July 25, 2013

Comments, please!

I have never claimed to know much about technology. At least not in the last 10 or so years. Would you believe when I was in college I actually had a job fixing SDSU faculty computers? I could switch out a hard drive or replace a power supply lickety split!

Now.....not so much!

(More importantly, would you believe it's been 10 years since I was in college!?! Yikes!! Comments about how I don't look that old would be appreciated ;) )

These days, I feel pretty good if I can manage to Snapchat on my iPhone or change my cover photo on Facebook. Most of the time I have more important things to worry about. Actually all the time.

But, I really am totally bummed that I missed this. See that little green circle up there? That lets me regulate who comments on my blog, and up until now, it had been set to "Registered User" which is why it has been asking people to sign up for Blogger before commenting, therefore not allowing some of my FAVORITE people to comment! Ugh. I had no idea you could change it, until I though "It's pretty stupid that non-blogger users can't comment. I bet there's a way to change that," and a 2 second Google search revealed that this is something every Blogger user should know.

So, I changed it. You should be able to comment now! And please do, because comments make me feel special, and I'm not even kidding. 

Except if you make mean comments....then I'll just delete them, because like I said, I have more important things to worry about ;)

July 23, 2013

Can you hear me now?

I'm writing this post with one eye propped half open so I don't accidentally fall asleep at the keyboard. I'll make it short and sweet, for my own sake.

Meili got PE tubes in her ears today. Her primary care doctor had suspected she had some fluid build-up that might be causing some hearing problems (more on that in THIS post). So we hopped in the car bright and early this morning at 4:55am for our 6:00am surgery appointment. Because Jon had some events going on last night and I can't sleep very well without him, we didn't get to bed until after midnight, which made 4:30am feel very, very early.

Waiting room snuggle time!

Meili was her usual happy self right from the get-go, despite being awakened 3+ hours earlier than usual.

We watched a few pre-op cartoons. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep at some point right about here. I even remember the cartoon that was singing some song about sleep. Or was I dreaming that...??

All systems go!

Meili was not thrilled about being forced to wear big, baggy, blue clothes.

But cartoons make everything better.

She's really getting the hang of this whole "doctors office" thing. She promptly lifts her shirt up for anyone who comes at her with a stethoscope.

Although she wasn't a fan of the clothes, she was pretty thrilled about the hat.

Fifteen minutes later, it was all done and everything went just as expected. They told us she'd be groggy from the anesthesia, but when we walked into the recovery room, she promptly smiled and yelled "hello Mama!" She walked a little crooked for a couple hours, but was none the worse for wear. The doctor said he removed a significant amount of fluid and assured us that this could definitely have affected her hearing. We'll go back in two weeks for a hearing check to find out more.

(sorry for the bad iPhone pics again!)
She managed to charm every.single.person. we came into contact with in the hospital from patients to doctors, but especially nurses. She's very good with nurses. The little peanut can make just about anyone smile. She LOVED this wagon, and managed to get the nurse to give her an extra long ride.

Since she was feeling so well, we decided to make a little pit stop to see her aunt Julie at work. On our way there, we realized that her hair was starting to resemble somewhat of a Billy-Ray-Cyrus-80's-ish style and thought maybe we'd better nip that in the bud.

So Aunt Julie helped us out and took her hair one step closer to that cute little Asian bob style that we're going for. It's got a ways to grow, but we're getting there.

So, all's well that ends well for today; we're just hoping to see some improvement in her hearing and speech over the next couple of weeks. If not, we should find out more at our next appointment.

Thank you all for your prayers! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with my warm and very comfortable bed! :)

July 17, 2013

Growth Chart

We spent some time in the doctor's office today. Much more time than I would have preferred. But, we had to see her and she just happened to be on ER call and about 15 minutes before our appointment I heard ambulance sirens and thought, "oh great." Kind of a selfish thought, I know. If my kids had been with me I would have been reminded that we should pray for the person who needs the ambulance instead.

My instincts were right. We arrived on time but our doctor did not. No fault of her own, but still, an inconvenience. Thankfully, she has a very sweet nurse who helped us pass the time for a while.

And then the hand sanitizer entertained us for a long time. Meili's hands were very, very, sanitized. I'm not exactly pro-hand sanitizer, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Then we discovered a chalk board! How had I missed this? Meili doesn't know how to draw or color much yet, but she does know "dots" and "lines." So we drew lots of those.

Of course, no trip to the doctors office is complete without a few spins on the stool...

And I'm not sure what happened after that because at this point we had waited almost an hour and a half so Jon came to relieve me so I could get back to work. (Jon doesn't go everywhere with his camera, so hopefully you'll forgive me not-so-great iPhone pics)

One good thing did come from all that waiting, though. Each time we're in the office, I make an effort to have her weighed and measured the same way on the same scale so we can get an accurate picture of her growth. Obviously if you've met her, you know she's tiny. She came home from China extremely malnourished and was classified as "failure to thrive." At 33 months she was 20 pounds....not even on the standard growth charts used in the US.

TODAY, she weighed in at 24 pounds 14 ounces and is ON THE CHART! Don't get me wrong, I don't measure my children's physical well being by a point on a chart, but for Meili, this makes me happy. While it seems like 4 lbs 14 oz may not be that much, it's nearly 25% of her pre-USA weight, gained in the last 4.5 months. Keep in mind, she also runs around about 10 hours more per day than she used to. Putting weight on her has been a challenge, and I have to make an effort every day to make sure she's getting enough good quality fats and proteins, as well as vitamins and minerals. It can be difficult, especially since she's not used to being full. Sometimes she eats well, and sometimes she eats like a bird. So for today, the point on the chart feels like a small victory.

See that!? Three percent! Or maybe even slightly above. She's grown taller too, but she's been hovering around the 1-2% mark on the height chart since we came home. The weight just feels like an accomplishment.

The reason we were in the clinic today was for a pre-op checkup. Meili is scheduled to get tubes in her ears early next week. Several people have suggested we try alternative methods first and believe me, under most circumstances, I would all about the alternative methods. We really debated for a long time with this because we aren't the type to rush into any medical procedure or prescription, but it really comes down to her hearing. It appears she isn't hearing well because of fluid build-up and this is delaying her speech. We need to get this fixed ASAP so she can continue to learn english correctly and to communicate with us. Sign language has been helpful, and we plan to continue, but we just want to get her communicating as well as possible, as quickly as possible.

Tubes are an extremely common and simple surgery and we aren't worried about that at all. However, she will need to be under anesthesia and there's always a risk with that, especially for a child with a heart issue. We'd appreciate prayer for this procedure, but even more so, please pray that this will help clear up her hearing issues so that we will start to see some real progress in her language development.

We'll keep you posted!

July 15, 2013

Bountiful Baskets vs. Azure Standard and the local food market

During the last couple months, I've been hearing this quiet little buzz around town about a way to get fresh fruits and vegetables called Bountiful Baskets. I saw it on Facebook, heard about it from others, but mostly, people kept asking me about it. I suppose they thought I'd know since I try to be proactive when it comes to finding high quality food at a decent price.

Even I am a little surprised it took me so long to learn about it. It's basically a food co-op that delivers to Brookings once every two weeks. You can order a "basket" of food, half fruit, half vegetables, with no choice in what you get, and you can also add on other items, like boxes of seasonal fruits or multi-packs of bread. It's also possible to upgrade to an organic basket. Like most other co-ops, you have to be available on delivery day or have someone pick it up for you.

I decided to give it a shot back in May. The ordering cycle opens at 10:00am every other Monday. I had heard you needed to be quick to get a basket, but I wasn't quick enough and they were sold out in two minutes. Frustrating, I thought. I tried again the next week, thinking I was being smart by pre-copying my debit card number so I didn't have to waste time typing it in. Apparently that worked and I scored a basket. I upgraded to the organic option and also bought a package of five assorted breads.

When that basket came (I had to have a friend pick it up for me since we were out of town), I have to admit I was extremely disappointed. The amount of produce I got for my $25 was minimal, and some was regular grocery store brands that I can easily get at my local store. And unfortunately ALL the breads contained ingredients I generally try to avoid, like canola oil. Granted, they didn't list ingredients and I took a chance on the bread, but I was still hoping they would have at least tried to avoid genetically modified ingredients. 

More recently, I kept hearing rave reviews so decided to try it again, thinking maybe it would be better since we're farther into the growing season. Since I typically get most of my produce either locally or from Azure Standard, I thought I'd do a little review in case anyone is wondering or interested. Hopefully this will help you can decide if it's something you want to try. 

Keep in mind that I am reviewing the organic upgrade. There are certain vegetables that are grown conventionally that I try to avoid due to high pesticide residues and I didn't want to get stuck with a basket of those. It is very possible that those who get conventionally grown baskets have an entirely different experience.

This organic upgraded basket was $25 and included:
1 pkg cherry tomatoes
3 apples
1 plum
1 cantaloupe
1 honeydew
2 english cucumbers
1 onion
1 bag celery
1 bunch kale
1 small bunch broccolini
1 large head of romaine
1 head radicchio (I think??)

I had already cut up the cantaloupe and honeydew, but everything else is as it came.
It all seemed to be fresh except the kale:

This concerned me just a little, because kale is pretty hardy and lasts a long time when refrigerated, so it makes me wonder how fresh it really was.

Here's an estimated price for these same items from other sources (all organic, or grown organically):
1 pkg cherry tomatoes - HyVee or Azure, $5
3 apples - HyVee, $2
1 plum - Azure, $10/5lbs, $.50
1 cantaloupe - Local market, $4
1 honeydew - Local market, $4
2 english cucumbers - HyVee - $5
1 onion - HyVee, Azure, or local market - $.50
1 bag celery - HyVee or Azure - $2
1 bunch kale - Local market or Azure - $2
1 small bunch broccolini - HyVee or local market - $4
1 large head of romaine - Local market - $4
1 head radicchio (I think??) - no idea, I've never seen sold by itself anywhere, estimating $4

Total: $37

• This seems to be a savings of about $12.
• What we've eaten so far has been delicious.
• I also purchased 5 loaves of organic whole wheat bread for $12 which is a DEFINITE savings of about $12-$15 over organic bread in the store.

• You don't get to pick what you get.
• I would never buy some of these things, particularly radicchio. I also wouldn't worry about buying organic cantaloupe, honeydew or onions, and would purchase regular organic cucumbers over english ones so that would reduce my savings.
• The biggest con - I had to stand in the 90 degree sun for over an hour to pick up my basket. The initial pick up time was 3:00, then moved to 4:00, then 4:30 and I still had to wait in the sun for an hour. I've heard from others this is not uncommon. So you'd best be flexible and not mind waiting!

Final Verdict: I'm still not convinced this is as great as everyone says it is, although we did really enjoy the bread and felt like that is was very economical. At this point, I'm calling it a toss-up. I will probably keep an eye on the options and maybe try it one more time. Until then, I will continue to shop at the local farmer's market as much as possible. This time of year is a great time to get fresh produce there. The producers are local and work hard to bring a quality product. I appreciate that and would like to support them.

How about you? Have you tried Bountiful Baskets? What do you think?

July 8, 2013

First things First

Well whattya know....I'm managing to squeeze in another post in LESS than two weeks. This is an accomplishment folks, definitely an accomplishment. Right now there is a fully cooked, partially eaten ham sitting on my counter that needs to be put away and full-on disaster area in our basement. But, I really want to try to answer the question that everyone asks:

"How is Meili doing?" 

This time I will try to give the more "expanded" answer.
Overall, considering everything she has been through in the last four months, we think she is doing pretty well. But there are a lot of areas that factor in to how someone is "doing," and so we have to weigh all the different areas. And truthfully, we have nothing to compare to since we've never done this before, so we frequently resort to speculation based on what we observe and not much more.

As far as adapting to our family; we think that is going pretty well. She seems to fit in relatively easily and her siblings are all very fond of her, and she of them (for the most part). And, she sleeps well. I can't even explain what a huge, enormous blessing this is. We were anticipating serious sleep issues. We'd heard horror stories from other adoptive parents. But we've had none of that. She sleeps all night and takes a good nap with nary a whimper.

Although she still prefers me, she's finally starting to really want to spend time with Jon. When we arrived home, if he took her to the store, she would find the first female she could and want to leave Jon for her. Now, most of the time she prefers Jon.

Adapting to the US? This seems to be going well too. Sometimes I have to remind myself that everything she does is new. We were at a lake last weekend and it occurred to me she'd probably never been to a lake. Or a park, or the pool, or a library, or by a campfire, on a trampoline, on a bike....you name, she hadn't done it. We don't even think she'd ever touched grass before she came here.

Never washed dishes...

Or drank from a cup...

Played outside....

Had something of her own...

Visited a museum...

Jumped on a trampoline...

Walked outside barefoot...

You get the idea.
Almost every day there's a new "first."
It's gotta be exhausting. But she takes it in stride. A time or two of trial and error and she's good to go. She's mastered slides at the park, touching the grass without having a meltdown, and she's even becoming a HUGE fan of the pool. That 5 minute break without touching the water is just about enough to do her in!

So we're 2 for 2.

Here's where it gets confusing. You see, we were really expecting her to be picking up English a little more quickly. We were also expecting more of a growth spurt.  We've definitely seen some changes physically, particularly in her muscle tone. When we came home, her body was floppy. She didn't even have enough muscle to hold on to me when I carried her. She's definitely gained some muscle, and little weight along with it, but not a lot and not as much height or weight as we had expected. She certainly uses some English words, but they often don't sound right and she seems to be confused by names. Except for the cat. She knows that darn cat inside, outside and upside down. But try to get her to say her brother's name? Nope. Won't happen. 

We've had tympanograms done at her doctors office three times and every time they have showed a flat line for both ears. As I understand it, it's supposed to show a bell curve if a child's eardrums are vibrating properly. I'm told the flat lines suggest she's got some fluid behind her ears that won't drain and that she's likely not hearing well. This could explain the delay in language. But it confuses me because she definitely understands quite a bit and says some words VERY clearly. 

Like "hello." If you've met her, you've heard her say "hello." Maybe once, but probably more like 852 times. We don't know why she says it so much...maybe because it gets her a response from others? I've gotta be honest....I'm ready for a new word. I've heard that one a lot. A LOT.

Her birthday was in May, so she's technically now three years old. It was easier when she was two. We could say she was two when people asked and no one thought anything of it. Now we have to say she's three and very predictably watch people silently try to figure out if someone so small can really be three years old. She's three on paper, but that's about it. In no other way is she three.

Well, maybe that's not completely true....
Seems like kind of a three-year-old thing to insist on wearing a princess dress all.the.time.

Nevertheless, the delays are difficult for us. We don't completely understand them, and we don't know if they're all due to her rough institutional past or to something else. We had planned on dealing with her heart, but really hadn't expected the heart to be a non-issue and the delays to be at the forefront of things we had to deal with. 

Some of you may remember this picture:

This was the day we met Meili. Some commented that I look very worried in this picture. They would be right. I often read stories about others who adopt and how this day is just such a marvelous, amazing, wonderful day for them. One of the happiest of their lives. For me, this was not the case. That right there is a look not of worry, but of very, very real fear. 

That fear hasn't left. Sometimes it's kept at bay by the busyness of a being a family of six. But when we start to deal with "issues" in which we don't know the outcome, it rises. Sometimes it takes over and makes me question everything we've done. And it makes me feel guilty. After all the Bible tells us over and over and over "do not be afraid." Perfect love in Christ casts out fear. These feelings don't come from our loving Father. So why are they still here? Don't I have enough faith?

I hope that doesn't sound too vague. Without getting into the details at this point, I'm attempting to convey that despite the fact that overall Meili seems to be adjusting well, we still have unknowns and challenges. And it's hard to be an adoptive family, even with a fairly easy-going child like Meili. Some days it's really, really hard.

For all the people I know who adopted before us; I'm sorry. I wish I could have done more, helped more, been there for you more. But I didn't know. I just didn't know.

I've never wanted to sugar-coat this process. But I will admit it's hard to be real. It took me 40 minutes to write the above paragraphs. I think adoption blogs tend to focus and everything that's good and beautiful about adoption and leave out the hard spots. I wish someone had told us about the hard spots. 

If you're one of the sweet people who is still praying for our family, please don't stop. And if you know other adoptive families, pray for them too. Because I can almost guarantee, they still need it.