Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sock Game

So... this video shows a game that Grace invented... and plays several times a day now.

I call it the sock game. It is definitely more fun for her than me. It usually starts with her being frustrated as she tries to get her socks off herself... then I help her. Once the socks are off, she sometimes attempts to get them back on herself... which she can't do, and it inevitably ends with me putting her socks on.

This is just one round of it. After the video ends, we repeat the process... many times... unless I can distract her.

One of those many things that at the moment I find repetitive and tedious, and I wish she would outgrow, but I am sure someday I will look back and think, "Aww, I miss the sock game."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Two Needle Free Days

We have had quite the week here.

(Grrr Arg... I typed a LONG description of our last week... put lots of pictures, was about to publish... and something in the internet world went wrong... and it is gone, except for the first sentence. So, as often happens with those such things... now you get a shorter version... as long as she doesn't wake up)

10 out of our last 12 days Grace has been at the doctor.
3 of those days involved a trip to the ER.
7 of them involved Grace getting poked with needles.
Thanks to her tiny veins (among other things) during those seven days, she was poked with a needle a total of 18 different times. Record number on a single day is four times... but that happened on three of those days.

So... today, we are rejoicing over her second needle free day (as opposed to the last six days previously when she was poked).

Here are some pictures from the last week:
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This is what I came home to after Blake was "watching" Grace while I ran errands. :-D

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not just a video...

Grace can now sing this song. :-D

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doctors, doctors and more doctors

It has been a while since my last post, and that is due to me feeling like our life is consumed with doctors appointments these days.

I mentioned that our first visit to the pediatritian resulted in referrals to four other doctors. Her visits to the occupational therapist and speech therapist resulted in more visits for each of them. A subsequent visit to the occupational therapist resulted in a referral for yet another doctor, this time a physical therapist (to build up strength so she can do the occupational therapy kind of things).

By the end of today, we have seen all of the different doctors at least once except for her newest referral of her physical therapist.

Occupational therapy will be once a week, for at least the next three months.

Speech therapy- I am meeting with the therapist three more times, mostly for training for me on how to reinforce learning to talk at home, with a reevaluation at some point to determine if she needs more therapy at that point.

Her pediatric infection disease doctor, who is in charge of her hepatitis treatment, said that she looks good for now, but that the biggest thing with Hep B is just to watch it, so we will be seeing her every 6 months for a while, but then it will decrease to every 9 months unless something comes up. Long term, we are watching for liver damage, and if/when that happens she will start a medicine for that. Until then, it is just a virus we keep our eyes on, and make sure we are careful with her blood.

Her pediatric hematologist, who is in charge of her sickle cell disease treatment, says we will be seeing her every three months, and put her on antibiotics that she will have to take until she is 5. Those only last for two weeks at a time, so every two weeks, we need a refill. She actually had good news for us. She is definitely sickle cell disease, but her blood has an advantage that you rarely see. I think it is fetal hemoglobin, and normally, kids only have these in the womb and just after birth, but her levels are currently way higher than normal (normal is less than one percent, she has 33 percent) and apparently it will really help her body manage a lot of the negative side effects of sickle cell disease as long as these fetal hemoglobin levels stay high.

Other than that, her sickle cell is again mainly a monitoring thing. Those three month check ups make sure all of her levels are good. She is going to get regular scans of her head (some special machine that helps determine risk of stroke so that preventative measures can be taken before she has one) and then if she ever has a fever over 101, we will be contacting the doctor so she can have her blood levels checked and get an extra dose of antibiotics. Sad news is that at some point, it is inevitable that her spleen will no longer function, and that is why we have to be so careful with fevers, and why she is on antibiotics.

But, all in all, it amounts to a lot of doctors. However, when we accepted her, we knew she had these health issues, and we decided that it was something we could handle. Also, even before we knew about her specificially, we had decided that medical needs that just needed attention but did not interfere with her mentally were something we were willing to handle. Now we are living that life. Her therapies are to get her caught up with a typical child her age, and then her other doctors are there to keep watch over her issues, but on a daily basis, neither of them should really affect her life.

So that is the update on her health, that I chose to make public, so that as we go through our journey of raising Grace, others could possibly learn from our experiences.

Oh, and our cocooning time ends this week, so those of you who live close and want to spend time with Grace and I, let me know, and I will try to find time between her many appointments for us to hang out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Highs and Lows of Parenting in the Olsen House

Parenting is always filled with highs and lows (as was teaching). The highs are what makes the lows all worth it.

Two of our more recent parenting high points were from us being sneaky. Grace loves her formula, her snacks (toddler snacks) and cut up chicken... but refuses to eat any fruits and vegetables. Well, I have this cookbook of ways to sneak in vegetables into recipes, and though we haven't made anything in it yet (I'm sure we will later) it did give us an idea. If we mixed the baby food that has vegetables with her little bites of chicken (basically giving it a "sauce" of a fruit or vegetable mush) would she eat it? The answer is yes! Her chicken is a big enough draw that she doesn't seem to notice or mind that it is covered with good for her fruits and vegetables. We felt quite victorious!

Another sneaky moment came from my need to get her practicing cruising, which is walking while holding on to things, when she just wants to eat her snacks.

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So, I lined up her snacks along our coffee table, and she was motivated to move from one snack to the next, while having to stand to do so. I kept her amused with this for probably 20 minutes! Even her therapist said it was a good idea, and actually, a lot of her therapy time is accomplished with one of her snacks as motivation. This girl loves to eat!

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Playing independently with her toys has increased, as I show in this picture where she is enjoying Great-Grandma's barn set. Last night, though Blake and I were in the room with her around bed time, she just started playing with another toy, totally engaged and just looking back at us every so often. We loved it!

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She is smiling more often, and has been instigating walking practice on her own lately, where she just wants to hold our hands, and then guides us around a room, usually laughing as she practices using her own feet. I made the dress she is wearing in this picture.

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She is learning to identify her head, which makes me proud, and I *think* she is starting to say ball. It sounds like ball, and she does say it when we are playing with a ball... but she also says it when there is no ball anywhere near.

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Just one more shot of happy playing Grace.

Now, some of the lows.

She still throws tantrums, not as often, or as long, but they still show up. Usually when she is frustrated or tired. I did decide to record part of one of them, mostly to show to all those who might think she is a perfect angel... that she isn't.

This is actually a low key tantrum, usually she is louder with a definite screaming quality. 
She threw a high key tantrum for almost half of her therapy time on Tuesday (that was fun).

One of these tantrums ties in with the next low. During her nap time yesterday, I had this great idea. I was going to make our own sidewalk paint, and see if she enjoyed painting the sidewalk. I got it all ready for her. When she woke up, she had a bottle of formula (normal) and wanted to start another bottle (also normal). She usually doesn't drink much of the second one, we think it is mostly for reassurance that there is more food available, adoption issue kind of thing.

She drank all of the second one. I wasn't going to give her a third (because one wasn't made), and instead tried to distract her with my "great idea." Sometimes she can be distracted out of a tantrum. Instead, tantrum arrived, since I wasn't giving her a third bottle of formula.

Tantrum resulted in a kicked over bowl of paint (only cornstarch and water, no big deal mess wise) :
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I wasn't going to stress about getting her cleaned up right away, instead I figured she would get more messy after we started painting, which I was still hoping to do if I could calm her down.

She started shivering. Between yesterday's wind and her leg/foot covered in a water mixture... she was cold. Now I felt like a bad mom not getting her warm, so I bring her inside, clean her up, get her in dry clothes, and wrap her up in a blanket until she stopped shivering. Not my proudest mom moment.

The last low of parenting (which was actually hilarious... but still goes in the low category) was this morning. It is kind of a gross story, so you can stop now if you want. She has been sleeping great in her crib, and we usually can get a whole night's sleep out of it. She gets a fresh diaper before bed, and then a new diaper in the morning.

Usually the morning one is full... but not a big deal. As she was sleeping this morning right up until Blake was supposed to go to work, I asked him to get her up, change her first diaper, and I would handle the rest (getting dressed, food etc.). I am so glad I did.

It was a disaster! She had gone #2 during the night... and apparently due to tossing and turning had managed to get it all over her legs, stomach, back, etc. Then, when he was trying to take it off of her, she stuck her hand in it, adding to this utterly hilarious (and stinky) mess.

A bath was needed, immediately. So, Blake got to work a little late today so we could work together to get her all cleaned up after this morning excitement. Oh, the stories we are collecting to embarrass her with later. :-D

Good news is that I feel like most days the good outweighs the bad, which makes it all worth it. Even the large number of doctor's visits isn't so bad because I am thankful she is home and getting the care she needs. More updates later, I need to make sure that at least part of her naptime is productive. ;)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Growing Up

On paper, I am very much an adult.

Twenty nine, married for almost 7 years, living in a house, with a daughter, and another child on the way. If I read that description of anyone, I would say that they are an adult.

I guess I feel like an adult...I definitely don't feel like a child or a teenager or even the young college kids I see by UCI. But I don't know when it happened. It is kind of surreal to me. I look at myself in the mirror with Grace, and it is crazy that I made it to parenthood. I almost don't believe the reflection.

One of the more interesting reflections that I have made today is about having a child here with me on my birthday.

In 2009, I turned 25, and I remember thinking then (as it was right about when we were starting to try to have kids) I wondered if it would be my last birthday without kids. For each year after that- 26, 27, 28, I wondered if THIS would be my last kid free birthday.

Apparently the thought I had last year was finally the correct one. I also remember talking with my friend back in January, when the passport was getting delayed, and we weren't sure again when Grace would be home, and she asked when I thought Grace would be home. I said I didn't know, but I hoped it would be by my birthday. This birthday. Today.

It is amazing to me that I am writing this while watching MY daughter on the monitor as she sleeps! She is there, in just the other room. I get to hold her, and play with her, and make her laugh. I have to calm her down when she is upset, and change her diapers (when Blake's not home ;-) because I have the day shift, he changes any diapers when he is home, it's awesome). I have it all because I am her mom. Not a babysitter, not a friend, she is mine, and that means I have to take the good with the bad, and I am happy to- because I am her mom. 

Twenty nine is quite the amazing birthday. Not because of any special party or dinner (though I get one of those later) but because I got the present that I have wanted for the last four years- I am a mom.

Another amazing thought is that 25 year old Lisa wanted to have two kids before she turned 30. Between the infertility and the long adoption process, I had let that dream go, and decided it wasn't a big deal, and plenty of people have kids after 30. But thanks to the baby growing inside me, that wish is going to be a reality after all. By next year, when I turn 30 (quite the adult age) I will have not one, but two kids.

So cheers to year 29, and to the few precious months of being a parent to one.

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Here's a picture of my ever growing belly to mark my 29th birthday.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Baby Steps

When we picked Grace up at the orphanage, we expected to receive a toddler. At her age, a typical child knows about 15 words, is walking independently, and is able to do a lot more than she can.

We knew she was behind just by looking at how small she is and the fact that she couldn't walk yet.

Her first pediatric appointment confirmed the size- she weighs about half what they would expect a child at this age to weigh.

Clothes also indicate this size issue.Twelve month old dresses fit her fine, because they are dresses, but I am having a really hard time with pants on her. Twelve month old jeans, and many other bottom parts (skirts, pants etc.) literally just fall off. Yesterday I put some nine month old jeans on her, and they also were loose, just not quite bad enough to fall off. Most twelve month leggings have worked, but not even all of those. Yet- I bought nine month old sleeping clothes with the feet, and her legs were too long, and the "long sleeves" were more like three quarter sleeves on her. But the body part fit. (If you're curious, I decided to just modify these sleeping clothes to fit her by cutting out the feet part).

I mentioned in the last e-mail about her developmental doctors. Her occupational therapist, who is helping her get caught up in the walking/motor skills area, did the initial assessment to see where she is at. Developmentally (motor skills stuff), she is a nine month old. For some reason, it actually helped me come to terms with her biological age of seventeen months old, instead of always thinking to myself that she might actually be younger, so it isn't so bad. She arrived at the orphanage in December 2011, so she has to be at least 15 months old, and so is still behind even if that is the case... so I might as well accept that she is a 17 month old who is behind. This is part of my title for this post- baby steps. We thought we were getting a toddler, but since she is currently acting like a nine month old, we got a baby instead. Not bad, just different.

We are following the therapist's advice for at home practice, and helping where we can, and she will be seeing her once a week for at least the month of April. Though, she did say that part of the setback is her size, she needs the food to gain strength to do what she needs to do.

Her speech therapist wouldn't even give us an estimated age of her skills, because we realize it is unfair to judge her when she has only been hearing English for a week, but again indicated she is behind, and we will be seeing her three more times at least as well.

The main thing to improve her speech means that we (me more than Blake) are frequently sounding like crazy people. Basically, we are supposed to narrate every thing she does. So, for example, yesterday she was having fun having me open the door to the backyard, and then she would close it. For probably about 10 minutes my "conversation" was on repeat of: "Mommy opens the door, Grace closed the door..." Later that day, she was putting a box in a bigger box- "Grace put the box in, Grace took the box out, Grace put the box in..."

One of the hardest things for us at first was that she wouldn't sleep or eat (or basically anything) without being held by one of us. Even though we took shifts, this meant no real freedom, no ability to do house stuff. It was just hard. Yes, I did say it WAS hard.

We are making progress (baby steps) here at home!

Thursday, as long as there was food Grace wanted to eat, she was sitting in her own chair to eat it:
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She ate in her own chair last night for dinner too!

Naptimes were tough, but we were making baby steps of progress all week long, getting her used to sleeping somewhere without us. Yesterday morning, I took the crib mattress out of the crib, and she took a nice long nap on it:
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(p.s. I made that shirt she is wearing :-)  )

Yesterday afternoon, she put herself to sleep (basically crashed from being so tired of crying and screaming after a tantrum, but we'll take it) on the floor in our living room, and I got another couple hours of a break then (so nice).

But the biggest victory was last night. After waking up at 1 and being fussy, Blake put her on the crib mattress (still on the floor) while he used the restroom, and when he came back, she was sleeping there, so he decided to try taking it one step farther. He picked her up, put the mattress back in the crib, and put her in it. After a little bit of fussing and needing comfort... she fell back asleep! He was so excited to be able to go back to bed without her, though he expected her to wake up at any moment crying. Well... it is currently past 8... and she is still sleeping peacefully in her own crib!

So, baby steps, but there is definitely progress, which brings a lot of hope and joy to this house.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

One Week

Here I am typing again with one hand as Grace sleeps on my chest and lap.

Today marks one week since we have been home with Grace and it has been exciting to see her progress in that short of time.

Plane flight days, Thursday and somewhat Friday, she slept for most of the time. But as the week went on we saw more and more of her personality as she started to really play with her toys, and she started laughing.

Some of the things that make her laugh are mirrors/ her own reflection, and I know a few special things that are sure fire ways of making her laugh (kept top secret so no one steals them :-) )

She drinks lots of formula, and we have hopes that will help her catch up to her recommended spot on the growth chart soon (she went through a whole container yesterday!).

She is also starting to eat some of our food, cut up into small pieces. Her favorites are the little bites of chicken, beef or bison that we cut up and give to her. She can hold her own sippy cup now, and can feed herself the little toddler finger foods we give her.

Yesterday she had her first happy bath time where she didn't want to get out as soon as possible.

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It isn't all happy though, which proves I am a mom and not a friend, and I don't just get the fun parts.

We can have a good time together, but if Blake is around, she will scream and fuss till she get him. She has thrown temper tantrums with both of us, and another mom proof is that I have learned that the best thing to do when she is screaming and fussing and kicking is to let her lay on the ground in a safe place, and wait until she is calm enough for her sippy cup, and then comfort her.

We went to the doctor on Tuesday, and this girlie's life is going to involve a lot of doctors, at least for now. She was referred to four other doctors. Two are for the areas she is behind developmentally (because of her time in the orphanage) and two are for the medical needs that we knew she had when we accepted her.

Also, she always wakes up screaming, which is fun in the middle of the night.

A few pictures of Grace to close this blog.

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