Sunday, December 31, 2017

5 months in our arms. . .

Five months ago yesterday we met our Lily Grace.  She is such a joy and we have loved this little addition the Lord has added to our family. We had a whole bunch of fun this month and really enjoyed and took in all the special blessings that come along with the Christmas season.  Having Lily Grace with us for Christmas this year, helped us to focus on our blessings even more.  We also had a month full of illness.  bleh.  Thankfully we seem to be recovering for the most part (aside from daddy who until today has amazingly escaped all the illness. . . I guess we spoke too soon).  We have had flu x2 (despite flu shots), sinus infections, GI bugs, ruptured eardrums and general colds.  I am ready for it to be gone for sure!  However, I am grateful that that was all our illness were and know that it could have been much worse.

From a medical perspective, Lily Grace seems to be doing very well from a swallowing perspective with the thickener we are adding to her liquids.  She has had a few episodes of throwing up while eating but much improved overall.  She saw the ENT due to her two failed hearing tests and he wants to place PE tubes in Feb.  He believes the hearing issues are highly likely r/t fluid build up in her ears, however since she has no history of a normal newborn screen hearing test (as these aren't performed in orphanages) we want to rule out other issues.  And even though she didn't have history of ear infections with us (ha! wait a few sentences for the irony) she very likely had them in China.  As he said, orphanages are like daycares on steroids.  To further complicate the situation, her ears are impacted with very hard wax that occludes her ear drums from being seen.  So even if she did have an infection, it would be impossible for anyone to visualize.  He was able to take some of the wax out but only enough to see a small amount of one eardrum.  So fast forward LITERALLY four days later. Matt picks her up from our sitters and notices some yellowish/white discharged from her ear.  He sends me a pictures asking me what I think it is.  Y'all, she had an ear infection so bad it RUPTURED her eardrum! No fever, no pulling on her ear, not acting super crabby.  The poor thing!  She is so tough.  I can't imagine how bad it hurt.  So after a round of antibiotics and a few days of draining, she seems to be hearing better! ;) Not exactly the way it should have occurred but she definitely must be feeling better!  And we do feel like she is perkier.  Even though she wasn't grumpy, looking back she had lost some of her spunk-but not enough to realize as the time- and I'm sure it's because she wasn't feeling well. We look forward to figuring out the plan with tubes to see how she can fully hear with the fluid off both ears.  We already feel like she is repeating more after this fiasco.  Prior to being sedated for the tubes we want to evaluate for reflux.  There are some additional things the ENT can do to evaluate and treat if she is refluxing.

Socially she continues to blossom in our family.  She is just one of the girls.  They all get along so well.  The big girls love their little sister and their little sister loves them.  I find myself forgetting at times that Lily Grace is adopted.  I know that sounds crazy.  I am well aware she is, but she is such a perfect fit and is no different than either of my other girls.  The other day I even thought, "I wonder if she will have my nose." And then I remembered she doesn't have my DNA. . . oh yeah, that's right.  :)  She might as well, she feels like she does!  At the same time, I also feel like a piece of my heart is in China too.  It's the weirdest thing and I don't know how to explain it.  Matt doesn't even get it I don't think.  Maybe it's a momma thing, or maybe I'm just weird.  I was in the International Food Market the other day buying these Egg Cookies Lily Grace LOVED in China.  I tried to find them on Amazon shortly after we returned with no luck.  Then a friend found them at the market and I was so excited!  I planned to pop in, grab some for Lily Grace's stocking, and run out to the car where Matt and the girls were waiting.  I was so not prepared for the emotions that filled my heart when I walked in.  Seeing the people, the smells, the food, the products, it made me so happy.  It made me miss China, it made me feel a little like I was in China.  I loved seeing the Asian people in that setting.  I don't know, it was all so overwhelming.  I could feel the tears coming.  I looked around and saw so many familiar things from our two weeks there.  While I never lived there, I feel like since Lily Grace did and she is a piece of me, that a piece of me did live there.  My sister called me on the phone and that was it.  I stood in the China snack aisle, amongst all the egg cookies, just a giant puddle of tears.  I couldn't even pull it together.  Ashley said "I'm just gonna call Matt and warn him for when you get to the car. . . "  ;) And while I managed to pull the tears together for checkout, the minute I saw Matt, they spilled out of my eyes all over again and I sobbed as I tried to explain my emotions to him.  He was sweet and caring but I'm pretty sure he thought I was a little crazy too!  (But he's lived with me long enough to know that it goes with the territory.)  I'm happy to say that Christmas morning Lily Grace was delighted with her Egg Cookie stocking stuffer and has already eaten a bag!  So we have more (hopefully less emotional) trips to the International Food Market in our future!

Lily Grace loved her first Christmas celebration!  We started the month with a trip to the Alpine Village at a local church and then the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN.  We had an amazing time together and loved seeing all the lights and participating in the fun activities together.  We were even able to see one of my dearest friends and her fiancĂ©!  Despite Maddie and I returning home with the flu and Lily Grace with the GI bug, we made some sweet memories together!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our families was wonderful.  We had fun watching the magic of Christmas through the eyes of the kids.  We read the story of the first Christmas and talked about the greatest gift given to us through Jesus.  We even relaxed (a little).  It was the perfect combination of fun, family, rest, and realizing that the birth of Jesus is the most amazing gift that we have been given.

One night on Christmas Day or the day after, I sat in Lily Grace's room rocking her to sleep.  I thought about the precious gift that she is.  How she was given to us and adopted into our family.  And how because of Jesus' birthday we were celebrating we had and have the ability to be adopted into the family of God and have eternal life.  I pray that we are able to teach each of our children about this precious gift we have all been given.  I am so grateful for the opportunity for Lily Grace to be given this gift as well.  I also pray that her life (and the lives of Taylor and Madelyn) are used to bring much Glory to the Lord for many years to come!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

4 months in our arms!

What a fabulous month we have had! It's amazing how each month just gets better and better.  Lily Grace just continues to adjust beautifully.  She really doesn't even show any signs of adjustment problems at this point which is such a huge blessing!  Sleep has been great, we have not seen any biting or other abnormal behavioral issues, and she has really continued to do well with her transition to day care as I have been back at work.  Of course we still have a toddler so that makes for fun times.  Eating is tricky at times (true to a toddler's nature) since it is hard to get her to eat a lot of meat and veggies and fruit (aside from bananas!).  She is such a carb girl!  Luckily she likes cheese and yogurt so we can get protein in her.  She loves her milk and would drink it all day long if we let her. And "in our arms" is an accurate statement too because she loves being held.  If I put her down she quickly shows her displeasure and frequently follows me around whining until I pick her up again.  A few of her currently favs include backpacks, walking around carrying a rice cooker (I'm not joking, she randomly picked it out of the cabinet and LOVES it! ;), peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes from Chick-fil-A, beef ravioli, pancakes/biscuits/waffles, bananas, Nutrigran bars, and CLIMBING!

LG with her backpack and rice cooker :)

This was a special month for our family as November was National Adoption Month.  Our family had the extreme honor of sharing our story with our church family at the services at our Church on Adoption Sunday earlier this month.  We love to share how the Lord worked and used our family and friends to bring Lily Grace home.  We hope that it is an encouragement for anyone considering adoption.  These children so deserve loving families!  I have seen time and time again how He can move in situations to bring these children home whether it is financial or many other reasons of uncertainty.  All we have to do is be willing to take the step (although it is scary) and say Yes! Many of your played such an enormous role in her story and continue to do so.  I am blown away by the love and support we received.  I am even more blown away by the way the Lord worked in so many situations to place her in our family.  It makes me so excited to see what the future holds for this little girl!  Please know that every dollar, prayer, word of encouragement and hug was so very special and significant to us!

We still have a few medical issues to sort out but nothing that is too much of a concern.  She had a modified barium swallow study this month which confirmed our suspicions that she is having trouble swallowing thin liquids and likely having some aspiration.  We picked up on this in China and it does seem to be better but has persisted so we are happy to have confirmed the issue so we can pursue interventions to help.  At this point we are just thickening her liquids to help her swallow them better and she is doing great with that!  My theory is this is related to having her formula given in a bottle mixed with cereal in China for so long and not ever having the chance to develop her swallowing muscles and coordination very well.  Also if she has extra drainage from being sick, etc. she can't really handle them really well and she gets chocked easily and vomits.  So hopefully something that will work itself out, and in the meantime we just get to clean up lots of messes! ;)  Also she has failed her hearing test twice so now we will take her to an ENT for further evaluation.  She can certainly hear us as she responds to us and repeats words we say, etc.  But whether or not there is some hearing loss or fluid build up, etc we will see.  Again, nothing I am too concerned about at all.  We also went to the Ophthalmologist to evaluate her vision as we had some concern for her eyes and possible issues there.  I am happy to report all is well and nothing is going on with her vision!  Huge blessing!  So we have certainly seen the outpatient LeBonheur Center more times than I thought possible for one child in the past couple of months, but I am so grateful she has the chance to have such amazing care.  It also gives me so much respect for parents of children with chronic illnesses or conditions that require frequent doctors appointments, rehab appointments, etc.  These mommas and daddies have so much on their plates and I truly don't know how they keep it together!

Getting her eyes checked out!

We had so much fun with Fall activities this month too!  I absolutely ADORE Fall!  I could seriously cry thinking about it.  Football, holidays, family, cooler weather, apple cider, it's just the best!!  We had such a fun time introducing Lily Grace to all of it too!  And she enjoyed every minute of it.  She is such a ham and has the most adorable and expressive faces!  I just can't believe how much her little personality has come alive since our time in China.  It makes me wonder if this little personality was around when she was in the orphanage or if it was stiffled.  One thing I do know, it is blossoming now and she is loved and adored beyond measure by all of her family and those who come in contact with her.  The Lord truly does write the most amazing stories and He continues to use the story of Lily Grace's adoption to remind me of that in other areas of my life.  I just have to let go and let Him do what He can do better than I could even hope to do.

Ya gotta do what works! 
She loves the rocking elephant!

Someone's been watching her sisters!

We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with all of our family.  I watched a commercial that a few other adoptive mommas had posted (watch here if you like) and it gave me the idea to incorporate an Asian side into our Thanksgiving each year.  I love this new tradition to keep Lily Grace's culture alive and to keep reminding her of her heritage.  Of course they had peanuts in them and I wasn't really into testing her for a peanut allergy during our Thanksgiving meal so I wouldn't even let Matt let her try them. . . oh well, there is always next year! :)

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving morning!

Riding with Pepaw and the cousins!

Maybe next years picture will be easier!

I can hardly wait for all of the Christmas fun that is coming up!  As I sit here typing I am in the very spot where I took a picture of stockings last year, with one blank stocking for our unknown child across the world.  We were a couple weeks away from sending our Dossier to China and 4 months away from seeing Lily Grace's face.  But all the while, the Lord was planning and orchestrating and caring for her.  He really does have the Whole World in His Hands.  And now we have had her with us for 4 months! And what a joy it has been!

Discovering bubbles!