Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waiting is the Hardest Part

We are waiting, waiting, waiting. But we are having fun too, and watching Gabe get stronger every day. 

Tim and I trade shifts for sleep and this week I'm back at work remotely in the afternoons from the Family Resource Center here at CCH. Our family has generously been taking shifts late morning-evening so I can work and Tim can rest. We have never felt alone and are grateful for all the love and support from our family since we checked into the hospital. 

I mentioned previously that the surgery was not a "fix" but was necessary. It did achieve it's purpose and so far the doctors have been well pleased with how Gabe is healing. We have such a long hospital stay to ensure that his wound is healing properly and is protected so it doesn't pull or undo the marvelous work by the surgeons. We are hoping to be discharged this weekend if all continues to go well. 

Gabe went back for surgery about 9 am last Thursday and we were called back to speak with the surgeon at 3 pm and then shortly after to recovery. He slept most of the afternoon but woke up wanting Frozen (that's when we knew he was truly ok) and then stayed awake through 3 Disney movies before heading off to sleep. 

Friday and Saturday Gabe stayed to his bed mostly. He fought vital checks and diaper changes. We played with toys on his tray table and hung out. Sunday it was clear our boy was back. That afternoon we visited the toddler playroom for about 45 minutes and his whole face came alive. We had been trying to entice him to walk, and to ride in his wagon but no dice. If he was out of bed he wanted to be carried. The playroom has been a revelation. We think it's a version of "normal" for him; he's used to being in daycare 5 days a week with other kids. 


We have revisited the playroom each day for both morning and afternoon session. Sometimes he has put his pants and shoes on by himself and then tossed all his stuffed animals and blankets in his wagon before declaring, "go play toys!" 


Note the dinosaur holding the balloon. I love this sweet boy!

Gabe's blankets have been his main comfort items when the hospital environment sometimes causes anxiety 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Week Ahead

WWeekend mornings have to my favorite in this parenting journey. There's sleeping in a little, and time to make yummy breakfasts- muffins this morning. We are less rushed and stressed on weekend mornings, and we can take time to enjoy our family.
We have been fully enmeshed in life. There's not a lot of time to reflect and write (how did I find more time in China to write during the marathon adoption trip than I do at home?) so I trust you won't hold that against us for not sharing lately in the blogosphere. You can be sure that there are daily struggles (getting dressed for daycare) and victories ("mama, sing me 'rocka baby'").

When we first came home from China I paged through a working mom's magazine that a friend gave me. I came across an article on parenting children with special medical needs. I read it with mild interest, but as I kept reading, I realized, "oh right, our son has special medical needs." The truth is that Gabe's file from the adoption agency wasn't just "special medical needs" but "special focus," meaning that his medical needs may be more extensive than other children. We accepted the referral and claimed him as our own, not because we are some uber-patient or saintly people, but because we felt, in the moment we looked at his picture and read about him, that he was our son. Simple.

The magazine article reminded me what I still tend to forget most days, which is that children with special medical needs may have extra routines, or need a little more time to do things that other kids do quickly or take for granted- it's different depending on the need. For us, we have integrated Gabe's care into our routines, and it doesn't seem special anymore. It's just day to day life. When you or Jill Stranger sees us at Target, you will see a family with a happy, healthy, energetic 2 1/2 year old, because that's what Gabe is (if you encounter us at Target you will also see a shopping cart overfull of cute stuff because isn't Target like some kind of shopping black hole?).

Special medical needs can be very obvious to a casual onlooker, or they can be more private. Thank you in advance for respecting Gabe's privacy. What I will tell you about our family is that we are blessed to be very close to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital (CCH) Colorectal Center where we have been meeting with the wonderful staff since the summer. We discussed in August that there may be a need for surgery in Gabe's future, and the time for surgery has come. This surgery isn't a "fix" but it is supposed to make things better.

On Wednesday this week we will arrive at CCH and get checked in for a full day of pre-surgery procedures. Then on Thursday, 3/12, Gabe will have surgery. It's hard to write that. It's hard for a lot of reasons, some of which are that my son is currently bouncing on the couch and saying "daddy, catch you!!" after having stuffed himself with blueberry muffins, or because when he cried in the night last night and I picked him up and held him tight in my arms to rock him he felt so small and fragile as I stroked his hair back and spoke loving words over him. "Pediatric surgeon" should be an oxymoron.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of friends and family who care for us and lift us up in big and small ways. I am part of a group on facebook for adoptive mamas who have had young kids go through surgery, and they have been invaluable. You are all our support system.

So many have asked, "what can I do, besides pray?" The answer is that your prayers are what we covet. We need them, and they will make a difference. If you don't pray, and you feel inclined, close your eyes, take a few deep, quiet breaths, and speak peace. It will find us. If you pray, pray for Dr F and Dr V to have a good night's rest on Wednesday, skillful hands, and a cheerful heart (I'm praying they eat their Wheaties...). Pray that Gabe isn't scared, that he doesn't feel abandoned, and for pain management.  

Gabe had at least 3 colorectal surgeries while he was in China, so this isn't really new to him, although he was very small at the time. Before he came home we prayed that he would always have known that he was loved, and that he was never alone, even throughout all his medical care from the time he was an infant. While we waited for the adoption paperwork to progress, we connected with the foster home that was caring for him. I am in awe of the caregivers of this foster home- it is evident how very much they love the children they care for. Through the connection with the foster home, we received a message from one of the caregivers, who said to us that she was with Gabriel after one of his surgeries. She said she held his hand when he opened his eyes for the first time after surgery. You see, the Bible says that we have a God who loves us so much that His love surpasses knowledge. And that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. I asked that Gabe would have never been alone through his surgeries. And God introduced us to the gracious, loving woman who was with him.

This is why we need your prayers, and why we know that it's by far the best gift you could give us. God is going to see us through- not with a "fix" or an easy answer, but with His love that is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.

"What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

Now for some pictures-

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Haints and Saints

Last weekend was full of excitement and wonder. First of all Tim and I have been excited about sharing Halloween with Gabe for weeks. The build up was excruciating, and we taught and reinforced "trick or treat" early and often. 

When Gabe came home from daycare we practically couldn't stand ourselves we were so giddy. We fed the small child so he would have plenty of energy. I don't think it's ever taken so long for a kid to eat a hot dog and easy mac. 

When it was time to put on the Jedi costume however,  we were met with stiff resistance. Gabe had no reference point for this seemingly random assortment of clothes he was stuffed into. Finally we broke through and spoke his language... Do this and get a whopping big sucker shaped like a monster. That was a game-changer. 

Semi-Jedi clad we marched next door to the neighbors, determined to trick or treat. It was a slog, but eventually Gabe understood that when we walked to a door, if he said "trick or treat," candy would be deposited into his bucket. It was like a miracle. Daddy carried Gabe and the light saber; mommy carried the candy bucket (oh if he knew how risky this was!) and we went much further through the neighborhood than we planned. Gabe said "thank you" after each candy deposit. As we walked away, he told us "more candy?" When we passed a house with no lights on and did not stop, he pointed and emphatically told us "house!" Eventually we trekked back home and enjoyed the parade of kids large and small who rang our doorbell. It was fun. 

Sunday was yet another long-awaited day- Gabe's baptism. He was made to wear yet another new costume, and his parents were again more excited than he was. Lots of family and friends surrounded us in church to watch us profess that we would raise Gabriel to know God's lavish love for him, until he is of an age that he can accept it for himself. It was a morning and a memory that I will always treasure. A big shout out to our friend from southern IN, Connie Hotmer, "Gramma Sugar" who traveled to China with us in May as a part of our travel group. She made the too sweet baptism outfit (and she takes orders!). It's hard to see in the pictures, but it had his initials embroidered in white. 

We selected November 2 for his baptism because at the time it was far in the future, and convenient for family. In an "odd or God" turn of events, November 2 was All Saints Sunday, and also Orphan Sunday in the church. As we celebrated one less orphan, we also celebrated my Gramma's homecoming in heaven.  

Gabe was kind of ok with the minister holding him at first but he was not impressed with the water on his forehead. It's traditional for the child to be carried up the center aisle by the minister so the church can get a look at the little cutie being baptized. After the water incident, Gabe wasn't trusting of Pastor Todd, so daddy carried him up the aisle to be admired by the congregation. 

And one from today, even though they lost, GO BIG BLUE!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Beauty of Fall: 5 Months Home!

Oh my goodness, where did September go! And how is it the 20th day of October! I bet you are wondering the same thing! Around our house the excitement is growing for Halloween. Our sweet lil' monster doesn't know what Halloween is yet, but we cannot wait to share it with him! I know you're wondering, so the answer is that he's going to be a Jedi knight for Halloween. We found the best Jedi jacket (a la Obiwan) on Etsy, and he looks so cute in it- and don't forget the flashy light saber! No, he hasn't the foggiest idea what a Jedi is, but we do, and we think he looks adorable in his costume.

Last night we carved a jack o' lantern, and it was a big hit. Gabe loves pumpkins since our visit to the pumpkin patch. He knows that one pumpkin is a pumpkin, and 2 or more is a pumpkin patch. He happily calls out "pumpkin patch!!" whenever we pass by a grouping of pumpkins, causing grins to break out on the faces of fellow Kroger shoppers, or those walking nearby us in stores or outside daycare where pumpkin decorations are in abundance. Anyhoo, I was concerned that his love of pumpkins would make him squeamish when we dissected one in front of him. He seemed not to care about the poor pumpkin that much at all. Once we were finished with the carving, though, he was fascinated by the result!

The first of October began Gabe's love of pumpkins... his visit to the actual pumpkin patch. Here are some photos that show his love of the Great Pumpkin. We had a fun day!

More evidence of pumpkin love, courtesy of cousin Brooke!

This is also a great time of year for fall festivals. Labor Day weekend we visited the Winchester Pioneer Festival, and then the first weekend in October we went to Falmouth's Wool Festival.

We have had a lot of fun in these last few months, here's a few more highlights-


Finally, all this sharing has worn us out!! It's past bedtime now, so here's a few parting shots to help send you off to naptime or bedtime. One of Gabe's favorite tricks is to dump all his pillows and toys out of his bed at night. It's kind of a game where his parent has to navigate in the dark and guess whether there's plush stuffies waiting on the ground to make me fall flat on my face... it's fun. I hope you have lots of snuggles and hot cocoa this fall season! Enjoy the beauty of the fall leaves, and hug someone you love. <3

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Our Month in Pictures

Somehow I have little time to update a blog lately. I do think about you all- all the friends, family, and friends of friends/family who have said you enjoyed reading the blog, and so this one is for you. Our month in pictures. Gabe has been home just over 3 months now, and he's growing, growing, growing! And learning, learning, learning!

Gabe knows the bumblebee song (ouch he stung me!!), and can count to 10 (sorta/kinda). Every time he gets to 10 he cheers and claps. It's adorable. Apparently I say "goodness" quite often because my little tape recorder says it too. His English is expanding rapidly. 

One recent Saturday evening in service, the pastor talked about the monotony that small children find wonder in. Every joy that makes them laugh, they want to "do it again," until the adult is sick to death. And yet God makes the sun rise every morning and the moon every night. Without fail, they "do it again." There are so many times now when I remind myself to enjoy these small moments and big moments of joy and growth. There's wonder and magic in Gabe's laugh, and I pray that we have the patience to slow down and enjoy it instead of rush on to the next thing. These are some of those moments.

This was a rainy Sunday afternoon where Gabe grabbed his stuffed buddies to read to them. 

Recently he's been very fond of his backpacks (pack-pack). He loves to load it up anytime he knows we are going bye bye. 

One night fixing dinner I thought Gabe was watching Mickey quietly. (Insert laugh here). This is where I found him, almost asleep. He did the same thing to Tim the next morning.  

Hours of fun to take a walk. 

We started sitting him on the stool for snacks or to color and now he climbs up on his own. It's a little scary to just find him up there. 

Daycare started potty training in earnest so we said we would try at home. This is after bathtime one evening. Gabe loves his Disney stuffed animals. He also knows all their names and will ask for them. 

Puppies are another favorite thing. He calls every puppy "Toby," like one of our Goldens. This cutie is now also named Toby. The other night at bedtime he wanted Toby. The dog or the stuffed animal?? Only the stuffed animal would fit in his crib, so that's what we went with. 

Gabe and Harley have a good relationship too. It's more based on food and the principle that small kids drop a lot of it. Here they are watching a movie together. Gabe moves Harley or Toby out of the way if they bother him. The other week he discovered that they have tails, so we are watching them all closely. 

Gabe is a daddy's boy for sure! Daddy's lap makes it all better!

At a recent doctor visit he was given trucks to play with while we waited. He lined them all up carefully first thing, then walked away. I moved them around and messed them up, and he fussed at me until they were again perfectly in line. He did eventually play with them and throw them around the room... And line them back up again. 

Another Disney fave, Simba. Simba is #2 on the pecking order after Mickey. Sometimes they're allowed to share space, as you see here. 

Our caped crusader keeping busy while we cleaned the bathroom on Saturday morning. He got the stool and table situated on his own, and started coloring. 

We have entered the stage where bedtime is playtime. It's always an adventure. This was a recent evening after it sounded like a dance party in his room after lights out. When it finally got quiet, I found the blankets and toys on the floor and one pooped small child in the crib. He literally goes full bore until he can go no further. 

This afternoon we had a water party and when it was time for a snack, Gabe wanted cheese on his cracker, same as Mama. This kid doesn't dip anything, ever. His cracker was plain per usual protocol, so he got down, walked over, and stuck his cracker in the cheese dip. Every cracker thereafter had to include cheese. That's my boy! Notice the grass on his nose. He had a blast getting dirty and then squirted clean with the water hose. 

I sprayed Gabe with water, so here he is returning the favor to Harley. He thought it was hilarious to get her wet. She did not mind.