Thursday, July 31, 2008

Headed towards the big K!

I know this is two posts in a row on Hannah. I have some things to update soon on Sadie too and she's doing GREAT. But, I'm just feeling all sentimental about Hannah right now I guess. In less than one week, she starts kindergarten. Kindergarten..the big K...I really didn't think it's be that big of a deal to me. She's been in the school system since she was 3 (well, really about 3 weeks before her 3rd birthday!) in the preK program. She spent this past year in the same school she'll be in for kindergarten. I really thought I'd look at it as just another grade jump. And I did until recently. But I guess this week it's hit me that she's not a preschooler anymore. Kindergarten starts the big world of "elementary school". And it is different. Class size is bigger, not as many adults per classroom, new skills, higher expectations, not as much hand-holding as we do with our little bitty ones, more independence. And you know what though? I'm really not very nervous. I feel really really good about it. I love our school. It's a wonderful place to work and I think it's a wonderful place for a five year old (almost!) to start her journey through school. I'm thrilled with her teacher this year (but to be honest - there are so many good teachers!). And you know what else? She's READY.

One thing I've been a little concerned about for kindergarten prior to this moment was her age. She will most likely be the absolute youngest child in her class. She turns 5 August 30th. The cut-off date to start K is to be 5 by September 1st. I know of many parents who choose to delay kindergarten for their children who are very young for a year. And in many cases, it's a good choice. It's a choice I might have made for Hannah if circumstances were different. But, because she was already in the PreK program at her school and because that same PreK program doesn't accept children who are old enough for kindergarten (for a good reason I might add!) AND because not working is not an option for me (my kids and I all like to eat!), my only other choice would have been to pull her out of the school and put her somewhere else for a year, then bring her back to the school. To me, that was going backwards and didn't make any sense given her situation. So, I've known basically from the time I got Hannah, that at this moment, she would go to kindergarten ready or not. But like I said, she is READY! She's a quick learner with things that involve memorization. She's known her alphabet and numbers since she was 3. She's known most of the sounds for the letters for at least 1/2 a year now. Not due to any great effort on my part - she simply absorbs and remembers things like that. This summer she learned to create rhyming words (that was tough..but she did it because she wanted to and was determined. I did not work with her - she just kept constantly..CONSTANTLY saying "do these words rhyme?") She can tell you her whole name (and her chinese name), her phone number, her address, and my name. She can write her name. She can draw and cut and glue. She can follow directions and routines (in my opinion - far more important than the academic stuff at this age anyway). She's independant with almost every self-help skill needed: bathroom, hand-washing, clothing fasteners, opening her milk carton and snack, etc.. except she can't tie shoes yet (but I also know she certainly won't be alone in that area and she has velcro tennis shoes now anyway). She loves to look at books and make up stories. She puts on "shows" at home. She knows that a clock tells you what time it is and a calendar tells you what day it is. If you would have asked me in April, what was I concerned about for her transition to kindergaren, I would have told you: social skills and language. Socially, she has seemed to lag just a bit. Understandable..but I wanted her to have more confidence, be less sensitive when things didnt' go exactly her way, and handle conflicts with peers appropriately (i.e. - without falling apart). And I've talked before how she still has concerns with speech and language.

But this summer - she has again made huge jumps forward in both of those areas. See previous post about her and her little t-ball friend...yeah, I think she can handle conflicts. She has walked down the halls of school with me all week as I've been getting my classroom ready. She stops and talks to everyone. She tells them she is in kindergarten and she can tell them exactly where her room is (it's a big school so that's quite an accomplishment! But then again, this is the kid who gives me directions to go places and tells me when to turn right and left - accurately!)
Socially, she's going to be fine. Maybe too fine - I hope she doesn't get in trouble for talking too much! Hannah knows how to answer questions that could be perceived as sensitive with confidence. Questions like: why doesn't your mommy look like you? Where is your daddy? What happened to your mouth? You know, those questions parents of adopted kids know they will have to face one day. Hannah doesn't get them a lot..but she has gotten them and she can answer them. She's compassionate and knows how to make good choices. (I'm NOT saying she always makes the right choice- but she does know how to). Language..well, she still struggles some with that. That's why she's still in speech. But it's so not a big deal. She has some weird word order sometimes and her questions skills still need fine-tuning. Sometimes she asks "how" when she means "why" or she answers "when" like it's a "where" or things like that. But with a little patience and clarification, her teacher will be able to make Hannah understand what she's asking for. (And her teacher this year will be great at that!).

Today, I had Hannah's end-of-session final conference for speech. We do it every semester so this was her summer semester conference. I was shown a report on a language sample that was done earlier this summer that measured Hannah's growth in language. And the speech student's advisor and I talked about Hannah's progress not just this summer but over the last two years. It's amazing. She is now only scoring about 6 months behind her peers in language. That means at almost 5 years old, her language ability is about that of a four and a half year old. That's HUGE! There are still some speech articulation delays..but that also has improved dramatically. In fact, I noticed this summer that I was no longer interpreting for Hannah to people we don't know. In the past, if Hannah got into a conversation with a new friend or someone who wasn't very familiar with her speech patterns, I found that I often had to interpret some of what she was saying. I'm not sure when it hit me that I hardly ever do that anymore. Even though she has errors in her speech, the majority of the time, people understand her and she can stand on her own. She also has the confidence to try again when they don't. She'll say, "no - I said...." and repeat it. Her progress is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, this is the kid who two years ago couldn't make ANY sounds except vowels, m, and w. I'm so grateful to her surgeon and cleft team, to her wonderful speech therapists she's had (she's never had a bad one! they've all been great!), her preschool teachers, and mostly I'm grateful to God for placing this incredibly spunky, persevering, determined little girl in my life and then allowing me to see His work in her. Yeah, she's ready for the big world of kindergarten! And I'm so proud of her!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bowling and Baseball

Hannah's t-ball team had an end-of-season bowling party. They still have 2 more games (one tonight got rained out so I guess we will have two next week), but as a group we decided to skip practice this week and party instead. What fun! It was Hannah's first time to bowl and she loved it. And I have to say, watching 4 year olds bowl in general is quite entertaining. Hannah did get 1 strike during the night and was quite proud of herself. She was especially proud though of her trophy and ball her coach presented to her and to each of her teammates.

I have to tell a funny story from last week's game. Maybe you'll think it's funny, or maybe you just had to be there. At the beginning of the season, Hannah did great batting and running. She did great standing on the field too as long as the ball didn't come right by her. But the few times it did come right by her, she'd just watch it and stand still. She didn't actually TRY to get it. Well, some of the little boys on the team would of course run and grab the ball. Then, Hannah would be upset that she didn't get the ball. So, first we worked on the attitude of "It's okay if you don't get're part of a team, you support your teammates, you might get it another time". Then I started telling her "It's okay if you don't get it, but if you really want to get the ball, you have to actually run towards it and not stand still". Her coach has been encouraging her in practice and in practice she's managed to get it a few times. But, that all eluded her during games until last week. Second inning (out of 3 they play) has Hannah in the outfield. Ball flies by her and she RUNS with all she has and beats 3 little boys out in getting to the ball. She grabs it, runs in, holds it up, and screams "TIME" with a HUGE grin on her face. She was quite happy with herself and decided she was going to keep going. So, during the 3rd inning, she and another little boy A. were in the infield right next to each other. I like this little boy and Hannah likes him too. They've become good buddies. But he is all boy and all about playing baseball. While their coach has been encouraging Hannah to run for the ball, he's been encouraging A. to NOT run for it all the time! He tells the kids "A. - you get the ball if it goes on this side. Hannah - you get if it goes on this side." Then to be really clear, he looks at A. again and says "do not run in front of Hannah to get the ball..if it goes over there, let her get it." Like I said, I really like this kid, but he's serious about his ball playing. He can't help it. Every single time he runs in front of Hannah to grab the ball. She's getting frustrated, wiping teary eyes, but holding it together remarkably well. And she keeps trying and he just beats her every time. Until...

The batter hits the ball, it lands in front of Hannah. She reaches for it, but A. has zoomed in too. It's on the ground, it's a struggle..hard to see who has it. Then, as A. stands up, you can see the ball is in his glove. Hannah doesn't hesitate - she reaches in his glove, pulls the ball out, thrusts it in the air, and yells "TIME!". Then she turns to A. and yells "you are not being very nice to me. Be NICE to HANNAH!". He yelled something back and they both glared at each other through rest of the inning, which was thankfully almost over by this time. Ah -nice to know she can stand up for herself when the need arises. I thought it was funny and I still chuckle thinking about it. You absolutely have to love 4 year old friendships though because who is the kid Hannah wanted to spend all her time with at the bowling party? yep..same kid. As soon as they saw each other, they hugged and ran off to play and be silly.

I have to say, when I signed Hannah up for t-ball this summer it was because she'd been asking to play baseball for a year. In her words, she wanted to "hit the ball and you watch me and say YEAH!" I hoped that she would like it and that it wouldn't be too much for her with too much pressure or focus on competition. I have to say, it was exactly what she needed this summer. It gave her something to do with her peers her age which she would have really missed this summer otherwsie. Her coaches were wonderful, her teammates were wonderful. It was a good blend of fun, learning new skills, encouragement, and challenges. It wasn't a huge time committment (which is important for ME!). It was something physical, which she NEEDS or she climbs the walls. It was just an all-around positive experience. (well except for the bugs..but hey, I can't have everything perfect!)

Monday, July 14, 2008


Here's what we've been doing in our "free" time in between all those doctors appointments mentioned in the last post....(some of these are a few weeks old, but I guess it's been a while since I posted some pictures)

Vacation Bible School (Hannah is singing with the group at their end-of-week performance)

Riding Bikes

Practicing climbing stairs at the park

Play date with our friend Ana Claire

More t-ball practices and games (it looks like in addition to Hannah, I have another future t-ball player too!)

An after-game treat by way of the local ice-cream man

Hanging out in Auburn for a weekend (which was a little hard for me as an Alabama fan, but I managed!) Just kidding! We had a great time. We did absolutely nothing productive. Our schedule went something like this: arrive in Auburn, eat lunch, swim, nap, play, swim, play, eat supper, play, watch fireworks, eat ice-cream, go to bed, wake up, eat breakfast, play, swim, play, eat lunch, go buy bubbles at wal-mart, take a nap, blow bubbles, swim, play, eat supper, swim, play, eat ice-cream, go to bed, wake-up, eat breakfast, swim, blow bubbles, and go home! It was a perfect mini-vacation! Thanks for the invite Tricia!

Visiting the zoo for Children's Hospital's Cleft Clinic's annaul "Family Fun Day". We had fun and saw quite a few lifeline families and other adoptive families there too. Sadie enjoyed the carrosel with Carley while Hannah was more into the foam and the water. Sadie also enjoyed playing a bit of peek-a-boo with sweet little Kimmie. (We did see a few animals, but spent most of our time in the Children's zoo playing and letting the kids get wet - it was a hot day!) For lunch, we ate across the table from a family from Florida who were about to bring their little boy to Dr. Grant for surgery. He had already had surgery in Florida that did not go well and so they looked elsewhere and found Dr. Grant. It made me once again appreciate how wonderful he is! He's an amazing surgeon, but also has such a great bedside manner. And he communicates with parents and kids in plain English! As soon as Hannah saw him, she ran to him calling his name to give him a hug. She told me later "Dr. Grant is the best doctor in the world!" I think I agree.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Doctors and More

Well, if you're reading this, then you got the invite so WELCOME!
I was going to save this post for a few days and instead post some pictures of our Fourth, our play date wtih Ana Claire, and some other fun things. But, I'm having issues with my camera. Every time I connect it I get an error's never happened before so who knows? Hopefully I can get it resolved soon. Until then, no pictures.

So, here's what we've been up to lately other than the fun stuff:

Let’s see: 2 Adoption clinic pediatricians, developmental specialist, family therapist, ultrasound technician, opthamalogist, audiologist, orthapedic intern, orthopedic physician , x-ray technician, occupational therapist intern, occupational therapist (three times), regular pediatrician, plus untold nurses to weigh, measure, draw blood, give shots, and provide stickers afterwards!

9 appointments with doctors or therapists (some combined multiple of the above people)

Snacks, treats, and small books and toys to keep us busy

Trips through the drive through at McDonald’s for lunch after some long mornings in clinics

A few tears, but more giggles

Well, we know our way around both Children’s South and Children’s Hospital! We have been busy the last few weeks with a variety of appointments. And these are all just for Sadie.
Besides that, I have been to the endodontist once and oral surgeon twice (once for work done, once just to check up on it). Hannah has been to the pediatrician (and was the recipient of some of the shots - those “five year old shots”) and has started back in speech therapy for a short 4 week summer session (twice a week.).

I can see the end of the tunnel though…we only have a few more appointments scheduled. Sadie goes back to the orthopedic doctor next week and the occupational therapist in a couple weeks. Hannah goes to the dentist at the end of the month and has 6 more speech sessions this month. August is FREE (well..we start back to school so it’s not exactly free..but you get the point). I have guarded the month of August with all I have, insisting no appointments in August unless someone gets actually sick. No routine or healthy kid appointments allowed - we’ll be busy enough. :-) In September Sadie has two more follow-up appointments - one at the nephrologist (that’s kidney doctor) and the geneticist. Oh yeah - I forgot, Hannah goes back to the cleft clinic sometime late October and Sadie goes back to the regular pediatrician in November and then in December is Sadie’s 6 month follow-up at the adoption clinic…and…Sadie will have a few more OT appointments this fall and Hannah will do another semester of speech probably starting late September or early October (twice a week for about 8 weeks) and….okay, who am I kidding? It’ll be a while before we’re finished. But it is slowing down now that we have most of these initial visits out of the way. Actually, I’ve already cancelled one appointment last week . It was Hannah at the adoption clinic. They usually don’t see kids after the first year, but because Hannah was still having significant delays in speech and language this time last year, they were going to evaluate her early this summer so we could come up with a plan for summer services if needed. But, for a variety of reasons, her appointment got pushed back until July. And she’s made huge progress this past year. And, she’s plugged into services already this summer. And she’s followed by speech therapists at school, at the cleft clinic, and at Univ. of Montevallo. So the poor girl has been evaluated enough. The day before her appointment, I was questioning why we were keeping this appointment when someone from the clinic called and was asking about what I was hoping to get from the visit (aren’t they great? I love that about them!) and honestly, I was like..well, nothing. I know what her needs still are regarding language and feel like we have a good handle on it and she’s getting what she needs. So, I asked what kind of assessments they were planning and when she told me, it was basically the same stuff she’s already had. So, I cancelled the appointment and they were very understanding and supportive. Sometimes, a morning spent playing outside and a visit to story time at the library are just more important than another evaluation, ya know?

Okay, back to Sadie. Her visits have been mostly good. Where do I start? Adoption Clinic - good reports. We love these people! Sadie is healthy- all her lab work came out great. She didn’t have many shots in China though so is now on a bit accelerated “catch up” shot regimen. Not so fun for her, but she’s a trooper. At our first visit the pediatrician noticed an “ear pit” on her left ear. To me, it looks like a freckle. I’d have never thought anything else about it. But, she said it could be indicative of something going on with the kidneys and so she sent Sadie for an ultrasound. Sure enough…her kidneys are sort of misplaced. Her left kidney is a pelvic kidney which just means it’s in the pelvic area and never rose to where it should be. Her right kidney is slightly higher than it should be. According to both the dr. and the technician…it likely means nothing except her kidneys are in a slightly different spot. Many people have a pelvic kidney and some don’t ever know it. All initial indications are that her kidneys are working fine as there are no symptoms of them not. But, just to be safe, they have referred us to a nephrologist to get everything checked out. We go in September. We have also been referred to a geneticist to rule out syndromes that can accompany a radial club hand. I’ve been told there are no obvious red flags that would indicate a syndrome, but that it’s always a good idea to get it checked. I agree especially now that we have the kidney thing going on in addition to the hand. That appointment is in September too. Between our first and second visits to the adoption clinic (about 5 weeks apart), Sadie gained 1.2 lbs. As she’s still less than 5% on the growth chart for her age, that was a good thing. The family therapist at the adoption clinic gave us a good report and thought Sadie was well on her way in terms of adjusting. The developmental therapist and I agreed almost completely on how Sadie was doing in her development. She’s actually a good bit delayed in many skill areas, but is already starting to make some jumps. Interestingly, she was not delayed at all in fine motor. Her use of her hands (which is supposed to be her special need!) is age appropriate at this time. It’s amazing what she can do..use a fork, spoon, take off shoes, zip and unzip, just about anything she wants really. Gross motor and language are actually the concerns right now. I see an improvement just in the time I’ve had her so I’m not too concerned. The plan is to give her lots of opportunities to move and talk! She definitely has a good role model for both of those in Hannah who loves to be moving and talking all the time! Seriously though, she’s managed to learn to climb up stairs just this week at the park…and is saying a lot more words too. Hannah, who you have to remember has had two years of speech therapy, is now taking on the role of therapist. I often catch her “playing speech” and saying “look at me. Say…ORANGE JUICE” or “say, not Night..make your L sound”. It’s pretty funny! The dev. Specialist recommended we look into speech for Sadie this fall…so we will wait and see how she’s doing and then if I think she needs an extra boost, will try to get her into speech the same place Hannah goes (same day and time would be awesome! But that might take some um..sweet talking and fingers crossing!) She is also recommending a few sessions with Physical Therapy to give her a jump start. That remains to be seen if we can get in before school starts. I’m on the fence with that wouldn’t hurt and insurance will probably cover it. But, I’m not sure it’s necessary at this point either with the fast progress she’s starting to make. So, if we can get a couple sessions in before school starts, fine. If not, I will probably decline and give it 6 months to see where we stand. Sadie’s audiology appointment was great - she hears just fine and there are no concerns there. Her vision appointment was okay. She tested as just a little nearsighted. He doesn’t want to do anything yet, but wants to see her back in two years and retest.

The orthopedic visit with the hand specialist The official diagnosis is she doesn’t have a radius in her left arm or a thumb in that hand and she has a “floating thumb” in her right hand. That official diagnosis is exactly the same as the “un-official diagnosis” I had before even going to China. It’s also the same as I could see with my own eyes. So, we all agree on that. What we don’t agree on yet is what to do about it. The dr. wants to splint her (which is where the occupational therapist comes in - we’re currently seeing her every couple weeks to make new splints for Sadie) at night for several months (maybe even up to a year) and then do surgery. She wants to do quite a bit of surgery and to be honest, I’m not convinced . I agree with a couple things she wants to do, but not everything. Basically, I want a second opinion. She didn’t really take time to answer my questions and didn’t want to spend any time with Sadie to see what she could or couldn’t do with her hands already. I don’t know a lot about hand surgery. But, I know enough to know that it’s very complicated and you have to be careful to make sure you increase function and not decrease it and I know enough to know I have a lot of questions. I feel like she’s probably a competent surgeon, but I need someone to take the time to answer the questions…so, I will be seeking a second opinion. The girls’ regular pediatrician has already given us a name and referred us to someone he knows to look at her, so I will be setting up that appointment soon. The good part of that visit came with the occupational therapist she connected me to for the splints. I agree with the splints,..they should help regardless of what surgery. The splint prevents further tightening of her hand and will actually stretch it out some without surgery. If Sadie later has the surgery on her wrist, the results from the splints should make it easier. Sadie doesn’t mind her splint and puts it on willingly at night. Although at our second visit, the OT had to make a different kind of splint because Sadie (aka Houdini) was somehow getting out of the first one in the middle of the night. I’m telling ya’ll - the things this girl can do with no thumbs is amazing!

The regular pediatrician visit was routine. Sadie did have to have a TB skin test (which is was simply a routine test for internationally adopted kids) and some shots and as I mentioned, Hannah also had shots. Other than that - no big deal. Well, medically no big deal. The visit was definitely a big deal to Hannah. Somebody PLEASE tell me their four or five year old is as dramatic as mine about shots! Sadie didn’t cry for her shots, but she had some sympathy tears for Hannah. Regardless, we survived and Hannah’s Blue Card for school has an expiration date of 2015 - so we don’t have to go through this again until she’s 12!! At that age, can’t I just drop her off and pick her up when they’re done? Just kidding! (sort of) Anyway, both girls are healthy. Hannah doesn’t go back for another year or two. Sadie goes back in four months for some of those catch-up shots. It remains to be seen how Sadie does with winter this year, but experience with Hannah is that we see our regular pediatrician less than any other professional because she almost never gets sick. I’m sure after her performance this week, the nurses are thankful that Hannah is a healthy child! :-)

So, don’t we sound busy? I’m just thankful we’ve had the summer to knock a whole lot of these appointments out. And like I said, I’m guarding my month of August! But really, despite all our visits to the doctors, it hasn’t seemed bad. We just take it one step at a time and do what we have to do that day. And then try to do something fun too. Sadie’s emotional adjustment has been great and that makes a huge difference. It makes things feel easy. I mean, who wouldn’t love a 2 year old that sleeps through the night, eats well, is pleasant and compliant mostly, who runs to you in the morning with arms outstretched saying “hug!“, whose laugh is contagious, who smiles and says “Tank oo” (thank you) every time you hand her anything, and who hasn‘t thrown a temper tantrum yet?? (maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase…and we still have the age of 3 to get through, but I’ll enjoy her easy-going personality as long as I can)
And Hannah, well, she gets a little jealous from time to time. There’s some normal sibling rivalry stuff. She’s a bit more spirited and not quite as ..umm. ..easy-going (I like to think of it as she’s passionate!) But, when I catch her “reading” to Sadie or playing “speech” with her or I hear them giggling in the other room together (when they’re supposed to be sleeping), or when Hannah stands as tall as she can and proudly announces “SHE’S MY SISTER!” to literally everyone we see….it makes me smile and makes me so grateful that these two have each other. A few weeks ago I had put them to bed and gave Hannah instructions to “be quiet and go to sleep”. A little while later, I heard her get out of bed. I walked into her room ready to tell her to get back in bed. I stopped at her doorway just in time to see Hannah standing over Sadie’s bed, looking over her safety rail, standing on her tiptoes trying to kiss her. It was too sweet!!

So, this is probably more details than most of you wanted. I’ve had several people ask how things went with some of our appointments and I usually say “fine.” Things are fine, but the details seemed a bit much to get into with some quick conversations. So, here it is..our summer at the doctors! I myself have learned a lot through this summer about medical care. I’ve learned how much I appreciate living within close driving distance to a major children’s hospital. I’ve been reminded how much I appreciate having such good insurance. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive and helpful many in the medical profession are. But, I’ve also learned that while they know more about technical and medical things, I know more about my kids’ personalities and functioning on a day-to-day basis. I’ve learned to listen carefully to what they all have to say, but then consider what I know to be true as well in making decisions.

Well, hopefully next time you check back, I'll have the camera thing figured out and can have some pictures up here!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Going Private

Hi friends,
I've been planning to make this blog private for quite a while now. It's nothing that anyone has said or fact, everyone who has commented on the blog in real life or on the blog has been so supportive. And your support and prayers have meant so very much to me as I went through both adoptions. But, Hannah's getting old enough and aware enough now (and has a sensitive personality) that I need to be a bit more careful and selective with sharing on the internet. I don't ever want her to hear something I've shared on the blog from a friend at school or someone in the grocery store, etc. And while Sadie doesn't yet understand enough for it to effect her, one day she will. And it's a safety issue. I love all of you friends who keep up with us this way..but with it being a public blog, I never know who might be reading it and learning details of my kids. I almost did this last year, but really wanted to leave it public so friends who I might accidentally forget to include or other adopting families that I didn't know could follow our trip to China for Sadie. But, now the time has come and the only thing that has been stopping me is the task of gathering e-mails. But several friends lately have made their blogs private and inspired me to just go ahead and do it. So, my goal is to switch this to a private blog this weekend or early next week. Some of you will be getting e-mails when the switch is made inviting you to read the blog. All you have to do is go to my blog site (this same site) and you'll be prompted to add your e-mail address and then you'll be able to read it. But, I know I will miss some of you because I'm not the greatest at keeping up with e-mail addresses. So, if you'd like to continue reading, please comment on this post or send me an e-mail at If you do it through the comments, don't forget to leave your e-mail address so I'll know how to add you. Thanks!