Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Medical Update

We have had several doctor appointments since we arrived home with Charlotte.  The International Adoption Clinic at Vanderbilt is awesome & who we saw first.  They took bloodwork (9 viles to be exact!) to see the levels of her immunizations, so we don't have to repeat any that she has already had etc..  & they will check to see if she is anemic & a long list of other things.  They did a stool sample (yuck), a TB test and she even had an observation session with an occupational therapist.

The occupational therapist said she is doing GREAT and that she is right on target for her age. YIPPEE!  She said she thought we would see a big improvement in her English in just a couple months.  They also noted that Charlotte is really flat footed so, they said we need to let he go barefooted as much as possible at home.

We are seeing Dr. Kelly @ Vanderbilt as her cleft surgeon.  He was SO NICE and even Charlotte liked him.  He said her palate repair looked great and so did her lip repair.  He asked who had done it when we told him it was done in China, at their local hospital, he was really impressed.  He did say he noticed a slight sagging on 1 side of her lip.  I had not noticed it, until he mentioned it.  But, he said it takes a year and a half for the lip to fully recover from surgery & look its best.  So, we will wait until June & look at it again & if needed, he will do a lip revision then. 

I showed him the spot on the back of her head.  I thought it was a scar of some kind but, he knew immediately that it was a cutis aplaysia.  He said it a rare skin problem where you are born without skin there.  So it healed & it is virtually a scar with no hair growing out of it.  He said he wants to remove it, and that there is a very small 1% chance for her during her lifetime to develop skin cancer if we left it.  So she will have that removed along with the lip revision, if he thinks she needs it, in June. 

He said the next surgery would then be at age 4 for her nose repair. Then, a surgery at around age 8 or so, for the bone graft surgery to do the final repair to her cleft gum line.  We are really thrilled to have him as her doctor.  He referred us to a pediatric dentist, Dr. King, and we went to see him that same day while we were in Nashville. 

I had already noticed that one of her front teeth was brown & that it would need attention soon.  It was hard to see because it was in the indention where her gumline doesn't line up.  Dr. King wanted us to come back the next day to have that tooth extracted.  He said it was infected & if not taken out soon, it could spread infection in her bones.  When he realized she hadn't eatten since breakfast, he decided he could do it that afternoon instead if we wanted.

They gave her something that was suppose to calm her down and we had to wait for 45 minutes for it take affect.  I expected it to have a bigger impact on her but, they assured me she would do ok.  They took her back and she didn't cry so, maybe the medicine did work.  About 20 minutes later the nurse came back with her & her tooth for the tooth fairy & Charlotte was just sniffling.  I consoled her for a little while and she just laid her little head on my shoulder.  She slept the whole 2 hour ride home & when we got home, she acted like nothing had ever happened.  She is such a trooper!

And just because I couldn't leave this post without pictures....here are a few from the last week.

Her first Sunday to go to church..she LOVED it and kept pointing to the choir and then touching our faces and grunting to make sure we saw them too.  It was so cute! 

This is at Santa's Village....she LOVED the merry go round and had a little temper tantrum
when we had to get off. :)   

She just amazes us every day.  She started waving and blowing kisses right after we got home  Now, just a couple weeks later, she has added saying "bye, bye" and "hi" and in Wal-mart tonight she waved at anyone that would look her way! :) LOL!  So cute!  She is so outgoing!

We are so thankful to have her home and Christmas is going to be extra special this year! 

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 


A glimpse into her life while in Wuwei..

Since seeing Charlotte's picture for the first time in February, we had sent several care packages to her which included disposable cameras.  We received 4 cameras back the day we got her.  These were the ONLY things we received....no clothes besides the ones she had on, no pictures or anything.  We were not able to get the cameras developed while we were in China.  We were hoping there would be some pictures of her with her foster family but, there weren't any. :(  Just shots of her & the occassional feet or hands of someone unknown.  We are very thankful for these pictures though, so I thought I would share some of my favorites.

Here she is pretending to be on the phone! :) LOL!  She does this all of the time!  And her outfit...cracks me up!  I am not sure if it is a bathing suit or some weird sort of split pants. :)

 Here she is in the outfit we sent her in a care package.  We also sent the bunny she is holding. :)

We assume this is a picture of the Wuwei Children's Welfare Institute. If anyone can translate what this says & confirm this for us, please let me know.

We know this is the entrance to the Wuwei Children's Welfare Institute because our guide had described the orphange & told us about the beautiful entrance.

When I saw this picture at first, it broke my heart! This could be a poster for orphans and she is an orphan no more... Praise the Lord! To see what she has come from though, blows my mind...she is such a brave little girl!

P.S.  We had sent a journal from Ann at Red Threads and we did receive it the day we got her and the orphange director & assistant director had written her a special note in it.  Our guide translated them to English and he also wrote a note for her and we think this will be a nice keepsake for her.  They also gave us the full name of her foster mother so, our guide says when he travels to Wuwei (he does a few times a year) that he will try & connect with her & see if she has any baby pictures she would like to share & we will email him new pictures to give her if he does find her.  It breaks my heart that we have no photos of her younger than a year old. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reality :)

Well we are slowly getting settled as a family of 6!  She has blended into the family just so easily it is the jetlag that has been more of a problem. :) 

I have read alot of adoption blogs as we contemplated adoption and then waited to bring Charlotte home.  Alot of them say they have a hard time feeling connected and finding it difficult to feel the same love & bond they have with their biological children.  I had some of these fears as we prepared to leave for China.  What if she rejects me?  What if I don't have a connection with her?

So now I want to share my feelings of our last few weeks together.  I want to be completely honest and not sugar coat it....we ABSOLUTEY, POSITIVELY, LOVE this girl and I know our bond will only grow with time but, I could NOT HAVE IMAGINED an easier transition for her to our family.  I sat there holding her last night and her little head laying on my chest and it just hit me...she isn't my biological child & no one will ever say she looks like me but, yet it really is THE SAME love.  It was like my heart doesn't realize that she isn't of my body and I've just felt the same as I did when I rocked my boys to sleep as babies.  . 

We all just adore her and her transition is absolutely nothing short of a miracle.  She seems like such a happy girl with us.  I only wish her foster parents & birth parents could see her and how she has adjusted.  Her foster parents must have been amazing & my mom said recently that her birth parents must have been smart because she is just a little genious baby & continues to shock us all. :) LOL!

We did courses online, read books & watched numerous videos on attachment and what to expect.  I expected a shy little girl that wanted me to hold her alot and I imagined spending alot of time at home just trying to get used to each other.  We have seen no signs of her having any anxiety or behaviors of having been neglected or in an orphanage.  What we have is one of the most outgoing little girls I know.  She smiles all of the time and loves being in bigger group settings.  So I have had to modify my thoughts on everything I expected & we are just taking 1 day at a time and loving her. 

Things about Charlotte:
1) She shakes her head back & forth for no
2) She loves other kids and isn't shy even in big groups
3) She is understanding almost all of what we say it seems...this has amazed me!
4) She LOVES to kiss us and is very affectionate.
5) She now loves all 3 of her brothers and her Baba so that is GREAT!
6) She is sleeping through the night again and now we just lay down with her (in our bed) and she goes right off to sleep without a whimper.  She does wake up occassionally to roll over & give me kisses in her sleep! So cute!
7) She likes everyone in our immediate family and if others try to get her to come to them, she most of the time will shake her head no & hold on tighter to us.  Sometimes she will go to someone though like at the Santa's Village she LOVED the merry go round and she gladly reached for my best friend because she was closer to the merry go round.  LOL! She cried every time we had to get off the merry go round. :) This is the only time I have seen her have a typical toddler fit. :) 
8) Communication with her is easier than I anticipated.  She points to my drink and then points to her mouth if she is wanting a drink.  She pulls my hand or gently pushes my head to get my attention & points at things.  The other day at the doctors office I was sitting in the floor with her playing as we talked to the doctor & she grabbed my hand & patted the chair. :) She wanted me to sit in the chair. Honestly she amazes us!
9) It's been a while since we have had a toddler but, she really seems more mature than most other 2  year olds.  I wonder if it is because there were no other children in her foster family...so she had just been around adults.  One day she spilt a drink on the floor and she looked up to me & just cried and pointed and just got the saddest look on her face.  I bet she got in trouble for accidentally doing things like that in her foster family because, she looked at me like she was in trouble.  I just kissed her & said "it's ok, it's ok".  There have also been other moments of rough housing with the boys that she looked at us & acted like she wanted to do it but, couldn't believe she wouldnt get in trouble for it. LOL! 
10)  She goes through phases of really disliking her car seat.  We heard this would probably happen and it has.

Thoughts on our trip to China:
1) I wish I would have repared my teenage son that Charlotte might think of him as an adult & that she may not immediately like him as well as our little boys.

2) I SO wish we would have stayed on Shamain Island!  The Garden Hotel was nice but, I thought we would get a suite and we just got a regular room & it was tiny & nothing special.  After visiting the island, things are so calm there and I would have loved that.  There are lots of things around the Garden but the traffic makes it more difficult to get anywhere with a stroller.  We also saw lots of beggars & handicapped people begging for food & money around the Garden & it was very disturbing to me.  I don't think I will ever get the picture of this one man out of my head. :( I think I would have felt safer on the island.

3) There is no way to adequately describe what a 14 hour flight is like.  I thought for international flights you would have more room...NOPE!  Your seats won't even recline more than 3 inches so it made it impossible to sleep.  There were 3 to a row and I was the lucky middle person between Jason (by the window) & a chinese woman on the aisle.  Everytime we needed to go to the bathroom or get out we all had to get up.  IF we ever go to China againm and we hope to, I will definitely be looking at upgrades.  I am not an extravagant person and usually am pretty thrifty, because I like to be...BUT, I will gladly pay more for better seats next time.

4) I am so thankful we went to Beijing for a couple of days beforehand.  The jetlag was hard & I was exhausted & about to pass out every day at about 4 p.m. and certainy would not have been in any shape to handle a toddler.

5) We enjoyed taking the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  Why can't plane seats be this comfortable & roomy?  Don't hesitate to take the train...we checked some of our luggage & it was easy to get a taxi when we got to Hong Kong.

6) I would love to have spent atleast 1 more day & night in Hong Kong.  It was beautiful but we really didn't get to see much of it.  It felt so much more westernized compared to China and that was nice on the way home.

7) Our guide had us scheduled to do the regular city zoo in Guangzhou not the Safari Park Zoo.  We didn't realize this until that morning and even though the city zoo was nice, it was similar to any zoo we would see in the U.S.  In hindsight, I wish I would have told him beforehand that we really prefer to see things unique to China.  There are lots of more interesting things to see in Guangzhou.  Our guide in Guangzhou (Jack Mao), we loved but he mainly concentrated on the paperwork, so this was the only excursion we did with him.

8) Be careful when taking a taxi to Shamain Island.  A friend of mine, Kim & I, got in a taxi at the Garden & told the bellboy to tell our driver we wanted to go to Lucy's (a restaurant) on Shamain Island.  Well 30 minutes later we were on an island...just not Shamain Island and with a taxi driver who was really frustrated with us.  He stopped on the side of the road and pointed to this building and motioned for us to get out.  We tried our best to let him know this was not the right place. He just got really frustrated with us & kept motioning for us to get out, so we did.  We walked up to a convenience store & started asking people if they spoke English.  Finally we found a young guy that said he did & we asked him if he would mind helping us get another taxi on the street. He said I will just take you in my car....we said NO THANK YOU! LOL!  I was not about to come all this way & go missing in China!  So he did help us get a taxi again & after 30 minutes we were at Shamain Island! woohoo!  What a fiasco though.  So in hindsight, I would just ask to go to The White Swan because I hear all drivers know where that is. :)

You can click on any of the pictures below to make them bigger.

Saying goodbye to China...

and everything she had ever known...what a brave girl!

She LOVES her doll stroller!

She LOVES bubbles too!

Kendra, Ben & Charlotte at the 1st grade Santa's Village field trip.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

We are HOME sweet HOME!

Well we SURVIVED the L-O-N-G plane ride!  Charlotte was a trooper and only cried maybe 20 seconds the entire trip home.  It is still just a horrible flight....just brutal and I really think all the prayers worked because it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.  We ended up getting into Newark and through customs and immigration quicker than we thought we would so we decided to take an earlier flight to Nashville.
So what was immigration like in Newark?  They were SO NICE!  We waited in line (It took us maybe 10 mins) and the officer asked for the brown envelope with her immigration papers & passport in it.  He opened it and checked it all out and stamped her passport.  Then he said the immigration office has all the adopted kids go to the office as well.  So he led us to this smaller room with a waiting room (only 2 people were there waiting) & there where 3 officers behind a counter. One of them called me up just as I sat down and he looked over everything and said "CONGRATULATIONS!" Of we went to collect our luggage and recheck them all again.

We arrived in Nashville around 4:15 p.m. (Way earlier than our 7:30 arrival we had planned) 12so our friends who had planned a  big celebration at the airport couldn't come.  We live 2 hours from the airport so literally by the time we decided on the earlier flight my mom & boys had to leave right then to come get us.  In fact we had to wait about 20 minutes for them to get there.  We walked out of the baggage area and the boys were grinning from ear to ear. Charlotte did so well with them.  She immediately held Drew and Ben's hands on the way home and they were all over her.  She was fine as long  as I was holdig her but, I told them to give her a little space. She has loved having brothers! 

She is warming up to Will little by little.  I think because he is a teenager (he is 13) & looks like a grown man that she thought he was an adult.  This was hard on him and something I had not anticipated. (her loving the 2 younger brothers but not our teenager)  His feelings were really hurt at first and when Jason was trying to talk to him about it in his room, he cried.  I wish I had realized this possiblity and prepared him better for this but, things are getting better with time.

The only real issue we are having is catching up on our sleep and getting her to sleep well since we have been home.  She has been waking up around 2 or 3 a.m. in the middle of the night. ugh!  Otherwise I think Jason and I would be almost back on track by now.

Things about Charlotte since we've been home:
1) She is saying &/or repeating words like: car, ball, truck, Drew, Ben, Will,
2) She likes my cell phone and will have long conversations (I think in Mandarin) while holding it up to her ear! LOL!
3) She absolutely loves her doll stroller and sometimes won't even go to sleep without her hand still being on it. :)
4) She loves some of her toys...her favorites right now are: her Leap Pad dog Violet (from Aunt Steff & Uncle Matt) & a dump truck at Meemaw & DeeDee's house.  I decided she needed a pink one-so we went to Walmart last night (her 1st trip to Walmart) and we got a big pink car for her to push that she loves. :)
5) She likes most food we have given her.  Her favorite so far has been the hashbrown casserole Ms Jenny brought us the night we got home.
6) She likes her clothes & shoes & hairbows!  We always show her herself after getting her dressed and she smiles.  Kim asked if she could try Charlottes hairbow on Mei-lei because to see if she would keep it in.  So she took it gently out of Charlottes hair & placed in in Mei-Lei...Charlottes got the famous pouty lip and started crying. :) 
7) She points  to everything she wants.  If she throws something, she points for you to go get it & keeps pointing at it & grunting! LOL!  So we have had a talk with the boys about using our words when we talk to her and also not getting things for her that she just points to them. :)
8) It takes her a little bit to warm up to people but, when she does, she then shows off by throwing a ball back & forth or her blocks. 
9)  She knows what the word "jump" means and LOVES to jump!  The problem is, she is also thinking it is cool to jump down our steps...not a good idea! :)  She will hold both of your hands and jump & jump if you tell her.  She also likes to hold 2 peoples hands and on the count of 3 for them to jump or pull her up in the air.
10)  She does NOT like saying goodbye to anyone in the afternoon or at night (she is fine during the day)....she will cry & cry even if she just met you. :(  Poor thing!
11)  She has a really quiet cry & sometimes she will do the silent cry which breaks my heart!
12) When we turn the Steven Curtis Chapman CD on in our car she tries to sing along with us! :)
13) It is easier to communicate with her than I thought.  She is able to communicate with us by gestures, etc...it is pretty amazing!
14) She is just about the cutest, smartest & bravest little girl we have EVER met & we love her so dang much!

This picture was taken on our last night in Guangzhou at an Irish Restaurant close to the Garden Hotel.  (L-R ) Mei-lei, Shawn, Kim, Charlotte, Kendra & Jason

Yes, I have a whole bunch of photos I need to download and put on here....I promise when I am more rested I will do that.

We can't truly express how grateful we are for everyone's prayers while we were gone.  It was an amazing experience that we will never forget but, we are so happy to be HOME!