slide show

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Photo Gallery (Rice Paper Butterfly)

Our weekly back-and-forth trips to St. Louis are kicking my bum, but that's not really a big problem. Currently he's in his 2nd set of casts and his feet are getting more flexible each time. So all is going well with Jude's treatment, and in the end we know that it will be so worth to do the traveling for the care he needs.

And usually we have a morning to kill before his doctor appointment. So on the last trip we were loving strolling around the St. Louis zoo and admiring God's handiwork!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Man Child

In my efforts to catch up with the birthday posts, let us continue with the Man Child. 
He's 17 year old now.
Oh my.
Certainly not a child anymore. But not exactly a man yet.
More like a man in the making.

Sometimes I think I should rename this blog to something like, Parenting Teenagers: How I Survived. Or How Not to Parent Teenagers 101. Or The Things We Can't Talk About. Because you know, there's so much we can't talk about because really their privacy is sacred, that it would be a very boring blog in the end. And not just Patch really. All my teenagers. And we are back to having 3 of them under roof these days.

Patch is a junior is high school. He surprisingly surpassed Papa height-wise this year, making him the tallest person in the house at 6'3 1/4" tall. And yes, that 1/4" is really important since it's what makes him taller than his father. He's pretty much solid muscles, and he likes to show them off.
A lot.
All the time.
Even when nobody is looking.
So it's not surprising that he's all about athletics. Wrestling, track and weight training are pretty much the most important thing in his days. And he's really funny too.

What I can talk about is how much I adore this child young man. Like love, love, LOVE him! When we're not trying to kill each other, his company is on the top of my list of things I want more of. He and I are not wired the same, and often I simply don't "get" the rational behind his actions. That's probably my fault... expecting something rational. I mean really, some folks fly by the seat of their pants, and they're really are some wonderful advantages to that go-get-'em, thinking-out-of-the-box, nothing's-impossible mentality that I'll never have because I'm an anal-retentive linear rule follower! In the end it takes both kinds of folks to make the world go 'round. So I love him with all I am even though I don't get him much of the time.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Did I forget to tell you we celebrated Tess's birthday? Ya, I forgot to tell you about a several birthdays recently. Let's just pretend this is late August, shall we? 

So I set out to snap some sweet cute birthday pictures of Tess, and this is what I ended up with.
Definitely cute and very Tess, but not actually what I had in mind. This girl is so full of life that this is what you get with her most of the time.
She wakes up ON, and lives her life ON.  And after such a day, which is every day really, she crashes hard into bed to recharge herself for the next day which will surely also be lived ON. She's the only child we've had that really enjoys going to bed each night. She asks a couple times a week if she can go to bed early. And if I'm late on the tuck in, she does it herself and is asleep before I get there. And if you cross her and end up on her bad side, beware! She let you know about it with just as much enthusiasm as she lives life.

Our little girl is still petite. Like crazy small. At 8 years old she's just 40 lbs. She and Jude, although not genetically related, are still neck and neck with both their height and weight. One will grow an inch taller than the other. Then the other will weigh a half pound more. Then they switch places continually as they grow. Year after year it has always been like this. And Papa and I always remark, for not being genetically related and for being so small even by Vietnamese standards, how ironic it is that they are so similar physically.

I'm absolutely in love with the 2 Chiclets in the front and center of her smile. Those 2 teeth mark such a wonderful season in childhood to me.

Food issues are pretty non-existent with our girly now. Strangely, fruits in most all forms ares still her lease favorite thing. But really she just looks like she's just a picky eater these days. Although I can get her to take a thank you, try-it bite of most anything.

At the end of last school year, she graduated out of all special services. She was still getting pulled for a variety of academic issues but after some annual testing, the district declared that she no longer qualifies for these services. We still suspect that eventually some learning disabilities will show up, and because she was a premature low-birth-weight baby that was also malnourished, it wouldn't be surprising. But honestly the pulling of her support services at school all at once, really scares me. But for now we're just going to let our girl spread her wings, fly and see what happens.

Happy birthday, girlfriend! I think you are going to LOVE being 8 years old! And I know that I say it all the time, but I'm going to say it again... I'm going to love you forever and forever. I couldn't stop even if I tried! You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I am so very excited to see what they next year is going to bring you!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Clubfoot Relapse Treatment - Part 2

Our appointment went well. Dr. Dobbs confirmed what he suspected when looking at pics and a video I sent him earlier this month. And the casting began pretty much immediately after that.

Let's start with the observation that Dr. Dobbs wears a dark jacket and a hand-tied (yellow) bow tie while applying a plaster cast. Let me tell you in case you've never been around it, that the process of applying a plaster cast is a very messy process. And he's got the skills, personality and bedside manner to back it up. We couldn't feel more confident about the care Jude is getting. Thus the smiles.
Also notice that Jude is totally content playing with his Gameboy in the beginning.

First plaster casts are applied.

Then colored casts on top of that. Jude picked blue. Hmmm... I wonder which color he will pick next week!
One cast is mid thigh. And thankfully the other is just below the his knee which will give him a bit more mobility.
Back to the Gameboy as they dry.
And Livy, well she's pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. She's gonna make an awesome nurse!
Jude is doing great and his spirits are good. The only tiny obstacle so far is that he had quite a bit of trouble getting to sleep tonight. I can only imagine that tossing and turning, getting tangled in the sheet, and trying to manage those casts to get comfortable is tough. I think some time will help.

Tomorrow morning, at o'dark thirty we fly back home. Only to return to St. Louis the following week to remove the casts and repeat the procedure. And the next week. And the next week...

Many thanks to Livy the Unstoppable for several of the pics above!

And thank you so much for all your prayers and good wishes. They are treasured!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Clubfoot Relapse Treatment - Part I

We made it to St. Louis!

The flight was pretty uneventful except it has been a while that Jude has been on a plane was he equal parts excited and scared. With all those emotions showing on his face and his eyes looking out the plane window, he asked me, "Mom, what happens if the plane falls out of the sky?" My sweet little worry wart.

Having Liv with us is wonderful. She's another pair of hands,and like a stereotypical mom of a teenager, I'm letting her take the lead with "mobile guidance" since it comes much easier for her. She's in charge of getting us from place to place via Google Maps and Uber. Yep, I'm a lucky mama to have her here!
Then we got to meet up with my cousin and her kiddos that I haven't seen for years. Oh my goodness it was such a treat to see her and catch up! We met up with our kids at the St. Louis Science Center. (Can I bunny trail a moment, and tell you how impressed I am with St. Louis already! It's a great city that offers so much, and a lot of it is free like the Science Center! My wheels are already spinning trying to figure out a way that we could bring the whole family back here someday.) Back to the Science Center, the kiddos all had so much fun just wandering around, pushing buttons, building things and then we took a nice walk through the park back to the hotel. It was a great day to explore since tomorrow Jude will likely get toe to thigh casts.
Tomorrow we see the amazing Dr. Dobbs, get an assessment of our sweet boy, make a plan, and start treatment. I think Jude is doing pretty well. He hasn't expressed any more fear about it, and for that I am so grateful!

To answer one question that I'm getting frequently, "Couldn't you find a doctor closer to you to treat Jude's feet?"
Well... no.
In the United States, club feet is most often diagnosed in utero and treated at 1-2 weeks of age. So Jude is quite old to be treated. And that makes finding the right treatment even more important. Many doctors want to surgically move the bones in the foot to correct club foot, and that can often lead to continual pain as an adult. There are really only 2 (maybe 3) doctors in the US that we'd trust to treat Jude, and Dr. Dobbs thankfully was covered by our insurance! Please, if you're researching club foot treatment for your child, whether is be for a newborn, baby or an older child, please educate yourself about the Ponsetti method. Please find a Ponsetti certified doctor (not one who treats with Ponsetti methods but is actually Ponsetti certified) to get another opinion. And if it's an older child, please reach out directly to Dr. Dobbs in St. Louis, Missouri, or Dr. Morcuende in Des Moines, Iowa. You do not have to be a current patient for them to take a quick look at pictures and recommend a qualified doctor. I'm speaking from 1st hand experience here. Don't damage your child's feet with unnecessary surgeries that will later effect your child's quality of life as an adult.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Moving on...

to the next thing coming down the chute, 'cause when you have a big family there's always something next, right? Our next is sweet, sensitive, brave and strong Jude.

Seriously, I meant it when I said the timing couldn't have been more perfect for Sweet Thing moving on to what's next for her. We weren't sure how to handle all this traveling we need to do with Jude and child care before she moved on.

So now it's going to be all about Jude. Until the doc actually gets his hands on him, literally on Monday, we don't have a concrete treatment plan. It's all tentative thus far. But the tentative surgery is scheduled just in case.

Jude is spending a lot of time in the pool these days. Ya, it's hot so that's one reason why, but he's also said that it's the one of things he's going to miss when he has his casts on. He's also said he's sad about missing out on all the Halloween carnivals. We've assured him that we will still be going with casts and wheelchair.
Papa found a child-sized wheel chair on Criag's List super cheap (Oh Craig's List, I love you!) so even though he doesn't need it yet, Jude is also spending a lot of time practicing. 'Cause evidently doing this is way more fun than riding a bike or doing homework.
Ignore the surley lady in the background with the camera who has her back to her son that rolling around in the street and really should have pulled her shirt down over her bum. It was a mom-hair day. 

I've been cooking, baking, and freezing like a crazy lady this last week, thus the mom hair. Chicken casseroles. Clam chowder. Chicken noodle soup. Breakfast casseroles. Chicken Alfredo. Banana bread muffins. Spaghetti sauce. Breakfast popsicles. I'm thinking stocking up the freezer with meal from when I'm gone and meals when I come home is probably a good idea.

Keeping it real, sometimes Jude is scared. He broke down a few days ago and told me he's just "worried about everything." He's a worry wart by nature, and so we keep trying to play this thing down. 'Cause really, it is down. It's all fixable with some time and effort, 2 things we definitely have. And in the end, we're together dealing with it, and that makes us the lucky ones. So we talk about how fun the wheelchair is. How many times we can visit the zoo in St. Louis. Getting his classmates to sign his casts and carrying a variety of Sharpie colors to do so. You know, we talk about the upside and the fun stuff. Looking at the glass half full seems to be helping him be less anxious. I want to validate his fear but also reassure that he will be safe and okay, and we're in this together. And I want to be a role model for him and show him that I'm not worried and we're gonna use this as an opportunity to spend some quality and quantity time together. In a busy house with 7 kiddos, that's a gift.
Livy is coming with us on the first trip, so I'm so happy to have her along and her extra set of hands as we get the lay of the land. We're leaving for our first trip of several to St. Louis on Sunday, and the doctor will give us the low down and start treatment on Monday.

***video compliments of Livy the Unstoppable

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

-1 and planting seeds

I am upset
and exhausted. 
I am all those things at the same time.

As quickly as our Sweet Thing came, she left. 

A while back we were told this departure might be coming, but we've quickly learned with this foster care thing not to believe anything they say is going to happen until it actually does. So in the end, we were give very little notice, like an hour, and the case worker showed up 30 minutes early on top of that. Papa and the children were of course off at work and school so I was the only one that got to say goodbye. Liv left her class and tried to rush home in time, but she missed her which broke my heart since of all the people in the house, Liv was the most bonded to Sweet Thing. Mimi, who was having a hard time with having her here, has said she misses her several times already. 

Coincidentally, I met a woman at church this weekend. She and her husband were probably in their 80's. She took one look at our family and simply told me, We adopted children too. And did some foster care. Some stayed forever. And some left. We talked about our families. It was so nice to hear from someone who had been there and done that and was now on the other side looking back with such loving and grateful memories of that season of her life. When we parted, she took my hand in hers, you know how those older hands are, and gave it a little squeeze as she looked in my eyes. You're planting seeds she said. And those 3 words hung on my heart so heavy for the next 3 days . When I got the call that our Sweet Thing was leaving us yesterday, I knew why. 

Thank you, God, for another ordinary miracle.

So when the time came yesterday, she left happy and excited for her next adventure, and that gave my heart some peace. But it was hard for unexpected reasons. A lot harder than I thought it would be for reasons that I cannot share. This not knowing what's next for her, never knowing really, is a hard thing. 

Sweet Thing and Mimi over Labor Day weekend. The same size but 2 years apart. 
We will be taking a break from foster care for a while to let our hearts heal and so we can give our time and attention to Jude over the next few months. Even though we're sad, we have faith that in the end God's plan is in the works already. And actually the timing so good for our family since Jude is gonna need us next. God's pretty amazing that way. In January, we'll reassess and see where we should go next on our fostering journey. In the mean time and since we are still aware of the desperate need, Liv and I intend to do some volunteering at the intake center (where children in the system stay for a day or two while the workers find homes for them) and maybe do respite care for other foster families.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We are the lucky ones

See these cute little Viet tootsies?
Most of the time, we completely forget that we adopted 3 special needs kiddos, until we are reminded that is. Last week we got that reminder when we noticed something that we hadn't seen before, and we've got a bit of a problem.
Okay, no matter what I say next, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. We are the lucky ones!

Unless you know right where to look and what to look for, you probably wouldn't notice it, but after sending videos and pictures to the most amazing supportive medical community I've ever come in contact with, they confirm what we feared. Jude's club feet are relapsing, and they have advised us to start treatment for him, sooner rather than later. Ever so slightly, Jude's feet are turning in, back to the way they were when he was born.
Back to clubbed feet.
And we gotta get it fixed. Jude is 8 years old now, and that's pretty old to have this type of treatment, especially since most kiddos with club feet are treated a week or two after birth. With proper care only 6% of treated club feet kiddos will relapse. But you know how it is with adoption. That's not always possible for our special kiddos who were born half way across the world, to get treatment when they should and proper care afterwards. Jude has already relapsed once, in VietNam, before he was officially a member of this crazy forever family. So he was treated for club feet a 2nd time when he came home. After that we kinda thought we were in the clear and wouldn't need to do anything more about his club feet. Evidently we were wrong. Evidently we are among the 6% that have to do it again. You know the old saying about telling God your plans... ya, I should know better.

This kinda hit us all of a sudden, so this past week has been a crazy (more than usual) scramble with doctors, nurses, the insurance company, his school and teacher, hotels, scheduling child care and flights... The doctors that he needs to treat him since he's quite a huge bit older than the typical club foot patient, well, they aren't anywhere close to us. So in less than 2 weeks, Jude and I are off to the Gateway to the West, St Louis, MO! (I've been told it's humid there. Say it ain't so! Being from AZ, I don't do humidity, and I've heard they have a wonderful zoo that's wheelchair friendly that we surely will visit!) We will be visiting St Louis 5-7 times between now and early December, just the 2 of us 'cause someone of course needs to stay here and hold down the crazy fort.
 So for a little while at least, he's not going to be doing this...
No walking, running, jumping or swimming. Instead he'll be crawling, scooting around on his bum or in a wheel chair, and doing a lot of just sitting around 'cause he'll have casts on one leg or both, toes to mid-thigh. And you know what? That's okay because I really truly mean it when I say we are the lucky ones! We can fix this! We know what doctors to see and have the resources (or at least we have faith that we're going to find the resources!) to do it. That kinda thing doesn't happen everywhere in the world, and that fact isn't lost on us.
We really are the lucky one's because we're gonna fix this thing!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Photo Gallery (In Love)

This might sound like a weird thing to say, but something has happened recently that made more conscience of something I already knew.

That I've fallen in love, hook line and sinker, with this child, and I love all my adopted children the exact same way, the same as if they had come from my womb. 
Like I said, I already knew this, but sometimes stuff happens that remind you of the significance of things you already knew. Like crazy ridiculous, I'd-lay-down-my-life-without-hesitation-for-each-of-them, all-in love for every single one of my children. There is no difference between the love I have for our biological children the children we've adopted. 


And that kinda of love is a very powerful thing. Every child deserves to be loved that way. 

Again, maybe that's a silly thing to say. 
But then again maybe it's not. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

One thing about getting older that is pretty stinkin' awesome

Sunny sent a selfie to me this morning.
My knee jerk reaction was Holy Gamoleeze, you have crazy gorgeous Grey's Anatomy eyes! 
And after I got over seeing her eyes and wiped away the tears from my own, my second knee jerk reaction was, Get out of town! We've raised an adult! 
Seriously, even though she's moved out, married an amazing man, is a senior in nursing school and doing crazy well in all the aforementioned things, I still think of her as a little girl. And in the end that's not such a bad thing since after all she'll always be my little girl!

I started blogging when she was only 12 years old so I had to go back, all the way back to here. And watched her make decisions like this one as she grew. And you know it wasn't all peaches and cream. There were mistakes and hard times for sure on both of our parts. She'll tell you the same thing. But blogging doesn't lend itself to protecting a teenager's privacy very well. In hind sight, we had every right to be afraid, but in the end all of it brought her to who she is today, and we couldn't be more proud!

Like all our children, Sunny is getting older. Each year brings new hurdles to jump and objectives to achieve. Sunny is no longer in our nest but making one of her own. (No, there are no grand babies in sight! Well there is a puppy on the way, but that doesn't really count, right?) This getting old thing... well... it's has it down side 'cause kiddos aren't the only one that get older with each passing year. I used to say that I loved birthdays because getting older meant getting smarter, and I loved not making all the mistakes I used to make when I was young, say in my 20's. Now that I'm in my 40's I realize that although all that getting smarter stuff is true, it's still a LOT easier to say when you're in your 30's and think you're so smart and all. 'Cause really folks, 30's is YOUNG. And 40's is young too but suddenly in your 40's there are physical reminders of the aging process. Things start falling down and even falling off like they didn't do in your 30's. Stuff starts to grow where they never grew before and things even turn colors where you thought they wouldn't. You start to make sounds and say things that you swore you never would. Yes, I'm getting smarter all at the same time, but there's a cost, and i"m wondering what my 50's will bring.

But then there is this...
I took this when they were visiting last month. Young love is so beautiful!) So is young skin by the way!) The time they spent with us was cherished. I tried to soak up every moment they were here. Seeing the fruits of one's labor seems to have a magical power to fade the age spots and soften the wrinkles like nothing else does.
She is happy.
She is wonderful.
A nurse and her Airman wrapped around her. T
hey are the next generation of folks who are going out there to take care of not just one another, which they do beautifully by the way, but outstretching their hand to the world and offering their assistance there too.

And I had a tiny part in that.
And that makes getting older not so bad really!
Bring on my 50's! I think there's going to be lots more fruit there!

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