Monday, September 12, 2016

Four Years Home

Today, well, technically yesterday, marked the four year anniversary of Blossom joining our family. Tiny for her age, scared; I remember every detail of what it was like from the moment I first saw her in her pretty turquoise dress to the hamburger she ate at lunch, to watching her play with Jie Jie, and all the other little things that happened that first day.

She talks a mile a minute and is very out-going, doesn't know a stranger. She's pleased to have learned her multiplication tables over the summer. Her journey has been long and hard and continues to be pretty hard as she struggles to learn and find her place in this world, but she's easy to please and make happy.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our First Week of School

Actually, we homeschool all year long, but August marks the time when I access each girl's progress and determine what their main focus needs to be and introduce new curriculum materials.

Year one of the last three years, obviously, was all about learning English and adapting to family life. In addition to that, was basic arithmetic, fine motor skills as it relates to academics (writing letters and numbers and coloring), reading in whatever language was easiest, and English site words. Electives were games that facilitated all of this, plus critical and strategic thinking, art and P.E.

Year two continued with much of the same, but I began to notice an increase in the struggle and lack of progress in all three girls.

Last year went better as more and more information about each girls' learning ability was revealed. Our focus was now on Functional Skills, reading, writing and math.

This year, it's more of the same, but with a greater focus in Functional Skills, reading comprehension, English and creative and critical thinking. Up through 2nd grade, much of the learning involves memorization (alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables). By the end of second grade and beyond, it becomes more about applying the memorized knowledge by using it and then building on it.

Our first week has been very interesting.

Less demands are placed on Sissy academically. If she cannot understand something after explaining it three different ways (learning styles), we pass over it. She also doesn't have to make corrections. I go over it with her and explain the corrections, but we move on. This way, we cover more information with her taking in whatever her ability allows, keeping things more interesting, rather than dealing with her frustration when she can't grasp something.

Blossom is having a hard time with the IDEA that her work is harder this year. She doesn't understand why she needs harder work when she's finally succeeding in her current level. We'll see if she can overcome her fears and make progress or if she, like Sissy, is arriving at the limits of her academic ability.

Jie Jie is in a more complicated position. While she seems to have more areas of the brain in use than the other girls (creativity, empathy) the level of functioning is still low. The nature of her intellectual disability gives her inconsistencies that are a bit similar to someone with Alzheimer's Disease. One day she can remember that California is a state and the next she thinks it's a country, but she can't comprehend what a state and country actually are and that's why she gets it confused.

Apple is excited to being doing pre-K "work." She's always imitated her sisters during school time, but now she wants to be challenged. At this time, she's continuing to progress, but in many ways has not caught up with her same age peers. There are many factors involved, including continuing speech issues, the examples of her sisters (she's equal to them in many ways already and in some areas has passed them up) vs. neuro-typical siblings, her physical disabilities that limit her from participating in activities with her peers at their level. It's too soon to know if she has a learning disability, but she's making steady progress and that is very encouraging.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bowling Nite

My Firefighter and I went out to dinner and bowling - adults only.

Then, a few days later, we took the girls. It was Apple's first time.

I was there, too, but since I'm the photographer, I'm invisible.

Gymnastics Fun

You call this fun? Too scary! Apple's fingers can't bend so she can't really hold on to the bar, but using the muscles in her arms and putting weight on them is very good for her.

Yep, more arm strength exercises. Get those legs up, too!

Thatta girl!

This is more like it, something she can do "All by myself," as she loves to say.

Jie Jie wants to learn as much gymnastics as she can and make videos of herself doing gymnastics before her spinal surgery.

Blossom has been working hard on her bridge
and can start standing up and bend backwards into it now.

Sissy is also in gymnastics but got off the floor before I could take her picture.

Another Medical Trip

This is Shriner's Hospital for Children Northern California. We came back up here on July 8th to check on Jie Jie's scoliosis, Blossom's feet and Apple's hips. Everyone is great here, very friendly and no waiting in the x-ray department! Everyone commented on Apple's painted toenails. I'd actually painted all the girls' toenails and it helped them have fun when they got examined.

The news was mixed:

Blossom's feet are doing fine.

The surgeon here disagreed with the Kaiser surgeon about Apple's hips and suggested a "wait and see" approach because, while they are deformed, her hips are not dislocated.

Jie Jie's spinal fusion surgery is being planned and scheduled and it will take place in less than four months. In the last 6 months, the thoracic curve increased and is now at 47.5%. She's also developed a significant lumbar curve. We can't wait for her to grow any more, lung function is now going to start being compromised. She's worried and scared and it's been very stressful for her, but she's working through it all in a very healthy way.

Part of me wonders if the surgeon said what he did about Apple's hips just to put my mind at ease so I can get through Jie Jie's surgery first.

Apple is Growing

Apple is 1/2" taller, the same weight and 2 shoe sizes bigger (at age 4.5 yrs.) than Jie Jie was at age 7 yrs. 3 mon. Apple is now in all the clothes Jie Jie wore when I first got her. Here they are wearing the same outfit.

July 4, 2016, Apple age 4.5 yrs., 33 pounds, 32 inches tall.

May 2011, Jie Jie age 7 yrs.

Jie Jie age 12 yrs., Apple age 4.5 yrs.

June 26, 2012, Age 8 years.

This darling Land's End bathing suit was a gift from another single adoptive mom who has a daughter from China and a son who was adopted domestically. It was for Jie Jie but she was never able to wear it. I've been saving it all these years. What do you think, Tiff?

Showing off her first pedicure with toenail polish. She was thrilled! She woke up in the middle of the night needing a drink of water and when she laid back down, she said with a dreamy grin, "I like my pretty toes." Those were also the first words she uttered in the morning when I woke her up.

Apple is still one of those kids who falls asleep anywhere when she's tired.

Our 4th of July Celebration

We had a low-key backyard swim/bar-b-q party with a few friends at My Firefighter's place, then had a front row seat to the town fireworks from the front yard. I made a fruit pizza.

Jie Jie is my best swimmer, though all three older girls can swim. Sissy is the best at diving from the side.

Apple is learning and can swim underwater about 6 feet, but can't come up for a breath yet. For some reason, all my girls learned to swim underwater first and learning to swim with their heads above water was hard. Sissy is still working on it, but chokes a lot, Blossom can now do a real doggy paddle. Jie Jie can actually tread water.

The girls showed off their cartwheels. Jie Jie is the only one who can do a one-arm cartwheel.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Medical Trip June 24-25, 2016

Here are a few pictures of Apple from last June. We were in San Jose, at our hotel, on our Three Medical Centers in Three Different Cities - For Three Kids - In Two Days - Medical Trip.

We went to my favorite restaurant in San Jose and shared their signature dessert.

On the way to gymnastics class a few days before our trip.

Family Day Anniversaries

It seems like the girls' adoption day anniversaries, what we call their Family Day, passed in a blink this year.

Jie Jie celebrated 5 years on March 28.

Age 12 years

Apple celebrated 3 years on June 17.

Age 4.5 years

Blossom celebrated 1 year since her adoption finalization on June 5, though she's been with us nearly 4 years now.

Blossom is now sporting glasses, age 15.5 years.

Sissy celebrated 4 years on July 16.

Age 17.5 years