Monday, November 29, 2004

Stay Tuned!

As you can probably expect, life seems to be on warp speed (I'm giving her all I've got, Captain!) and have not been able to update in a few days.  <Sigh!>  The "Headline News" version:  Thanksgiving:  quiet and just us.  Black Friday: shopping?  Are you NUTS?  I didn't leave the house!  Frankly, I didn't get out of  my pajamas until after noon!  Vehicle update: we are proud owners of a certified Land Yacht ... a black Yukon XL.  I call it my "Secret Service" car .. cause it looks remarkably like one of the President's fleet!  I just need a pair of sunglasses and an earpiece.  Watch out.  Melanie:  still sweet and wonderful.  Still sleeping 12 hours at night with a 1-2 hour nap during the day.  Starts her 9 months of abx today.  Christian:  turns up with a staph infection on his arm requiring a pre-Thanksgiving outing to the pediatrician, complete with lancing and antibiotics.  Welcome to the pediatrics ward.  He's fine now ... Other kids: great, as usual. 

David is planning another trip back to Kazakhstan this summer to build a playground at Melanie's baby house in Taldy Korgan.  He went to Uralsk in the summer of 2003 for same.  This time, Quentin will accompany him ... sort of his 13 year old "becoming a man" rite of passage.  I'm thrilled that he wants to go.  Nothing like a dose of reality to open a young man's eyes, eh?  Colin doesn't want to go because he might have to get shots!  Ha ha.  Check out WPA's website under "Humanitarian Aid" to see more about the playground trips.

Well, it's nearing 6:30 a.m. and time to get the motor started.  Sleeping kids to wake up, lunches to make, clothes to dig out of the dryer, fix a healthy breakfast (isn't chocolate a vegetable??)  ... another day in the life ...

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Quickie Update

Sorry to leave everyone hanging.  Just like a soap opera, eh?  Let's see ... Melanie's chest x-ray, as I expected, was negative.  The pediatrician is supposed to call me tomorrow to discuss our next move.  I spoke with a friend whose husband is a pulmonologist, and he recommended the abx course.  Seems that the side effects are not as evil in children.  Furthermore, I probably won't have a choice, according to the health dept.  So, onward we go.

Last week was our appointment with the orthodontist.  I had written a long missive about it last week, forgot I had left it on the screen of the "real" computer, then signed on to the laptop, and <poof!> it disappeared into cyber never-never land.  The doctor was wonderful ... reminded me of a kindly grandfather, and his staff was so nice!  They took an impression of her mouth (she loved it as much as the x-ray!) and took pictures of her.  They used these little retractors to open her mouth, about which she was overjoyed as well.  He is going to discuss his plans with the surgeon and get back to me.  Probably after the holidays.

Saturday we went to the auto show in downtown Charlotte.  We definitely need a bigger vehicle, and wanted to see the whole spectrum without annoying salespeople following us around.  The Ford Excursion is OBSCENELY big, but seems to be a good fit for a family with three soon-to-be teenaged boys.  Jeez, I wonder if you have to have a bus drivers' license to drive it.  Land Yacht, indeed!  I think the front of the car turns the corner about 15 minutes before the rear.  <sigh> And I used to think our Honda Accord was too big (having driven a Chevette all through college -- I called it my 'Vette and no one was the wiser!)

I survived my first solo test flight with five kids last week.  I think I did quite well ... no one lost any limbs, and I'm not in a padded cell.  They are all really good kids down deep ... I am so fortunate.  We have so much to be thankful for this year ... we're home.  Okay, so the dog tracked mud all over the carpet, the kitchen is a mess, but it's HOME.  We aren't planning anything fancy for Thanksgiving, it'll just be us.  And the kids won't eat anything that's strange looking, so perhaps a fine feast of turkey and macaroni and cheese?

Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Busier Than a One-Armed Paper Hanger

On Monday of this week, I took Melanie to the pediatrician to her TB skin test read.  It was positive, but before you go buying a mask and gloves, I feel 99% confident that it is a false positive.  In Kazakhstan, as in many other developing countries in which TB is still prevalent, they commonly vaccinate the babies with what is called BCG against TB.  (Do you feel like you're swimming in alphabet soup??)  Depending on how long it has been since the vaccination, it can cause a false positive skin test.  But the state of North Carolina doesn't care about that ... we were summarily shipped off to the Mecklenburg County health department for a chest x-ray.  Melanie thoroughly enjoyed being clamped into a child-shaped vise with her arms above her head.  I have to call back tomorrow to see if there are any signs of active infection (which I doubt).  Nevertheless, the ped. tells me we will have to treat her with a 9 month (yes, month) course of a serious antibiotic that can have some pretty serious effects on the liver.  I need to do some more homework about this.  I think I'm going to call the international adoption (IA) clinic in Seattle who did our initial review of Melanie's medical history way back in the spring.  I know they have run into this before, and will have some good advice.

Other than that ... let's see.  David is in Maine & Nova Scotia all this week looking at trees.  (He works for a major insurance company, investing in the timber and forest products industry).  He is toiling away taking helicopter tours of forests, relaxing at a lodge in the woods, with, I'm sure a poker game or two thrown in.  Poor guy, it's a tough life.  I was hoping I wouldn't have to fly solo with a quintet of children quite this soon, but his job does pay the bills, and after all he was gone for about a month!  With things as hectic as they are, David is probably glad to get away!  And I am managing quite well, thank you very much.  Keeping Melanie on a strict nap and bedtime schedule is essential to my sanity.  Yesterday we had (1) the health department, (2) uniform store since the kids have all grown a foot in a month and don't fit into their clothes any more (3) nap, (4) Boudreaux, the dog, to the groomer, since he was starting to look like a dust mop and kept bumping into things for all the fur in his eyes, (5) pick upColin from an after-school club meeting, (6) pick up dog (7) Lisa to piano, (8) Colin to tutoring (9) help Christian study for a test (10) quick run to grocery store at 8:30 p.m. because we're out of lunch meat.  And I even got a load of laundry done in between!  I am woman, hear me roar.  (Actually I did roar a few times yesterday, unfortunately!)

Today we have absolutely nothing to do ... nowhere to be.  It's 11:00 and Melanie will have lunch in 30 minutes and go to bed.  I may go to the grocery store and prepare a hot meal for my children for dinner.  Not that they'll like it ... ("it's got tomato chunks in it!!") but at least I tried, right?

I don't mean to sound whiney ... I love my life, but some days are more challenging than others.  David and I were able to get away on Saturday for a nice dinner alone.  We celebrated Lisa's THIRD gotcha day Friday night (she chose Mexican food -- there seems to be a dearth of Kazakh restaurants in Charlotte'; go figure!  Guess I could have fixed lagman or something ... nah!)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Party Girl

Today was Melanie's brunch with all of our neighborhood friends.  They were so sweet to do this for us .. Melanie now has a whole wardrobe of cool winter clothes, plus some excellent toys and books!  She was so cute opening the clothes; she would hold them up to her cheek and say, "Awww..."  She stood there the whole time helping me open the presents, and played fairly well with the other kids.

Melanie's bloodwork came back all negative!  Today we went in to have her TB test done; we'll go back and have it read on Monday.  Also I spoke on the phone to a new surgeon here in Huntersville who also specializes in cleft l&p, and I have an appointment to meet him on Monday.  It'll be nice to have a second opinion.

The night after her shots, Melanie was up most of the night with a fever.  She didn't know what had hit her, I think.  Some tylenol helped to ease her a little ... but man were we all dragging yesterday.  Last night she slept for 12 hours straight, and I had to wake her up at 9 to go to the party!  Feast or famine, I guess. 

Not much else to report ... we're looking forward to a nice easy weekend.  Wanna bet she won't sleep until 9 Saturday???

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Medical Rounds ...

Yesterday we met with Dr. Matthews, the first & foremost cleft lip & palate surgeon in Charlotte.  He got a good look at Melanie's palate and declared, "I've seen much worse!"  Guess that's good news.  Since Melanie had her lip repaired in Kaz, though, the gap in her upper jaw has narrowed considerably, and Dr. M. said he couldn't get any instruments in there to close it.  Therefore, we are to see an orthodontist next week who will take a mold of Melanie's mouth, and put in a palate expander to widen the gap.  Seems like an exercise in futility ... close the gap, widen the gap, stand up, sit down ... not to mention that it sounds like baby torture: turning a key on a device in her mouth every night.  Somehow I can't imagine that it tickles.  Hope she has a high pain threshold.  Hope I have one too ...  This process takes about a month, and then she will have her palate surgery, probably around the first of the year.  Then, it's off to speech therapy.

She seems to be catching up on her sleep ... she slept 12 hours Tuesday night and I had to wake her up at 8:30 to get her ready for the doctor.  Then she slept 2 hours in the afternoon.  Another full nights' sleep last night (and a very happy Mom)   Today we visit the pediatrician to do a full workup of the rest of her, including bloodwork and other fun stuff.  I'm curious to see what she says about her hip ...

Colin has a dental appointment at 4:00 ... why isn't my laundry washing & folding itself?  Where is that "laundry salon" across the street when you need it?  Scratch that: I would still have to hang it all out to dry and fold it too.  I'll just go get reacquainted with my trusty Duet washer & dryer ....

Need to go roll some carcasses out of bed and get them to school ... Colin is up at 5:15 and out the door at 6.  Shouldn't there be a law against sending a child off to school before the sun comes up??? 

POST SCRIPT:  The pediatrician agrees that there is something fishy going on with Melanie's hip; we have a referral to a pediatric orthopedic guy the first week in December.  She was amazed that it wasn't caught when Melanie was born; I suppose they were so concerned with her mouth that they didn't check her hip.  It's something that is routinely checked in newborns in the U.S.  The ped. even mentioned the "s" word to fix it ... this poor child is going to have a lifelong aversion to doctors and hospitals!! 

Monday, November 8, 2004

I Could Have Slept All Night ...

... and still have begged for more!  We got the REAL crib down from the attic last night (as opposed to the pack-n-play) and Melanie slept from 8:00 to 6:30.  Can you say aaaaahhhhh!?  The poor thing was plain uncomfortable in that skimpy portable crib!  Or maybe she was just plumb sleep-deprived and it finally caught up with her.  At any rate, I don't care why, just am happy that she did. 

Yesterday our social worker had a little gathering for all of the families that she worked with.  It was at an indoor water park; Melanie loved the water! 

Overall, our first week has gone well.  I even got industrious and took Melanie to church yesterday and she went to Sunday school for the first time.  Not a whimper.  She acts as though she has lived here her whole life. 

This will be a busy week .. we have an appointment with the cleft surgeon on Tuesday, and the regular pediatrician on Wednesday.  I hope there's not too much poking and prodding!   At first Melanie was a little wary around Colin & Quentin, but yesterday she held her arms up to Colin and he was so happy to pick her up.  This morning she wanted Quentin to get her out of her high chair.  We all said, "Awwww!" 

Off to start our day!! 

Friday, November 5, 2004

Ain't DSL Wonderful?

Found the camera!  It was hidden in some dark recess of one of the suitcases.  Thank goodness!  My apologies to Gulnara, who really went far beyond the call of duty looking for it.  Thanks to DSL, I was able to get some pictures to load here in about 10 seconds flat.  They are miscellaneous ones from the end of our trip, in Taldy and in Almaty ... there seems to be some kind of smudge on my lens for the last ones; someone with sticky fingers was handling the camera!  Hmm...wonder who?  We are settling in here at home ... although Melanie still isn't sleeping that well.  I can't complain though; we've been home less than a week.  Who wouldn't have a touch of jet-lag?  It's good to sleep in my bed and get caught up with the kids.  They all seem to love Melanie; especially Lisa, who loves being a big sister!  I have more help than I can use! 

My in-laws will fly home today.  I know they are anxious to be back in THEIR home, and in their own bed.  It's been a marathon for them, especially with my FIL in the hospital.  To say that it was stressful for them would be a huge understatement. 

More later when the fog lifts!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The End of a Journey ... The Beginning of a Life

I'm beginning to feel more human today.  Our first night, Melanie was up for about an hour and a half around 2 a.m., but slept in until about 7.  I had gone to bed at 8 or so, and was out like the proverbial light the moment my head hit the pillow.  Monday morning I took Melanie to Lisa & Christian's school to take each of their classmates a little pen in the shape of a Kazakh matrioshka doll.  Both of the classes had prayed daily for our family, and we appreciated it so much.  Melanie was her charming self, waving bye-bye to the kids and smiling like a movie star!  Took Mom to the airport, and we came home for lunch and a nap ... we both slept hard!  This jet lag is brutal.  Last night we both slept all night (yay!)  We got the kids off to school, then Melanie and I went to vote.  There was a really long line; it took nearly an hour to get inside.  Quite the social hour too .. I saw lots of friends and was able to introduce them to Melanie.  Home for lunch and another nap!  David called and woke me up, and in my confusion I thought we were still in Almaty!  It's so funny what your brain does to you when you're that tired. 

One of the major casualties of the trip was our digital camera.  Somewhere in the confusion of the embassy appointment, and taking pictures at the Sisters' office, it was lost.  I'm pretty sure it was left on the main counter in the office, but Gulnara sent someone to look for it, and they couldn't find it.  Luckily I had donwloaded most of the pictures onto the laptop, but won't have the group shot after the embassy.  I'm still optimistic that it will turn up at the office, and a traveling family will bring it home with them.  St. Anthony, where are you??

Melanie and the dog seemed to have made friends .. I was a little worried when he started lunging at her, but she didn't seem too afraid.  Now he lets her pet him and squeeze his nose.  He's a good dog ... I know he'll come to learn love her like he does all the other kids ...

And so, we seem to have come to the end of our story.  I have really enjoyed keeping this journal; it's been a lot of fun exercising my creative side.  I will probably start a new journal about the ins and outs of being a mom of five children ... a new chapter in my life.   I appreciate all the support we have gotten from friends and family; there's no way to get through a journey like this without that.  For those of you poised to set out on an adoption journey of your own, I wish you luck, happiness and good fortune.  May the road always rise up to meet you (and may lots of other Irish proverbs come to your mind!)   There will be lots of road blocks, bumps and flat tires, but you just have to learn to "build a bridge and get over it!"