Friday, December 30, 2011

11 Years!!



As this year comes to an end, we step into a new year of marriage!  Today has been a special day at home with just our family remembering over these past 11 years together.  It doesn't feel like it's been that long since our wedding day!  What a wonderfully fun and memorable day that was!


Looking into the New Year brings a sense of anticipation along with a little apprehension at what might come.  Along with those feelings today especially we are Thankful for each other, and for a Heavenly Father who cares about our lives and holds our future in His hands!  



Patty with Dad (Job)

Bill (L) and Patrick

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Immigration Speed Bump



Last weekend we opened a very important envelope in the mail!  Our immigration (I800-A) approval finally came!  (2 months 1 week and 6 days of waiting)  This is a very important piece of our adoption paper work collection, and the last form we needed before sending off our Dossier to our agency.

After we all did the happy dance, I read the fine print before carefully placing it with the other papers.  My heart sank when I noticed the error!  After a few moments of panic, and 2 days of phone calls and emails, we have figured out how to correct our form.

Although it was a big discouragement this week, as we thought we were on a roll and about to finish the Dossier, we recognize delays and hick-ups are part of the adoption process.  Today we got up and dusted ourselves off and feel a peace about the delay.  One more step towards the pursuit of our child!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Love without boundaries

Christmas is just around the corner, and as we gear up for this celebration I wanted to share a short video about a special place in China.  These people care for vulnerable children with cleft lip and palate.  It's neat to see how the Lord cares for these precious children through Love without boundaries while they wait for their forever families!

Since we are nearing the end of our adoption "paper chase," it's a fun time to think about our new child waiting for us... maybe a child like one of these:


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Trouble"

Abby's first board game!   Makes this mommy smile.

video

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Orthopedic clinic

Yesterday Abby had her yearly orthopedic check up.  We got x-rays of her hips to take with us.  He usually checks her hips, the tightness in her legs and her back to see if there are any changes.  We also get our scrips for new orthotics when we see him.

This year he noticed on her x-rays that her hips are slowly starting to come out of joint.  It's a common problem with people living with CP.  He told us it can cause pain, especially as the child grows.  There's no amount of stretching, or casting, or special positioning that can stop the progression or improve it.  He said the only way to treat it is with surgery.  At this point he doesn't recommend it for Abby, mostly because he doesn't want to put her through it.

Although I wasn't expecting to get this news, I'm not totally surprised.  Living with cerebral palsy affects every part of one's body.  From head control all the way down to problems with the toes.  He explained that the increased muscle tone in her legs will just cause the leg to be slowly pulled out of socket.

Now we'll need to pay attention to how she reacts to diaper changes and position changes.  It could become painful for her.

Thankfully she has been doing really well lately!  Her seizures are mostly controlled and she seems content again.

One day at a time...

Florida 2011

Last month we had a wonderful time at the beach!  The weather was perfect, the sand was soft and the water was mostly warm.  We spent time digging in the sand, swimming in the pool and hot tub, reading, taking walks down the beach and working a puzzle.

Josiah and aunt Connie did some crafts together, which he loved!  Levi enjoyed being destructive in the sand and surprising everyone with his fearless leaps into the pool.  Abby loved the warm hot tub and bubbles!

It was great to be able to relax and sit down together with no agenda and just visit.


sitting around our camp fire





Thursday, November 17, 2011

Biometric Fingerprints

very excited after our fingerprinting!

Trying to catch up on the events of this past month!  So much has happened.

One huge blessing occurred on our way to Florida (before Abby's event).  We had received our invitation from USCIS (immigration) to come to their office in Birmingham to have our biometric fingerprints taken.  Well, of course the date was set for the week we were going to be enjoying the beach!  This was a big disappointment as we had been waiting for this letter to come in the mail.

We prayed.  We prayed for a solution.  I found a few people on an adoption forum talking about 'walking in' to get their prints done.  So we asked our heavenly Father for the opportunity to walk in to the office in B'ham the day we started our trip, not on our scheduled date.

On October 21st we walked into the office and both got our prints taken, no problem.  As I was sitting in the waiting area the man at the computer told the guard at the door, "no more walk-in's today."  I guess we barely squeezed in!  Praise the Lord!




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seizures in paradise


October has become a very special month for our family.  Because of the good prices, and Fall break for Aunt Connie, we all head down to beautiful Florida for our yearly family vacation!  We look forward to this week all year long and always have so much fun together.

It is also (unfortunately) becoming our tradition for Abby to have some sort of crisis on our way to paradise.  For some folks, you might remember our exhausting trip last year where she started getting sick on our way down and had seizures all night in our hotel.  Last year it turned out to be strep throat.

This year we had a de ja vu experience in the same hotel!  Again she started running a fever at bed time and started having seizures.  For the following 4 hours she had some strange, repetitive behavior we weren't familiar with.  After holding her and watching her have these new seizures for 2 hours we finally gave in and administered her emergency seizure med (Diastat).  After 20 minutes or so she started to calm down and finally fell asleep.

With the room quiet again I just laid in bed, listening to her breathe.  After 2 hours had passed and I was starting to get dizzy with fatigue, she woke up and started back into her strange behavior pattern.  At that point I knew something needed to happen.  So in our typical, familiar, half-panic mode we talked with our neurologists' nurse who instructed us to take her to the ER.

At 4 in the morning we loaded up our many bags and 3 small children to drive the 1.5 hours back to Children's hospital.  As expected Abby went through the typical pokes, prods, caths, x-rays and CT scan in search of a cause.  Everything was fine.  Shunt looked good.  She finally conked out after all was said and done in the ER and slept.

To top off this 'special' day Levi fell in a wagon at the hospital and chipped his two front teeth.


This was the start to a very long trip, but what turned out to be an amazing family vacation.  


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hearing test



Several weeks ago Abby had another hearing test, a repeat of the main test she had when she was just released from the NICU at six months old.

The typical hearing testing done on kids her age involve a sound booth, and the use of toys and lights to see what they can hear.  This doesn't really work for Abby and is very difficult to determine what she hears or doesn't hear so that her audiologist can program her hearing aids appropriately.

Since it's been about 6 years since she has had one, we felt it was time to do another ABR test:  Auditory Brainstem Response.  She had electrodes on her head hooked to a machine/computer.  Sounds were given through a tiny earphone placed inside her ears.  When a sound was presented the machine measured her brain's response and the audiologist is able to determine how soft or loud the sound needs to be in a certain frequency for her brain to give a response.

Overall this took about 3 hours.  As the audiologist read her results she stated that Abby's brain responses weren't typical and that she 'dances to her own tune'.   If only I had a dollar for every time I've heard that!

The good news is that her hearing doesn't appear to have gotten worse, which can happen.  She has a sloping severe to profound hearing loss, meaning she hears slightly better in the higher frequencies (4000 htz), creating an upward "sloping" picture on an audiogram.

To give a comparison:  typical children can hear as low as 5-15 decibels.  Abby's test showed she can hear in the 80-95 db range (500-2000 hz) with a slight rise to 65 db at 4000 hz.

Below is an Audiogram that shows on a graph what we typically hear at what frequency and decibel.


More about ABR testing for those interested:


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swim Results


Thank you to everyone who sponsored and supported Patrick for his Big open water swim!  He did great.

The weekend started out with a fun camp out with friends near the swim site.  We even got to visit with family living in the area who came to cheer Patrick on.  The kids played in the dirt, ate s'mores and enjoyed sleeping in tents.


our tent

part of our camp site


It's so nice to sit around a warm fire on a cool night, talking with good friends and eating yummy sweets.

We all got up early to start packing up the camp site and the guys headed down to the water.  Patrick got off to a good start but had some trouble with his goggles around mile 5.  Thankfully Dave was able to fix them enough for Patrick to finish the event.  This hick-up threw him off a bit on his time and focus.

He came in 17th out of 40 swimmers!  Total time was 4 hrs 23 min.  Wow.  We were all so proud of him!  It was a beautiful Fall day, although he said the water was pretty cold.

Patrick nearing the finish with his pilot, Dave

Everyone watching for our guys

Good friends- minus one child who wandered out of the picture

With that behind us we move forward on this adventure waiting for our 4th munchkin.  As of today we are checking the mail daily for an appointment in Birmingham to get our biometrics fingerprints done.  With this finished we wait for Immigration to approve us to adopt a foreign child.


After that is done, we can finally put our Dossier in the mail for all the certifications and authentications required.  Whew!  So much paperwork.

Below is a video of the event:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sink or Swim...


He's diving in!

Patrick has been training for an upcoming open water swim.  A BIG event!  On October 8th he will swim 10 MILES in the "Swim the Suck" TN river gorge event.  (It should take about 4 hours!!)
Our good friend, David Clark, will be Patrick's "pilot," paddling beside him all the way in a kayak.  He will provide snacks, water and harassment/motivation!



Why?  Patrick loves a challenge.  But most of all to honor our upcoming adoption!  For those friends who have wanted to partner with us on this journey, you can sponsor Patrick for each mile he completes.  Donations will be applied to adoption agency expenses at Lifeline Children's Services.

The Goal?  To finish well, and to raise awareness of God's love for orphans.  He promised in His word: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."  John 14:18

In view of God's love for us, we look forward to holding this new child... and becoming his/her forever family!

Adoption has been on our hearts since before we married.  God has led us to adopt a child with special needs from China for many reasons.  Growing up in China (for me) has a lot to do with it!  Raising and loving Abby has also caused us to see life with new eyes.

How to Sponsor:

  • Check out the "ChipIn" widget on the side

or




Sunday, September 25, 2011

Home Study Complete!



Yes!  The first BIG portion of our adoption process is finished.  Whew!

The past 4+ months have been filled with paper work, questions, social worker visits, W2's, and hours of reading and education on international adoption issues.  We've really enjoyed the process and feel like we've learned so much.  Going into this journey Expecting some complications was helpful, especially when I had to go down to the police station for a third time to be fingerprinted!  Apparently my prints were terrible due to lots of hand-washing... can't really be helped.

Josiah helping me put together 'most' of our home study paperwork.

Now we move forward to apply for our Citizenship and Immigration clearance.  While we wait for this to be processed we will be preparing our Dossier.  This is the group of documents that will be notarized, certified and authenticated before being sent to the China Center of Adoption Affairs.  Once this happens we will be officially "logged in" with the Adoption Center and will wait for our referral!

All of this takes a lot of time and waiting.  So, we have plenty of opportunity to read up on adoption related issues.  We want to get some good children's books on adoption so we can be openly discussing this during the next several months.  Josiah is already very aware of the process.

Any suggestions about books on this topic are welcome!

We already found a lending library (APAC) that has many good resources we can borrow.

This definitely is an adventure!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kindergarten!




We started Kindergarten with Josiah recently at home!  It's been fun, interesting, challenging and an adjustment for everyone.  Since we are truly beginners at homeschooling we went with a complete curriculum (Sonlight) that provides everything we need for the year.  And I mean everything!  Down to the paper clips and clay used for the science projects.  This is very helpful for me, since I'm not creative at all.

This is week #5 for us and we've already made some mistakes, gotten behind and made a few tweaks to the schedule in order to make it work for us.  I'm convinced it will take at least a year before I'm comfortable with how things go during the day.  I'm enjoying the time with Josiah, watching him learn and seeing him get excited about new concepts, and reading good stories.  But, don't get me wrong.  We've had our tearful days and bad attitudes... and I do mean WE!

It's fun getting Dad involved when he gets home too.  J loves for Daddy to read to him and help him with his math book.  Daddy is just better at things after a long day with Mommy.  :)

It's been interesting peppering J's lessons between Abby's 7 weekly appointments.  He's not able to do any of his work unsupervised, so we are all learning together.  Patience truly is a virtue I'm in desperate need of these days!  My need for the Lord is incredibly tangible and I'm reminded of His promises every morning.

creating letters with wooden shapes- "Handwriting Without Tears"

Math!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy 8th Birthday Abby!

Dear Abby,

Today you are turning eight years old darling girl.  How did we get here so fast?

You have had a good year overall and we are so thankful for relief from the reflux for you.  Your desire to communicate has blossomed and we see your sweet personality more and more each day.  You are getting bigger and now weigh about 36 lbs!  How we remember celebrating every ounce that you gained in the beginning.

One Big thing we celebrated this year was making it 12 months without any BIG seizures!!  We have prayed for you to be free from these awful seizures and the Lord answered!  Each time we drive by the pediatric ER I say a prayer of thanksgiving.  We haven't had to rush you there in a long time!

You started the second grade a few weeks ago and continue to learn and grow with the help of some special teachers.  It's fun to see you take interest in certain toys.  Just the other day you held your little curious george monkey for almost 10 minutes straight!

We are so proud of you!  Your life has touched so many people and we just adore you.

We love you soooo much!

- Dad and Mom
(Josiah and Levi too)





Friday, August 12, 2011

Family week in the Smokies!

Last week our family met up with Papa and Grandma (Hull), Matt and Connie at a wonderful cabin near the Smoky mountains.  It was a special time together of wading in the river, hiking up Clingman's Dome, cooking together and lots of playing pool (for the guys)!  I think it was just what our family needed...







Levi's favorite- rock throwing + splashing!





Having trouble sleeping... hmmm