My Little Sweeties

My Little Sweeties

Monday, March 2, 2015

High Fives in the Hallway

Here is Peng Peng "helping" us get all our instruments and music together for our church service.  He LOVES to sing and play along when we rehearse.  
These past six months have been a bit of a blur.  I can't even fathom that it was only six months ago that I held our sweet little boy in my arms for the first time.  It was Labor Day, September 1st, when he officially became ours.  In some regards it seems as though that was only yesterday, but mostly it is like he has always been with our family and I can't even picture what life would be like without our little monkey. 

 I feel like in many regards we are through the worst of it.  We have had so many doctors appointments I have an entire 1 1/2" ring binder filled with doctor summaries, evaluation reports, medical follow-up suggestions, height and weight information, food recommendations, and so much more.  Even though we have been through his second surgery ever, first with us, we do have at least three more to look forward to over the next ten-fifteen years, our next one being when he is four or five most likely.

Sadly though, we are also through the best of it.  In six compact months we have had over two years of firsts.  It has been such a joy to watch as Peng Peng shows delight and wonder in all new activities and adventures.  He brings such a joy whenever he enters a room.  I just wish I could freeze time, or at least fast forward to summer when I can be home with the kids again all the time.

The other day I had Peng Peng at my school while we were waiting for AJ and Abby's karate to finish.  He was pretty restless this day, so it was more enjoyable for him (and for me) to walk up and down the halls before big brother and sister were ready for us to leave than it was to sit quietly in the gym and watch the two practice their Katta.  When we turned the corner we passed Kids Company walking in a straight and pretty quiet line.  What does he do?  He runs up and gives a girl in the front a high five.  Then all the kids stick out their hands and he runs up the line giving each boy and girl a high five and yelling "YAH!" to each and every one.  It might have caused a bit of a rowdy scene, but I had tears in my eyes from both the laughter that escaped me as well as the pleasure in witnessing the joy one tiny boy brings to so many.

Something else pretty special about this boy is his love for praying.  I am not sure if he has any clue of what we are doing or talking about, or even who we are talking to, but when we sit down to eat he is the first to put his hands together.  He will then yell at and point at whoever does not put their hands together in prayer.  Usually any given meal we pray two to three times.  He can say a pretty clear "Amen" too (minus the "m") :)

These past two weeks have been filled with more dr. appointments and follow-ups with therapists.  We finally got our test results back from the GI specialist, and the only test that came up positive was Peng Peng is not absorbing glucose and fructose well, which could be a possible cause for some of his digestive problems.  So, our struggle now is to find foods 1. high in fat and calories  2. dairy free (his tummy can't process it well due to giardia this fall and probably most of his life)  3. work on sucking from sippy cups or drinking from cups while getting it fast enough he can consume enough calories  4. low/ no fructose/ glucose (which is tricky when trying to consume high calories).  

The birth-three OT from our school district, who is also a good friend and an amazing lady, gave some really great suggestions for his muscle development and motor skills as our wild child seems to be craving some deep pressure and has low core strength.  He loves rough-housing and part of the reason for this might be his body is craving this pressure.  

Next week we go to see our family doctor who will now take over the growth department of our medical journey.  He will closely monitor his height and weight development.  If he can start growing, then we are on the right path.  If not, then we need to go back to GI and have a scope done to see if there is some medical piece we are missing with his development and frequent tummy aches.  Our family doctor delivered Abby and has been with us since I was pregnant with AJ, so I feel like he will be in great hands.  The shorter drive is pretty awesome too.

Peng Peng can now point to and attempts to label body parts.  He knows his tummy, eyes, ears, nose, hair, tongue, teeth, and mouth.  He is learning the sounds animals makes in speech therapy and LOVES to sing along to "Old McDonald".  We have a kareoke machine that him and Abby love to sing songs on with the microphones.  They play the drums, piano, and tambourine while they sing sometimes too. It might be pure chaos sometimes, but I wouldn't trade it for anything (other than maybe a pair of sound-proof headphones). 

Who, me?

Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, aunt, baby, ball, balloon, banana,  bath, bear, bike, bird, blanket, blocks, boat, book, brother, brush teeth, bubble, bug, candy, car, cat, cereal, cheese, clean up, coat, cold, color, come on/ here, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, diaper, dog, down,  drink, duck, eat, egg, fish, flower,  frog, go, grandma,  grandpa, hat, help, horse, hot, hot dog, hug, I love you,  jump, laundry,lion, milk, mine, mama, mine/ my, more, monkey, music, orange, pig, play, popcorn, potty, pray,  shoes, sister, sit, sleep, snow, socks, slide, swing, thank you, time out, vacuum,  wait, walk, wash hands, water, up

Life is good, but I never imagined it could be THIS good.  These three can play together for hours on end.  They might not always get along, but their love for one another is deep and strong and I so greatly enjoy watching them grow alongside one another.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

5 months home!

I finally had ten minutes to sit down tonight and am so glad that I finally have time to update what life has been like these past few months!  I can't believe it has been almost three months since I last posted, but I suppose that makes sense considering the week after my last post I went back to working full time.  We also have had four people with influenza A, three people with strep, two different kids had ear infections, not to mention countless days of the stomach bug.  Yuck and more yuck!

In addition to the adjustment of going back to work, the week after Thanksgiving my husband asks me, "What do you think about selling our home and moving to my dad's?"

Um, no?!?

The thought of trying to have a super clean house, pack up all the clutter and mess, endless small projects, with three adults, three children, and two dogs gives me hives.

But, this was something we have kicked around over the past few years and Adam's dad does want to sell his place fairly soon now that he is close to retiring and they just bought a sweet cabin on a lake.  They were willing to not list their house and wait for us to sell ours and the timing, as crazy as it is, will never really be better.

My mom has been a huge help.  This is a bit of an understatement.  She has helped us with so many things.  Cleaning.  Staining wood.  Decorating.  Watching Peng Peng as our daycare.  Getting the older two on the bus every morning.  Making dinner almost every day (and setting the bar way higher than it will ever be again).  She has also had several days with three sick kids, driven to dr. appointments, twice a week drives Peng Peng to speech... okay, you get the big picture here.  My mom is the MVP of our household.

We have also continued to be very involved in launching our church in Elko.  Adam leads the praise and worship team and I sing and play keys.  Between outreach events, music rehearsal, Bible Study, and church itself (including setting up the equipment and tearing down), we keep ourselves busy.  What better way to fill a schedule than to serve God though, right?  I am most certainly not complaining.  We love our friends.  Our kids love it all.  Jamming with my hubby is kind of fun.  Most importantly, we have really grown spiritually and connected on a whole new level to God and what His purpose is for us.

AJ and Abby both participate in basketball on some Saturdays.  They also do karate on Fridays.  Abby is now a yellow belt and AJ just earned his green stripe on his belt.  Abby loves her gymnastics and is starting art classes and we have already signed up for a t-ball camp in May.  This is where three adults to three children is a great ratio.  I wouldn't even mind making that 4:3 :)

AJ continues to be so sweet and sensitive.  He is reading about a year above the district target, which makes me proud, and reading is something we spend a lot of time doing, which we both greatly enjoy.  It also gives us a good opportunity to snuggle.  AJ has really grown musically.  His voice sounds good and he has a great rhythm.  Earlier, when I was on leave, I was teaching both kids piano lessons.  That has been dropped a bit because of our schedules, but I could see him picking it back up again.  He loves to sing and is constantly tapping beats on toys and around the house.  He says he wants to be a drummer one day and play with Adam and I on the praise and worship team.  Not much else would make me happier :)  We have a love/ hate relationship with electronics these days.  He loves them, I hate them.  I must say though, he is very motivated to work and do things to earn time on electronics.

Abby has amazed me on a pretty close to daily basis academically.  She is reading way above grade level expectations - I believe she is at a second grade level.  She loves to write and will write full stories.  The other day the title of her story was, "I met this boy".  So, yes, she is advanced in that regard too which makes me dread what life will be like when she hits the teenage years.  She is so affectionate, funny, and always eager to learn.  She keeps me on my toes, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Peng Peng celebrated his second birthday...twice.  We had to reschedule his birthday party with extended family because we all (but him and my mom) came down with influenza A.  It was a Curious George party and the kids had so much fun with the blowers and balloons!  We also celebrated quietly as a family on the day of his birthday.

He continues to learn new signs, but what is most exciting is he really is starting to talk and is more willing to try imitations.  Before he would not really imitate much.  He would nod his head but didn't vocalize.  Now, he is about the loudest kid.  EVER.  :)  He tries talking and singing.  We encourage him to sign paired with the vocalizations though because unless you know the context of what he is saying it is difficult to understand him.  The other day he said, "Mama, where are you" and I totally knew what he meant.  So, what did we do?  Played hide and seek!

Peng Peng has been going to speech therapy twice a week, and we have seen good improvements there.  He is working on the b/ and d/ sounds as well as blowing through a straw and with bubbles to help him get pressure through his lips.  We had a bit of a battle with our home school district over getting serviced.  They denied him services, saying that because he signs so much he met what they felt were needs with language.  They didn't want to test him for articulation for at least six more months (to even start the process, plus the two months it would have taken to test and then finalize paperwork).  Fortunately I have enough friends and professional experts who were willing to support us and we went to the U of M Craniofacial clinic over break and THEY tested him for his articulation skills.  He was in the bottom first percentile with only one sound in the proper place of the fifty-some words they assessed him on (and the score wasn't even 100% valid because those words were imitations because he was not initiating the words).  So, now he does qualify for services.  We did decide to open-enroll him to the district where I teach, and I couldn't be happier about this decision.  We are in the process of waiting for our home district to complete their paperwork and the new district to finalize everything.  Hopefully within two more weeks he should be receiving services.

We also met with the GI specialist a few weeks ago because his tummy continues to give him problems.  We needed our third round of stool samples to be done testing for a bunch of things and had blood work drawn.  We haven't received results yet, but they are thinking he is allergic to dairy and soy.  I was devestated when at the appointment they diagnosed him with "Failure to Thrive".  I feel like he couldn't be thriving more.  Unfortunately, since we have been home in September he has gained less than a pound.  This is partly due to his surgery back in October.  It is also due to the massive amount of poop he creates, and unfortunately a lot of his food is not being absorbed into his body.  I met with a dietician at this appointment and she was very helpful in giving suggestions for ways to fatten this boy up.  Think about everything we never want to do, or things we do want to do but don't because we know it could be bad for us.  Add butter and oil to rice.  Whole milk (lactose free).  He can have fruits and veggies, but always paired with high-calorie things.  He is eating more of a variety of things, but definitely can be a picky eater at times and loves his candy.

Aside from the speech, Peng Peng amazes me about every, um, minute.  He is so incredibly happy.  And funny.  And bright.  And affectionate.  I walk into the door after a long day and what do I hear before I even turn the handle?  A scream that never ends and the patter of feet running to the door.  He hugs me like we haven't seen each other in months and even is so kind as to pat my back. He loves all of us - especially the dogs.

Whenever we go out people stop and stare.  Maybe initially because he looks different.  I think people try to do a quick assessment as to if he is mine, how old he is, etc.  He looks small for his age.  I am white.  It especially becomes apparent that we get stared at when I have the other two with me.  I can just see the questions that people think, but don't say (or sometimes do) - are all three mine?  Is he adopted?  Why did we adopt when we already have a boy and girl?  Then comes the fun.  He stares back.   He smiles.  He waves.  He blows kisses and says hi.  He bats his eyes.  Peng Peng brings a smile to everyone.  He has such an amazing personality.  He has had a rough start to life in many regards, but we also are so fortunate because we know that he was loved.  His biological parents loved him because they gave him up to give him a life they knew they couldn't give him.  The doctors loved him because they donated surgery with funds that people donated (in China).  The ladies and men at the orphanage loved him.  One look at the way they smiled at him proved that.  We love him.  I think my heart could burst I love him so much.  Our family and friends love him.  You are taking your time to read this, right?

Tonight at the dinner table Peng Peng played a game, that Abby takes great pride in sharing that she taught him, to pretend to not look at us while looking out of the corners of his eyes, and then make direct eye contact.  This always results in all of us bursting out laughing.  After dinner tonight I wanted to exercise, but it was too cold, so the three kids and I danced to "Just Dance" on the wii.  Peng Peng was jumping and dancing between our legs for almost the whole time.

I know I am missing some, but this is the updated list of words he signs on a regular basis.  I just counted, and it looks like it is already 82 words!

Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, auntbaby, ball, balloon, banana,  bath, bear, bike, bird, blanket, blocks, boat, book, brother, brush teeth, bubble, bug, candy, car, cat, cereal, clean up, coat, cold, color, come on/ here, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, diaper, dog, down,  drink, duck, eat, egg, fish, flower,  frog, go, grandma,  grandpa, hat, help, horse,  hot, hot dog, I love you,  jump, laundry, lion, milk, mine, mama, mine/ my, more, monkey, music, orange, pig, play, popcorn, potty, shoes, sister, sit, sleep, snow, socks, slide, swing, thank you, time out, wait, walk, wash hands, water, up

Thursday, November 20, 2014

No More No Nos!

This last week has been so wonderful!  We were able to take Peng Peng's "no no's" off on Wednesday of last week.  He also graduated to soft foods.  This meant better sleep and eating, which meant happier everyone!  One more week until I go back to work!

Peng Peng had fun playing in the snow this week.  We were supposed to get over a foot of snow, but ended up with about two inches.  He is not a fan of the cold, but he is loving his first pair of light up shoes and wears them around the house all the time.  Since he doesn't like cold, I brought the snow to him.  He played for about an hour just poking and scooping out snow in a roaster. 

We have been busy figuring out a direction for Peng Peng's speech development.  Yesterday we went to the U of M's craniofacial department.  He passed the hearing test but did have slightly lower than normal numbers (.9 and .7) so they said he might have partial hearing loss and to check back in six months.  The ENT said his ears looked good (whoohoo) and we need to follow up every six months as well.  The Speech Pathologists did an informal assessment and are writing up paperwork to document a medical need for speech therapy.  We are beyond fortunate - my insurance allows therapy as long as he is making progress and has a medical necessity.  Some people don't get any coverage and most are limited in the number of service visits.  Tomorrow we have Lakeville schools coming to do their formal assessments and next week he has his first visit to Theraplay in New Prague for his first session. 

Poor AJ was pretty sick this week and as a result missed two days of school.  Abby passed Beginner 1 for gymnastics and was a rock star on the floor last night.  They are both doing a wonderful job at school and have joined me in the basement for "workout time" almost daily.  Time to prepare for getting out of these yoga pants and back into actual clothes :)

Our church launch has been going really well.  We have not grown a quickly as we have hoped, but the people in our group are awesome and it has been a great experience.  I look forward to what God has in store for us.

Current Signs (bold new):  all done, apple, baby, ball, banana,  bath, bear, bike, bird, blanket, book, brush teeth, bug candy, car, cat, cereal, clean up, coat, cold, color, come on, cookie, cow, cracker, dad, diaper, dog, down,  drink, eat, egg, fish, flower,  go, grandma,  hat, help, horse,  hot, hot dog, I love you,  jump, laundry, milk, mine, mama, more, monkey, music, pig, play, popcorn, potty, shoes, sit, sleep, snow, socks, slide, swing, thank you, time out, wait, walk, wash hands, water, up

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Putting MY faith in HIS faith

I think I might have jinxed myself a few weeks ago.  I was talking with my mom and I jokingly shared how God must have not had too high of an expectation level when he gave us Peng Peng.  This kid is amazing.  He smiles and laughs over everything, he is super smart, he is flexible, he is affectionate, he is adorable, he shows affection towards us all, just to name a few of his attributes.  You know the saying, "God only gives you what you can handle"?  I thought we made out pretty good with how smoothly things have been going ever since we submitted paperwork to start this adoption process back in August of 2013. 

Then came his surgery.

My oh my, what a rough week.  Our poor little guy had the entire roof of his mouth removed and stitched together and re-attached.  Can you imagine how painful that is? 

Surgery day started off great.  I was a nervous wreck, but fortunately Peng Peng had no idea what was about to come, so he had a blast getting all this attention.  My mom came the day before to stay with the older two and to help us a few days once we got home.  At 10:50 they took him back for surgery and I was allowed to go back there with him as they put him under.  It was actually pretty smooth.  I had been warned that this can be a pretty traumatizing experience for parents, but it really seemed like he was just falling asleep.  He liked the smell of the stuff they coated his mask with and was trying to lick it, which was cute. 

I had a hard time leaving him, but knew I needed to go.  So, Adam and I had just over three hours to wait around.  We checked into our room and then got a free meal at the Ronald McDonald House - which was amazing.  We had forgotten to eat breakfast and knew there would be little time to feed ourselves that afternoon.  All the food and staff there are volunteer-based.  Amazing for families who are going through such a difficult time with their sweet babes. 

We hung around in the waiting room for about half an hour before we were called back to be with him as he woke up.  I misunderstood and thought I would be there for him WHEN he woke up, but that wasn't the case.  I was there after he had been awake for about twenty minutes.  It must have been so traumatic for him, I can't help but cry every time I think of those twenty minutes.  We left our sweet baby who has only been with us for six weeks with strangers and when he woke up he was in incredible pain, medicated (so a bit loopy) and his arms were restrained.  When they did let us back there his blood pressure was super high (I am talking like 160/110) and he was screaming (can you imagine how painful it would be to cry when your mouth is ripped apart?).  So, they let me hold him and immediately his heart rate settled closer to a normal range and his oxygen level went closer to normal.  I held him and Adam pushed me in a wheelchair to his new room. 

The next two nights I slept in the room with him.  Poor kid was miserable.  I held him about 44 of the 48 hours we were there.  He was given heavy pain medication as often as allowed, and about three hours into the four hour cycle he was screaming or just miserable seeming.  We watched frozen about ten times and Nemo about six, which seemed to entertain him well.  Adam and my mom brought the kids our second night there and we ate a meal together at the Ronald House.  They even had a craft project for the older two to make, which was awesome. 

Our drive home his face lit up in the first smile I had seen in days.  I think, and maybe I over-think this sometimes, that he questioned if we were still coming home with him or if he was going to the same home.  As secure as I think he feels with us, I do think psychologically it will still be a while before he truly understands he is our forever child and will forever be our son.

We have been home for just over a week and every day does get better.  He wakes up every 1-3 hours at night, mostly uncomfortable because of the arm bands, but sometimes I think because of pain and other times because now he is getting used to us being at his side immediately after he calls for us.  He plays great during the day and has adapted well to his "no no's".  He has figured out how to rip off the Velcro, which is amazing because I have a hard time with it.  I put Abby's leg warmers on over them but he has even figured out how to get those off!  So, now he gets a time out for taking them off and seldom tries. 

All foods need to be pureed, so my mom was a major help and made a few safe meals and pureed and froze them as single portions so I can pull one out and warm it up quickly.  He is starting to get his regular appetite back which is great.  He is down just a little in weight, but the doctor said that was to be expected.  I can't imagine eating or drinking with a mouth in his condition.  Next Wednesday the no no's can come off and we can start adding in soft foods that are not pureed - whoohoo!

Thank goodness for my mom's help this week.  Adam even took over the past three nights so I could get some sleep.  I was a bit of a crabby sleep walking zombie.  It is hard to be patient and loving when you are that tired and worried. 

AJ & Abby continue to amaze me.  They had a fabulous week, one which we ended with a bang as there was no school yesterday.  It helped a ton having my mom here.  Three adults to three kids is a great ratio!   I can understand why many cultures families  have their parents move in with them.  AJ is thriving in Boy Scouts, Abby moved up a level in gymnastics and they both help each other practice their Katta for karate.  They are reading and learning so many things - I am so proud of them.  they have been great helpers around the house and have really started to play incredibly well together when they don't want to be bothered by a curious almost-two year old.  We officially moved the playroom to the basement for the older kid toys and the music room for toddler toys.  My mom's bed is all set up and she started nesting this week too.  I am so thankful she is moving in with us at the end of this month!

This week gave me a new perspective on what some of the families have to go through who I work with as a special education teacher and what some of my friends and family members have had to endure when they or a child are sick.  We have been so fortunate to not ever require a hospital stay with a child before now, and I can't imagine what it is like to have that worry and concern constantly on my shoulders. 

This week really taught me about putting my faith in God's faith.  If He feels I can handle things the way they are, then who am I to question Him.  God is so good.  He perfectly placed this amazing kid into our lives.  There is nothing that I love more than to watch him play and interact with his siblings, and the three of them already have a special bond, one which I pray will never be broken.

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