Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not Just For Adoptive Parents

Over at No Hands But Ours they have a regular weekly feature of highlighting links and articles pertinent to the adoption community. I found this article to be very timely for this season of our journey with Li'l Empress.

But if I'm being completely honest, I also thought of the many young moms that I know and interact with regularly. There's some good stuff here, stuff that all of us with little ones can utilize to enhance our parenting relationships. I've spent a lot of years training my older four kids with many of these same principles; but the reminder was, as I said, timely. And very encouraging to my mission as their mom.

If you head over there, I'd love to know what you think about it. Even if you haven't adopted, let's talk about how you think some of these ideas might be helpful with the little treasures in your home?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thanks Mom!

I got this recipe a while ago from my mom. She's an awesome cook, always so creative and not afraid to experiment. She introduced us to couscous and lentils long before they were trendy and some of my best memories of our time together center around her kitchen. The only time I can't eat something she's made is when she cooks or bakes with pineapple. Just can't stomach the stuff. And that is certainly no reflection on her. I'm sure that Aloha Chicken is delectable to most who try it. Just not me.

I digress.

So anyway, this recipe is one that she has mentioned several times and passed on to my sisters and I. I've heard lots of comments about it, raves really. I finally got all the stuff together and The Boss and I collaborated Saturday night to make it for dinner. We changed up the recipe a bit, so I've included the changes for you. I preferred to make it and let it slow cook in the oven, to avoid the last minute rush. And my skillet isn't big enough for the 10 chicken thighs needed to feed The Gang. Enjoy - it smells amazing while it's cooking and it was so tender it fell off the bones.

Plum Good Chicken Thighs

1 1/4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
3 green onions
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. plum jam
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

In bowl, toss thighs with 5-spice powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. From dark green end of onions, finely chop enough for 2 Tbsp. and reserve for garnish. Cut remainder of onions into 1" pcs. Set aside.

In 12" skillet, heat oil on med-high until hot. Add thighs and cook 10 min. until browned outside and no longer pink inside. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm.

In drippings in skillet, cook 1" onion pcs. on med. about 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in broth, jam and vinegar. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 3-4 min. or until sauce becomes syrupy. Return thighs to skillet and turn to coat thoroughly with sauce.

Changes I made:
  • I doubled everything for the 7 of us.
  • I used bone-in, skinless thighs. That’s what was on sale!
  • I didn’t have green onions, so I sliced up, very thinly, a half of a large Vidalia. I put that in the olive oil and drippings and sauteed them till soft.
  • Then we added the chicken broth, preserves, and vinegar and stirred over low heat till jelly dissolved and mixture boiled gently.
  • We poured all of this over the chicken thighs in a 9x13 and baked it all for 1 hour on 325. In the last 15 minutes, I cranked the heat up to 400 to thicken the sauce a touch more.
Serve with a side of brown rice and green beans or broccoli for great complimentary flavor.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Say It Forward

Mom Blogs

I've skipped a couple "Say It Forwards" with all the doctor's appointments and stuff going on around here. But this week, I'm back to tell you about another of my loyal commenters.

Comfy Denim is the mom-extraordinaire over at Notes from the Laundry Pile. She's enthusiastic, witty, and sometimes down-right droll. But what I appreciate the most about her comments week after week (beside the fact that she keeps coming back and reading my stuff) is that she is such an encourager. Whether it's me or another commenter, she's another one of those gals that just keeps pointing back to Jesus. She's passionate about Him and it shows through when she's writing about home-schooling, parenting, or just regular life.

Notes from the Laundry Pile is actually one of the first blogs I ever read, outside my group of "actual, physical" (real?!) friends. And when I finally, a year later, started my own blog, she was right there, reading and commenting away. We've had such fun bantering back and forth over the last year, and recently we got to connect on Facebook too. Trust me, her interactions are just as sweet and uplifting there, too. And I think she has forgiven me for not knowing who she was when she first requested to be my friend. I mean, who'd have thought that Comfy Denim wasn't her real name?!

So, if you have never ventured out to the Laundry Pile, jump on in. I promise, there's nothing stinky or nasty going on in that laundry pile. It's all freshly washed and smelling fine. You might have to pitch in and help with some folding, but the chat will be worth it. I promise!

Oh, and Comfy? Don't forget
to get your Loyal Commenter
badge over at 5 Minutes for Mom.
Display it proudly, you've earned it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dear Elboh

Dear Elboh,

My name is Li'l Empress. I just discovered the wide, amazing world of television. My mommy has this neat little box that has lots and lots of colorful buttons. And sometimes, she pushes those buttons and your sweet furry red face comes up on the big black box on the counter. I always know it's you because of your big hair and funny voice. Sometimes Mommy lets me watch you and your friend, Dorothy. I especially like it when you sing and wave your arms all around and dance. It makes me do my happy dance. Mommy gets all sniffly when I dance to your music. I'm not sure why. But sometimes, when she's really sniffly, she scoops me up and gives me big hugs and kisses. Don't get me wrong, I love it when Mommy hugs and kisses me. But sometimes it makes me miss what you are saying. I don't like that very much and I squirm pretty hard to get down again.

That's all Elboh. I just wanted to say that I found you. I like you very much and I wish you were on all day. Do you think your Mommy could help you do that? You are great and I think you should have an "All Elboh, All Day" channel. Dorothy can come too.

I love you Elboh.

Li'l Empress

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Mmmmm, what's this?

Sure, I'll try it.

Mmmmmmm, that was yummy!

Li'l Empress's first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The kids have decided that she's REALLY an American now!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Red and Puffy Does Not Become Me

I've been fairly absent these past few days, largely because the Li'l Empress has been having some sleep issues again. And when Baby don't sleep, Momma don't sleep. When Momma don't sleep, not much of value or consistency gets done around here. Dishes, laundry, and something resembling dinner. Not much else to speak of.

We are fairly certain that the sleep issues of the recent days are just some "left-overs" from the testing that she had done last Monday. Most of her wakings were startle-type wakings, with the accompanying fearful cries and difficulty in settling back in. It was hard on both The Boss and I, especially that she was quite adamant in her preference for Momma over Daddy. It was hard for him to feel as if he could do nothing for her, and it was hard for me to let him try to "power through it" with her. My arms were aching and my head was pounding many a moment, and I was glad for the relief. But it was hard to hear her fighting the comfort he offered.

Thankfully, that short season seems to be over and she's sleeping well again. When she does wake, it's not in terror and she settles nicely. The bags under our eyes are smaller and no longer gray with exhaustion.

Just in time for me to wake up with a red and puffy eye today.

Sunday I noticed what felt like a sweater fuzz or cat hair on my upper eye-lid. It was itchy for some time before I could actually remove it and for the rest of the day, my eye felt watery. Yesterday, by lunch time, I had to concede that this irritation was no cat hair. By dinner, I could no longer keep my left eye open. I called the doctor. I was in bed, completely wiped out by the headache and pain in my eye by 9:35.

This morning, my eye looks like something from a horror movie. Or at the least, a really bad medical show. The upper eye-lid is swollen almost shut and the lower eye-lid is red and weeping. I won't turn your stomach with other details of the debacle that has become my left eye. LadyBug's eyes started watering just looking at me.

Red and puffy does not become me. For the life of me, I can't figure out why they call it pink eye.

Yes, I typed this with one eye shut.
Which took about six times longer
than normal, with a gazillion errors.
But I couldn't sleep anymore
and I've been up since just after 6.
The doctor can't see me till 8:45.

*Edited to add:
Yup, it's definitely pink eye.
With a "pretty significant glandular infection"
in my upper eye-lid, just for kicks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Sometimes, even a big boy needs a Boo-Boo Bear.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Edited to note:
Dr. D is fine with me posting stuff like this.
He's very light-hearted,
and laughs at himself easily.
Plus, no other ice-pack
really fit the crook of his nose
and he found that itself amusing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The End of The Very Big Day

We got home yesterday around 2. Li'l Empress took about an hour and a half to calm down, after crying the whole way home from the outpatient clinic. She spent most of the afternoon strapped in to her high chair watching Barney, coloring and brushing her teeth with her new toothbrush - all so she can't hurt herself from wobbling and weaving around the house! The wobblies and woozies will likely last till this afternoon at the latest.

The process of sedating her went as expected. The hardest part was how freaked out she always is by every dr. office we go to, and this time there were medical personnel all over the place. They gave her Versed to calm her nerves, and she got really loose, giddy, and silly on it. That was fun, but short-lived. The trauma of getting a good vein and being held down will thankfully be masked from her memory, as a side-effect of the Versed. The Boss and I, however, will have that sad memory for a while, I'm sure. It was actually very difficult to participate in the process. The worst thing was when she was finally done fighting the meds and she was falling asleep. Her little voice croaked out, in a teary little whisper, Shaggy's name. Oy! What a drama queen - but she got us and we both lost it with that one!

The tests themselves went very well. The full summary will not be available till next week, but the initial report from the ABR was excellent. The left ear was tested on the four most necessary frequencies for speech and language development and results came back NORMAL! The right ear was tested both with the sound device used on the left ear (similar to headphones) and with the bone conductive apparatus. With the bone apparatus attached (therefore bypassing the "air waves" of the ear canal), the four frequencies came back NORMAL! However, without the headphones, the loss of hearing is considered "profound." It's great news, as that means that there are working, developed parts inside the right side. That is not a surprise, as we know that there is no opening from the outside to the canal. Once the CT scan is read and interpreted, we'll know what the internal workings are that will determine future actions (hearing aid, constructive surgery, etc.) and how developed they are.

From the time she woke at 12:30 till about 2:45, she was VERY agitated, irritable, and down right MAD at us. She calmed down in time for the kids to get home and I'm thankful they didn't have to see her like that. It was very hard to watch, and very hard to know what to do for her. At first, it was kinda funny, to see her so mad and almost drunken in her responses (and very, very loopy!). But then it made me really sad. And she totally got us again in the recovery room, when her first coherent word was again a tearful "Shaggy." This girl really loves her big brother! That, or she thought maybe he'd swoop in and rescue her from all those mean people torturing her!

She stayed fairly calm and occupied right through dinner but by 7 p.m. had reached her threshold for the day. She lost her ability to cope and just melted down into a screaming puddle on the family room floor. She kept kicking her feet against the floor and swinging her head back and forth. Didn't want anyone anywhere near her for what felt like 15 minutes. I checked the clock and the whole thing really only lasted about 5 minutes. It was very hard to calm her enough to start her night time routine. But, when I heated her bottle and finally snuggled in with her, she was out in less that 15 minutes, only 2 1/2 ounces into the bottle. I'm so happy to say that she slept 12 hours straight and woke considerably happier. She's still loopy and wobbly, but is happy to munch her cereal and drink her juice with Elmo and Big Bird for a while.

Thanks all for your prayers and support and encouragement. We have so much more that we've learned about this process in recent weeks. If any of you want more information, please feel free to ask. I've tried to boil down this stuff to the basics and the most important stuff, but it still feels overwhelming to me most of the time. I can imagine that it's a lot for all of you to digest given that you aren't living it daily. I'm very grateful that, for a long while, this will be the last BIG day of Li'l Empress's medical journey! And after reading these long posts, I'm betting that you are too! :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Very Big Day!

Okay, so I left ya with a bit of a cliffhanger last week. My sincere apologies! When I wrote the teasers into that post, I forgot that I was hosting my cousin for three days, or I would have written the conclusion to the story and scheduled it for posting while I was occupied with my company. We indeed are still anticipating a Very Big Day for our Li'l Empress on Monday, and we request your prayers to cover us for the Very Big Events of the day. Here's a run-down of the Very Big Day and what we know about the goings on. It's a long one today, so hang in there if you can!

Tomorrow, at 8:30 a.m. Li'l Empress is checking in to the outpatient radiology lab of CHOP's satellite services in King of Prussia. She will be sedated for a 2+ hour series of tests.

The first test they will perform is a CT scan of the right side of her head, looking for the mechanics that may or may not be in place for her right ear. We know that her outer ear is not fully formed (Microtia), and that the canal is not opened to the outer ear (Atresia). They are hoping to be able to see what has developed (and in what stages) in the inner workings of her right ear. This will help determine future courses of treatment for Li'l Empress, regarding reconstruction, bone anchored hearing devices, and so on.

The second and lengthiest part of the test will be an Automated Brain Response (ABR) test. Because her behavioral-based audiograms were inconsistent and inconclusive in her left ear over the course of the last 5 months, this test is necessary to determine what level of hearing loss (if any) she has in her left ear. One of the inconsistencies was that she responded to the stimuli too quickly the last time, showing us that she was anticipating the reward before hearing an actual noise. There were other, more technical issues that I'm still learning about and trying to understand. It's very common for the behavioral-based tests to be inaccurate in children under two. And our Early Intervention team will be doing play therapy with her each month to re-train her to respond to stimuli only when the stimuli are present, among other great things they will help her with!

This ABR will pump noises into her left ear (and if they find anything in the CT scan to suggest it, they may try to test the right ear too) and the audiologist will watch her electronic impulses respond in her brain. Picture little lights sparking up on an electronic map when you push the corresponding buttons. Simplistic, but a good word picture for what the techs will be doing. This test will also be used to determine future therapies, services and treatments for our girl as she grows. It will also give them a base-line to count upon in the event that her hearing changes in her life time.

Finally, we've been told to expect the Li'l Empress to be quite lethargic, loopy, dizzy, moody, and/or sad or mad for quite a while after the test. In fact, they told me to pretty much clear my calendar for all of Monday and most of Tuesday. Many moms even strap their little ones into the high chair or another kind of seat and let them veg out in front of the tv to prevent injury. Given how energetic and happy and bubbly she almost always is, this will be hard to watch!

There are always risks associated with sedating children, and we carefully weighed all our options when the doctors and audiologists presented us with the information. I'm so thankful for the CHOP staff who took so much time to answer my questions and give me details to research on my own. I had one nurse manager comment that she's never had a mom question the types of meds used to the same extent that I questioned her. I find that a bit frustrating and a little sad, but I know I am definitely pretty high on the "need to know" spectrum when it comes to my kids' health. I am no longer surprised by the things other moms don't question. I sincerely wish we could have pursued the non-sedated route for at least the ABR, but I know Li'l Empress well enough to know that I would not be able to guarantee a full two hour nap in a foreign setting under unusual circumstances. She's too much of a creature of habit right now.

So please pray for The Gang tomorrow. Specifically pray for my Li'l Empress - she is at the tail end of a nasty cold and we have been advised that there is a chance that they will not do the tests. While I know that's the safest thing for her, I'm also really ready for her to have them both and be done with it already. The anticipation and suspense is hard on this momma's heart. As always, thank you for the love and support you all have offered along this journey. In this blogging community, and in the sub-community of adoptive blogging moms particularly, I have found such empathy and encouragement. I appreciate knowing you all will hold us before the Father on our Very Big Day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Li'l Empress Rocks!

We've had a couple busy weeks here, full of doctor appointments, evaluations and adoption-related stuff. It's been a while since I've shared an update and we've got lots that we've learned that we're still trying to process. I'll start with the most recent stuff first, and follow up later this week with more information related to the Very Big Day coming up for Li'l Empress on Monday, the 16th. (How's that for a teaser for ya?!)

First, I am happy to report that Li'l Empress had a wonderful 6-month post-placement visit with our social worker last week. Despite the fact that our house absolutely REEKED (more on that later!), we chatted for two hours about Li'l Empress and her adjustment to our home. We covered motor skills, sleeping issues, eating habits, language development, medical treatments, sibling relationships, and so much more. It was fun to brag on my girl to a captive audience for a while. Especially since everything that we talked about was something that had a mostly positive report to it. She is adjusting remarkably well and we don't take any of that for granted. I was especially excited about how well Li'l Empress occupied herself with her crayons and a picture of Tigger at her high chair while we talked. Those crayons have been a life-saver for helping Mommy get something done at least once a day!

The Boss came home that night and we finally pressured him into an all-out search for the source of the nasty smell. It seemed to be coming from our basement, so he geared up and headed down. He found it. A squirrel had somehow caught itself in a vent pipe leading out of our furnace to the outside chimney. And died there while awaiting a rescue. A slow and lingering death from the smell of things. Not a pretty sight. Or smell. It took two full days for the stench to clear out of here!

Last week, we also took Li'l Empress for her 18-month well-check. Of course, that meant more shots (part of the program to get her immunizations back on track for her age). Doctors are NOT Li'l Empress' favorite people, and she was quite happy to hang out on my hip for the entire visit. Daddy came along for moral support, but she's such a Momma's girl right now that she spurned his attentions for most of the morning. As a special treat, The Boss took us to a local Chinese buffet for lunch where our sweetie amazed us with her capacity for downing fried rice. Nothing clingy about that girl in the face of an all-you-can-eat buffet!

Yesterday, we had a lovely morning interacting with the gals from our local Early Intervention team. Now, I know my girl is a charmer. I know she's quick, and smart, and incredibly adorable. But these ladies left my house so smitten with this child that I could still hear them chatting in the driveway about "what a fun evaluation that was" and "how perfect it was to start the busy week" with a visit to such a "treasure." And that's not the best part of the whole morning.

The best part was how amazed they were at her ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. They were also impressed with her emerging language skills. While they played with her, they were putting her through a round of tests. Seems our girl is testing completely age-appropriately or better at every level. The services of Early Intervention will still be provided because she is hearing-impaired, but they will only need to come out on a monthly basis. It will be more about giving me information and training on how to better train our family to accommodate her hearing loss and create a good listening environment. They will also use play therapy to train her how to respond to the behavioral-based hearing evaluations that she will have every 6 months or so until she's school-aged.

I took the opportunities presented to chat with them about her story, our parenting style and our faith. I mean, they asked, right?! So I shared, weaving the Lord into all I said, and giving HIM the glory for the wonder that is Li'l Empress. It was so amazing, and I'm very grateful to the Lord for the chance to point four more gals to the face of my Jesus. How could they NOT see Jesus when they hear about my girl and all He's done to get her here to the Gang?! Finally, I ended the morning by "interviewing" each of them about their educational backgrounds and their journey to the positions they hold today. I could completely see their love for their work just shining through and I loved learning about the team that will walk with us for the next 4 -5 years while Li'l Miss is receiving services.

Finally, I got a call this morning from CHOP giving me the run-down of events and procedures necessary to prep Li'l Empress for her Very Big Day coming up on Monday. But the kids just came in the door from the bus and Li'l Empress just woke up from her nap. So you'll have to check back in later for the details on the Very Big Day. Coming soon. I promise!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Keeping Informed!

PFM Side Button Round copy
You may have noticed, if you are a semi-regular around here, that there is a button on my sidebar for a site called Politics for Moms. If you haven't clicked over there to see what it's all about, today is a perfect day for you to do so. The site is run and written by a dear friend of mine, who is a godly, well-spoken, and well-informed woman. She is crackerjack smart and well-grounded in the Word. In the years that I've known her, she has gained my deepest admiration and highest respect for the thoughtful, insightful way that she lives her life and pursues her faith. I say all that not to flatter her (she knows how much I love and respect her!), but to assure you that I can highly and unreservedly recommend her site as a source of solid information about today's political climate from a conservative, Christian worldview.

Today's post is highlighting an important issue that we all need to examine carefully. Please, go there now and inform yourself. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is too important to American parents to ignore. Please, keep yourself informed and act accordingly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sleep Cycle Issues

I am tired. I am bone-tired. And I imagine that The Boss is even more tired than I.

Li'l Empress is in a new and challenging stage. For the last two weeks, she hasn't slept later than 6:40 a.m. - even after being up till 10 p.m. last Friday night when we had "Wii and Popcorn Night" with the cousins.

Making matters even more challenging is the fact that her sleep cycle seems to be stuck at a certain point. That point being 12:30 a.m. Almost every night for several weeks now, she has been waking and crying at the same time, give or take a ten minute window. The Boss usually hears her before I do and together we hover between deep sleep and semi-consciousness, trying to decide if this is going to escalate to full-blown crying that requires parental comfort. Those nights that she whimpers and falls back to sleep quickly, The Boss is right on her heels back to Dreamland. I, however, take longer. In order to keep my brain from fast-forwarding to the coming day and its obligations, I have a litany of hymns and Psalms I recite to calm my spirit and set my mind to rest. It's a trick I learned in junior high school when I was stressing over upcoming tests and projects. I was always stressing over some school-related event or another, it seems.

On those nights that parental comfort is required to soothe her back to sleep, we are now at the stage that we can just go to her and comfort her without starting our night time routine all over from scratch. Believe me, that was a hard fought battle and I'm grateful for how far we've come. Also noteworthy is the fact that we no longer have to pick her up and rock her in our arms to soothe her back to sleep. Daddy can go in, roll her over and cover her up and just rub her back slowly till she drifts off. Again, there are a couple things to be grateful for here. First, that she allows Daddy to comfort her is another victory. She has become quite the "Momma's girl" as of late and often spurns Daddy's attentions or comfort in other parts of the day. Second, now that she doesn't require being held, I'm grateful my hubby is tall enough to lean over the side of the crib without having to open and close it, thus making the return to sleep a soundless venture. Plus, when I'm the one leaning over the side of the crib to soother her, I'm developing bruises and sores under my arms from the crib rails. Yes, I am that short. So, yes, I am grateful for this stage of comfort giving.

However, the hard part of it all is that the longer The Boss is in with Li'l Empress, the more time my mind has to engage and start reviewing the coming day's calendar and "To Do" lists. Slow and plodding hymns and Psalms recited over and over don't cut it after about 10 minutes of listening to see how The Boss is faring. He's in rubbing her back and shushing her. I'm in our room planning tomorrow's dinner and plotting a quick trip to the library between loads of laundry and nap times. I'm crafting blog posts. I'm writing bulletin announcements in my head. By the time he comes back to bed, I'm ready to jump up at 12:50 a.m. and pump out a grocery list and update my freezer inventory.

It's a sickness, I get that. It's also made my days very challenging and very long. My prayer life has been reduced to "Dear Lord, please help that child sleep just a little longer tonight to get over that 12:30 hump." Or, "Jesus, please shut off my brain. Now."

So you can imagine my dread of this weekend. The time change that all mothers of toddlers dread has now become this looming event. It is keeping me awake and stressing over how to handle it. I am proactively trying to wrap my brain around how to sneak some extra sleep into my weekend. I'm forecasting the week coming and trying to decide what to cancel and move around to accommodate changes in the nap and bedtime routine. I'm missing sleep over missing sleep.

It's a sickness. I know. And now I'm wondering, just who in this house has the sleep cycle issues that need to be fixed?!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

The living room is starting to come together! All the patching, painting, and trimming out is done.

The curtains are up. We're working on a solution for tie-backs, as the original ones are too short.

We've even begun to hang pictures.

I still have to shop around for some thermal, room darkening blinds.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
click over to 5 Minutes For Mom!