night here in Guangzhou.  


We have done lots of shopping while here.    The White Swan hotel is located on Shamian island in Guangzhou.    The island is roughly 40 acres, chock full of tourist trap shops.    Haggling is the language of love around here.    If you're good at it, you can get lots of goodies fairly cheap.   It helps to know a few choice words of Chinese, such as "tah kway la" (that's how it's pronouced, not how it's spelled), which means "too much".    It also helps if you are willing to walk out the door.    It's amazing how many of the shopkeepers will feign bankruptcy if you try to get something for 50% less than they are asking but then gladly accept your offer as you walk out the door.    The pricier stuff (e.g. jade, pearls) are best found on the mainland, but you need a guide to help you with translating and negotiating.    We really can't afford to buy too much stuff, but we probably won't be back for many many years, and we wanted to get a few things for our girls weddings, which we hope will be MANY years in the future.  


Cassie is making some (SOME) progress on sharing.   She's hot and cold on the issue.   Sometimes she is a snotty little brat, while other times she is a graceful little princess.    Luckily Chloe is a patient little girl.    She came into this with no expectations, so the fact that Cassie isn't always nice is not a surprise to her.   Cassie, on the other hand, DID have expectations coming into this.   All toys are hers, mommy is hers, daddy is hers, food is hers.  EVERYTHING is hers.    These expectations were unrealistic to everyone but her.   She'll learn.    Right now we are counting on the theory that kids are always listening, so every chance we get, we tell her we love her and that we're never going to leave her and that this new sister is a GOOD thing for her because she'll have a playmate.  


Nighttime is a real bear.    Cassie has always been a cranky little (insert word for female dog) when she's tired.    Now she's cranky AND jealous.    She cannot stand the fact that Momma holds Chloe and rocks her.   So while Momma tries to get Chloe to sleep, Cassie goes into thermonuclear meltdown.    So we've instantiated a divide and conquer strategy.   Dadda takes Cassie out for a walk, and Momma gets the baby to sleep.  Then Dadda returns, and Momma spends quality time with Cassie.    We won't be able to do that at home since it's wintertime but the house is big enough, and very soundproof, so we should be able to separate without having anyone leave the premises.


Chloe is spending a lot of time standing up, holding onto whatever she can use as a brace.   Her legs are getting stronger already.   She's WAY behind in her gross motor skills, but I think she'll catch up soon enough.   We've had her for 8 days and we can already see a difference.   She still is a bit of a soft blob.   When you pick her up, it feels like picking up a bag of water.   She must have bones in there somewhere but they're hiding deep under the padding.


Cassie is starting to mix up the words Momma and Dadda.   Not sure what this is all about.  We'll be watching this closely.


Cassie learned two new words today:   "Chloe" and "Baby".   She's smart as a whip.


Cassie has had her bottle taken away permanently in favor of a sippy cup.   She's taken to biting the nipple and pulling on it.   Eventually, she will pull the nipple right out of the bottle, and we'll have a big mess.    Rather than wait for that to happen, we've switched her over to sippy cups.   She's not happy about it, but it's time.     Chloe, ever the imitator, picked up this bad habit before we made the switch.   Unfortunately, she doesn't yet have the coordination to handle a sippy cup, so we'll stick with a bottle for a while longer.


Chloe has learned to tell us "no" by shaking her head side to side, much like her sister.    She does this when we're trying to feed her something she doesn't want.


If you touch your nose, and say "nose", Chloe will touch hers.    Touch your ear, Chloe touches hers.   She got a lot of attention at the orphanage, but even that had its limits.    She's getting full-time interaction now, and she's going to take off like a rocket. 


It is easy to forget just how difficult communication can be.   Our guide Kelly has spoiled us.   We went to a Chinese restaurant today with another family, and we had Kelly write up some menu selections for us in Chinese.    One thing we ordered was a 1 liter bottle of Coca Cola.   When the waiter delivered it to the table, he poured a glass for me and a glass for Kevin (the other dad at the table), and then set the bottle aside on a nearby serving stand.   Then he poured water for Sherry and Mary.    We all wanted water and all wanted Coke.    Explaining that to the waiter was a real challenge.   It took about 10 minutes to get the job done.  



That's all for now.   It's time for bed around these parts, and my back is killing me.   A little horizontal rack time will do me wonders.

Happy baby

Chen Family Temple

Chloe's Medical Exam

Cassie at Chloe's at Medical Exam

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Our little Chloe baby

My family is all sleeping again -- it's 5:30am here in China and mommy just did a diaper change on my big girl so I have a few minutes.  This post will be all about my new baby girl

And I do mean baby girl.  Chloe turned 19-months old on January 20th -- that will make her 20-months old in 12 or 13 days depending on if you are counting from the US or China.  Cassie and Chloe are only 90 days apart but you'd never know that if I didn't tell you.  I'd say Chloe is about a 10-month old -- according to the development charts on the internet.  Here are some examples of where Chloe is developmentally - if you hold Chloe's hands she can go from a standing to a sitting position as a game -- her and daddy do this, if you hold her hands she can walk with assistance -- but not very well as she has no leg strength and her feet still point sideways, she can walk around the bed herself if she's hanging on, when she gets too tired she has problems holding her head up and staying in a sitting position without falling over.  And she still takes about 4 - 5 formula bottles a day -- and now that is soy formula.  I'm not complaining at all when I say these things about my little Chloe.  I'm just a little surprised.  We got Cassie at 13-months old and she was much more advanced than this.  Why the difference?  I think the difference is Cassie spent the 6 months before we got her in foster care and Chloe has only lived in the orphanage.  And she was in a great orphanage -- but there still too few nannies to care for all the kids there. 

Being in Guangzhou this trip is amazing in so many ways.  First, it feels like home -- even with all the construction going on this time on the island.  Second, I see things in all the babies and kids that I didn't see last time.  I see fear on their little faces, I see that lost look of not knowing what's really going on, and I see parents thinking this is their child -- meaning who they are and it's not.  I know all this because I remember those same looks on Cassie's face.  If I look back at our blog posts from May 2009 I see that look, that fear, that "I'm scared but I'm going to hold it all in" look.  Now I know that after a few months of being home that all goes away and you really get to see who your child is.  Cassie didn't make a peep for the first three days when we were in Kunming with her last May.  She would lay on my chest and never try to move from there, she would cling to me and wouldn't go to anyone else but me.  She had to sit on my lap to be fed.  It was only during the last 3 days in Guangzhou that I could even put her into a highchair or stroller.

Fast forward 9 months -- that's how long we have had Cassie -- and she is not that same girl and she hasn't been for a long time.  She is now my type A -- "I want it now and will not wait for it" girl, my little independent girl who when you tell her she's a big girl she gets the biggest smile on her face because she thinks she's getting away with something.  The girl who's not afraid to use her voice to tell what she wants. My "I don't need your help I can do it all by myself" girl who pretends to hurt herself to get hugs and kisses because she's too independent most of the time to just say she wants a hug or a kiss.  And then there are those rare moments with Cassie that she wants mommy to hold her, rock her when she's tired or she'll just come hug me for no reason at all.  I now know that's who Cassie always was -- she just needed to feel comfortable to be able to show us her true self.  And I'm so glad she is the way she is -- she keeps us on our toes and her smile - it lights up the room and make us love her more and more with each one of those smiles. 

So now when I see that same look on little faces here I know it's just a matter of time before the little packages parents were blessed with will slowly open up and be the best gifts ever.  I have one to prove it. 

So now back to Chloe.  Because of all the changes we have seen in Cassie in just 9 months - I know Chloe will get caught up soon and will be running and jumping around with her 'big' sister, driving mommy crazy trying to keep up with them.  Until then I'm going to enjoy my baby.  She's soft and cuddly and feels like a bowl of pudding in your lap.  She's got the softest skin; it reminds me of a newborn's and she's got the look and feel of a infant with all her baby fat and no muscle tone.  She's also the happiest little thing ever.  She's always smiling and is the biggest flirt -- another orphanage trait to get attention.  See seems to know who we are and when we show her the photo album with the pictures we sent her of us she points to the pictures and then to us.  Her nanny did a great job of helping to prepare Chloe for us.  She also is always babbling about something but not speaking real words yet.  Our guide, Kelly, has confirmed that this is just babble, not actual Mandarin language.   She has 6 teeth in the front -- 3 on top and 3 on the bottom and all her one year molars.  Did I tell you she's always smiling and is very happy?  She can wave goodbye, play peek, blow kisses and give kisses.  She loves giving kisses.  And soon she'll be like her sister and too busy playing to give mommy kisses all day long.  Another reason I'm going to enjoy my baby for as long as a can.

No story - just pics

Chloe works with Momma to take a few steps in the elevator lobby in Nanjing. We were coming back to our room when the cleaning crew were doing their thing, so we needed to kill some time. Cassie is in the background practicing her somersaults.

Chloe's primary nanny, Chen Ling, shows her the front of the hospital where her cleft surgery was performed.

Chloe, catching 40 winks in Nanjing.

Artificial twins, dressed in camouflage appropriate for a Siberian winterscape, wondering if this cab ride will ever end.

Hey! Can we get some quiet in her please!?! We're trying to sleep.

Let's see, how did Cassie do this? You stick your hand in this way, I think, grab something, then eat it. Yeah, that's how she did it.

I got my OJ, I got my beach ball. Somewhere around here, I got me a new little sister. It's all good.

About my girls, shopping and other ramblings

Finally -- a post from mommy.  Sorry if I start to ramble and write out of order on when the events happened -- I'm just trying to get it all written down. 


My family is napping and I was just out shopping in the rain.  Alone.  All by myself.  And it was nice.  Other than stopping at 7-11 last night I haven't had time to do any shopping on the island -- until today.  I got the girls some more little gifts for their gotcha day anniversaries and more squeaky shoes.  I bought 7 more pair.  Since Chloe's feet are dinky she can wear Casssie's old ones.  The poor girl will be getting her sister's hand-me-downs for a while.  At least on the shoes for the next few years.


We went with out a group this morning to the Chen Family temple -- we were there last May but I was excited to go back because I knew they had paintings from local artists and also made the best chops (name stamps).  I ordered Chloe a chop with her Chinese and American names -- just like her sister's.  At this place the ink was in a much prettier little container so we got Cassie a box for her chop and a nice ink container too.  Because you know mommy needs to be fair.  We also bought 4 fabric scroll paintings for the stairway to go with the painting we bought last time. 


Then we were off to the pearl market -- all this in the pouring rain.  It was kind of funny with us trying to carry umbrellas and both push strollers over cobble stone. Thank goodness for our guide, Kelly, and our travel mates helping us or we'd have never made it today.  At the pearl market I got a purple beaded jade bracelet for myself.  I really wanted a purple bangle bracelet but they didn't have one to fit me.  I ran into the same problem last trip.  But I really liked this bracelet.  I also got a bangle bracelet in Nanjing with a tiny speck of purple in it for myself too.  Plus in Nanjing I got Chloe a nice rat charm.  And today I got them tiny little rats too -- jade ones of course.  They were both born in 2008, which is the year of the rat on the Chinese calendar.    And Chloe got pearls for her wedding.  And by the way - that won't be until she is at least 30 -- just in case anyone was wondering. 


In Nanjing I bought the girls some cheaper smaller jade bracelets and some bracelets made from some pretty stone -- looks like fake jade -- but they are still very pretty.  I also got them both some rain flower stone jewelry -- I know that's not the right name -- but when I do a internet search on it errors out -- the interest is weird here.  Anyways, you only get these stones in Nanjing and it has a story that goes with it that right now I can't remember.  (I sure hope my brain will work right again at some point in the near future.)


Tonight our group is going to dinner with our guide to a local Cantonese restaurant.  We were there last May and it's really good from what I remember.  Then tomorrow, Monday, our guide will take paperwork to the US Consulate to get the ball rolling so that we can complete Chloe's adoption and leave for home.


Chloe's medical exam was yesterday -- our Saturday.  It was uneventful.  We had to stop at three 'stations' and have Chloe checked out.  We first did the ENT station.  Chloe did well on the hearing test but wasn't too happy to have the dr look inside her little mouth.   Nonetheless, she survived.  On a good note, her ears were free of fuild.   That's a big plus, since she's a cleft baby.  Next we went to the medical exam station.  I had to sign saying I knew she was a special needs baby, then had to write out what her special need was. They listened to her heart, lungs, and poked around on her abdomen.  She passed again with flying screaming colors.  Last up was the height and weight station.  My little puddin pie weights in at 22.5 lbs and is 29.5 inches long.  That's all with leggings, a shirt, dry diaper, socks and shoes on.  And that was it for the medical exam.


We also got Chloe's passport photo taken -- she even smiled for that.  She's such a happy little girl.  Cassie slept through the passport photo stop and most of the medical exam.  I guess she was bored since she had just done this herself last May. 


We have 'officially' determined that Chloe is lactose intolerant.  We know this because the soy based formula seems to agree with her system as she is pooping normally, she's sleeping better, and her little tummy is half the size it was.  This makes us all happy.


My girls are now awake so I'll write more later and most pictures once they fall alseep.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A letter to my girls

Someday, my baby girls, I hope you'll read this.   Mommy and Daddy traveled around the world, twice, to find you.   It's been a tough journey.   Physically and emotionally, a tough journey.    But know this - we did it because we love you.   Cassie, we've had you now for 9 months.   Chloe, for 6 days.    And we love you both.   That may seem odd to you.   How could we possibly already love you?    Maybe you'll understand some day; maybe not.    But we do.   We loved you before we ever set eyes upon you.    We loved the dream of you.    We loved the thought of you.    We just didn't know you, which is the odd part.


Cassie, when you joined our family, you were a scared little girl who didn't know who we were or why we were there.    You REALLY didn't like Daddy at first, and only began to trust him a few months after you met him.   That made Daddy sad, but he understood.  Poor Mommy wasn't allowed to even leave the room for several weeks.   That meant bathroom breaks were few and far between.   Showers were a luxury.  As tough as this was on Mommy and Daddy, we know it was much tougher on you.    We didn't even really know who you were until several months after you came home.   Now that we've figured you out, you surprise us every day with the things you learn, and the way you interact with the world.    You've already shown us that you are wicked smart, and are going to give us a run for our money some day soon.    Until then, we fear the day that you choose to replay, in public, some thing Mommy said to Daddy or Daddy said to Mommy when we didn't think you were listening.    Every experienced parent tells us that "your kids are ALWAYS listening".   We weren't always sure with you, especially since you didn't understand English when you came to us.   But you've shown us that you are listening, so now it is up to us to make sure you hear the right things.    (If you're listening now - Daddy wants new golf clubs.  Mommy wants chocolate.   I'm just saying.)     The big surprise about you has been the strength of your personality.   You definitely prefer to be in control of the world around you, and you are not shy about insisting that the world conforms to your needs.    You do not put up with anything less that you deserve.    Please don't EVER give up that trait.    We'll probably try to soften the rough edges a bit, if you'll let us.    But keep doing what you're doing, and when it comes time to decide whether you're the bug or the windshield, you'll be the windshield every time.   God help anyone who stands in your way.    In a few short years, Daddy will be meeting your boyfriends at the door with a stern look or perhaps even a shotgun but in the back of his head, he'll know that none of that will ever be necessary.   You'll chew up those poor boys and spit them out.


Chloe, when you joined our family, you were a soft cuddly little girl who seemed to love everyone and fear no one.   You were everybody's favorite little girl at the orphanage.   You give kisses out when asked.    You let both Mommy and Daddy hold you, comfort you, clean you, and feed you.    You are very easy going.   The only thing that makes you upset is when you are sick.    And Mommy and Daddy started you off the wrong way.   We fed you formula that made your stomach feel bad, and you tried to tell us by crying for hours and hours, and having several really messy accidents.    But we figured it out pretty quickly, and you were better within a few days.    We know we'll continue to make mistakes with you, all the way until you get married and move away (hopefully when your 30 or older).    We hope you'll continue to be that easy-going girl that you are, and that you'll understand, and work with us.   


At the moment, Cassie, you don't really know whether or not you like your sister.   She's a playmate, and that's pretty neat.   But she also demands some of Mommy's time, and that's not so neat.   But Mommy has enough love for both of you, and I think you'll figure that out soon enough.  Chloe, you keep on trying with Cassie, and you don't seem to care that she doesn't always like you.    That's part of your special charm.   In your own way, you too have decided that you're going to get what you want.   Right now, you want Cassie to be your friend.    Because of the way you do the things you do, I think you'll get your wish.    Mommy and Daddy will be there to help that happen.


Right now, Mommy and Daddy are wondering just how we'll find the strength to do all the things we need to do to give you the lives you deserve.   We believe God will give us the strength and guidance we need.    He's done it so far, and that's led us to you.    We haven't earned the privilege to become your parents, and don't deserve the honor.   God's grace has brought us to you, and you to us..    We're still going to do everything we can to come close. 


We love you both.   Whatever may have transpired between the time of this writing and the distant future which finds you reading this post, know that through it all, we love you both.   Everything we've done along the way is a direct result of that, even the horrible mistakes we are bound to make.   And yes, that probably includes Daddy's attempts to intimidate your prospective boyfriends. 


Friday, February 05, 2010

Halfway there - we've made it to Guangzhou

We've made it to Guangzhou.   We received Chloe's passport 1:30pm Friday.   We needed to get her passport in her home (i.e. birthplace) province before traveling to Guangzhou.    For casual followers, there are U.S. Consulate offices is many cities across China.   But only one of those offices has the authority to issue entry visas to the United States, and that office is located in Guangzhou.   Chloe, while officially ours in the eyes of China as of Tuesday February 2, is still a Chinese citizen.   The fact that she is our daughter does not automatically make her a U.S. citizen, so she cannot simply board a plane to the U.S. like any U.S. citizen.     She must be granted an entry visa, and that will happen here in Guangzhou.


Guangzhou, or at least Shamian Island which is located in Guangzhou, is something of a home away from home for us.  We've been here twice.   It is a highly westernized location.  We built a family in this city.    It feels like we are half-way home, even though we still are 19+ hours of plane ride and untold hours of layover away from home.


It's been a difficult couple of days.   Chloe came down with a monster case of diarrhea, complete with diaper blowout.   A few incidents were so bad that we decided to cut her clothes off, rather than pull them off and dragging fresh awful all over her in the process.   Yuck.    But we have come to the conclusion that the issue is lactose intolerance, a fairly common problem for Chinese people.    Cassie has no issues, but Chloe apparently does.   We've switched her to soy-based formula as of today.   The next few days will be telling.    There is a doctor's clinic located right in our hotel, and we are prepared with a handful of electrolyte delivery options, so we'll be ok one way or another.


I meant to post a few new pics last night, but we were locked in a knock-down, drag-out battle with Chloe to get her to sleep.   When she finally settled down, I started to type up a post, but she started fussing, so I called it quits for the evening.


Once again, we're exhausted, so only a few pics tonight.  

Newest member of the family - taking a snooze. As you can see, she's sweating. It's about 50 degrees outside but we've got her dressed for winter in the Arctic circle. Better that than being acosted by the self-appointed clothing police, who are EVERYWHERE. Any person walking the street takes it upon themselves to point out to us that anything less than 19 million layers of clothing will likely lead to instant death for the child, or worse. When in Rome...

A few seconds before or after the previous photo. There's Dadda wearing his fall coat and his favorite accessory, a cute little girl named Cassie.

Here's the sibling rivalry in action. Chloe on the left has a bag of goodies. Cassie is eyeing it, thinking about snatching it away. Meanwhile, the balance of toys is heavily tilted in Cassie's favor. She's even got two "Violets", the stuffed purple puppy. This is a work in progress

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rivalry update

Yesterday's post was part of the "keeping it real" series started several months ago.   It's not all sunshine and butterflies, as we like to say around here.    But occasionally a sunbathed butterfly does grace us with its presence, and we do take note.    This so-called sibling rivalry isn't really a rivalry yet because Chloe isn't fighting back.   Cassie is trying to stake her claim to a resource that until Monday was 100% hers.   Chloe never thought it was hers, so she's not fighting for it.   Yet.    


And even for Cassie it's not a 24x7 throwdown.   Cassie also has her tender moments with her new sister.   She truly is the "big" sister in many ways.   She towers over Chloe by 3 or 4 inches.    She is stronger, more coordinated, and more in tune with her surroundings.   Cassie "gets" gravity, while gravity still "gets" Chloe.   Cassie literally runs circles around her sister.   But she also "helps" her.    Cassie tries to brush Chloe's teeth.    She pets her hair and slowly says "nice" (something we taught her to do with Tehya, the faithful family Doberman).   Cassie feeds Chloe, helps her stand, and laughs when Chloe laughs, cries when Chloe cries.   


And then every once in a while, she'll swipe a toy or a bite of food.    So this is a work in progress.    If yesterday was D-Day, then today was Armistice Day.   Yeah, I know - I'm mixing wars, but hopefully you get my drift.



On to other news...

In addition to visiting Chloe's orphanage, we also visited her finding place.   Chloe was left in the ladies bathroom on the first floor of the administration building of a local children's hospital.   She was dressed in pink, wrapped in a red & white checked blanket, with 500 Yuan (roughly $70).    This is a very busy hospital, and the bathroom is the only one on that floor.   What does this mean?   Think about it for a moment.   The birth mother could have chosen not to leave money with Chloe.   Why would she leave money with her?   Probably so that whoever found her would have that money to help care for her.    Why would she leave her in a busy hospital?    What better place?   Chloe needed medical attention.   She had a cleft palate which meant that she could not suckle.   The birth mother most likely decided that she was in over her head but still wanted the best for her child.   She made the decision she thought was best for Chloe.    That means she cared about her child.   That knowledge doesn't really change anything for us as adoptive parents.    We can't control her past.   We must instead give her the best possible future.   However, one day Chloe will grow up and she will likely have questions about her origin.    This information, however meager, may help answer some of her questions.    And in case you're wondering - "why the restroom?"    Well, that's probably the easiest question to answer.    Abandoning a child is illegal in China.   You can't walk into the hospital and set a baby down in the waiting room in front of a hundred witnesses.    The fact that there is risk involved for the mother makes it all the more apparent that her choice of a busy hospital had specific intent, which was for the benefit of the child.


That's all for now.  

Important People

Today we visited the orphanage where Chloe lived until Monday of this week.   When you adopt from China, your life as a family - Day 1 - begins on gotcha day.   But the child's life begins much earlier than that, and that leaves an unknown history for parents to ponder.   What was my baby doing the day before we arrived.   Was she happy?   Sad?   Warm?   Cold?    Did she have friends?    Did she like the people who took care of her?    How did she get to the orphanage?   What happened before that?   Why?


So many questions.   


The cold hard fact is that we don't get to know most of the facts.   We are left to speculate.   A person could drive themself crazy thinking too much about this.   In some cases, we pick up bits and pieces of information that allow us to draw inferences about life before Day 1.   If we are fortunate, those bits and pieces paint a pleasant picture, or at least a more pleasant picture than we might imagine in the absence of specific information.    What we learned today made us feel fortunate.   


Chloe had many nannies at her orphanage.   We met seven of them today.   To see their faces light up when they came into the room was to see everything.   These women loved our little girl, and they could not conceal that fact today.   And lest one think that they might have been putting on a show for us, Chloe put the lie to that.   She lit up the biggest smile she has in her arsenal when she saw her nannies.   That was more than we could have hoped to have witnessed today, and made us feel very good.


One nanny in particular was very special to Chloe, and her name is Chen Ling.    Chen Ling is the nanny who presented Chloe to us on gotcha day, and appears to have been her primary caregiver.    Chen Ling is part of Half The Sky, which is a charitable organization that specializes in working with orphaned children in China.    Chen Ling clearly loved Chloe.   We won't go into details about everything we saw but we can say that she cried when it was time to leave on gotcha day.   Caught up in the moment, we missed that photo opportunity.   Out of respect for her, we would not be posting it here if we had captured it.   


Instead, we'll include only a single photo of her.   



A Note about Half The Sky:

We heard about Half The Sky a few years ago, and chose to "sponsor" a child through Half The Sky.   That child has since graduated the program, and we are now on to our second sponsored child.   It turns out that Chloe was also a sponsored child.   We can't know who is on the other end of that arrangement, but we can always hope that they are reading this blog.   If you are reading this - THANK YOU!    Know that we are paying it forward by continuing to sponsor a child.    


Speaking of paying it forward, we had an opportunity to do that today.    A few months ago, some adoptive parents visited Chloe's orphanage, much like we did today.   We had connected with them through one of the many online adoption communities, and they agreed to try to get pictures and an update on Chloe while they were there.   We received those pictures the next day, which gave us some valuable information (e.g. clothes sizes) for our upcoming trip, as well as an emotional lifeline - seeing new pictures of our baby while we sit through the agonizing wait.    Today we were able to do the same favor for two families who are currently waiting for paperwork to be completed before they can come get their children.    We can only hope that the information we provided gives them the same comfort it gave us when we received it.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sibling rivalry is the pits

We've had a challenging 24 hours. Cassie has decided that she doesn't want to share anything. She has also decided to be mad at Momma. Everything Momma does is wrong. Everything. OK – Momma is allowed to breathe. But touching things? No. Picking up Cassie? No. Putting her down? No. Suggest this? No. Offer that? No. And the reaction is not just a simple no. It's a full blown meltdown, complete with thrashing, swinging arms, and screaming. Dadda feels bad for Momma. He knows the spot she's in because he's there approximately every 28 days or so. That might be a teensy weensy exaggeration but every man knows that feeling. You're just wrong, and any attempt to fix it just makes it worse. Better to just stand there and take it like a man, or Momma in this case.

Cassie is having a difficult time with the fact that Momma is now a shared resource. Chloe is OK with that so far. But Cassie is not pleased. She still has her nice moments. She'll offer the occasional snack and help with the occasional diaper change but for the most part, if Momma picks up Chloe, Cassie is mad. She has been a bit rough with Chloe. She's not hitting her; she's just being a great big kid who jumps up and down, swings her arms and legs, and doesn't quite understand how it feels to be on the other end of all those moving parts. She also doesn't understand the stress she causes with all the screaming and yelling. Momma is at her wits end, and Dadda is within a few inches of his. He's doing better only because Cassie's wrath has largely been directed at Momma. Momma has a great deal more patience than Dadda for such things but she's facing a full frontal assault, while Dadda just gets hit with shrapnel.

A few times last night we were worried that the hotel might kick us out. Yes, it's that bad.

We don't know where this is leading but we are hoping that the worst of it will pass when Cassie realizes that the situation is non-negotiable.

To Dadda's parents and his sister, he offers his apologies for his part in the sibling rivalry of years past. But he's pretty sure it was all his sister's fault because she's older. That kind of logic is perhaps a bit weak, but it has two very important merits:

1. It absolves Dadda of any responsibility.

2. His sister isn't here while Dadda types up this nonsense.

Meanwhile, we still love Cassie every bit as much as we always have. Here are some pictures of her in her more angelic state. For some reason, the camera doesn't pick up the halo over her head. Must be a flaw in the camera design. You'll just have to trust us that it's there.

"Momma, I wasn't born YESTERDAY. There's NO way that thing can fly. Only fairies can fly."

"Ladies and gentlemen, you've been a great audience. Remember to tip your waitress. I'm here all week."

Reading her Aquadoodle to Violet.

Sibling rivalry is the pits

We’ve had a challenging 24 hours.   Cassie has decided that she doesn’t want to share anything.   She has also decided to be mad at Momma.   Everything Momma does is wrong.   Everything.   OK – Momma is allowed to breathe.   But touching things?   No.   Picking up Cassie?    No.   Putting her down?   No.    Suggest this?   No.   Offer that?   No.   And the reaction is not just a simple no.  It’s a full blown meltdown, complete with thrashing, swinging arms, and screaming.    Dadda feels bad for Momma.   He knows the spot she’s in because he’s there approximately every 28 days or so.    That might be a teensy weensy exaggeration but every man knows that feeling.   You’re just wrong, and any attempt to fix it just makes it worse.  Better to just stand there and take it like a man, or Momma in this case.   


Cassie is having a difficult time with the fact that Momma is now a shared resource.   Chloe is OK with that so far.   But Cassie is not pleased.  She still has her nice moments.   She’ll offer the occasional snack and help with the occasional diaper change but for the most part, if Momma picks up Chloe, Cassie is mad.   She has been a bit rough with Chloe.   She’s not hitting her; she’s just being a great big kid who jumps up and down, swings her arms and legs, and doesn’t quite understand how it feels to be on the other end of all those moving parts.    She also doesn’t understand the stress she causes with all the screaming and yelling.   Momma is at her wits end, and Dadda is within a few inches of his.   He’s doing better only because Cassie’s wrath has largely been directed at Momma.    Momma has a great deal more patience than Dadda for such things but she’s facing a full frontal assault, while Dadda just gets hit with shrapnel.


A few times last night we were worried that the hotel might kick us out.   Yes, it’s that bad.   


We don’t know where this is leading but we are hoping that the worst of it will pass when Cassie realizes that the situation is non-negotiable.  


To Dadda’s parents and his sister, he offers his apologies for his part in the sibling rivalry of years past.   But he’s pretty sure it was all his sister’s fault because she’s older.   That kind of logic is perhaps a bit weak, but it has two very important merits:

1.       It absolves Dadda of any responsibility.

2.       His sister isn’t here while Dadda types up this nonsense.


Meanwhile, we still love Cassie every bit as much as we always have.   Here are some pictures of her in her more angelic state.   For some reason, the camera doesn’t pick up the halo over her head.   Must be a flaw in the camera design.   You’ll just have to trust us that it’s there.