Monday, June 24, 2013

One Month Home

Today marks one month of Mercy being a US citizen and living in our home.  I can hardly believe a month has already passed by. 

So what has happened and how has she progressed over the past month?  We have been to CHOP twice.  Once for a medical review and the second time for a development assessment.  We have spent time playing with toys and swimming in the pool.  We have worked with her and the dog who have a love hate relationship.  She now tolerates the dog being close but she will not touch the dog at all.  She will wear her sunglasses for longer stretches of time outside.  She is just starting to try and use a spoon to feed herself.  She is more content in the stroller for longer periods of time as well as a shopping cart.  And while she is still sleeping in our bed and requires someone to lay with her until she is asleep, she is taking regular 2 hour naps and I am proud to say that for the past 5 nights she has slept through the night!!! 

It truly has been a month of growth.  She still continues to amaze us everyday.  She is still our main source of entertainment here and the kids are head over heels gaga for their little sister.  She has all three of them wrapped tightly around her little finger, and her daddy too.  The more comfortable she is becoming here the more she is beginning to act like a 2 year old, a terrible two year old that is.  She is testing us every day to see what she can and can't control and what she can and can't do.  She is testing us with eating, getting dressed and telling us no when she opposes what we are asking her.  She use to be very easy to dress or to change her diaper, I mean easy.  Now she puts her arms behind her back when I'm trying to put her shirt on, she twists her legs to the side during a diaper change.  It's funny and frustrating all at the same time.

She loves water, whether it's the bathtub, her baby pool or swimming in the big pool she will take water play any way she can get it.  She has very little fear, even of our big pool.  She will push herself off the side into my arms, she doesn't mind being dunked under water and she splashes and smiles with great delight.  She laughs in her baby pool when someone dumps a cup of water on her head and she does the same thing in the bathtub when washing her hair.  She flutters about and wipes her eyes and than signs for more.

Her vocabulary is beginning to take off.  She probably has a dozen or more words down.  Most people may not understand her, but we do.  She is signing please, more, all done and cookie, but honestly she speaks most of those words as she signs them.

Overall it's been a fast moving month and she continues to fit right into our family.  We love her and she seems to love us back.  We have been having a ton of fun as we watch her experience new things and we really enjoy teaching her new things too.  It's been a hard, but great month as we have adjusted and worked through some things.  But life is settling into the new normal and we can barley remember what life was like without her.

May 24th at Newark Airport just after getting off the plane.
May 24th Homecoming Welcome
They are going to be best friends some day, but for now this is as close as Lacey can get.
Loves water poured on head.
Wearing her sunglasses with a smile on her face
First time eating a marshmallow.
First time eating a roasted marshmallow.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

I know there are so many that struggle with man made holidays such as Father's Day.  Maybe you have lost your father, maybe you have never known your father, maybe your relationship with your father is strained or difficult and you wish you had a different father.  Maybe your father was anything but loving.  Then there are those who are a father, but maybe you have a strained relationship with your own child.  Maybe you spent this father's day separated from you child.  Whatever the case, celebrating Father's Day falls short for many people.

The truth is you have a Heavenly Father who lives in a high and holy place but also dwells with those lowly in spirit.  You have a Heavenly Father whose love is steadfast and never ceases or changes.  You have a Heavenly Father who has given everything, even his very life for you.  You have a Heavenly Father who is your provider, protector and who has prepared a dwelling place for you in His Kingdom.  His Kingdom, that's right, He is a King, royalty, and you, an heir to His throne.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Are you a doubting Thomas? 

Galatians 4:4-7 "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

Are you a slave or a son?

 Psalm 68:4-6 (ESV) "Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him!  Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.  God settles the solitary in a home..."

Where does your heart settle?

For the first two years of life the word Daddy had no meaning to Mercy.  The word Dada was not even in her vocabulary.  Last month all of that changed as she met her Daddy for the first time.  In the past month she has learned to say Dada.  She says it while smiling, she says it while laughing, she says it just to see Scott's reaction, she says it for attention, she says it when she sees Scott's picture and she says it while crying.  She reaches her arms out to her Dada, she smiles at her Dada, she is beginning to desire her Dada more and more everyday, and she is learning to depend on her Dada to meet her needs.  I could learn a lot from her.  Reach for your Heavenly Father, laugh, smile, seek, desire and cry to Him.  Depend on Him.

I'm thankful today for Scott who has given me and our kids a tangible example of what God's love looks like.  He's not perfect, sure he makes mistakes, but he shows patience, gentleness, kindness, mercy and love to me and our kids on a regular basis.  He works hard and provides for our family.  He so often sacrifices himself for our needs and time.  Thank you Scott for being the godly father that you are.  Thank you for pursuing your children with a strong yet gentle love.  Thank you for working hard and for the many sacrifices you make to me and our four kids.  Happy Father's Day.  We love you!


Post Adoption Visit #1 Complete

Friday, June 15 we had our first post adoption home visit.  Our social worker, Jinny, showed up at 9:30am and spent the next hour asking us loads of questions about our experience in China, how things are at home now with Mercy, our kids and us.  She observed Mercy interact with us and she was very pleased to see how well she appears to be bonding with each of us.  Jinny also got down on the floor and spent some time playing with Mercy, not sure why, but Mercy seemed to enjoy her.  All in all it was pretty harmless and when she left I joked with the kids that we needed an easy button for that one.  The boys replied, "we cleaned our room for nothing, she didn't even go upstairs!"  I am guessing that when our next visit comes up in two months I am not going to get as much cooperation from the boys to help me clean.  (LOL)

We have another CHOP appointment this coming Thursday to meet with the occupational therapist who was sick the other day.  Scott will still be away, so I will be flying solo for this one.  Thankfully it's in King of Prussia and not the city.   This visit should help us better gage where Mercy truly is developmentally.

We also have early intervention coming to our house on June 25th.  We are asking for prayer because we are desiring a vision expert from the Overbrook School for the Blind to come with our service coordinator. We know Mercy is going to need vision assistance, and we need assistance in learning how to best help her. The school requires an ophthalmologist report in order to send someone, but we don't see the ophthalmologist until the end of July.  Our pediatrician wrote a letter stating that Mercy's vision impairment is part of her genetic condition and requested they send someone.  Pray they will accept our pediatricians letter without an ophthalmologist report and that we can meet with a vision expert the same day that early intervention is here.

Now that the kids are home everyday we have seen great strides in sibling bonding.  Mercy has really taken to all three and it has made a world of difference for me.  They all love to play with her and for the most part are more then willing to step in and occupy her if I need to get something done.  As she is bonding better with them she is more content to be entertained by them for longer stretches of time. I love watching them dote on her and she soaks in their attention like a sponge.

Summer Fun

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CHOP and Cheesecake

Today went really well.  I can't say enough about the International Adoption Division of CHOP, specifically Dr. Lockwood.  While she scared the dickens out of us back during our 72 hour referral process, we know she was giving us the "worst case scenario" so that we could prepare for it when we chose to accept Mercy's file.  And while that worst case really threw us a curve ball at the time, God was so much bigger than our fears and He continued to lead and guide, which made today all the more special.  In Dr. Lockwood's words "Mercy is AWESOME!"  We certainly didn't need a doctor to tell us that, we agree 1000%. 

The family therapist that was present was nothing short of amazed at Mercy's progress as well, both from an attachment standpoint and progress in her development.  She gave us many great tips for continued bonding, as well as working through sleep issues.  She was a wealth of knowledge and we were thankful to meet her and know we will be seeing her again (next Thursday to be exact).

Mercy is severely anemic.  Her iron is so low it does raise concerns about certain forms of Thalassemia.  We are hopeful that is not the case and just due to poor nutrition in the orphanage.  We will start her on iron supplements and also through her diet.  She's a good eater so this shouldn't be too difficult.  She will have blood drawn again in four weeks to see if there is any improvement, if not we will go from there.

The down side from today is we didn't really walk away with any concrete medical information.  While it was great to have them see Mercy play, interact with us, and give her body the once over there are still many very important things lingering.  She had blood drawn today to determine what type of Albinism, but we won't have the results for a few weeks.  We also won't have the results on Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome for a few more weeks as well.  We meet with the ophthalmologist in July, so while Dr. Lockwood agreed with us that her vision is better than expected, we won't truly know for another month where she really stands.  So we look forward to that day with great anticipation.

We are so confident she does not have any hearing issues, but we will visit with an audiologist in September.  We could have gotten in a little sooner, but since it really is of little importance to us we decided to make the appointment the same day as dermatology so that we only have to make one trip.  So in early September we will see audiology and dermatology on the same day.  Dermatology is routine for a child with Albinism because they are so sensitive to the sun.  It's important to have their skin checked over and it's also important to get a baseline for the future. 

Lastly, the Occupational Therapist was ill today, so we will now see her next Thursday.  She will play a key role in assessing Mercy's development on all levels.  We were so disappointed that she was not there today, but we are also very grateful that we only have to wait one week because she "fit us in."  So while we didn't get an accurate developmental assessment, here is what we did walk away with.  According to Dr. Lockwood Mercy was stuck between a 9-12 month old in her development.  After Gotcha Day we really agreed with that as we got to know Mercy.  Today is exactly one month from Gotcha Day and I'm beyond happy to say that as of today Mercy's development is now between a 15-16 month old!  Praise God!!!  Dr. Lockwood and the therapist said all this little girl needed was a loving family, and what a difference that is making in one month's time.  It's so easy to love her and we are still amazed and so unbelievably grateful that we get to be that loving family she needed!  Honestly, we needed her too.

We ended our day at the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate.   
 Happy One Month Gotcha Day Mercy, we love you to the moon and back!!!

Smiling even when woken up early in the morning.
"Haha Daddy, I got your pen!"
Tapping the pen to the beat of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing the background.

As quick as the hat is on, it's off.
Listening to the sound of the thunder.
"You want to do what with this?"
"And what do you do with this end?"
"Wait a minute, there is no cheesecake on this fork!"


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Appointments that need prayer.

I am just writing to let you know that we could really use some prayer over the next 48 hours and again next week.  Tomorrow (6/13), we will be taking Mercy to CHOP in Philadelphia for her first of many doctor visits.  We will be meeting with a small team of doctors tomorrow so that she can be checked over for overall health, to begin assessing her development and current delays and discuss what the next steps of action will be to help her progress forward.  Mercy has already had blood drawn five times in the past two weeks and she will have more blood drawn tomorrow.  Most of the blood work tomorrow is more extensive and our local lab could not do the testing so we have to have it all done in Philly.  Most of it is genetic type testing specifically related to her Albinism.  There are a few types of Albinism and there are also a three "syndromes" that are specific to Albinism.  The albinism expert at CHOP is seeking to find which type of Albinism Mercy has, as well as rule in or out any of the three syndromes.

Many of you may know that CHOP has had concerns dating back to her Chinese Medical blood testing in regards to two of the three associated syndromes.  One is Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) and the other is Chediak-Higashi Syndrome.  Please join us in praying that they are able to rule out both.   While we are fairly confident that they will rule out CHS, we have a couple concerns about HPS.  But we are not experts and we are thankful for CHOP who can determine everything for us.

Then on Friday we have our first post-adoption home visit.  The social worker will be coming to our house at 9:30 am.  In my heart I know this is probably not as big a deal as my head tells me it is, but I'm very anxious about it.  Mostly because tensions are high here this week as the kids and I adjust to being together all day every day now that summer vacation is in full swing.  The kids are also still adjusting to having a new sister and there seems to be some sibling competition going on for her love and attention.  Add to this that Mercy has had a few bad nights again so lack of sleep and frustration with her are adding tension as well.  Being gone all day tomorrow at CHOP when I need to be home cleaning and making sure paperwork and such is ready is not helping.  And finally, Scott is leaving for California on Sunday, which is why we are cramming this home visit in on Friday in the first place.  It was scheduled for next week, but thanks to an unexpected trip and a specific deadline that our post adoption visit needs to meet our appointment is now Friday.

That leads to the last request, and that is for sanity next week as Scott is away.  Please pray that Mercy sleeps!!!  Pray even more that she doesn't react to Scott being away, that it doesn't trigger any feelings of being abandoned...again.  She has really taken to Scott in the past week and goes to him more willingly, so this could not be coming at a worse time.  Pray that it doesn't set back any attachment and bonding progress that Scott has been making with her.  Also, please pray that my other kids have cooperative and helpful attitudes, especially at night when energy and patience are low.  Thanks for listening!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Four Weeks Ago

Four weeks ago we were finishing up some packing, eating our last dinner as a family of five and attempting to sleep before we boarded a plane for the biggest trip of our life.  I can't believe it's four weeks.  I know it's cliche, but some days it feels like yesterday and other days it feels like forever ago.

So I have been horrible at blogging since our return.  I am so sorry for that.  Our returning from China could not have been at a more crazy time of year.  The kids end of the school year calendar was jam packed and has kept us very busy.  Add jet lag, time zone readjusting and adapting to life with a 2 year old and that's already enough excuses.  Then there is the much needed bonding time with said 2 year old and that same 2 year old being "Velcro" baby for the past two weeks.  I couldn't make up too many more excuses for not sitting down to think, let alone write.

Things are going well.  I say that loosely because I don't want to give the impression that life is a bed of roses, but given the circumstances things could be a ton worse.  Someone gave me this phrase and I'm standing by it when people ask me how it's going.  "Life right now is like peaches and cow pies, some hours are sweet and other hours are sh---y."  (you fill in the blanks :-)

Mercy continues to amaze us.   She is doing new things all the time.  She is now walking a few steps at a time and she crawls everywhere.  She has mastered going down our two steps from the kitchen to the family room.  She is eating well, although still not feeding herself (but I'm OK with that).  She is beginning to connect more with her siblings and will play with them.  She lets them hold her for very short periods of time.  She is slowly adjusting to a dog, but I mean slowly.  She seems to say one new word every day.  She has become pretty comfortable with her home surroundings so she is beginning to explore a little more around the house.  She will now play on the floor for a little bit without sitting directly on my lap.  She isn't crying at my feet as much when I do the dishes thanks to a few refrigerator magnets and a small kitchen set a dear friend passed down (thanks Sarah!!!)

I feel like I could go on and on about her little personality.  She is such a joy.  She smiles constantly and her smile lights up a room.  She truly is one happy, joy filled little girl who loves to be goofy and loves to laugh at herself and others.  She is so interactive and beyond fascinating to watch.  She has become our household entertainment over these past two weeks.  We just don't tire of watching her play, learn, eat, be goofy or smile.

So what do we tire of?  Well I could go on and on about how tired I am of lugging a 27lb two year old around everywhere.  Because she is so clingy (hence the Velcro baby) I have very few moments when she is not stuck to me in some way.  I again say this loosely because today we had a few victories and I'm hopeful for tomorrow.  Today at the store she stayed in the shopping cart for about 10 minutes.  Yes, 10 minutes may not sound long to you, but to me it was a dream come true.  She also played with her grandmother while sitting next to me on the couch rather than sitting on my lap...for ONE HOUR.  She sat on Scott's lap tonight while he fed her ice cream.  She did get down and come over to my lap, but when I didn't feed her any she got down again and headed back to daddy.  Another breakthrough.  And probably the biggest break through we have seen to date is that while I am typing this very blog post she is ASLEEP in our bed ALONE!!!  Yes, I know she is still in our bed, and yes I did have to lay down with her for her to fall asleep, but I was able to get out of bed and she is still sleeping as I type.  That dear followers is a miracle I have been longing for.

Sleeping habits are atrocious.  She hardly naps, which we know is not the norm for her.  She napped for 2-3 hours in China.  But it requires me lying down with her to get her to sleep and even then she is restless and doesn't sleep too long.  I have had one or two days that I have gotten 2 hours out of her, the rest have been 20 minutes to an hour tops.  The battle at nap time is sometimes just not even worth it to me.  It takes me longer to get her to fall asleep then the time she actually sleeps.  As for night time, well as I said before she sleeps with us.  This is a bitter sweet thing for me.  We are not the co-sleeping parent type at all.  We are extremist in the opposite direction.  "Awe sweetie are you sick?  Awe did you have a bad dream?  Here you go, have a sleeping bag FOR THE FLOOR!"  That's been our motto with the other three.  So Mercy being in our bed is by far not our first choice.  But it's a necessity.  Not just for us, who have come to realize it is the ONLY way we will ever get some sleep.  But it's also necessary for her.  She is so full of fear and she desperately needs to be close.  I mean CLOSE!  She has to be right smack up against me, which is why it's a miracle tonight that I got out of the baby-trap I used to call my bed.  We have seen the amazing benefits of her being in our bed.  We have seen how it has helped her, how it is building trust and we know it's the right thing...for now.  In the meantime, I try to find reasons to enjoy it.  Like seeing her sweet angelic face sleeping every night and having her sit up in the morning with a smile on her face and say "mama."  I know down the road I will cherish this, even if it is causing a few discomforts now.

She also seldom sleeps through the night.  As a matter of fact there have only been two nights to date that she has.  So that has been hard too.  She wakes up screaming and she doesn't accept comfort for it at all.  She just screams it out and then as if someone flipped a switch she becomes her soft gentle self again and drifts back to sleep.  This can go on for 20 minutes or four hours, there is no rhyme or reason.  So no two nights look the same and we never know what to expect when we go to sleep.  There are some nights when I can fall back to sleep afterward and there are some times that I start my day at 2, 3 or 4am.

When it's all said and done we do for the most part feel like we have landed an adoption gold mine and just became billionaires.  She is bonding well, she makes eyes contact even for a low vision child, she's happy and getting more and more comfortable with us each day.  I cannot begin to express how natural it feels to be her mother and how much I love her.  She is one more apple, for a total of four, to my eye.  She is one more part of God's perfect plan for us, the one that doesn't harm you, but prospers, gives hope and a future. 

Lacey waiting for food to drop.

First time eating spaghetti

Sister bonding with nail polish.  Michaela has patiently waited for this moment.

This face is what we fall asleep to every night.