Friday, January 15, 2016

Good Morning

It's a great morning! I don't have any morning appointments and my afternoon work was cancelled, the sun is shining after a night of much-needed rain and I began my day with a phone call from My Firefighter, who is back at work across the street after being out sick for over a month, and he said the nicest thing to me. You know, one of those things that just fill your heart with joy and make you feel so loved.

This is his little old lady dog, he inherited her just over a year ago when his dad passed away. I have the cutest videos of Apple walking her when she was still learning to walk well herself. They both move at the same speed - slow. My cat Rose doesn't care if Josie is a dog, she knows a friend when she sees one. My other cats don't mind having a dog around, especially one that is deaf and blind, but it's pretty comical when Josie realizes a cat is near and barks like a dog should and sends them scattering, especially if they've come to see what's in her food bowl.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year, New Recipes

While winter is here and the temperature outside under 106 degrees, I am enjoying using my oven, but I've also rediscovered my crock pot. A couple months before adopting Apple, I bought a few new cookbooks so I decided to get them out and pick something new to try. I used the Taste of Home's Slow Cooker Favorites and made Slow-Cooked Sauerkraut Soup. I'd never had sauerkraut in soup before and would have been turned off by the title, but the picture was enticing so I gave it a try and I'm so glad that I did. It was really, really good. I can't wait to make it again. I did, however, not read the recipe closely and thought it only made 3 quarts, so I doubled the recipe and realized a single batch was 5 quarts when it didn't all fit into my 6 quart crockpot. I ended up cooking half in the crockpot and half in the electric pressure cooker. They turned out identical, but one took only 10 minutes to cook and the other a few hours. 10 quarts sure seems like a lot, but it lasted for only 2 meals with my crew plus My Firefighter and that's with adding grilled cheese sandwiches to it, too.

Last night, My Firefighter and I made chocolate chip cookies from a new recipe. I found the link to the recipe on a friend's blog and followed it because she posted 3 things that she made that were new to her and wrote that if one can make only one of the 3 things, then to make the cookies, so we did. It was the first time I ever made chocolate chip cookies that stayed soft and chewy and thick. All my cookies in the past got very flat no matter what I did. Click HERE to get to the recipe if you want to try them.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Photos of 2016

The WeeHoo from United Way is GREAT! Apple is comfortable and it's easy for me to pull with my bike. We took our first family bike ride of the year through the neighborhood.

Jie Jie likes taking her doll, Bao Bao, with her. The basket My Firefighter gave her last year for her birthday is perfect for holding just about anything.

Speaking of My Firefighter, he's finally over his pneumonia. I STILL don't have the pictures from our Half Dome Climb, last October, but at least we finally took a selfie together in the matching Made It To the Top shirts that we bought year-before-last.

I've been insisting that the girls start using some of the games and toys we have around here or I'm going to donate them, so they took out Twister and had some fun.

Jie Jie is a cat magnet. Henry, of course, is a total Velcro kitty and never wants to be put down.

Last Photos of 2015

Hanging her candycane from Sunday school on the tree.

We received this gingerbread house as a gift. It had so much beautiful detail! I was a little sad when I had to break it so we could eat it, but our Home Teacher, who had made it, assured us that it was meant to be eaten and it was super good!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Post-Adoption Learning Center

A commenter left me this link today and whoever, I am eternally grateful! I'm just starting to read the various articles, but it's exactly, EXACTLY pertinent to my girls' situations!

Post-Adoption Learning Center

Here are some examples of the articles on this site:

Transition Planning for Internationally Adopted Adolescents with Educational Handicapping Conditions

Tempo {temper} Tantrums in Adopted Children

Cumulative Cognitive Deficit in international adoptees: its origin, indicators, and means of remediation

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy Birthday & Happy New Year

The past few days have been a great ending to 2015 and a wonderful start to 2016. A few days ago, My Firefighter returned from out-of-town, where he spent the holidays with his daughter and her husband. He asked us all to meet him in the terminal, not just pull up to the curb. It was a great idea since my own anticipation of his arrival, and the girls' excitement, was very fun. I admit we got to the airport quite early. One of the local culinary academies made a display of Gingerbread Houses Around the World, so we had a lot to look at while we waited and a video to watch on how the gingerbread village was created.

I'd warned the girls that they can't run and meet him until he passed the secure area, but Apple didn't get it and shot toward him and straight into his arms just a couple feet inside the demarcated area. It was darling! The guards must have thought so, too, they smiled at me and didn't say anything (they'd seen me point out to the girls the no trespass area).

On my birthday, which is on New Year's Eve, My Firefighter took me out to my favorite restaurant, a Brazilian place with a fantastic buffet and a never-ending flow of delicious meat, chicken and poultry on long skewers that is served to one's table, followed by cinnamon pineapple also cooked on a long skewer. We'd gone there a year ago mid-way through December and I looked forward all year to going again. Then, we did what only nerds do and went to see Star Wars AGAIN in the same month! It was just as good, if not better, the second time because we noticed more details and My Firefighter had just given me the soundtrack and we'd been listening to it in the car.

We ushered in the New Year at home, not because we are nerds or "old" but because we wanted to. My firefighter has been healing from pneumonia for over a month, hence his tired appearance in recent pictures, and it's just gosh darn nice having some quiet time together. Midnight came and we stood outside, in a safe place, as idiots around the neighborhood shot guns into the air, multiple rounds at a time. It truly sounded like a war zone outside. Then we went inside and relished our quiet time, saying good-bye to 2015 and welcoming in 2016 and all that it may bring.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Dinner

After unwrapping the gifts, I was pretty tired, I even contemplated taking the girls out to a restaurant for Christmas dinner. I changed my mind after a good breakfast, one that was a gift, actually. Last night our neighbor brought over a frozen breakfast casserole and I let it defrost during the night. All I had to do was warm it up in the microwave. It revived me enough to start cooking and keep cooking. Granted, I did cheat this year quite a bit. I had a store-bought frozen apple pie and the pie crusts I used for my pumpkin pies were frozen, too. But I did do the 16+ pound turkey (in an oven bag) myself and stuffing, carrots, mashed potatoes (from flakes), green bean casserole and homemade cranberry sauce.

This is my old cat, Rose. She's 15. She's not food motivated, she'd rather be on my lap than eating off my plate, so when she went for the turkey, I went for my camera and I love this picture. Her table manners are impeccable, no hands (feet) on the table!

Now, I'm tired. Too tired to sleep. I'll try reading and undoubtedly fall asleep with the light on and find the book under the sheets and my glasses on the floor in the morning. I'm going on strike next year unless I have another pair of hands to help - at least someone to supervise the kids while I cook. On top of doing all the Christmas Eve stuff and Christmas Day stuff, and all the cooking, I even managed two loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen (with the help of the girls) and deboned the bird.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Does anyone remember this doll from June 24, 2007 when I first bought it? HERE'S the post. Back then it symbolized all my hopes and dreams for motherhood and a little girl that would come from China. Back then I never imagined I'd end up with four daughters from China or that it'd take so long to get them and that the road would be so incredibly difficult once they came home.

This year is winding down and coming to a close and so is a phase of our lives. I have new hopes and dreams as I rebuild our life after learning that our future is going to be much different than I thought it would be. There is a new direction and adventure just waiting for us. I know there is an incredible community of special families waiting to welcome us.

Silent Night


One year ago, Apple could only say 4 words.  Now, she's talking in 4-7 word sentences and starting to sing.  Best Christmas present ever.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Treats

Cooking is such a huge part of any holiday. Everyone loves sweets and treats so tonight, while My Firefighter was making his traditional cakes to give to his friends, I made non-baked treats for the girls. Apple 'helped' while the bigger girls watched a movie on TV.


Jie Jie felt pretty today and that made her happy. She liked that she "matched" her mama's outfit and that made her happy, too. There's not much that makes a mother more happy than to see her child happy. She also liked that she's fitting her older sister's hand-me-downs, which gives her proof that she's growing.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Force is with Us

My Firefighter and I saw the new Star Wars movie tonight. Great movie! Our nerd certification has been renewed for at least a couple years.

Holiday Fun

Jie Jie's church youth group made gingerbread houses out of graham crackers last night. We had plans to eat out at our favorite restaurant's Family Night then found out that the church activity was something that Jie Jie really wanted to do so we went to the restaurant and arranged for My Firefighter to come pick her up there and take her to her activity while the rest of us ate at a more leisurely pace. We picked her up when we were finished and topped the night off at My Firefighter's house by watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

As the remaining three girls and I left the restaurant, we discovered that Santa was there visiting with all the kids.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Oh, Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree yesterday. It's now an established family tradition, our third year in a row getting our tree at the same place then getting free hot chocolate, fruit and tokens to the shooting gallery. This year they had a little carousel, the kind that used to be outside Woolworth's and is still sometimes seen outside of stores. Apple sat on it with great trepidation for the picture, but wanted nothing to do with it after that, knowing it was going to move and make noise.

Apple has My Firefighter wrapped around her little finger and he loves it!

Our regional center case worker nominated my family to United Way this year for Christmas and a local corporate sponsor "adopted" us and two other families. They came out and interviewed me and asked what we needed or wanted: clothes? food? toys? We didn't need any of those things. I didn't know what their budget was so I gave them a list from small to large and got one of the large items, a WeeHoo bike trailer for Apple. They presented it to us tonight and Apple just LOVED it! She's secure in a seat she can't fall out of, with handles she can actually use, and she can pedal to help or not. The pedals have straps to help keep her feet on and the seat is completely adjustable so she can reach then. I can't wait to try it out!

Knock Me Over With a Feather

Another diagnosis just came in - Jie Jie is intellectually disabled, much more so than I suspected.

Sissy's MRI showed a normal brain structure; no obvious reason for her disability.

Our specialist is wonderful. He's encouraging, yet realistic without putting any limits on any of the girls.

Where do we go from here? Well, we still have a long ways to go as far as getting Sissy and Jie Jie into our regional center. The ball is rolling but it's a slow ball. We will definitely be getting more and more involved in our special needs community. Our focus educationally will remain the same - heavy on English and reading comprehension, daily skills level math (or higher if they can do it), and functional life skills. I hope to identify each girls' interests and strengths more precisely and provide them with more time to explore them.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Just Breathe

Last Friday we trekked to Shriner's Hospital, a three hour drive away from home. It's very well-run and everyone is so kind and knowledgeable. They all treat the children and parents so well and with such respect. It's my favorite hospital for attending clinics.

I'm a pro at these medical trips. I've got a system. First, make sure the folding wagon is in the car. Second, pack generous lunches. Third, bring a ton of music to listen to in the car. Usually I also bring a couple movies and the portable DVD player, but I didn't do that this time since we planned to visit friends afterward which means the girls will sleep on the way home afterward. A bit of school work in case we have a long delay (didn't get to it this time) and a book and a few toys for everyone. Lastly, a change of clothes for a couple of the girls and sometimes I bring one for me if there is potential for me to get thrown up on or casting material splattered on me, etc...

We arrived on time, but check-in took a long time because three of my children are patients at Shriner's. We were put into a room and that becomes our new home for the day. One by one, the specialists come in. This time, x-rays were ordered. When the films came back and the specialist returned and showed them to me, I ceased breathing, an icy hand gripped my heart, a throbbing pounding sound filled my ears. I'm sure I turned red then white. He didn't have to say a word. Not one word. I could plainly see for myself all there was to see. Not good news. Not at all. Slam! I knew more could go wrong with my girls, but after our previous exam, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Major surgery needed.

Also surgery that's sort of medium.

Also surgery that's a bit more minor.

Another issue put on hold, completely eclipsed by the diagnosis requiring the major surgery.

I've been doing some research tonight. I'm learning more and more about Jie Jie's special need. You'd think I'd have already learned all I need to know, but as she grows, more and more things show up. They are showing up late because of her tiny size. But guess what? Tonight I learned that her tiny size is part of her condition, not just due to the severe malnutrition she suffered in China (NOT due to neglect, but her condition).

Good news for Blossom! Good-bye SMOs, hello in-shoe orthotics. We hope to pick the up in January when we return to Shriner's.

Jie Jie didn't get off lucky at all. She's the unfortunate one. Her scoliosis got severely worse this past year. It's not straight-forward. Her spine is incredibly different from top to bottom. Many aspects of Jie Jie's special need complicate the surgery and recovery even more. People diagnosed with this special need typically have two to three of seven characteristic features. Jei Jie has five. Affected individuals may have additional abnormalities that are not among the characteristic features of this association and Jie Jie has several, some severe and some not. Thing is, things that didn't seem like an abnormality really are and as she grows it becomes more and more apparent. As I sat with my friend later, we started talking about words surgeons use when things are bad. We made a list:

Veeerrrrry interesting
Very complex
I'll need to do some research
Let me give this some thought
Let's focus on this issue and put aside the other one
This is unusual
I've never seen this before

Then there is the complete loss of words:

Well now, this, uh, hmmm, well, uh, let me see again, yes, very complex.

I am praying for a miracle. She really needs one. As it turns out, we did get a small miracle with a chance encounter with a stranger at IKEA after our appointments. That's for another post, though. I've started doing more research and I have come up with an idea to present to the surgeon. It's still major surgery and I don't know if it's done, especially for this condition, but it might be less risky in the short and long run.

Meanwhile, something was finally absolutely confirmed that I knew all along. Kaiser failed my child in the treatment, actually the lack of treatment, of her feet. The specialist at Shriner's said she would have been treated aggressively and will good success and Kaiser said there was nothing to be done. They did more that has caused my child not to get the treatment she needed, despite me fighting like crazy, but I need to put the past away and work on what's in front of me now.

The last time we were at Shriner's a defect in each of Jie Jie's hands were also identified for the first time. For all the appointments we've had at Kaiser, every single specialist missed this one. There is a surgery to help and it's highly recommended, but it is optional. It bears serious thought and might be a good preliminary surgery to see how Jie Jie reacts to anesthesia and pain medications before going for the huge surgery. I don't know yet. More serious prayer and research are needed so that I can make an informed decision.

Lastly, there is little Apple. Her hands are doing great! The surgeon was particularly pleased not only with her hands, but her intellect and cuteness. She was very complimentary to me for all the OT-type stuff I've done at home on my own with Apple. The result is that Apple doesn't need any occupational therapy at this time and, if I keep doing what I'm doing with her, she probably doesn't need any until she gets into school and we find things she can't do that she would like to do.

Surgery is recommended for Apple's feet. We have time to wait, though. The specialist thinks it's inevitable if she's to wear shoes comfortably in the future, but for now, Apple's feet are so narrow that she's not experiencing any issues at all.

Apple still needs another major huge cranial surgery. I'm confused though. I'm told it's cosmetic, but it's routinely done as part of the standard treatment for Apert syndrome. Perhaps because Apple's so mildly affected I'm hoping to avoid it. It's so hard to know what she'd want as an adult. Would she mind not have a brow ridge or nose bridge if it means not suffering through another horrendous surgery with all its inherent risks? At four years-old she'd certainly opt to avoid surgery. I certainly would opt to avoid it. But down the road, what would she want?

Apple will see another specialist in January about another issue, along with Jie Jie, who will see the same specialist, another new one, and the surgeon who needs to do more research. I feel so much more confident and safe with this surgeon than the one we saw at Kaiser 3 years age, the one who said there was nothing to be done with her feet. Turns out he also probably misdiagnosed them since he never took a plantar flexion x-ray.

Meanwhile, I'm still awaiting the results of Sissy's MRI from last Thursday and tomorrow morning the trend of back-to-back appointments continues as Sissy will see another specialist, then have speech therapy on Tuesday, there's speech therapy for Apple and Jie Jie on Wednesday, then Jie Jie sees another specialist locally on Thursday!

Our lives are completely disrupted. School is barely happening. Meals are at odd times. We are TIRED! The house is a mess, but the laundry is done. Through this all, Blossom has had only one tiny meltdown and it was today. She is being a trouper! She has come so far this year! I'm very proud of her!