Thursday, March 31, 2011

39..... and holding....

I feel like I have blinked, and I'm now staring in the face of the big 4-0.  Let's not get too hasty, though, I'm going to enjoy year 39 first!  I really think I'd like to call it quits on getting older from here...having a 3 at the front of my number makes me feel young... doesn't necessarily mean that I am, but makes me feel that way, at least!  

My parents drove 4 hours on Monday to surprise me and take us out to dinner!  I was so excited to see them.  We had a great time with my family, and then we were able to celebrate with our family of 6 on my actual birthday.  Thanks so much, Mom and Dad.... it made my entire week to see you all!

My first order of business on my birthday, is to always get a good picture of me with my little blessings, so I was really excited to get a good one with all four kids this year, which is not an easy task!  I LOVE the result this year, I think, because it's just still amazing to see myself surrounded by FOUR kids!  Each one is an amazing gift far beyond what I deserve!

I got to open my present before we left for dinner and was so "surprised" to find what I have been asking for!  Wink, wink!  My parents, in-laws and hubby all went in together to get me an i-pad!  And just as a little side, it's a refurbished i-pad.... can't imagine EVER spending what these things cost brand new!  I'm pretty excited, but, so far, my kids know way more about it than I do!  I will get the hang of it, and it will be fun to play with.  I mostly wanted it for educational apps for the girls to use, and as a fun toy for me, too!

We went to dinner at Red Robin, and ended the evening going to Dairy Queen where we used our buy one get one free coupons for blizzards!  Really fun night, spent with my favorite people on the planet!

I feel so very blessed with all the many ways that God has continued to shower me with His lovingkindness.  I praise Him for another year of life, and pray that He allows me to continue enjoying every single day! 

While I enjoyed my day, my heart was in constant prayer for a bloggy friend, who I have followed for about three years.  She has 2 kids from Korea, her daughter is the same age as Allyson.  She was in surgery yesterday for a mass, and was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.  My heart is heavy for her and her beautiful family, and I know they would appreciate your prayers as they navigate this tough road ahead.  Thankfully, they know the Lord, and are relying on Him through this trial.  Please pray for Melissa at Life as a Lewis.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ella Grace and the Doctor Visit....

Well, first, we had a little practice session at home, and I think things checked out JUST fine!

I have to say, first of all, that with our insurance, we have to see Doctor's who are in our group plan.  I was referred to a doctor who is supposedly a "specialist" in Down Syndrome, and after our first visit, I can assure you that she was/is not an expert in the field by any means.  We really were extremely disappointed in the visit we got, and we had to request every single test that was ordered.  Their initial feedback, after being seen one time, was come back at age 5 for a well-check.  Ella Grace is terribly underweight and tiny, and I know we need to have her weight checked again before NEXT year.  We were left with big question marks regarding her immunizations, and they left it at, "come back at age 5 for regular immunizations".  Needless to say, we know we are going to have to find another doctor to take her in to see.  The question is, who do we take her to, who is in our group plan???  In the meantime, we asked for a referral to a pediatric cardiologist to have her heart re-checked, since she came home after having a major heart surgery.  We want to be sure that all checks out and is okay.  We really feel like she's doing well, but want to see the proof! 
We requested a whole slew of blood tests, as well as an x-ray to have her spine checked for atlantoaxial dislocation, which she would be a candidate for because of her extreme "floppiness".  There's no other way to describe her, she's extremely floppy in all of her limbs.
She has also has been referred to do a hearing screening, and will eventually visit a pediatric dentist, and opthamologist.  We want to have her heart checked out before we take her to have any other procedures done. 
We left the clinic, after her doctor's appointment, and decided to wait a few days to put her through the xrays/blood draw, so we will tackle those this week.  She handled the short visit with the doctor very well, and came in weighing 23 pounds and measuirng 32 inches tall.
We've GOT to find a doctor who will take all of her history into consideration and show some interest in her case.  She's been through SO much in her 4 years of life, and we want to make sure that she is doing well, and will continue to grow at a healthy pace.
We have her school evaluation scheduled for April 1st, where we will be able to recieve speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.  We don't plan to send her to school at this point, but plan to take her in for scheduled visits for her therapy.  We will look at school options next year, when we feel like her bond with us is completely healthy.  She definitely knows we are her family, but I just can't imagine dropping her off, being so small and vulnerable at this point. 
I don't share all of this to sound like a "complainer", but just to express that sometimes it's hard to find the right care, and very frustrating, when you take the time to entrust your child to someone, only to find out they aren't equipped to care for your child.  We are hoping, that maybe, through the pediatric cardiologist, maybe we can see who they recommend, and hopefully to receive some clear direction to her care.  At this point, we feel as lost as when we started.... but now have a few tests scheduled, at least.  I'm just not comfortable with the fact that we had to request every single test, and I'm not sure that we have everything covered!  I will keep you updated as we continue on this journey!  

In the meantime, how about a little cuteness?  She's wearing her new dress from her Aunt Cheryl on her first Sunday at church!  Just LOVE this girl so much!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Baby Boy....

Turned 11 today!  Seriously, where does the time go?  I ask this question all the time, and I never seem to get an answer!  We celebrated this weekend with family.  My parents came in to celebrate, and also to have their first meet with Ella Grace, who loved her Papa and Grandma! 

Jake, words can't express how very much we love you!  You are an amazing young man, and bring so much joy to our family!  I love the way you question EVERYTHING, because your mind is always working and processing and figuring everything out. 

 I love that you are BEST friends with your brother, and I love that you have such a tender heart towards your youngest sister.  She lights up when you walk in the room!

You and Allyson have your moments, but when you are getting along with each other, you are her best friend, as well.  She looks up to you in everything and wants to be just like you! 

Mom and Dad are so very proud of you and want you to know that we LOVE you so very much!  Eleven years has flown by, and I can't imagine how the next few are going to fly as well.  Our prayer for you is that you continue to grow in the Lord, and learn to put your complete trust in Him and His plan for your life!  You have such a HUGE heart, and we know that He has something special in store for you!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Children of God....

You've got to grab some kleenex and watch this to the end!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big Brothers.....

are the best!  Ella Grace lights up when her brothers are home... she loves to be silly and gets a little wild when they play with her!  We bought her a walker toy this week, because she needs to strengthen those legs.  We got home, and the boys couldn't wait to get it out of the box and set up for her. 

Sitting Patiently



How come only one thought to read the instructions first? 

Little Sis/Big Sis (I just can't get over it!)

Look at her GO, GO, GO!!!

She's all over the place on this thing, but she really loves it when her brothers follow her around.  She crashes into furniture, laughs hysterically, and waits for them to turn her back around!  She is just so much fun!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Past Few Days....

We have almost made it through the first week of being home!  I have been wanting to update,  but it's really been a crazy week for us.  I'm happy to report that after our one crazy night with Ella Grace, she has gone back to sleeping 12 hours a night, AT NIGHT, every night since!  We just continue to be amazed at how quickly she made the transition!  Now, if Mom could get things back on track, all would be really wonderful!  I am sleeping about every other night.  On the nights that I don't sleep, I really DON'T sleep, all night long, and I'm not napping during the day, so I don't get it! 

{Granny & Grandpay with the 4 Washington Grandkids!}

Brad's parents were here until Monday night, and on Monday, Brad started coming down with something, and woke up Tuesday morning feeling REALLY bad.... I was so worried about him.  I came downstairs and he was laying face down on the floor... not passed out, but might as well have been.  I sent him upstairs, and the girls and I hung out downstairs all day.  I called a sweet friend who came and helped me get through the day, especially lunch time.  I can't pick Ella Grace up off the ground and carry her anywhere, being on crutches, so being home alone creates many challenges.  Brad re-emerged on Tuesday night feeling some better.  Wednesday went much better, and we were able to make a much needed trip to Walmart.  It felt good to be doing normal things, and to have Ella Grace with us doing those "normal", every day things is such a blessing!  We were driving back into town, and I started crying, and told Brad, "she's HOME!!!  we've been waiting so long, and she's finally with us!" 

{Poor Daddy... even when sick, he's still the best!}

Every day, it seems like Ella Grace is getting more and more comfortable with all of us, and in her new home.  She has met alot of new people this week, and has shown her silly, playful side, instead of the worried expression she was showing at first.  She is eating really well again, and back to drinking juice and the soy milk we got for her.  The key for drinking is that she likes things lukewarm, instead of cold, straight out of the fridge!  Once we got that figured out, she picked right back up to hydrating herself like she should! 

Next week, she has her first doctor's appointment.  I'm anxious to get her checked over good, and make sure that she is as healthy as she seems.  Of course, we want to know that her heart surgery was successful, and that all of her labs come back.  She will have to go through alot of testing, so prayers for her over the next few weeks will be appreciated.  I will keep you all updated as she goes through the different tests.

Right now, she is sitting on the floor next to me, patting her baby and singing her a beautiful little song.  We just love watching her... she knows so much!  Such a little sweetheart, she is!

{In their "sister" shirts... Allyson's says "Big Sister", Ella Grace's says "Little Sister"}

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spoke a Little Too Soon!

Well, I shouldn't have bragged about our 12 hour night on the first night!  Last night, she slept from 10 pm to 2 am, and was up until 7 am.  Mom and Dad are b.e.a.t.   On top of it, Allyson woke up with hives all over her entire body, and was miserable all day long... poor baby girl!  She and I are calling it a night, and it's 7:15!  Pray that tonight's sleep for Ella Grace and Daddy go better!  We're gonna get there, but man these days are hard!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More about our trip home

So, now that you know we made it, and I'm feeling like I can string a sentence together that makes sense, I'll give you more details!  Ella Grace slept a combined total of 30 minutes on our long journey home.  Yes, only 30 minutes.....she fell asleep on the first flight AFTER we landed and were taxiing to our gate, but woke up when Brad was strapping her into the carrier.  On our second flight, we thought for sure she would sleep great, but she fell asleep and woke up after about 20 minutes, wanting to stretch out and lay down, which wasn't a possibilty.  It was so sad watching her try so hard to get comfortable, but it just wouldn't work.   Needless to say, when we landed at 9:00 am on Friday morning, we were exhausted, and so was she.  She only had a couple of fussy spells on the flight, and Brad got her up and walked the aisles.  We just tried to keep her entertained, and meal times helped, too.  Really, she did SO well, and her not sleeping ended up being a blessing!

{We tried to get her to watch "Tangled" on the airplane, but she's really not interested in t.v., so she did her own thing with the headphones!}

 She did fall asleep once we got off our flight to Seattle, and slept all through customs and immigration.  Once we got through all of that she woke up just in time to see the family!  I was so glad.... I couldn't wait for everyone to see her!  She seemed pretty subdued through all the meeting of her siblings, cousins, aunt and uncle, and Brad's parents.  She was definitely taking it all in!  We strapped her in the car seat, and she seemed really pleased with the arrangement.  She never once fussed on the 30 plus minute drive home from the airport.  She kept looking over at Allyson and smiling... it's looking like they are really going to like each other, once they fully get used to each other!

{My sweet girls meeting for the first time!}

{Daddy with the girls}

{Jake saying hi to his new sister}

{All strapped in and ready to head home!}

  We got home and ate lunch (does anything taste better than a homecooked meal when you've been gone for 2 weeks?) and let her play for a while, until she just couldn't stand it anymore.  We laid her down and she zonked immediately, but we are hardcore about switching them over to our timezone, so we only let her sleep for two  hours and got her back up.  It's worth having a cranky one for a day to get things switched over!  By 7:30 last night, she had been bathed and was exhausted again, as well as Allyson, who was begging to go to bed with Ella Grace.  She couldn't wait to finally share her room with her sister!!!  They both fell right to sleep, and Ella Grace slept for a solid 12 hours!  Brad and I both went to bed early, too, and both woke up feeling so much better! 

{Welcome Home, sweet girl!}

She is taking in her HOME environment pretty well.  At first, I think it was a little overwhelming for her with so many new people, but as long as either Brad or I are in sight, she is fine.  If she loosest sight of us, she  cries a quiet little cry, but we make sure one of us is with her all the time.  Today has been fun to see her start to explore a little bit, she's been in the kitchen, and does really well going up and down the stairs, which has been a shock to me.  She definitely has been around stairs before and knows to come down on her belly.  We have gates that will help us keep her on the same level, but it's also a comfort to know that she can go up and down.  Today, her eating has been way off, she hasn't been too interested in food, until she ate my mother-in-laws roast, potatoes and carrotts tonight, then she couldn't get enough!  We mashed up the potatoes and carrots  and added a little gravy and put tiny pieces of the roast beef in it, and she at at least 3 helpings.  The family was completely amazed at how much she put away!  We are having trouble with her drinking anything.  She doesn't like juice, or water, and she spits out the milk.  Usually she drank the milk in China really well, but it was a yogurt milk with sweetener in it, so now she's not drinking hardly anything.  We are going to get some vanilla flavored soy milk tomorrow and see if she will take that. 

Today, we gave her a 30 minute nap, and she did pretty well all day, except for about an hour after we woke her up... she wasn't such a happy camper for a little while.  She was a little wired tonight, and Brad just got her to sleep, at about 10 pm, but she's out, so hopefully it will be night 2 with plenty of sleep.  She seems to be taking to her siblings really well.  All things take time, so we know once we settle into regular life, the kids will continue to bond in each their own way.  My 12 year old niece, Kaylee won her over tonight by sitting and playing with her for about 2 hours on the floor.  Kaylee has always been the "little mother" in our family, and couldn't stand it that Ella Grace didn't take right to her.  She lives 4 doors down from us, so I know she will be by every day to make sure Ella Grace really knows who she is!  It's so sweet to see her bond with the family, and for everyone to finally get to experience this sweet girl that we've been loving on for the last two weeks! 

{Do you think she gets any attention around here?}

 {Studying each other}

{With her big brothers}

{Hanging out with "Kay Kay"}


{Hanging out with Caleb}

We are going to attempt church in the morning.  We plan to arrive a little bit late to avoid causing too much commotion for her.  I already know that she's not going to sit quietly in church, but it will be a few weeks before we try the nursery.  Even then, I will stay in there with her for a while, until she is completely confident that we will be back to get her.  Too much change all at once takes a toll on these little ones.  It takes her a while to warm up to people, and we just don't want her overwhelmed, when what she has been through these past two weeks has been overwhelming enough!  What a brave little trooper she is, and how amazing our God is for giving her such a smooth transition through all of this.  I can't express enough how blessed we feel to be all together!  Definitely the prayers of so many people that have gotten us through these last two weeks!  We love each of you and can't thank you enough! 

{Snuggling with her Grandpa}

Friday, March 4, 2011


We are home, feeling extremely blessed, and really tired! 

This picture isn't perfect, but I love it anyway!  Look at Caleb holding up the 6 fingers!  I cried when I saw this on my screen!  Thank you LORD, for the sweetest ways that you bless us!

Good night!!!  I promise to share more later!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tuesday and Wednesday in GZ

Sorry about skipping yesterday!  We were on the go, go, go, yesterday and by the time we got back to the hotel last night, we were all exhausted and just needed to go to sleep!  It has been really warm here, and we didn't bring many clothes for this hot, humid climate, so we have been burning up all week!  I really don't know what we were thinking.... ha!  When you add the crutches into my getting around, I have just about died from the heat!  Today, Wednesday, there was a cool breeze blowing and the weather was PERFECT!  It was a wonderful way to end our time in GZ!

I will back up to yesterday in pictures to yesterday.  We had our consulate appointment yesterday at 10:00 am.  We were the 2nd day of the new process, where your guide no longer accompanies you through the process.  It went very smoothly, and a really sweet American lady who works here in the Consolate walked us through the Oath Ceremony, and then the approval of documents.  We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the Consulate office, so the only one we got, was when we were finished, down in the lobby area.  Ella Grace was officially granted her Visa into the United States, and she's now official to come HOME!!!  YEA!!!!!!

Family in front of Consulate Sign

We came back to the hotel and ran to eat Vietnamese food with our travel group.  We then ran back to the hotel for about 30 minutes, then met back down with our travel group to go on a tour of a Chen family temple.  We enjoyed spending the time with our group, and seeing the way the temple was built.   Not much compares with Chinese architecture from centuries ago! 

 Group at Temple

  Little Miss was pretty bored with our tour, but she has been an amazing trooper through all of the tours and taxi rides, and meals at restaraunts!  We are just so proud of her!

This symbol means "double happy", which pretty much sums up how we feel about our girl (and the fact that we get to go home in 2 days!)

After our temple tour, we stopped at the Pearl Market for 30 minutes, where we scoped out  McDonalds to eat.  I was starving, after not eating much of my lunch, and we knew Ella Grace might need a snack since we were having a late dinner.  Most people stop at the Pearl Market to shop.... but we enjoyed our McDonalds! 

After our quick stop, we got to go back to the hotel for about 15 minutes to grab jackets, and two of us families, along with our guide, Elsie, went on the Pearl River boat cruise.  It was fun seeing all of the buildings lit up along Shamian Island and Guanghzou, and was relaxing to sit for a couple of hours, as we had been on the go all day!  The cruise included a buffet style chinese dinner.  It got a little windy for us, so we didn't get to stay outside for most of the ride, but we ventured out for a few pictures and enjoyed the lights from inside!

The Walter's and us getting ready to eat dinner on the cruise.

Our family outside on the boat

 The Guanghzou Television Tower all lit up

Today, Wednesday, has been a fun last day!  We slept in, can you blame us after yesterday?  We headed over to Shamian Island by taxi (if you are traveling here soon, ask me about how much you should pay for your taxi ride to Shamian Island.... we got ripped off).  We did a little bit of shopping and then enjoyed lunch with our group at the famous Lucy's!  I was pretty excited to see alot of American food on the menu!  We then headed over to the White Swan to take the famous "red couch" pictures. 
 Group at Lucy's

 Family Picture on Red Couch

 Ella Grace on Red Couch

 Jesse, Jada and Ella Grace - Jada was from Ella Grace's original orphanage in Shang Rao City, and when we received Ella Grace, the orphanage director still had Jada with her, to be delivered to her mommy, next!  It was fun to see her through out the week!

After couch pictures, we headed to a beautiful garden in Guanghzou with our group.  Brad really enjoyed pushing me in the wheelchair up a HUGE hill, and some in our group got pictures, so when we get that, we'll be sure and share it!  It was pretty hilarious, but my husband has had his hands full, with carrying Ella Grace in the front pack all over town, and sometimes having to push me in the wheelchair!  He will be ready for a break when we get home, I am sure! 

 Family PIcture at Garden

We ended our day by going to dinner with our group again tonight, along with two other WACAP families who just got to Guanghzou.  They both just received their children yesterday, so they are on the front end of our trip, and I must say, we are so thankful to be on the tail end of our trip!  Homesickness has definitely set in, and I'm ready to hug my three precious kids who are still at home!  They all have done amazingly well with Grandma last week, and now with Granny and Grandpa this week.  We really have the best parents, who were so willing to step in and take on the task of being with our 3 for two whole weeks! 

Tomorrow morning (Thursday) we are hopping in a van to make a 3 hour trip to Hong Kong.  We are so excited to be starting our journey home.  We stay the night in Hong Kong, and then we fly out on Friday morning, making the same journey home.  We stop in Japan and then head on to Seattle, and will be home on Friday morning, around 9:30!  We probably won't be able to post again until we are home.  Thank you for following our journey to this sweet little girl, who we now feel so blessed and priviledged to call our daughter.  We can't believe how far she has come in the two weeks we have been together, and it's been so much fun to see her open up a little more each day to trusting us and loving us.  She is so playful and so happy, and we already can't imagine what our lives were like before we had her!  I can't wait for the kids to meet her and for the rest of our family and friends too! 

Feeling extremely blessed by this journey, from start to finish!!!