Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Just some pictures..

Running to the playground (Thanksgiving)

The blessings of life are better when shared (Nov. 2009)

Decorating the tree

It's a stocking, not a sock...having fun being silly

Hannah painted this snowman picture at a friend's birthday party

Let me think, what do I want for Christmas?

"Santa, your glasses are falling down"

I took Hannah and a friend to see the Nutcracker

Playing a game with Bobble, the Elf

Making muffins

Christmas Pictures


Monday, December 28, 2009


I know it's been a really long time since I've posted. Don't know that anyone still reads anyway. But that's okay..it's for me mostly. To document and remember. I'm not a scrapbooker! So this is what I'll have to recall these wonderful days.

Since last post..Sadie is doing well. We hit some minor snags with her latest surgery. Basically, after we got the new cast off, her wrist was still bent in some. She had a splint for 3 weeks that was supposed to be a wrist splint/ thumb splint combo. It was okay..but not ideal. But it was the best they could do for both at the same time. After that, we moved to just a wrist splint. It holds her wrist straight beautifully. But, when taken off, it still turns in some. Not bad..but the concern is that since her wrist almost immediately moved back inwards after taking the pin out, that it will slowly continue to move inwards over time. The splint is suppossed to help prevent that until her muscles "tighten up" and her wrist decides where it's permanent location will be. Then we'll move to just wearing the splint at night. She *might* have to have a "revision surgery" on the wrist according to her surgeon, but it's just kind of wait and see for now. Her thumb is doing okay. It looks good. She doesn't use it near as well as her other thumb. But she never used that hand as well as her other hand anyway. Her fingers on that left hand are more stiff and always have been. But she uses it some and she's happy. She picks things up with it and smiles from ear to ear. And she'll sing "Where is Thumbkin" and is thrilled that she can do it with TWO thumbs now. We've been doing OT once a week since she got her cast off and will probably move to every two weeks soon. We go back in a week to Atlanta to have her thumb / wrist checked out again there.

Sadie also had a nephrology appointment to check up on her kidneys early December. It went very well and there are no problems with her kidneys. We don't have to go back for two years this time..so that was good news. Her dr. there reinforced what he told me the first time. He doesn't expect kidney problems in Sadie. But because one kidney was a bit small and because they are located in unusal positions, he wants to keep a check on them "from time to time". But he told us to just enjoy life and "check in every once in a while" as she grows.

Hannah, meanwhile, had an appointment with an oral surgeon back in Nov. She's had a break from all things medical for a while. But that's changing (and she doens't like it one bit). The appointment itself was not a big deal. He looked at dental x-rays, looked briefly in her mouth, and that was pretty much it. But he thinks it's time to do her bone graft to repair the small hole left in her gumline soon. He said she's a great size / weight and age to do it now. And she will need significant orthodontic work at some point afterwards (which we knew). However, she does not need any orthodontic work before the surgery, which is good news. Some kids do before this surgery. I decided to wait until early summer for the surgery, because Hannah will need to be home resting for several days post-surgery. The surgeon felt fine about waiting that long. He does want to pull 3 upper teeth before the surgery if she doesn't lose them before then. She's at the age where she *could* lose them on her own, but seeing as she doesn't have any loose teeth yet, it's not looking very likely. (But I'd love it if she did..much less traumatic!). So, we go back April 1st to have the teeth pulled, and then will have the surgery late May or early June most likely.

Hannah also had an ENT appointment the week before Christmas. I had become slightly concerned about her hearing and her ears back in October. I asked her speech therapist at school to check her hearing, which she did. (because she's wonderful!). I was concerned about Hannah's ear tubes being blocked or falling out. ANd Hannah's LOUDNESS made me wonder if she was having a problem with fluid in her ears and having fluctuating hearing loss. (By the way, turns out Hannah is just LOUD). Anyway, her speech therapist checked her hearing 3 times for me between Oct. and Dec. She failed the first screening, and passed the second two. I could "hear" fluid in Hannah's ears when she pushed her hand up on her ear (gross, I know), so I called and made her an appointment. Hannah HATES anything to do with her ears. I mean, the girl hates shots, but I think she'd rather have a shot than have anyone mess with her ears. So, she was very NOT excited about this appointment.

However, I pulled out the heavy encouragement..complete with Bobble, our magic Elf, appearing in her backpack with a note "be brave! you can hold me!". First, she had a hearing screening. Her hearing was *mostly* normal. She was showing a mild loss at the low frequencies (which is what she showed on her very first audiogram right after adoption..since then she's shown normal though). The audiologist did a bone conduction test afterwards, which bypasses her outer ear and shows what her hearing is like without factoring in fluid, etc. That test was normal. (good news..it just means she has fluid or wax or something). They were also able to tell that her tubes were still in and open. So, then we see the ENT. Hannah lets him look in her ears, and then he (an intern..actually a pretty wimpy intern!) tells her he has to clean the wax out because he can't see. Hannah didn't like that idea at all and started crying, just a little though. But the intern didn't know what to do once she started crying. (we're talking very mild..and still very cooperative!). In the end, he decides he can't do it and to let her see the regular ENT. who is great. But he decided not to clean her ears out anyway because he wants to just remove her tubes. They've been in over 3 years, so it really is time. They don't like to leave them in any longer than that. So, now we have an appointment towards the end of Jan. to have her tubes removed. Very simple outpatient surgery. No IV. Should be easy...except that nothing medical is easy with Hannah so we'll see. The good news is that once the tubes are out and the hole heals, she can get her ears wet without it bothering her so much. And I can put drops in her ears to control the wax (which I can't do with tubes). So, hopefully it will be a good thing. And she hasn't had an ear infection in close to a year. However, he did tell me that sometimes in kids with clefts, they have to put a 2nd set of tubes in. So, they'll re-evaluate in 6 months.

Well, life here has been about much more than medical appointments. I wanted to write about Christmas and some other things..hmm..guess that'll be the next post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pick your title: "God is Good" OR "How Sadie Learned Her Colors"

God is good. God is SO good. I know that, but God has been reminding me of that over and over these last couple days. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for the life God has given me, and the life He is giving me now. I don't know what the future holds, but I want God to be in it whatever it is, because God is good.

Just one (of many!) blessings in my life: little Sadie. Sadie turned 4 a couple weeks ago and now tells everyone "I'm not free (three) anymore!" Today, we had a little trip. By "little", I mean with no notice, I picked her up from her babysitter's house mid-morning and whisked her off to Atlanta. On the Friday before Halloween. On the Magic City Classic AND the Talledega Race weekend...yeah, traffic was chaotic. That was on the way there. On the way home, how about 5 o'clock traffic in Atlanta on Friday afternoon, construction, and rain? It was a LOOOONG day. But God is good..and the trip was good..and God was in it.

Let's start this story back at the beginning. Well, the middle anyway. :-). Sometime late summer 2008, I met with a hand surgeon here locally. Let's just say she didn't thrill me. She may be a wonderful surgeon, but she was not a good listener. She didn't listen to my questions, concerns, and opinions at all. So therefore, I won't ever find out if she's a good surgeon or not. I just wasn't comfortable. My pediatrician referred me to someone else. Much better listener, but he clearly didn't have the experience and knowledge. (remember my story of him googling treatment options?). But then I heard of a surgeon in Atlanta that had a great reputations and had done multiple surgeries on children whose hands were like Sadie's. I went and met with him. At the time, I didn't know if I wanted to do surgery or not. He was wonderful!! He spent a long time with me listening, talking, answering questions, drawing diagrams, etc. He spent a lot of time with Sadie..not just examing her hands but looking at her as a whole..and he was clearly very knowledgeable. He left me with information on pros and cons of what he would reccomend, along with directions to call him if I wanted to ask any more questions. Long story, short..we'd found a surgeon. And for multiple reasons, I decided the surgeries would be a good thing for Sadie in the long run. In December 2008, Sadie had her first surgery on her hands. She had her "floppy" thumb on her right hand removed and this lovely contraption called a fixator placed on her left hand. Here's her hands pre-surgery:

Several weeks after surgery (1st pic is the fixator, 2nd is the fixator with cover over it. Sadie picked red)

After that surgery, I had to turn a screw on the fixator twice a day. That slowly straightened her hand. During this process, Sadie and I travelled to Atlanta periodically to get things checked. It was weekly for the first month. We had a couple minor infections during this..totally normal, cuught quickly, and nothing that a round of antibiotics didn't cure. We were very fortunate. And Sadie tolerated this contraption SO well. And there were really no limitations on what she could do with it. She could shower, but wasn't supposed to immerse it in the water. Just as a precaution, we put a plastic bag over it for particularly messy activities or wet activities. Here's Sadie playing in the snow with the bag over her fixator.

Then in March, Sadie had surgery #2. Here she is at the hospital before surgery #2.

Surgery #2 was to remove the fixator and do a "radialization" of her left hand. In other words, her hand was "straightened" on the end of her ulna bone (she has no radius in the left arm). A pin was placed inside to hold everything in place. Once the bandages were removed a week post-surgery, Sadie got her first cast..orange.

When the cast came off, Sadie got this lovely pink splint with purple straps. And she wore it all day, every day from the time she got it at the end of March until mid-October. Everywhere she went..including swimming, the lake, and the beach. I learned to soak it in vinegar occassionally to get the smell out. Although I don't know if the lake smell ever totally dissapeared. We did take it off for baths.

At the end of May, Sadie had surgery #3. Here she is pre-surgery.

Surgery #3 created a thumb on her right hand (it came from her index finger). Amazing. She came out of surgery all bandaged up. But when the bandages came out, here's the little thumb that was there. A pin was left in the thumb for the time being. It was quickly put in a cast and this time Sadie chose black. She now had a black cast on one hand and a purple and pink splint on the other. We got some stares and questions in public. Sadie took it all in stride.

Once that cast came off (3 weeks later), the pin was removed, and Sadie got this cool blue splint with green straps for her new thumb. She wore it all the time for 3 weeks, except for occupational therapy and showers. Then she wore it just at night for another 3 weeks. She went to OT regularly during those 6 weeks and learned to use her new thumb. So, during this time, we had a blue splint on one hand and a pink splint on the other. (At our agency reunion this summer with Lifeline's facilitator in China)

Sadie has been so proud of her new thumb! And she's quite amazing at what she can do with it now. She can cut with special scissors, color, zip, turn little locks on the door, etc. What she loves most though is singing "Where is Thumbkin?" She has spent the last few months walking up to people in the grocery store and saying "I have a new thumb!".

Finally, in mid-October, Sadie had surgery #4. The PA at her surgeon's office had pity on me and actually faxed me the pre-op paperwork this time to save us a trip to Atlanta the week before surgery. We love them! For so many reasons. Here's some pics of Sadie in the couple weeks leading up to surgery. Just because they were cute and I wanted to stick them in here. First, the beach. Next, Sadie sliding with some friends at her 4th birthday party. Finally, pre-op.

This time, the pin was being removed in her left wrist (the one that'd been there since surgery #2 in March) and she was getting a new thumb on her left hand. When the bandages came off, Sadie chose pink for her cast this time. And then at a fall festival at Hannah's school a few days later, she got pink hair to match her cast. (Hannah had purple hair..didn't show up too great in the photo).

We were supposed to have that pink cast on for 3 weeks. But we ran into a little snag. Sadie's left hand was very swollen post-surgery. And when the swelling went down, the cast "slipped". Her dr. had done everything he could to prevent that and minimize the swelling in the first place (including these little "drains" in her thumb at first) but it just happened. Which brings us to today. I took Hannah to school and Sadie to her babysitter's. Then I called the dr. office. I was seriously thinking "I'm a little concerned about this, but I'm sure it's fine and I'm probably over-reacting, but I want them to tell me I'm over-reacing and it's fine". I spoke with the surgeon's assistant who said it was "probably fine" but she wanted to talk to the surgeon to be sure. He was in surgery at the moment however, so she'd call me back. So I went on to work. Mid-morning, she called me to tell me he wanted the cast off, wanted the hand x-rayed, and wanted a new cast put on and he wanted it done today. We talked about me doing it locally instead of going all the way to Atlanta. But in the end, the surgeon wasn't comfortable with that and really wanted me to come to their office. I chose him because of his reputation. He's proved himself to me multiple times already. So I trusted him. So, I made some phone calls to cancel appointments, set up care for Hannah this afternoon, and I picked Sadie up. We headed to Atlanta...We arrived in Atlanta at the surgeon's office just before 4:00 (they're an hour ahead of us). And Sadie is fine. But I'm glad we went. They all know Sadie there and she's charmed them completely! And they take very good care of her. They joke with her and laugh with her..but they're serious about doing a good job. I sat in amazement. It was the end of the day on a Friday, and they treated her like their first patient Monday morning. or better. I know they stayed late just to make sure everything was okay with her. The surgeon wasn't there (it was his day to be in surgery at the hospital all day). But he might as well have been. They took pictures and e-mailed them to him in surgery. And they took pictures of the x-rays and sent him those too. They texted and talked back and forth. And seriously, he might as well have been standing there. He directed everything..do this..do that..another x-ray, an x-ray in a different postion..hold the hand in this position while you put the new cast on..wanted an x-ray in the cast to be sure..etc. And the bottom line is Sadie did need a new cast..but she's fine. No damage was done. But it could have been if the problem hadn't been corrected. Her new thumb wasn't the problem..it was fine. The problem was when the cast slipped, it made her wrist bend inwards. We've spent much time and surgery and effort getting that wrist to turn out..not in. Sadie will be able to turn it in when she needs to. But it did not need to sit in that position immobile or it could have started to permanently move back inwards. But they were able to get it in the correct position in the new cast, and everything is good. God is good. Oh yeah, and Sadie chose orange this time for her cast. Because it matched her butterfly wings of her Halloween costume. I actually told her that was why we were going back for a new cast: so she could pick out another color to go with her costume!

As I was driving home, I was amazingly not stressed at all about the traffic or the time or anything. I felt God's hand on my life and my children's lives and I felt like we were being very well taken-care of. Today was just one example. I listened to my insticts say something wasn't right. I had dr.'s I trusted who also trusted me that if I was concerned, they wanted to check it out. I had dr.'s who didn't take the "easy way out", but insisted I see them, today, right now. And they stayed late to make it happen. And a surgeon who directed everything from an OR across town! I'm so grateful to have found them. Sure, driving to Atlanta 21 times over the past 10 months (today was the 21st time!) has been a bit of a pain at times. But only because I get caught up in convenience and busyness at times. But when I truly stop and think of the care Sadie gets there...it's a no-brainer. I'd drive 21 more times over the next 10 months in a hearbeat. But luckily, I don't have to. If all goes well, we'll go back in a week and a half, and then in probably another 3 weeks, and then probably 1 more time after that. And that's it. These two pics show how Sadie feels about our treks to Atlanta.

(actually, she seems to mostly enjoy the trips..and when she gets bored, she sleeps.) I am incredibly blessed..God is good. Just one example of how Good He is. Now, if I had not chosen to do any surgery on Sadie, I would be just as blessed and God would be just as good...and Sadie would be just as delightful, charming, and amazing. But because I *did* choose to do surgery, I sure am glad God put the right team in place for Sadie and that everything has worked out so well. And yes, Sadie has had a multitude of colors on her arms / hands during this past year. And yes, when we started, she knew no colors. Now she knows them all. :-)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Summer: Going, Going, Gone

Just found this today..I wrote it in August!! Yeah, I'm behind. But it made me smile to read it..so I'm posting it.

It's over. Officially. I start back to work on Monday and school for the kids start Thursday. It's been a good summer and we've done a lot. We've had some accomplishments too. Here's a little run-down at what we've learned this summer.

1. Hannah learned to swim. And to trust God. At the same time. It was fun to watch her progress. She can now swim about half the length of the YMCA pool and back. She can also jump in unassisted and swim to her instructor and can float on her back. And she totally gives God the credit for all that. She was nervous in her first session about taking off the "floatie" they have the beginners wear the first few days. Nervous doesn't actually describe it - terrified! I'm talking she was clinging and crawling up her teacher's back and wouldn't let go. Her teacher finally shoved her off (in as nice a way as she could..but her options were a bit limited) and Hannah made it to the wall. Lots of cheers and claps and then it was time to try it again. Did Hannah have confidence? nope. More clinging and fear. Repeat again the next day. It was definately a fear thing and not an issue of inability. Hannah could swim anywhere well with the floatie. Finally, one day on the way to swimming lessons I suggested we pray about it. Hannah agreed so we prayed that God would give her courage and help her swim without her floatie. What do you know..she took it right off and swam to the wall with no coaxing. Several times. From then on, it was never an issue. She went from "I can't do it at all" to swimming half the length of the pool very confidently. In her second session of swim lessons, Hannah's new task was to jump in the water and swim out to her instructor. The first few days, she reached for his hand. She would try to pump herself up 'I'm going to do it myself' and at the last minute, she would get scared and refuse to jump without his hand. So, we prayed again that she would have courage to jump in and swim. That day, she hesistated slightly, but she did it. She jumped in on her own and swam to her instructor. And then she started YELLING at the TOP OF HER LUNGS "It's a miracle! It's a miracle!". She turned to the kid next to her and said "God just made me have courage in my heart to jump and then he made me just POP back up out of the water so I could swim! It's a miracle!".

2. Hannah learned to ride her bike without training wheels. All it took was to come upon some friends who were a year older riding their bikes in the same parking lot we went to practice in. Competition set it and Hannah decided she would master it too. And she did..in less than half an hour. Although remembering to brake took an extra day. :-)

3. Hannah overcame her slight disgust of creepy crawly things enough to actually enjoy playing with worms at the lake. I'm sure the fact that her friend Joy loved playing with worms had something to do with this.

4. Hannah memorized the fruits of the spirit..in song form.

5. Hannah learned that all babies don't actually come from China. :-)

6. While Sadie didn't learn to swim, she did learn to enjoy the pool. You know, as long as she had her life vest on and mommy was just an arm's reach away.

7. Sadie learned the difference bewteen a fork and a spoon. Sounds simple, I know. But life is so much easier now that I can count on my helpful 3 year old to put the right utensils on the table. It's the little things. :-)

8. Sadie learned most of her colors. Still working on a couple, but she's getting there.

9. Sadie learned to sing her ABC's, although she doesn't give us any credit for that. When asked "where did you learn that?", she delights in answering "in china!". Actually, that's become her answer to everything lately. "I learn that in CHINA!"

10. Sadie has learned to use her new thumb! Quite well, in fact. In fact, she's doing it well enough that her OT said to me last week "I'm comfortable with you not coming for a while and just continuing to play and encourage her on your own.".

11. I learned that as much as I think my children have beautiful voices and love to listen to them sing, a 20 minute car ride is my limit for listening to them sing their "special songs" (i.e. totally made up on the spot songs, even though Sadie insists she learned all hers in China!). sorry, but true.

12. I learned that when a preschool remote control toy car thingy has a warning label that says "adult supervision required. If child's hair comes in contact with moving wheels, entanglement can occur", I should pay attention. It actually can happen. Thankfully, no one was hurt and it just took a quick little "snip" to free the child from the toy.

13. I learned that no matter how long summer vacation is, there's never enough time to complete half the "projects" I said I'd do at the beginning of the summer.

14. I learned that some things are more important than those projects anyway. You know, things like teaching a child to ride a bike, watching the girls swim, making forts out of all the blankets, watching the impromptu puppet shows in living room, etc.

15. I learned that in between all the fun play times with the kids and the "projects" that are being procrastinated, there's still time for naps!

I love summer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fun Times

Last week, we headed to Hannah's annual cleft clinic visit (and it's finally "annual" for us and not every 6 months! yeah!). It was a good visit and not too long. Everything is looking good. We got a good report from the speech therapists there - they thought Hannah was sounding very good. There are a few speech errors that remain, which I knew, but overall they felt like she was doing great. Her surgeon was also happy with how she was doing. Her hearing was not tested this time since she had good reports the last few times. They will test again next year. We were out well before lunch time. We will be going to see an oral surgeon in the next 6 months for a consultation on when to repair that last hole remaining in her gum line. Hannah's cleft dr. thinks it's still too early, but he likes to send his patients to the oral surgeon on the early side just so we know what to expect. But the fact that Hannah hasn't lost any of her baby teeth yet points to it being early for her still. When we go, they will do x-rays to see where all her permanent teeth are and to estimate when they will come in. The surgery will be planned to occur before her permanet teeth (on the top) are ready to come in.
Last weekend, we headed to Tuscaloosa to visit a place that holds great memories for me. It was our Wesley Foundation (campus ministry) reunion. It was fun to visit with some old friends, and the girls had a blast hanging out on the campus with the other kids.

Then, we headed to the lake for a few days, also with a couple friends from college and their families. We had a great time swimming, fishing, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, making s'mores, and more. The girls played in the sand, caught frogs, played with worms, and did a whole lot of giggling with their friends. And then at night, we adults put the kids to bed and then enjoyed hanging out, chatting, reminiscing about older days, and catching up on current days. You know those friends that you can seriously not see for a very long time, and then when you get together it's just easy and comfortable? I'm lucky to have some of those friends and enjoyed spending time with them this week. I guess I'm also lucky that one of those friends has access to an amazing lakehouse in her family! Fun times!

We have a little more fun planned in the next couple weeks - and then...(drum roll)..back to school! Hard to believe it's almost here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer Fun

Some of what we've been up to in between dr. appointments and speech and OT (which actually we've had a whole lot less appointments than last summer)

Fun play spaces: Who knew if I just pushed the couch out from the wall and hung a blanket up...I'd have 2 whole hours to sit and read while these two happily amused themselves in their new play space!

Hannah enjoyed a week of "baton camp" (and no, not really a camp, but classes for a week) at a nearby church.

Vacation Bible School: Sadie wasn't actually old enough to participate this year and was in the nursery most of the time. But that didn't stop her from their end-of-the-week performance. She just marched herself up to the stage, squeezed in by Hannah, and acted like of course she knew all the songs and she belonged there.

Painting and simple crafts: We love to do this kind of stuff on those really really HOT afternoons.

Playing in the water:

Puppet Shows in the Living Room:

And this weekend, we attended Lifeline's annual China reunion. I had a great time visiting with old friends and making some new ones too. The girls had a great time running, playing, jumping, and swinging.

I love this sweet picture of Sadie with Lily, Lifeline's facilitator in China.

Hannah had a great time playing with our friend Quan.
Sweet Candace poses for a pic with Sadie.

More fun days coming soon...July seems to be our month for reconnecting with old friends..so stay tuned. :-)