Friday, January 11, 2013

3 months home! Umm, now 4

Hello! It's been FOREVER since I updated....I wrote this first paragraph a few weeks before Christmas....and the rest is today, January 11, 2013!

Just 2 days our sweet little Katie learned how to say NO! It sounds more like nyoh- I told her it was time for a nap and she looked at me and stomped her foot and said, "nyoh mommy!" I was so excited! I said "Katie- I'm so proud of you! You said no mommy! Say it again!NO MOMMY!" She would not repeat- as my reaction was quite the opposite of what she was expecting. It was really cute and while I'm sure soon I will tire of the word, hearing no mommy is music to my ears after 3 months of loud grunting/squealing/yelling when WE don't get it right. She is by far our most stubborn child, so this fits right in with her personality, and for now I love to hear it!

Some small but important facts we have learned about Katie medically-
1. she does NOT have DeGorges Syndrome- something both our pediatrician and cardiologist wanted her tested for when we did her bloodwork at the UAB adoption clinic-it is very common to have this syndrome with her heart defect

2. all her other blood work looked great (they double check for hepatitis, HIV, and lots of other "stuff"- all negative)

3. her hearing is perfect (tested at UAB)

Because I have missed blogging so much about the last couple of months I will not bore you too many details- I have lots of pictures I can post to show the highlights. Mostly what we are working on daily is speech- she finally is trying to say EVERYTHING and it's just hard for her! Everette and I can understand a lot of what she says, and she understand almost everything we say- but her pronunciation on so many letters is unclear that it is a challenge for everyone. We have started the ball rolling to get her help- but b/c we are on the cusp of her 3rd birthday, we have to go through Homewood Schools (instead of the state) and I've heard that may take a while- lots of meetings and paperwork . Hopefully by March she will be in speech therapy. In the meantime we play charades a lot, and she repeats over and over what she is trying to say- this week he favorite thing to say is "eber eber mommy"- yes, she wants to hear Taylor Swift's We are NEVER EVER getting back together. Between her and Edie I think pop culture will be a hit at our house- which is funny b/c it's never been my thing- figures.

Our first trip to the beach was in November and it was priceless. She loved the indoor pools and the view of the intracoastal waterway where we watched boats and dolphins. The first beach encounter was awesome. She at first would not let her feet touch the sand- like she didn't trust that it would hold her weight. When she saw Edie and Charlie running around on it, she decided to give it a try but only for a second. I held her for about 10 minutes and we touched the sand and looked at the water (ever thought of how you would introduce the beach to an alien- is it a beach, or is it sand, sea or ocean- or just water, and the waves and the tides going back and forth)- anyways she was fascinated by it all and in awe of the motion of the waves. She still moves her hands back and forth when we talk about the beach and tries to explain how they went in and out and then claps. By the end she was running in to the water up to her knees and didn't want to leave:) I can't wait for summer.

Halloween was a hit- her favorite animal is an owl (which we can hear from our front porch on some nights)- so she dressed up like and owl and once she figured out that everyone was dropping candy in her bag- she was ALL about it. Miss independent- didn't even want me to help her walk up stairs to people's houses- I had to stay on the sidewalk and watch. She was very cute.

Thanksgiving was really fun b/c I got to introduce her to my dad's side of the family- our closest 50 relatives descended upon my aunt and uncles house- and besides being clingy- she loved it.

On Christmas morning - we stayed home for the first time in 7 years- she learned to say "open" and signed more after each present. She loves to sing her own version of jingle bells, and can identify Santa Claus from a mile away. Anything with lights on it - tree, bush, star, was a "dismus tee"- and say that in a high pitch and excited voice and that's what it was like driving around Homewood every night over the holidays (every house on our street has a small lit tree in their front yard).

She has started going to preschool a few days a week- at first I went with her and stayed until she got to know her teachers better- and then left her for an hour one day, two hours the next etc....She was really not sure about it before Christmas, but since we have been back, she LOVES it. She has such a type A personality so far, that I think she relishes in the comfort of a predictable schedule. She has taken ownership over her beloved backpack- even unpacking it each day and emptying her lunch box and hanging it back up (note: when we pull in the driveway after school- I unbuckle her- and until she is out of the car by herself, up the steps, in the house, everything put away- I am not to be involved or she will be VERY UPSET) It's pretty amazing to watch how she needs to have control over certain things, and is so needy in others. I'm sure orphanage life will affect her for a long time.

She has had some hard moments over the last few months- not sure exactly what triggers these moods but it often happens after waking up from a nap. She can be inconsolable- in a stiff and rigid body position, crying, screaming, hitting the floor- and I can't do anything at first but lie down beside and try to get her to hear my voice. Sometimes I just pick her up against her will and rock her and sing (this is harder than it sounds- she is strong when she wants to be) until her body eventually relaxes- 15- 20 minutes later. I've read that it could possibly be night terrors, but it happens during the day sometimes too when she is angry about something like having to share when she feels she shouldn't have to. It's hard to watch, and I can't help but think from all the literature on grieving that grieving is exactly what it is. It breaks my heart each time, and it exhausts both of us physically and emotionally. I tell her SO many times each day how much I love her and that we are her mommy and daddy forever. She is starting to shake her head in affirmation most days when we talk about it and says "choo choo mommy's baby, choo choo daddy's baby." Yes my sweet girl, fovever.

The kids are starting to play together more, even without Ev or I being present- and it's a beautiful thing to see, even if they are fighting over toys. It's how it's supposed to be- a family spending time together and laughing, playing, sharing, singing, helping each other, comforting one another, arguing, pinching, hitting, biting :) - and it makes us feel good that she is more and more a part of this so that we almost can't remember when she wasn't here with us.

And- not that we are dying to leave our kids a lot- but we are finally able to have our babysitter come over so that we can have a date night or go out with friends or to a movie- just in the last 4 weeks- so it's nice to be out of the "newborn" stage.

Enough! I make no promises of posting soon- but hopefully now that the crazy holidays are over it will be easier.
See pictures below!

 slide at the Caribe indoor pool-she is brave!
 daddy and his gals
 one of MANY common katie faces
 she watched charlie catch a fish
 waiting in the cardiologists office- this is our favorite Katie expression

 I have eyelash envy.
 loves her hat and gloves- no need for cold weather!
 1st carousel ride
 putt putt at the beach

 loves her mimi!

 Alan and Frances came to visit

 Dance party at the Cobalt restuarant patio

 a little nervous about the waves

 with Safina and Costen

 just one of the gang at Thanksgiving
 backyard fun
 Uncle Cory Rocks

 Mim and Katie on Christmas morning
 Elmo slippers!
 Shrek the Halls in Nashville New Year's with good friends

 hotel room fun

That's all! Happy New Year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

6 weeks and a name later....

Hi friends- my lack of blogging sums up most of what the last month has been like- VERY BUSY. First of all, Everette and I decided that as much as we didn't want to go through the hassle of changing her name, she just isn't Annie to us. We have been calling her choo choo- and tried Annie choo choo for a while- but we have changed her name to Katherine Song Herring- calling her Katie. (Kate was our second choice after Annie- so we(ev) compromised w/ Katie:)) Sorry for the confusion!

Katie is adjusting to life at the Herring household very well. She is very attached to Everette and I and loves for us to hold and play with her nonstop! She knows where everything is- art supplies, silverware, snacks, her clothes....down to her socks and shoes which she insists on putting on by herself. Ev and I are trying to simply "live" each day. 3 kids is more than 2! There are many days where we have over scheduled and it's just too much. Katie needs so much individual attention- and well deserved- but sometimes it's hard to do much else! When she needs us, our reaction is immediate to help with attachment and bonding, and we are trying to learn all her little personality quirks so we know her like we know Charlie and Edie. We have many moments of peace and calm, but we are definetly still in a transitional phase with our family and probably will be for months. She understands a lot of English- and we try to teach her new words/phrases everyday. But she grunts and yells at us all anyway! We are trying to reinforce a few phrases to help her get what she wants instead of being the servants that she yells at....up please mama/baba (dad in mandarin), help mama, thank you mama- and she is using sign language for more and please and points to objects that she wants to play with. Her speech is not that clear- but some words like "owl" she can say perfectly!

Our most time consuming aspect of taking care of her at first was that she is potty trained and will not use a diaper- so for the first 3 weeks we were sitting her on the toilet AT LEAST 30+ times a day- as she was yelling at us to clearly take her there. Too many for my back and to be parenting 2 other kids. After a week of "bathroom boot camp"- we convinced her to use the little toddler potty by herself, finally, and she is using the regular bathroom too. And, we are through with diapers! Love that!

She struggled with sleep for the 1st month- but now is sleeping mostly through the night except when she needs to go to the bathroom- one of us is sleeping with her in the guest bedroom- she's in a crib for now and seems to like it.

Charlie is still being the BEST big brother. He loves her sooo much and simply won't take no for an answer. She gets excited to see him after school everyday and sometimes even lets him comfort her if she falls down or is sad. Katie is warming up to Edie but that relationship is taking a little longer to bloom. Just yesterday they started playing a game where they cover each other with blankets on the floor and belly laugh. Baby steps.

 Pumpkin patch with cousins Costen and Safina- what a happy crew :)

                                        father duck and his ducklings searching for pumpkins
                                             both girls love to paint
                                              1st cupcake=awesome
                                                 getting ready for hello kitty bowling party :)

                                          our niece Safina and Katie- 2 months apart
                                         please don't ask me to smile again

                                         Couldn't resist including Edie's first skating experience :)

A few pics from our overall first 6 weeks! I'm SOOO behind on thank you notes but they are being written! I used to read every night for an hour and now 5 minutes after my head hits the pillow I am out. Thanks for all the wonderful meals that everyone provided - it was SO nice not to worry about cooking for the first few weeks. Without the meals I'm sure we would have been eating cereal every night!

Will try not to wait too long before the next post! Julie, Ev, Charlie, Edie and Katie

Monday, September 17, 2012

One week home and cardiology report

Hello Friends-
     It's hard to describe our first week home- in a nutshell we are all doing very well. It has been a roller coaster for sure- there were times where Annie and I were crying on the floor simply because we are "getting to know you." It is hard bringing a new person into your family at any point- and in many ways it's easier-  my body is in one piece, and our newborn is sleeping through the night. It took a few nights of misery for Annie to get on a schedule at night (with the help of melatonin and benadryl) but since last Tuesday she hasn't made a peep at night. It's hit or miss how nap/bedtime will go- she has cried more than not, but I feel that it's just a matter of getting used to schedule and saying goodnight to all the fun we'd had that day. On the other hand we just have to take the time to get to know her- unlike a newborn- she is walking, talking (in toddler Mandarin), running, playing with toys, hitting, pulling us one way and then another, grunting, and crying when things don't go as She planned. As each day passes, we breathe a bit easier, learn a little bit more about her. We are still waiting for the bottom to fall out- for the attachment issues so common with adoption to rear their ugly head- and for now I am trying  to focus on the day at hand, almost hour by hour. Mealtime is a challenge- we let her taste what we are eating, and then I have a backup meal, and then the back up, back ups meal- all of which she might or might not like. There are a handful of things that work almost every time - at least a few bites- sticky rice with pumpkin, raisins, and ramen noodles. Who can't live off of that?

         Charlie and Edie are handling her pretty well- the first few days were bad- Annie hit and slapped them both continuously, but over the course of a week that has stopped. She still grunts at them and shakes her head no- to which Charlie keeps asking- does that grunt mean no in Chinese? Yes, Charlie and in every other language too. He has become notorious for trying to parent her, pick her up, walk her across the room- we expected no less- and even with all her rejections he is resilient to win her over. I do love his patience. We'll see how long that lasts. Edie has been more cautious- keeping her distance (smart girl!) and more or less ignoring her - but when she is not with Annie she speaks very proudly of her new baby sister.
       Jetlag has been worse than Ev and I expected- but hopefully in another few days we will be back to "normal."We keep hearing that for every time zone you were off, that's how many days it takes to get back on schedule= 13 days.
Cardiology report:
        Annie was born with a congenital heart defect known as tetrology of fallot with secondary asd. The most serious part was the narrow entrance to her pulmonary artery that leads the blood to the heart for oxygen. She was turning blue b/c of a lack of oxygen to her body until she had surgery at 1 year in China. We saw the pediatric cardiologist at UAB on Friday morning and got a good report. He was pleased with the results of her surgery- she has 98% oxygen saturation and her VSD and ASD (holes in the walls of her heart) were repaired. They enlarged the opening of her pulmonary valve. Because of this, she has pulmonary deficiency- to be expected with this condition- but it also means she has back flow into this opening that eventually leads to overcompensation by other parts of her heart. She will have a heart echo every year until it is apparent to the cardiologist that she needs a pulmonary valve replacement. It could be needed as young as 5 or 6 or not until late adolescence. He said that currently that would most likely mean open heart surgery, but over the next 10 years he guessed most valve replacements will be done through catheterization- a non-invasive procedure.

Ok-   that's us in a nutshell-....below are pictures - from a friend who is a photographer, met us at the airport and caught Annie's Homecoming....

Thanks again for all the messages- sorry if I have not replied/returned phone calls- they are very important to us, I promise.  In that respect I do feel like I have a newborn as Annie needs a lot of one on one time. We are exhausted at the end of each day trying to keep the peace and catch up with the last 2.5 years of Annie's life! Will update in another week or so!

 love, julie, ev, charlie, edie and annie choo choo.

 awaiting grandparents.....
 excited brother and sister....

 here we come!
 my babies....

 Annie LOVES balloons....
 mom- let's go home!

 Charlie's dream come true...
 party of 5

 Thanks Camilla and Charlotte for the banner! I missed it until I saw these photos!
 sweet friends came from Nashville