Saturday, September 17, 2011

Seeing the light

Cadence has been a barrage of sound since she came home from China.  She soon had all of the vowels down pat.  She formed her first real word within a day or so of having her cleft lip repair in January - "Mama"! (Sierra swears she said "antelope" when we were at the Inner Mongolia Museum, but I'm not buying it!)  On the way home from the hospital after her lip repair she put her lips together, for the first time ever, and said "mmmm.."  Basically, that was the end of her consonants.  We started speech therapy in February where we spent one hour a week with her therapist observing her.  Yes, basically observing her for about 4 months!  I knew it wasn't going exactly as I hoped but I have never seen a 21 month old child with a cleft lip/palate learn to talk!  For anyone else starting on this journey - be PROACTIVE!  If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't! 

We started with a new speech therapist in the beginning of June and she has been amazing!  She works relentlessly with Cadence, challenges her, and cheers her on!  Since that time Cadence has thrown out a few more consonants - b, p, w, c/k, n, d, g, h, l(!).  But it has felt like such a long road.  Girlfriend is very smart (aren't they all!), strong willed, determined and knows exactly what she wants.  I mean Exactly!  She is right on target with her receptive language and knows a few signs, but I am longing for the day when she says "Mama, can I have some juice?".  Heck, I'll even settle for "Juice?".  I am so ready for the days of pointing, whining, groaning, and crying to not be the beginning of all of our conversations.

Alas, I saw a light last week.  A small light, but it was there!  I was reading her a book at bedtime and she was pointing to the pictures on her quilt.  "Ball" and "block" fell from her lips.  What?! Okay, so not that clearly, but I knew what she was saying and the biggest thing - she initiated it!  It wasn't in response to me saying "Is that a ball?" or "What is that, a block?".  She said the words, all by themselves, all on her own.  Within the last few days she has said "cup, drink, cat, cow" and a few other words with no prompting!
I see the light and now this tunnel doesn't seem quite as long and scary!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Williams-Meade annual campout

We have been going camping with our friends since Sierra was 3 years old!  We don't talk on the phone very much, but every year when we get together it feels like we have just seen each other.  Gayle and I joined a playgroup when Sierra and Hannah were just a few months old.  Sierra sobbed when they moved 4 hours away, but she and Hannah are best buddies when we get together.  Despite usually preferring to hang with girls instead of boys, Laurel and their son, Wesley, are a great team too.  We typically car camp at a national park, but thanks to Greg's hook-up, we got a remote cabin in The Nature Conversancy.  It was rustic but had a toilet and shower (yay!) and we had as much fun as ever (despite fearing that our car wouldn't make it up the "road" to get there!).

The first night the kids all slept in the tent together and the grown-ups slept on the front porch.  I've never slept outside and it was wonderful and refreshing!  We went on a nature walk the next day and the kids just completely occupied themselves doing random things.  Unfortunately, Brad had to come back to the house due to the hurricane and decided to take Cadence with him.  I felt a little lost not having someone to chase after, but it was some nice downtime. We got light showers at the cabin and the kids and I all slept inside the second night.  We all slept downstairs and felt quite "Little House on the Prairie-ish" - I loved it!

We ate too many smore's, got really dirty feet, and went home smelling like a campfire... all in all, a wonderful campout weekend!

Yep, that's my child!  Running around in her diaper with juice dripping off her face onto her dirty shirt - love it!

Sierra and Hannah off to catch... something!

Cadence was happy in the morning

Wesley ended up in bed with his parents (notice he isn't in the group picture!)

Laurel coaxing Cadence into the tent

Upstairs bunk beds that no one slept in

Trapper's Lodge

Laurel's friend... she is the ultimate bug catcher and wants to keep them all

Really dirty feet - sign of a good campout!

See?  Definite Little House on the Prairie vibes!

Kid's enjoying the last morning breakfast of donuts and poptarts

Finally, evidence that I was on this trip!

Group picture (minus Wesley)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bowling party

Due to my work schedule we finally had Sierra's birthday party 2 weeks after her special day.  She wanted a bowling party and they had a blast!  It was bumper bowling (thank goodness) and even though all of the kids were 9-years-old they sometimes used the ball roller (stand to roll the ball down - can't think of a proper term!).  Luckily the bowling alley sequestered them at the end by themselves... it got quite rambunctious - not a good combo while carting around bowling balls!  But they all had a blast!

The "throwing" of balls was quite loud

Laurel's perfect stance

Sierra and her good friend Will - he stuck it out even though he was the only boy!

Sierra and Maddie

Bowling cake (not my best work, but the kids didn't care!)

This year Sierra wanted to donate her "gifts" to the Children's Hospital.  It was especially close to her heart since her classmate has been there a lot undergoing chemotherapy.  Sierra is so excited to take 4 bags of toys, games, and books for the kids at the hospital to play with!  We started doing this at Sierra's 3rd birthday party and I am so proud to hear them bring up ideas each year about where they want their party presents to go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Family Day!

One year ago we waited in a hotel room in Hohhot City, Inner Mongolia.  This was the culmination of 2 years of paperwork, much scrutinizing and nail biting, and lots of anxiety filled waiting.  The staff brought a crib to the room and I put sheets on and laid stuffed animals on the pillow.  And we waited.  We still weren't even sure if we would meet her that day.  The phone rang and we were told to come to the lobby.  There, on a red velvet couch, sat a woman holding a little girl.  The little girl had on a new clothes, a pink Minnie Mouse shirt, boys' pants with baseballs on the butt, and brown croc-like shoes.  She looked different than she had in the photo.  She had teeth and was bigger than I expected.  But it was her - my daughter.  The woman put her in my arms.  I had the same feeling that I had when Sierra and Laurel were born and placed in my arms for the first time.  A feeling of wonder and awe... this is our child.  I tried so hard to hold back the tears of joy (and a bit of terror!) that threatened to spill.  I didn't want to frighten her with my emotions.  She cried a bit and I held her, rocked her, willed her to feel my love.  Willed her to know that I was her mom and would always take care of her, be there for her, never abandon her.  Willed her to feel that she had a place firmly in my heart even though this was the first time we had laid eyes on each other.  Willed her to take comfort in the fact that I would dry her tears, kiss her boo-boo's, and overflow with joy at her smiles and laughter.  Willed myself to try to not think about any adoption "horror stories" that I had read and to have faith that Cadence would find her place in our family.

After some formalities, lots of Chinese talk, red thumbprints, and photographs, we all went back to the hotel room and took our first family photo.  Brad went back to the lobby to finish some things up while Sierra and I managed to elicit some smiles and few giggles from Cadence.  We fed her lots of Gerber puffs and looked over the description of her personality and daily schedule that the orphanage had given us - all written in Chinese!  We spent the rest of the day and evening crowded around her (overwhelming her I'm sure!) trying to make her happy.  Now that I think of it, that's still how we spend the day sometimes!

Another 11 days in China and then we head back home to make Cadence a US citizen and meet her adoring big sister, Laurel.  In the next year, Cadence had 2 surgeries, countless doctor appointments, lived in 3 different homes, and has adjusted better than I ever thought was possible!  She has fit right into our family.  She enjoys rough-housing and loves to make people laugh.  If there is an audience around she is more than happy to perform.  She is FINALLY starting to talk and has continued to move up on the growth charts and out of her clothes.  She loves to cuddle while we read books and gives wonderful kisses and hugs.  Everyday she amazes us with a skill she has learned or evidence of how stinkin' smart she is. 

I often have people ask me how Cadence has attached to us.  She knows that Brad and I are her daddy and mommy.  She generally prefers one of us over other people and is easily soothed by us. She is not so terrified of others to prevent us from getting a babysitter or make walking away from her seem like the world is crashing in.  She hasn't said it, verbally, but I feel like she does show us that she loves us and knows that we are her peeps!  I'm sure that I could scrutinize everything when assessing her attachment and begin to think otherwise.  Maybe she doesn't cry when she wakes up in the morning because she doesn't know that we will respond to her needs... or maybe she just likes chillin' a bit when she gets up.  Maybe she shows off for others thinking that they might take care of her at some point... or maybe she just likes an audience.  But I truly feel in my heart that she knows that she is ours and we are hers.  Happy Family Day, Cadence.... we all look forward to so many more and all that your future will bring!

She is finally in my arms... there were days I never thought it would happen!

My attempt at remaining calm!
Our first family photo! (I had a picture of Laurel in a locket on my necklace)

I'm always amazed to think that this blank, shut down face we saw the first few days now looks like...

... this!  Love, love, love!

Family Day 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Women's 4-miler

I am not a runner.  Generally, I prefer to run only when I'm being chased or something is on fire!  However, in 2006 I decided to shed the last of my baby weight by training for the Women's 4-miler.  I've done it every year since, with the exception of last year when I was busy climbing the Great Wall of China.   It raises money for a great cause and it hugely popular here in town.  All 3500 spots were filled within 15 hours of registration opening this year!  Sierra and I were lucky enough to get two spots.  This was Sierra's first race and we failed miserably at training (too late, too hot, too tired - so many excuses!).  We still decided to give it a go and as always, I'm so happy we did.  Although we ran/walked it, we pushed ourselves and managed to run across the finish line.  We got to hang out with lots of friends and support so many women who participate in this fabulous event!

Running is always better when it's with friends!

Teaching them how to "Run like a girl"!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My baby is 9!

My baby turned 9 years old this weekend!  As everyone says "Where has the time gone?".  Or more depressingly, as Brad put it "We are halfway through our time with her".  Ouch.  That thought hurts.  But it's true... in another 9 years she will be headed off to college, an adult, starting her life away from us. I cannot even imagine it.  I hope and pray that in the next nine years she will continue to grow into the smart, caring, funny woman that I get to see in her little girl's face everyday now.  I hope that we will give her the skills to take on all of the challenges of everyday life and to feel grateful that she has each day to do so.  All I know is that I am thankful, everyday, that I have the privilege of having her in my life. 

We got to celebrate her actual birthday during our annual camping trip with our friends.  Sierra was so excited to have a breakfast Pop-Tart with her good friend Hannah!

I managed to set up the streamers so that she could "Bust in" to the new year!

This was the last time the kids stood still after donuts and Pop-Tarts for breakfast

We did a combo b-day celebration for Sierra and her Gramma

Sierra was beyond excited when she opened up her I-pod touch (Brad's old one)!