Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

Won't add much text here, except to say we arrived home safely from Mississippi and Louisiana.  Melanie did great in the car, but is happy to be home and in her own bed again.  Hope everyone had a nice holiday!!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Have a Merry and a Happy!

Well  Ho Ho Ho everyone!  I hope all my faithful readers had a meaningful Christmas!  Ours can be described in a few words:  stomach virus (me), accordingly leaving a day later than we had planned; 11 hour car trip from North Carolina to Mississippi; the kids did great, I must say, including Melanie, considering that she was duct taped into her car seat that whole time; introducing Melanie to all her cousins for the first time; lots of great food; really really cold weather for the heart of Dixie; David's brother and wife stranded in Memphis which was in the throes of an ice storm; lost luggage, which arrived on Christmas Day; the toy of the year, for the older kids: cell phones.  Now I can't tell if that's really a phone ringing or just Colin or Quentin messing around with their ring tones!  Christian is tightened up with radio control Monster Trucks, although the poor thing can't get a turn in because the older kids (Daddy included) want to play with them too!  Lisa has a new TV for her room, so now she won't have to fight the older three musketeers for a turn.  She can sit in her room and watch marathons of Disney Princess movies to her heart's delight!

But the best gift of all can't be measured in rebates and receipts and wrapping paper and bows, and stock in the Scotch Tape compay (3M, the employer of David's brother Don and wife Linda -- have to put in a plug there!)  Our greatest gift this year is in the shape of a little brown-haired, raisin-eyed girl, who acts as if she has been in this family all along, who enchants everyone she sees with her smile and her "Miss America" wave, who sleeps like a champ, even in a strange bed and a strange house.  Who sings and hums all the time while exploring this new world she has fallen into; who has decided this is a pretty nice place after all, and the people she now calls her family are not so bad either!  I still sit amazed at how the cosmos has given us such precious gifts from Kazakhstan, Lisa and Melanie, and why we were fortunate enough to have been led to them.  And I sit filled with gratitude that I am their mom; and that my three blond boys may have come direct from our gene pool, but these two Kazakh young ladies are no less our family, even though they came to it by way of a longer path.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Is the Honeymoon Over?

This week has been tough.  I guess things have been clicking along ever since we got home, with no complications, so I got spoiled, thinking, "This is a piece of cake!  I'm a champion mom!  I should win an award!"  Ha ... pride comes before the fall, eh?  Not that we have had serious complications, just "stuff" ... I developed some kind of sinus crud over the weekend, and stayed home to rest most of the time.  Sunday evening David took off to Atlanta for an early Monday meeting, and I had to go to cotillion with Quentin for "parents' night". (note: Cotillion is something that parents torture their children with; it's a class where they learn to dance and how to have manners ... Quentin would rather be boiled alive than go to cotillion, even though it's only once a month.  He started whining about it Sunday afternoon and I lost it ... I grabbed his arms and said, "Stop acting like a dern ... stubborn ... <brain fart> WHATEVER!" which sent us both into peals of laughter.  A nice way to cut the tension).  Anyway ... Monday morning I had to go to a brunch with a dish and a gift and Melanie, by 9 a.m., which was an incredible Christmas miracle that I made it on time.  All the while still feeling sinusy and generally crappy.  Wednesday was nuts too, with a doctor's appointment (more about that later) in the morning, teacher conference at Colin's school at 2:30.  I had arranged for my friend Mona to keep Melanie at 2:00 so put her to bed at 12 for her nap, thinking an hour is better than nothing.  Well she cooed and sang and beat on the wall before finally falling asleep at ... yep, you guessed it, 1:30.  Then back up at 2 ... and I'm dragging, because I didn't sleep well the night before because of the sinus crap.  (Crap really isn't a bad word is it?  Because I never use bad words ...)  That night, a moms' party, another gift and another dish (which I was happy to do ... and had a great time; don't mean to be a "dern whiney whatever")  Oh and don't forget Colin to tutoring at 6. 

Wed. night I got NO sleep at all because my kind husband offered me a pill for my congestion that apparently had ephedra in it because I was buzzing all freakin' night long.  (Not his fault, don't hold it against him!)  Up and down, on the couch in the living room, back to my bed.  Up at dawn to start the day ... feeling like chopping my head off. 

Drove down to see Dr. Rider again (1 hour drive) then back home, put Melanie to bed, and slept hard for 3 hours, thank goodness.  Then had an appointment at 5 back in Charlotte again, with Dr. Matthews, the surgeon, who pronounced Melanie ready for surgery.  Which will be sometime in January ... after he moves into his new office.  Wherever that may be?

Back to the dr's appointment on Wed.  I met with a new guy here in Huntersville who has opened an oral and maxillofacial surgery practice here, specializing in, among other things, cleft palate surgery.  He was great to talk to, showed me pictures, gave me lots of information, but I think we will stick to Dr. Matthews.  Just because he is established and I don't really want to be the first patient in a surgeon's brand-new practice.  (Even though he's been practicing for 6 years in PA).  At any rate, he is not an MD, but a DDS, even though he did a residency in oral surgery.  Don't know how those qualifications compare with an MD.  Anyway ... that is that.  But I did want to meet him.

This morning I wake up to the sound of Christian vomiting next to my bed.  I leap into action with the buckets and the sprite.  After he threw up all morning I found some phenergan suppositories from when Lisa had her tonsils out and popped him one.  I think he's feeling a little better. 

I got a call right in the middle of that that my neighbor had a dead battery and would I mind driving over to give her a jump?  Not at all!  I threw Melanie in the car, told Christian I'd be right back.  We came to the conclusion that it wasn't the battery after all, so while we were moving her kids to my car, so she can borrow my car, I accidently slammed Melanie's finger in the door.  YIKES.  The planets are definitely out of whack today.  I'm guessing that I'll get a shower later on this afternoon, but I'm not going to hold my breath about that.

As my dad says, "This too shall pass!"  And so it will.  And I'll look back on this time and laugh.  Promise!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Week in Review

Melanie and I hiked to south Charlotte on Thursday to see Dr. Rider again.  He took some measurements and the "brace" has moved her teeth considerably.  She is ready for surgery!  The only problem is, Dr. Matthews, the surgeon, is leaving the practice he was in and going out on his own.  Therefore, he is in transition and not taking any new appointments until after the new year.  In limbo again!  We will see Dr. Rider again next Thursday just to check on things.

Poor Melanie had to have four more shots on Friday.  I know she is sick & tired of being poked and prodded, but thank goodness her hip is out of the picture, so to speak. 

Last night we went to David's company Christmas party.  David's co-worker, Whit, plays the guitar, and he put on a great show for Melanie and his daughter Katie.  They were dancing and giggling like crazy.  On the way home, we had Christmas music on in the car, and she was singing up a storm.  Watch out, American Idol!

She and I went shopping at the mall on Friday, and it was the weirdest thing.  All these people kept coming up to me and saying "Hello!  Hi!" and I thought, "Do I know you?"  Turns out Melanie, in her stroller, was waving and saying hi to people as we passed, and they were just drawn to her!  She has such a magnetic personality.  And she just sparkles ... her personality is golden. 

My dad and my sister, in Baton Rouge, haven't met her yet ... we're heading down to spend Christmas with David's family in Jackson, Mississippi and will of course make a side trip to B.R.  My poor dad tripped over the back steps and broke his foot.  What is it with our dads and their broken bones?? 

Things have gotten so crazy with Christmas coming up; parties and brunches.  We had the two this weekend, and I have one tomorrow and Wed. night.  My head is spinning!  And then there's the school programs and teacher conferences.  I guess we can sleep after New Years'.  ZZZZZZZZ ....

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

We love kids! We always wanted a big family!

This is the mantra that David and I chant to each other when the kids are hanging off the chandelier and throwing cheese at each other at the dinner table; when the din starts to register on the Richter Scale and everyone needs something RIGHT NOW.  Such is life in the Branch household.  Quentin is soaking an egg in vinegar for a science experiment, and it explodes in the sink; the dog is licking the food off of Melanie's face.  David is outside hanging Christmas lights on the deck.  Melanie and Lisa are off to the tub upstairs and I am surveying the scene wondering which fire to put out first.

Then, one by one they go to bed (except the one that forgot to put his spelling words in ABC order and is sitting on the floor by my feet doing it now, way past bedtime; the same kid who swung from the shower curtain and pulled it down and broke it...BUT I DIGRESS) and the house becomes quiet.  And we feel a certain degree of satisfaction and contentment with our life; that is until we survey the damage in the kitchen and have to arm wrestle to decide who will clean it up.

Melanie and I met with the pediatric orthopedic surgeon.  Much to our relief (and surprise!) her hips are fine!  Her little bowlegs are simply a result of all that horseback riding she did in Kazakhstan (just kidding!) and a steady diet of milk and yogurt and cheese (with other stuff of course) will make her right as rain in time.  We do have to follow up with him in six months just to make sure.  I had to hold her down, stripped to her diaper, on the x-ray table.  In between screams, she looked at me as if to say, "Enough of the medical stuff already!!  The x-ray tech kept saying "Hold HIM down!" as Melanie thrashed around.  Like I said, the haircut looks a little boyish ... but in a diaper they all look pretty gender non-specific.

I am so glad that she won't have to endure anything else besides her mouth.  That will be enough.  We are going back to Dr. Rider, the wonderful orthodontist, on Thursday ... to admire his Jamaican tan.  I forget now & then that she even has the device in her mouth, she's doing so well.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

I Love a Parade ...

Melanie continues to tolerate the palate expander very well!  She is drooling a lot, which I can certainly understand, but it has not slowed her down or kept her from eating or sleeping well.  Thank goodness!!  She is very vocal these days, but unfortunately can only say "Mah!  Mah!"  I know she wants to talk so much ... she keeps pointing and gesturing.  My heart just breaks for her.  I can't wait to hear her voice; I know that with lots of patience and therapy we will hear it some day!

*** Forgot to mention that I took Melanie in for a haircut on Friday.  She had the shaggy remnants of the "orphanage hair" and I had just about had enough of it.  We had arrived at the baby house one day on haircut day .. each child was taken into the bathroom and we could hear screaming inside.  They would come out freshly shorn .. as best as the babysitters could do, I suppose.  Anyway ... Melanie liked getting a haircut about as much as she enjoyed having the palate expander put in her mouth.  She bucked and screamed and pitched, ruining the relaxing atmosphere for a couple of women who were having perms or colors.  You would have thought we were cutting her arms off!  But now she looks very cute (if not like a little boy .. bring on the pink bows!)

Saturday Christian's cub scout pack was in the Davidson Christmas parade.  Both Colin and Quentin were in the parade in years past with their packs.  One year I was a den leader and WALKED the entire parade with my boys.  IN THE RAIN.  This year they rode on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a monster truck.  The weather was warm-ish and sunny, a perfect day for a picnic along the parade route.  Melanie was fascinated by all the sounds (some of them like the police cars and fire trucks REALLY loud!) and sights and colors.  She crashed in the car on the way home ... and was therefore up pretty late last night. 

Today is "decorate for Christmas" day ... David is out in the 60 degree weather (what a great place we live!) putting up the lights and the plastic snowman.  Nothing but quality decorations for this family!  Colin is assembling the artificial tree (which I swore I would never have in my house ... never say never I say!)  Actually we are going to be in Mississippi for Christmas so we don't want to put a real tree/fire hazard in the front hall.

This week we will seethe pediatric orthopedic surgeon about Melanie's hip.  Orthodontist appointments for the two older boys, another visit to Melanie's orthodontist, and more vaccinations for her as well.  More updates to follow.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Thursday Post Script

Melanie is now the proud owner of a metal contraption installed behind her front teeth.  It is cemented to her molars and is spring loaded with hooks on the two teeth on either side of her cleft, pulling it apart.  So thank goodness I don't have to crank anything!  Of course the installation progress was not a walk in the park ... I was lying down on the chair almost standing on my head while she was lying on her back on top of me.  I had her legs pinned with one of my legs, and her hands pinned down by her sides.  The whole thing took less than five minutes, other than some scraping of glue off, and she bit the assistant!  Ouch.  The orthodontist scared me at first, when he came out and said, "We're not going to do her today" as he is leaving for a humanitarian trip to Jamaica tomorrow, and the surgeon is leaving for Jordan, also tomorrow.  He didn't like the fact that there wouldn't be anyone around in case of trouble.  I said, the heck with that, it takes me an hour to drive down here; why didn't you tell me this before I left home???  He went ahead and put it in, taking pity on me, I suppose.  (I said if I had any problems I would just come down to Jamaica to see him.  "Honey, I have to run down to the Carribbean, be right back!")  I left armed with the home phone number of his assistant in case of any mechanical malfunctions.  I don't foresee any. 

I popped her with some Tylenol as soon as we were done.  She ate a pretty good lunch of mashed potatoes and banana pudding, then took a loooong nap (almost 3 hours).  She's now running around the house singing, so I think all is well!  I picked up her TB medication and start that tomorrow.  Let's see, that will be finished in ... umm ... September?  Gee, speaking as a mom who has trouble getting 10 days' worth of antibiotics down a kid, this is a definite challenge! 

New Pictures!

My mom just mailed me copies of the pictures she took of our week in Almaty.  I promised I would post the pictures of my equestrian adventure on Republic Day ... here they are! 

Today is our appointment with the orthodontist, who will put a palate expander in Melanie's mouth.  She has been so happy and cheerful these last few weeks ... I hate that we have to start inflicting pain on her, but I know it must be done.  I just hope that it's not too bad for her.  I need to buy stock in Childrens' Motrin.

I and the older boys worked at the processing center for Operation Christmas Child last night ... we sorted through hundreds of shoe boxes filled with gifts that people all over the country had packed for children in developing countries.  The boxes we worked on last night were headed for Eritrea ... I noticed on the map as we were leaving that they send 300,000 boxes to Kazakhstan.  Having just been there, and seen the faces of the Kazakh children, it brought new meaning to the holiday for me.