My Little Sweeties

My Little Sweeties

Monday, October 27, 2014

Surgery On Wednesday

On Wednesday Peng Peng will have his first big surgery in the States.  His lip was repaired at about seven months old in China, but now we are on to the next big step, which is to start repairing his palate.  What we were told is that the plastic surgeon at the craniofacial clinic is going to cut along the gum line on the roof of his mouth behind his front teeth.  He will then patch and stretch the tissue to close off the hole that encompasses the full top of his mouth all the way through his uvula.  It sounds so painful, but our little man has been through so much already in life and is so tough, I have no doubt that he will be a trooper through the process.  I am so thankful that I am able to be there for him and to comfort him when he needs it.  Knowing that he didn't have anybody who loved him as I do when he was a baby just breaks my heart, so I have lots of making up to do this time around. 

While he is out the ENT will also give him tubes in his ears.  Once he is healed we will need to having serious hearing testing done to see if/ how much hearing loss he has.  It is common for kiddos with cleft lips/ palates to have some hearing loss, and the fact that he has failed the previous hearing check concerns me. 

This will be it for surgeries (hopefully) for the next few years.  His next surgery will be when he is preschool age on his palate again, then bone graft surgery when he is seven or eight, and then more work done when he is older and finished growing. 

We have been preparing AJ and Abby for this as best as we can.  They have seen inside his mouth (he loves to be flipped upside down and laughs really hard when we do this, so this has been a good way to get a good and quick peek).  Last night I drew out a calendar for this week so they could see what days of the week Peng Peng and I will be gone and when my mom will be here.  Friday should be interesting as that is the day we are scheduled to come home and it is also Halloween.  I have to be honest, I am not looking forward to the doorbell ringing every five minutes while my little one is miserable, but maybe that will prove to be the distraction he needs. 

When the surgery is complete Peng Peng will have arm restraints.  These look like molded pieces of plastic that have Velcro on them.  They are not casts and there is nothing wrong with his arms, but it will prevent him from going anywhere near his mouth and hurting either his stitches or putting things in there.  All food will have to be liquid or pureed for two weeks minimum.  It will be very important that we keep getting nourishment in him so he doesn't loose any weight and can heal quickly.  We have been trying different baby foods, yogurts, and pedialyte so we know which foods he likes and which ones to stay away from.

A few days ago we had his pre-op appointment and had his height and weight recorded.  In the past five weeks he has gained TWO pounds and grown an INCH & A HALF! Whoo hoo! For the second time since we have been home they also heard a heart murmur. Sounded like no need for concern at this point, just to keep a close eye on it over time.

In the area of signing, we haven't been working on adding new words this week, but Peng Peng has more and more consistently initiated these words and continues to amaze me with his communication skills!
Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, ball, banana,  bath, bike, bird, book, brush teeth, bug candy, car, cat, cereal, clean up, cold, color, come on, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, diaper, dog, down,  drink, eat, fish, flower,  go, grandma,  hat, help, horse,  hot, hot dog, jump, laundry, milk, mine, mama, more, monkey, music, pig, play, popcorn, shoes, sit, sleep, socks, slide, swing, time out, wait, walk, wash hands, water, up

Thank you all for your continued prayers.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Week of Blessings

This last week was a gift from God.  AJ and Abby were home for the whole week due to MEA, conferences, and a comp day.  In the past this has been a stressful week.  I have had to line up daycare plans for AJ as he is normally in school, I barely get to see my munchkins during conferences, and then we have a few really nice days together as I recoup and try to get my house back together.

This time around was a week full of blessings.  Peng Peng had a fabulous week.  He continues to have tummy problems and we are starting our fourth prescription for his tummy today as a result, but other than that he has been healthy and I dare say thriving.  He continues to learn more signs, his cough is gone, he is sleeping better (more on that later), he has not bit in weeks, and he is growing (we think).  He is playing more independently and allowing me to be in a different room while he entertains himself for short spurts, which is appreciated as much as  I love playing with the little bugger.

The weather this week couldn't have been any better.  The sky is blue, the leaves are a brilliant golden, the birds are chirping, the pumpkins are ready for baking, and the apples are ready for picking.  We spent a lot of time outside, we opened the windows, and we did a lot of baking. 

Our vacation started off with a bang.  My cousins from Oklahoma and California were in town for my cousin Brad's wedding.  They came by Friday night and we so enjoyed their company.  The kids really took to them and it was so nice taking the time to catch up.  Saturday we went to the wedding, which was just beautiful.  Everything was perfect and we were able to show off our newest addition to many family members.  AJ and Abby danced the night away as did Peng Peng.  Abby would kill me if she knew I shared this, but one of the sweetest memories that day was her barely able to stand her romantic anticipation waiting for the wedding kiss.  She loves fairy tales, and there is nothing more romantic than a bride and groom sharing their first kiss as husband and wife. 

Sunday we had family pictures in the afternoon.  It was so nice being able to sleep in and relax after having such a busy day the day before.  Adam went to a fish tank meeting in the morning and the kids and I just played outside and I ran around putting outfits together.  I think I prepared thirty outfits that weekend counting clothes for the wedding, playclothes in the mornings, two outfits for pictures, and pajamas.  The kids did the best they have ever done and the few pictures I have already seen have brought tears to my eyes.  I am so thankful to capture this magical time in our lives. 

Monday we went to the Good Times Park.  This place is amazing!  The kids ran for three straight hours and I eventually had to drag them out of there so Peng Peng could have a nap.  We easily could have spent another three hours there.  The place was super quiet too since most districts still had school that day.

Tuesday we had conferences for the kids.  I was so proud of how well AJ and Abby are doing - both academically as well as behaviorally.  They handled all of these life changes like real troopers and I am so so proud of them both.  That afternoon we picked up our friends Lauren and Ben and we had a playdate at our house for the rest of the afternoon.  We made sugar cookies and decorated them.  It was so fun seeing their creations with a little sugar, sprinkles, marshmallows, and chocolate chips!

Wednesday I took the kids to Barten's pumpkin patch with our good friends Gina and Melissa and their children.  This place had all kinds of fun activities for the kids - like taking the kernals off of corn (I am sure there is a name for this but I have no idea what it is), walking on stilts, bean bag toss, bowling with pumpkins, playing in a corn teepee, and photo ops.  That night Abby and her friend went to gymnastics while the boys and I picked up more meds for Peng Peng's tummy.

Thursday was a real treat.  We went to the Mall of America and went to the Underwater World.  Peng Peng LOVES fish, so he in open-mouthed awe pretty much the whole time.  We had a few free tickets left from AJ's birthday party back in April, so the kids all got to go on a few rides as well.  Our grand finale was a treat at the Toll House cookie store.  On the way home we went to their dentist appointments.  No cavities!  Well, I shouldn't fully say that.  We know that Peng Peng has a cavity and are hoping to get it filled during his surgery while he is out.  The dentist looked in his mouth and gave us some advice as his mouth has many needs and we are trying to prioritize his greatest needs first.  That night we had Bible Study and after that Adam and I hosted a music practice in our garage for this Sunday's service.

Friday was a lay-low day.  We went to story time at the local library, played at Wagners Park, then spent a lot of time playing and relaxing.  The kids read their books from the library, watched movies, and I cleaned for a few hours and then we enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. 

Saturday we had our friend Linda and her two boys over for a pj & donut playdate.  That afternoon I took the kids to a movie from a Family Movie Series we had purchased for super cheap a few weeks ago through the school.  We got there a little late as I had the time confused and we ended up having to sit in the front row.  I started to feel sick - and I thought it was from sitting up front - but ends up it was the start of a nasty 24 hour stomach bug.  No fun!  I slept most of the afternoon in between being sick and Adam had kid duty.

Sunday we were involved in one of our preview church services for Crossroads.  I made it with singing, but still felt pretty sick and run down.  Our pastor did a great job though and the kids had a blast.  By the afternoon I started to feel better and the kids and I had fun playing for hours in the front yard.  We peeled apples that my in-laws gave us from their apple tree and made apple crisp.  We also took out some seeds and they are drying right now so we can try planting our own trees this spring. 

Grossest moments this week both involved the dogs.  Peng Peng has been open-mouth kissing the dogs while they lick his tongue.  SO disgusting, but tricky to prevent as they are the same eye level and gravitate towards one another - especially his mouth as he constantly has a stinky odor coming from his mouth.  The worst was... we have been encouraging Peng Peng to brush his teeth often.  So, when I let him brush his teeth on the kitchen floor while I did dishes I didn't think too much of it... until I realized he had run over by the dogs' water dish.  I ran over saying, "no no!" but I was too late.  The toothbrush went into the water dish, he smiled, then he popped that toothbrush into his mouth and started scrubbing.  EEWWWW.

Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, ball, banana,  bath, bike, bird, book, brush teeth, bug candy, car, cereal, clean up, cold, color, come on, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, diaper, dog, down,  drink, eat, fish, flower,  go, grandma,  hat, help, horse,  hot, hot dog, jump, laundry, milk, mine, more, monkey, music, pig, play, popcorn, shoes, sit, sleep, socks, slide, swing, time out, wait, walk, wash hands, water, up
As much as I have been thankful every day for this gift of time home with Peng Peng, I can't express enough how grateful I am to have this week with all three kids.  We cuddled, we did big activities, we read, we hugged, we laughed.  So many great memories all bottled into one week.  You know how when you first fall in love with somebody, how you get all tingly just thinking about them?  That was this whole week.  Even when I was sick and at my worst, the kids made a point to see if I needed anything and to give hugs. God is so good. 

The timing of this week couldn't have been any better either.  We have just over one more week until Peng Peng's big surgery next week.  I am so nervous for it - for him.  Medical concerns aside, I do worry about his little and highly active body to be in pain and confined in arm restraints.  He is signing so well, I worry he won't be able to communicate with his arms bound either.  Please keep him and our family in your prayers these next few weeks.  I know the end result will be well worth it, but it will be a difficult time for our family.  The doctors are optimistic that within a few weeks from the surgery he should be able to start producing more sounds and the roof of his mouth should be healed and closed.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Exponential Love

This past week, in all of it's simplicity, has been our best week yet. When AJ was born I was amazed with the love that my heart could feel for this baby.  Then, when I was pregnant I wondered how I could possibly love two so much, but it happened.  Now, with our final baby, I am just in awe with the love in our home.  Sure, we have moments of frustration and chaos, but in those simple moments of cuddling on the couch reading a book, watching them play ball outside, or seeing AJ & Abby pulling Peng Peng on a blanket around the house, I sometimes wonder if my heart will just burst.  

AJ and Abby have adjusted so well to all of these changes.   Peng Peng continues to communicate more and act out less.  He loves to play and interact well.  In the daily activities, like going grocery shopping, the library, or karate class, life is crazy busy but every moment is a gift and we are so blessed.

Last week we had some medical updates, and this week will be on the same path.  Last week we met with the craniofacial team at the U of M.  It was hard to hear all of the medical procedures he will need over the next few years, but was a great reminder of all the opportunities we have through insurance and where we live.  We have his first major surgery in the States scheduled for October 29th.  He will need tubes in his ears (he has had fluid in his ears at every visit so far and they said he might have some hearing loss - we will know more about this after the surgery and his ears have healed).  He also will need some repair on his nose (his nostril is mostly closed off and he only breathes through his mouth).  The main purpose of the surgery is for his palate repair, which we will learn more details about today.

I also brought Peng Peng back to the doctor's office for the third time since being home (three weeks now).  He had the beginning of bronchitis and the start of an ear infection, so we started our second prescription antibiotic.  He seems to be doing better, but we are mostly staying inside to protect him from the cold and wind outside.

We decided to hold off on his educational evaluation for a month or so due to surgery being this month.  The doctors said within a few weeks he will be a different kid talking and his speech needs will be very different.  

 Last weekend was fabulous.  My parents came into town on Friday and brought their RV.  They went to karate lessons and watched AJ & Abby show off their skills.  After hanging out for a while they brought Abby to the RV and AJ & I had a special night together while Adam did bedtime with Peng Peng.  We played boardgames, watched a movie until 11 pm, and snuggled.  The next morning we sold popcorn for the boyscout fundraiser.  He said countless times how much he enjoyed this special time together and it made me so thankful to have this time together.  My mom sat with AJ for a while during popcorn sales and Abby and I did some projects.  The second night was pretty much the same and Sunday we had church.  Sunday afternoon we met Adam's mom at Chuckee Cheese and all three kids had a great time.  Peng Peng was a little overwhelmed, but he seemed to enjoy himself and clung pretty close.

Signing has many many advantages and Peng Peng is just picking them up so well.  He is starting to sign 2-3 words to communicate.  An example is he wanted goldfish crackers.  He signed "eat" "fish" and "crackers".  It gets a little complicated in the car because he grunts to get my attention and loves to comment while driving.  He signs water every time we pass any form of water or cow.  If he is hungry or thirsty he signs eat and drink.  While he seems to understand a lot of our words we have been signing while talking with him and in general he seems to understand signs better.  So, sometimes it is a bit comical and dangerous driving because he is grunting and signing and I am trying to look and sign back. 

Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, ball, banana,  bath, bird, book, brush teeth, candy, car, cereal, clean up, cold, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, dog, down,  drink, eat, fish, flowergo, grandma,  hat, help, horse,  hot, jump, milk, more, monkey, music, play, shoes, sit, sleep, socks, slide, swing, wait, walk, water, up

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hanging out in the bathroom

What a difference a week makes!  We have been home for fifteen days and this last week has continued to bring great improvements.  I feel very confident that Peng Peng has established Adam and I as his parents.  We brought him to church this morning and the love that was poured on us and the smiles we all received made me just want to cry many times - God is so good to have given us this family.  I am curious what the percentage of families in our church who have adopted, but I think it is high.  My guess is maybe 15% of the members in our church have an adopted child.  So, many people "get" what we are going through - both the ups and the downs - and they also get what a gift our miracle is. 

I have realized how well God knows us.  I believe that God only gives you what you can handle.  Sometimes I think he gives me way more credit than I deserve.  I feel so frazzled lately - but in a blissfully exhausted way.  I can't tell you how many times I have asked my kids a question, like, "what would you like on your toast" or "would you like milk or water" - they have answered, and then I completely spaced that I even asked them the question let alone remembered their answer.  But, God knew our family well, and included in the word "family" I mean Peng Peng.  He is feisty. He is loving and affectionate.   He is determined.  He gives me a run for my money many times throughout the day - and hearing him say, "mama" just melts me.  Utterly and completely.

He continues to do well with AJ and Abby.  80% of the time he plays very very well with them, and they are always amazing with him.  We are still working on sharing, both toys and myself, and he does continue to bite, pinch, and hit, but the frequency has greatly decreased and his increase in communication has significantly helped improve his frustrations.  He has had several time outs and has really impressed me with understanding what they are for.  Last night AJ was sitting in a little fluffy red chair.  It was his when he was younger but in general it is Christians now.  Well, Peng Peng didnt like that and walked over and smacked AJ.  I put him in a time out and when his time was done I sat and talked and said, "do nice to your brother.  He loves you".  I put him down and he ran over to AJ (who was still sitting in the chair).  I was prepared for another smack before I could get there and another time out, but instead he tried to vocalize "nice and caressed his hand.  Yeah!

The weather has been beautiful lately, so we spent the afternoon outside yesterday.  It was so fun harvesting our final veggies from the garden.  Peng Peng especially enjoyed poking his fingers into the tomatoes and had juice all over himself!  The kids taught him how to roll down the hill, which was hysterical. 

I discovered that Signing Time is on Netflix - whooo hooo!  I have been doing weekly trips to the library to check them out, so this will save time and the money I would eventually get stuck with for late fees since I am forgetting so many things lately.  I have to start learning new signs because this kid is learning them so fast!  I am going to keep listing his signs because this is the only place I am really recording all of his progress and it is fun for me to see all these amazing gains.  New words are in bold.  all done, apple, ball, bath, bird, book, brush teeth, candy, cereal, clean up, cookie, cracker, dog, drink, eat, fish, hat, help, jump, milk, more, monkey, music, play, shoes, sleep, socks, slide, wait, walk, water, up

Our biggest accomplishment this week was sleep.  It is by no means better, and is most definitely the most stressful part of my day, but we have really come far this week.  When I am not in the room he cries. Hard.  I don't honestly think it is an attachment issue solely.  I think it is a combination of attachment, he likes to be in with the action, and he is almost two and doesn't want to sleep.  So, I bought a baby monitor and a little fish thing that has a light and we just hang out in my room for close to three hours a day.  About two hours for nap and an hour for bedtime.  I am sure you are reading this envious of our time like this, but trust me, I would much rather him be able to sleep peacefully without the worries of the nightmares and without worrying about him anxious to be abandoned again than to lay in my bed.  Plus, I lay here thinking of the billion other things I should do, including spend time with my other two kids.  Fortunately, nap time is way harder than bedtime, so AJ and Abby are at school 5/7 of these days.

Yesterday morning we were able to visit Adam's grandmother (Great-Grandma Giles) and Aunt Val.  The kids had so much fun, but I think us three adults were having just as nice of a time.  They are so sweet and such kind people, it was a gift to have their company for the morning.  We even hit up the second-hand store beforehand and I bought costumes for Halloween, clothes for my cousin's wedding in a few weeks, a baby monitor, a riding toy for Peng Peng, and a few dresses, all for under $100! 

Today I sat in the bathroom for the first hour of nap time.  When he cried I poked my head, said something reasurring, or sang a song, but I didn't sit in my bed by him because whenever I did he would laugh or be silly.  You might be thinking, "well, maybe he wasn't tired then"... but I know he was tired because less than twenty minutes before he ALMOST fell asleep on the car ride home from church.  We had to keep him awake by tickling him.  Yesterday he napped about five minutes in the car and then couldn't sleep...and we had a rough afternoon as a result of him being too tired.  So, if progress starts by sitting in the bathroom, I will take it.  Abby is at a friend's and AJ is getting bonus electronics time, Adam is on a motorcycle ride, and now I get to update on here, so it is a win-win for everyone! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two steps back and ten steps forward

This week has been a bit trying/ tiring, but overall has been filled with excitement, milestones, and gains.

Our biggest setback was attachment.  Peng Peng seems so secure 99% of the time.  The times that are hardest for my little buddy is when it is time to sleep and when I am not touching him.  This means that most of our day he is either being held by me or having some form of physical contact/ interaction with me.  I can handle the contact - I can't get enough of this little guy.  He loves playing around with his brother and sister and showing off his mad cuteness with strangers as long as they are not interacting with me.  He bit Abby pretty hard twice in the last week and has hit AJ several times as well.  All were when he wanted something they had or if I was hugging/ holding them.  I did need to go to the chiropractor today - my back has been killing me - it isn't used to carrying around 20 pounds ten hours a day :)  What I am having a hard time handling is sleep.  Peng Peng has had some long crying fits when we try laying him down.  To make a long story short, this little man does not like to lay down even when he is really tired.  We have tried MANY things, and I don't want to jinx myself, but today went the best it ever has gone.  We had a playpen in our room on the wall across our bed.  Now that is next to my side of the bed.  Compared with when AJ and Abby were this age, Peng Peng cries like he is scared out of his mind.  It is painful to hear and if I close my eyes I can hear it now.  Poor guy doesn't understand, doesn't know when or if we are coming back, the crib is different than his old one, smells and the surroundings are different, etc.  So, for now we are going to the basics.  I had read today that we should treat him as though he is a newborn when we came home - so now he is like a one week old baby.  Just like you wouldn't leave a one-week old baby to lay in the crib and cry it out we won't do that with him.  So, hopefully this change will really help him get over this obstacle and know how loved and safe he is with us.

Our second setback is his tummy.  Peng Peng continues to have approximately 10 diarrheas a day, poor guy.  So, now we are collecting stool samples to rule out a few things.  In the past week he lost .7 pounds.  That's a lot for a kid who is in the 4th percentile for weight in his age bracket.  He also has some fluid in both of his ears, which might lead to an ear infection.

Now, for the fun stuff.

Peng Peng continues to learn more and more signs.  Now he is consistently using signs for:  dog, fish, bird, monkey, water, milk, juice/ drink, cracker, cookie, candy, eat, more, book, sleep, all done, clean up, play, help, music, up, shoes, socks, hat, and nods his head yes and no. 

When he wants something from me or to get my attention he no longer goes, "uh-uh-uh" - he says, "mama". :)

He loves the dogs.  Maybe a little too much - he likes to sit on them and shake their paws and poke their noses, but we are working on being nice to the dogs and thankfully they have been awesome with him.

We are making progress with appointments.  So far we have had two appointments with our family doctor.  This Friday we have a meeting with the early childhood team with the Lakeville school district.  This is a preliminary meeting, but I am very hopeful that they will give approval to start an educational assessment.  Next Wednesday we have our appointment with the craniofacial team.  The following Wednesday with the international adoption clinic.

Peng Peng is allowing me to have him play more in close proximity than being held.  He loves playing with a handy manny tool set and some blocks.  He also loves the instruments.

We went to the apple orchard this week - what fun!  Peng Peng loved the animals and ate an entire apple!  He also enjoyed kicking the chickens because they would squawk, so we have to closely supervise him next time we see chickens. 

Bus stop time - Peng Peng loves waving hi to the kids on the bus and gets very excited when we chat with our friends who also go to the bus.

Car rides are actually enjoyable for us now.  At first he was not used to the car seat, but now he lets me strap him in and points to things outside.

Peng Peng is playing really well with his big brother and sister.  They have both been very patient and understanding of his needs and Abby especially goes out of her way to make him laugh.  She cried so hard one night because she just wanted to play more with her little brother.  His whole body gets tense with excitement when he sees them.

Books - I love books and storytime has always been a huge part of my routine with the kids.  Peng Peng wanted nothing to do with books in China.  I am not sure if he has seen books before or if he just didn't care, but lately he is showing his love for "more" and "more" books :)  He likes to sign words he sees in books.  Today it was "hat" and "dog".

So, even though we have had a few rough patches in our week, the good far outweigh the bad.  I realize how blessed we are with how well everything is going and what amazing children we have and what a supportive network of friends and family we have.  Just another great reminder how good God is.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jumping In

This week was amazing.  Tiring, but amazing.  Monday morning was like a three-hour workout.  I haven't ever had to get both AJ & Abby ready for school, not to mention I was still getting over jet-lag, Peng Peng had been up about every hour the night before crying, and I had lunches to make... well, you get the picture.

So, I woke up on Monday at 6:00 and ran like a crazy woman until 8:50, when we ran to the bus stop about one minute before the bus arrived.  Tuesday morning was way worse with it being picture day, so I added baths, outfits were missing pieces, I couldn't get Abby's hair right, only to name a few things.  Wednesday morning we were doing good - so good that I had time to make ham & eggs for breakfast, only before I realized I forgot to make lunches and AJ had to use the bathroom for about five minutes right before the bus came.  Thursday was good - we made it on time with about a minute to spare.  Friday was great - kids even had time to play for a few minutes.  So, mornings were busy, but after a week we finally had a groove going enough that it was enjoyable.  I also look forward to my visits with other moms at the bus stop.  I have to admit, it makes me wish a bit that I could be a stay-at-home-mom.  I love having this time home with my kids, letting them sleep until they are ready to wake up, and to have time during the day to get projects and errands done making more time free in the evenings. 

Before we had left for China we had intentionally not committed to a whole lot upon our return home to make sure that we were helping Peng Peng adjust to his new life.  The kid just loves being around others and has adjusted so well to our family that we decided to just jump in to what will be our new normal.   So, jumping in we did.

Sunday we ran a few errands.  That evening AJ had a meltdown.  A major meltdown.  I think it was him finally releasing all of the emotions he had contained while we were gone for so long.  So, Sunday night was dedicated to affirming our love for him by telling him and showing him my love while not giving in to his requests (electronics after he lost the privilege due to being mean multiple times to Abby and disrespecting me). 

Monday night we laid low.  Tuesday AJ had soccer.  We went to play at the park early, so most of the night was at school.  Peng Peng and I ate lunch with Abby that day and I had so much fun showing him off to my coworkers and former students.  Abby was a trooper through this process as well because she had to share a lot of our attentions while we were at lunch.  Her teacher shared she cried some that afternoon because she missed us but otherwise handled us coming well.

Wednesday Peng Peng and I visited AJ.  He wanted us to join us at recess, so the three of us went out.  We watched him play some soccer and then had fun having about thirty students swarm around him trying to pass him balls for him to throw.  It was so sweet how kind the kids were with him, but my favorite was how protective and loving AJ was towards him.  That night we drove Abby's friend to gymnastics and AJ helped me entertain him while we were there.

Thursday we had our dear friend Katy, and her son Teagan, over for a playdate.  It was so nice catching up!  That night we had a church meeting and right after I took the three kids to sign AJ up for boyscouts. 

Friday our neighbors and friends came over and we enjoyed our time together after running a few errands.  That afternoon I took Peng Peng to the library to meet Beth, a very friendly librarian, and to reserve a few signing time dvd's.  We then watched AJ and Abby at karate (self defense) and then dropped Peng Peng off with Adam and I took AJ & Abby to a birthday party at the bowling alley. 

Today, Saturday, marks our first full week home.  We buried Adam's sister's ashes today at the cemetery and spent the afternoon visiting with his family.  This afternoon we are going to a fundraiser for a friend's cousin. 

I spent a lot of time this week talking with doctor's offices.  Peng Peng had a well-being check up at our family doctor on Monday.  He is 5th percentile for height, 8th for weight, and I believe 12th for head.  He still has tummy problems, but it seems to be getting a little bit better.  I confirmed appointments with the U of M teams - one for the craniofacial team and one for the international adoption clinic.  I have also called Lakeville Schools to get his evaluation started so we can start OT and Speech services as soon as possible.  In regards to communication, he can speak, "mama" and "up" (sounds like "u"), but he is really taking off with signing.  He doesn't do it very often in front of an audience, but at home he is consistently signing the words, "up, help, shoes, milk, hat, monkey, drink (for juice), doggie, fish, water, ball, and play.  Today we started working on "wait" because if I show him a finger for "wait a minute" he thinks I am saying "up" and gets frustrated.  "Music" is another word we started practicing because he seems to love music.  The signing is definitely helping with his frustration as he is really starting to communicate :)  He also nods his head yes and no.
Life is busier and crazier than ever, but I couldn't be happier.  I am glad we jumped right in.  If this is our new normal, I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Life has been soooo busy, I have not had time to post these past few days, but I think more has happened in this past week than any other week in my life.  So, lots to share, but I will keep things short and to the point because I am tired :)

Hong Kong - wow.  What a spectacular place.  If we are able to go back to China one day, that is for sure a place I would go again.  It is stunningly beautiful, people speak English, and I felt safe driving around :)  It was also the cleanest city we had been to.

Entering Hong Kong required a long drive (about three hours) and then going through customs since it is it's own entity and not really China.  We stayed at a lovely hotel that was very close to the airport.  Our decision to go was the right one.  It saved us about six hours of travel on our travel day (we would have had one flight to Hong Kong and then a layover of about four hours).  We were at this hotel for two nights, a total of about 36 hours.  We went swimming at the pool, enjoyed two breakfasts, and two "free" dinners.

Adam and I did take Peng Peng to "The Peak".  We took a taxi about 30 minutes from our hotel and then a tram up a super steep hill.  At the top was the peak.  It was basically a large shopping mall at the top of this super tall peak, but the view was beautiful.  As part of our pass we were able to go to the very top of the mall and get to look over all of Hong Kong.  We got little ear pieces that we were able to listen to the history and background of different buildings and land marks.

Traveling was brutal, but it actually went very well.  Our son still has something wrong going on with his tummy, so he has diarrhea about ten times a day.  Being on an airplane for 12 1/2 & 3 hours with this component was not fun.  Peng Peng slept twice about two hours at a time, on the first flight, and almost the entire second flight.  He was a true trooper with all this travel.  Adam and I got about four hours of restless sleep over this 30 hour travel window.  When we finally landed in California I could have kissed the ground.  When we went through immigration, the officer opened up his sealed document we had gotten at the Consulate in China and stamped his visa on his passport.  This moment is when he officially became a US citizen.  I could have cried, but I was too tired to do so :)

Seeing the kids at the MS Airport was unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  They ran up to us for a quick hug on their way to hug and greet their brother.  He had such a sparkle in his eyes.  I think he recognized them from the skyping we did, almost twice a day daily.  They were soooo excited to see him and talk with him and try to make him laugh, and he was in all his glory being doted on by these two amazing children.  They had made a big sign and held it with pride as we walked up to them.  We laughed, hugged, and played while Adam and my dad got the luggage.  We had asked for others to not join us for this moment for two reasons:  1) We wanted to keep this special for our children 2) we didn't want to overwhelm Peng Peng.  I am glad we kept this small and intimate.  It truly was a very special moment for our family.  In hindsight, I really think he would have been okay having more people there because he loves a crowd, but without knowing his personality that well yet, we didn't want to push him over the edge.

On the way home Peng Peng was not happy about the car seat.  He had never been in a car seat before and didn't like being constricted like that.  Fortunately, we were home in about thirty minutes.  There was so much to do when we got home, plus Peng Peng was terrified of our two noisy & excited dogs, so the chaos level was a bit much.  We were all exhausted, but excited.  My parents stayed at a hotel and everyone crashed by 10:00 (I actually fell asleep after around 1:00 after running around the house trying to put some things away).  Sunday we stayed in and just enjoyed being with one another.  My parents and sister helped with some projects and final touches, then that afternoon the kids, Adam, and I took a trip to a local Asian market.  The kids were so glad to have us home, as were we.  As much as I am eternally thankful for our time in China and having the opportunity for Adam and I to bond with Peng Peng, that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do - stay away from AJ & Abby for three weeks.  I missed them so much.  I was constantly thinking about/ worrying about possible problems we might have in China, with our travels, with Christian's medical needs, or with the kids back home.  Things went so smoothly though, thankfully those concerns were unnecessary.

Monday Peng Peng and I had fun walking the kids to the bus stop.  We had an eventful day while they were at school - met Abby for lunch and got to show Peng Peng off to a lot of coworkers and students, well-being check up at the doctor's office, picked up probiotics at the store, finished putting away things in our suitcase, etc.  Monday night was a bit rough - I think AJ finally was able to release some of his emotions he held in with us being gone.  As hard as it was, I am glad he worked through it.  He was such a good sport with us leaving and having so many changes at the start of his school year, but I am sure it was hard on him.  I have tried really hard to make this as smooth of a transition for everyone, but I knew there would be some bumps along the road.  Abby has actually handled the transition exceptionally well.  Her teacher today shared that if she wasn't told ahead of time, she never would have guessed Abby's parents were out of the country.  She has done amazingly well.  She did share that Abby had some tears yesterday though when we left school after lunch - Abby was missing me and wanted to see me again.  It breaks my heart to cause them stress and emotions, but I hope that in the long run all that I have put them through will only make them stronger and better people for it.

Today was very low key and productive.  I got the house mostly back to where I want it to be.  We had a busy morning - it was picture day, which is always a difficult morning (baths, nice clothes, hair brushed nice, pack lunches that have no red foods, etc.).  I goofed up many times - couldn't get Abby's hair right, couldn't find Christian's socks, made AJ wear pants he didn't like after trying on about six pairs that didn't fit, etc... but once we got through the morning everything went very well.  Peng Peng and I ate lunch with AJ, then he asked if we wanted to watch him play soccer at recess.  Recess was a blast.  We watched AJ a little while, but Peng Peng had quite the following.  There were about thirty kids following him around and he ate up the attention.  AJ stopped playing to hang out with his little brother.  He amazed me with his patience and his protectiveness.  He allowed people to hand balls to Peng Peng and for him to throw them, but made sure he had enough space and was having fun.  He was so gentle and kind with him, I couldn't have been prouder.  Tonight we really did get to watch him play soccer at his actual game, which he did awesome at.  Abby had fun rolling down the hills and Peng Peng kept trying to shout, "Go AJ!" while watching him play.  The librarian at school had signed out a few books for us to borrow about China, so tonight instead of our regular chapter books we enjoyed reading of adventures in China about about a family who adopted two girls.  It was so wonderful to snuggle with them and give them some special attention while their brother peacefully slept next door.

I have been so overwhelmed by our friends and family who have poured out their love and affections towards us in this process.  Walking into school these past two days and seeing friends and coworkers offer hugs and smiles means the world to me.  It was also a blast getting to show our completed family at soccer practice tonight.  As tired as I still am and with all I still need to do to get things back to a normal level of cleanliness, I couldn't be happier.  I think it has been about nine years of waiting to feel like our family is complete, and now I can honestly say, "Our family is complete".  I do wonder what God has in store for us.  I feel like more facets of adoption might be in our future - probably more distant than near, but who knows.  I know we are done having children, but I would love to find ways to stay involved in adoption.  Only God knows right now what that might be.  I do look forward to these next 2 1/2 months off, but I also look forward to going back to work knowing that my mom will be watching Christian for the rest of this year and all of his needs will be met.

Life is good.