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Monday, December 31, 2012

1 year home!

It is hard to believe that we brought Lexi home from China just over a year ago! We have had a very busy and wonderful year. Lexi has adjusted so amazingly well to being a part of our family. She is an engaging, loving, and happy little girl. She is also very bright, clever and stubborn, so she is keeping us on our toes! She loves to ham it up, whether it is in front of the camera or a group of people. She has the cutest smile and an infectious giggle.
There is a belief among many parents in the adoption community that a child is matched with the family that they were meant to be with. We feel this to be so true with Lexi. There were so many uncertainties we faced as we were waiting for her, but now we couldn't imagine our life without her and are so glad that we took the leap of faith. When we talked about adopting again, we weren't at all thinking about adopting a 2 year old girl who was deaf. For reasons I will never know but can only believe it was part of God's plan, Lexi was brought into our life. We feel so lucky to be the parents of two beautiful, amazing little girls who bring us so much happiness every single day.

As far as Lexi's hearing, she is doing better than I ever could have imagined. Amazingly, Lexi started saying her first words soon after her first cochlear implant was turned on at the end of March. Lexi loves to hear and constantly pointed out new sounds. She received an implant in her other ear in July, and I swear she understood that she would now hear with two processors. She did great through her surgeries and she quickly adjusted to the second implant. She requests her processors first thing in the morning- she doesn't want to miss a thing. She said "I love you" back to us for the first time in July, and I can tell you that it made all of the waiting and the appointments and the hard work so worth it.
Lexi now understands so much of what we say, and she can say close to 200 words. She can hear very soft speech, and she is constantly talking in 2-3 word sentences. Her speech is getting clearer each month. She is so eager to learn, and she is trying so hard. She definitely wants her voice to be heard. She has been in pre-school since August, and she knows her shapes, colors, can count to 10, and she knows quite a few of her letters. She is still doing well with her sign language, although we mostly use sign now only at bedtime or in the shower when her processors are off. When she was tested in November, she had progressed to about a 2 year old level with her speech and comprehension. When she first came home, she tested at a 6-9 month old level, so we are ecstatic with her progress. It has been wonderful to watch Lexi's language and personality bloom right before our eyes. I am in awe ever single day. She tells me when my phone is ringing, she can hear me call her at a crowded playground, and she can even hear the ballet teacher call her name when she is in dance class with 12 other 3 year olds and the music on. The only thing more amazing than watching Lexi learn to listen and speak is to watch the sisterly bond form and grow between our two daughters. Mia has had to learn to share everything from her toys to our attention, and she has done very well. She truly loves her little sister, and she is always eager to help her with her speech therapy, and reads her a book almost every night. It makes us so happy to know that they already have a special bond. We are so excited to see what the New Year has in store for our family, and we are thankful for our many blessings, the most important being our family and close friends who have always been so supportive. We are also especially thankful for all of the staff at the University of Miami Kids Hear Now Family Resource Center who are brilliant and really love what they do.
We wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year's!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Update: 3 months home!

We returned home from China exactly 3 months ago.  First of all, I want to apologize to all of our friends and family who live far away from us and have waited for an update.  It seems that we have been going non-stop from the moment we stepped off the plane.  Speaking of the plane ride home, a 14 hour daytime flight with a 2 year old who is adjusting to her new family and not really keen on the whole sit down and buckle up concept is not something I ever wish to do again.  Ever.  Thankfully, we were in the back of the plane so I was able to stand and hold Lexi in the galley with some of the flight crew for a couple of hours.  Lexi did sleep during the last few hours of the flight.  The worst part of the trip back for me was managing to stay healthy during the entire time in China but then getting sick on airport food after my first meal back in the States.  By the time we were ready to board our flight to Miami, Lexi was asleep again, and I was holding her 30 pounds of dead weight in my arms in a bathroom stall trying not to vomit on her- good times.  At least I can totally laugh about it now!  I must say that we had a wonderful trip, and I think for Mia it helped her further understand the adoption process that brought her into our lives and family.  We are also so thankful that our nephew Bobby came with us.  He was great with the kids and was always so quick to help me with whatever I needed.  He is a great traveler, and was so much fun to have with us. 

Lexi has attached to us and transitioned into our family very well- better than I ever could have imagined.  She has a happy disposition and  is very loving.  She is such a bright girl, and it  amazed me to see how independent she was- she became completely potty-trained within a month of getting home , she can dress herself, shower & wash her own hair.  However, it is a bit sad because although she does have an independent personality, she probably had to take care of herself quite a bit in the orphanage.  Fortunately, she has learned to let us care for her, soothe her when she is hurt, and comfort her at night-time.  It makes me so happy to watch her bond with her dad, sister and grandparents as well as the rest of our family and close friends. Her relationship with Mia is also evolving very nicely.  They play pretty well together, and Lexi wants to do everything that Mia does.  Lexi is finally letting Mia do her hair and help pick out her clothes, which Mia just loves.  There definitely have beeen some challenges- Lexi is very clever and stubborn.  We had to gradually get firmer on setting boundaries, but I am happy to say that her wicked tantrums that were happening almost daily are very few and far between now.  She definitely tries to manipulate and get her way, but she reponds well even when she is told no and is able to regulate her feelings much better instead of completely falling apart. 
Her personality has really come out and I have to say that she is such a clown.  She is outgoing, fearless, and such a funny girl!  She knows how to make us laugh, and she will definitely use that to her advantage. She loves being outside- Mark takes her around the yard & garden almost every day to look at the tress, flowers and butterflies, so they have some special time together. Lexi also loves to be a little Mama's helper- from helping to fold laundry to watering the plants to trying to carry groceries into the house- she always wants to help.   She has learned how to play games on the i-pad, so I now have two girls who think the i-pad is theirs.

As far as her hearing, we have a wonderful team at the University of Miami who have helped educate and guide us through the audiology appointments.  We had her fitted for hearing aids a few days after we came home.  There are many appointments and hearing tests involved in order to accurately determine a child's level of hearing.  Because Lexi didn't have the opportunity to receive hearing aids while at the orphanage, she is getting a very late start, so our team helped us fast-track her appointments.  Lexi was very cooperative and consistent with the sound booth tests.  She also loves having hearing aids. She asks (signs) for them every morning.   She immediately pointed out new sounds, and concentrates so hard when we are doing a listening activity.  Despite having tubes put in to drain the fluid from her ears in January, her hearing loss is still significant enough that hearing aids alone would not give her all of the sounds she needs to discriminate words and learn to talk.  Lexi is doing great with signing, even putting two and 3 words together, but we want her to have the best opportuntiy to develop listening & spoken language.  At the end of February, she received  a cochlear implant in one ear, and she continues to wear a hearing aid in the other ear.  She amazes us every day by continuing to point out new sounds, and trying so hard to talk.  We feel very lucky and blessed that Lexi was brought into our life, and we are thrilled to give her the opportunity to reach her potential, no matter what that may be.  We can't wait to see what the future holds for her and our family. 
If you would like to watch the documentary that the University of Miami made about a child receiving a cochlear implant. click the link below.  This is the wonderful team that works with Lexi!

As I was organizing Lexi's file I was curious and counted her appointments.  Since we have been home she has had 27 medical appointments, from check-ups to lab work, vaccinations, hearing aid fittings, sound booth tests, speech therapy and more.  In addition to those, she had a 3 hour MRI series and 2 surgeries.  She has just been amazing!  She is never afraid, just inquisitive and seems to love the attention.  She walks around the University of Miami like she owns the place, and the nurses always stop to watch her walk in, as she is just so funny.  We can't imagine our life without her!  During the last few months Lexi has also been able to meet many of her Aunts, Uncles & cousins, and she even met the Princessess on a trip to Disney World.  Lexi recently started attending a Kindermusik class.  As active as she is, I think she will be ready to start ballet & gymnastics this summer.
We never could have made it through the last few months without our extended family and friends who have helped us out during this time.  I have the best friend & in-laws a girl could ask for.   I am also thankful for my FCC family- though we don't see each very often, we had a warm welcome at the airport and I know I can always find advice and support from this amazing group.  I must say that I am also so grateful for the kindness of strangers.  I am so thankful for the Darling family and they are often in my thoughts :)
Most of all, I am especially thankful for my parents for helping us as I returned to work.  My mom  is staying with us for a few months to take care of Lexi.  It was so hard to go back to work, but it is so much easier knowing that my mom is with her.  I must say, although our house is small, I am really enjoying having my mom with us- you are the best, Mom!
Here are some pics....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 13th: Consulate Appointment

This morning we went to the US consulate to take our oath.  Lexi's Visa to enter the US will be delivered to our hotel tomorrow.  When we arrive back in the States, Lexi will officially become a US citizen!
Back at the hotel, we took some family and group pictures on the center staircase.  Lexi just climbed right up and sat next to Mia  :)
This afternoon we took a cab over to Shamian Island to do a little more shopping.  I got Lexi a pair of pink sandals, which she loves of course.
Lexi is giving all of us kisses now, and she is posing for pics!  Too cute.

Some members of our travel group have started heading home.  We had a really a fantastic travel group, as well as great guides.  Although I am ready to head home, the trip seemed to go by very fast.  Taking Lexi from her home country is bittersweet, but I do hope that wherever her birth parents are, in their hearts they know that she is being taken care of.

Tomorrow afternoon we have a private driver taking us to Hong Kong- I am very thankful that our guides were able to arrange this.  We will avoid customs at the airport and arrive much earlier. 
This will probably be my last post until we arrive home, so please pray for us as we will have a 14 1/2 hour daytime flight with an active 2 year old.  Good times.

Zai Jian China!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dec 12th

December 12th:  The Pearl Market & Pearl River Cruise

Today was a really fun day.  We were able to sleep in a little bit before heading back to the clinic to have Lexi's TB test read.  She checked out fine, then our guide to our group shopping.  We went to a Pearl Market in downtown Guangzhou.  The downtown area reminds me of New York City. 
Shopping at the Pearl Market can be overwhelming, but I was determined to get the girls some pearl jewelry as a gift for when they are older.  Mark took a seat on the couch and let me have at it.  The trip was successful  :) 

We had asked our guide if she knew Kelly, our guide from Mia's adoption trip, and she did!  She said that we would probably see her later, as she also had families here at the hotel.  Well, once Kelly heard we were here she made it a point to find us and we were so happy to see her.  We got to know her very well as we spent 3 weeks in Guangzhou with her.  We can hardly believe that it has been five years since we were here adopting Mia.

This evening we went on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River.  All of the building are lit up with neon, so it makes for a scenic cruise.  There were also some interesting buffet items- I included one of Bobby's selections in the photos   :) 

Lexi really seems to enjoy going out- she doesn't get overwhemed at all.  She has warmed up to Mia so much during the past few days.  I told Mia that soon Lexi will be following her around everywhere...
We are all happy & healthy- maybe a little tired of noodles, except for Mia of course!

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 11: The Safari Park in Guangzhou

December 11: The Safari Park in Guangzhou

Today about half of our travel group went to the Safari Park.  This is something that we have heard great things about and really wanted to see.  It was excellent.  By far one of the best animal parks I have ever been to. It was also a beautiful day.  We were able to rent a stroller at the entrance and Lexi loved it! I have been happy to carry her around to help with bonding, but with so much walking ahead of us, my back & neck were very relieved.
We started the day on a safari ride,  think Lion Country Safari but 100 times better.  This park is very clean and lush with plants and trees.  They had so many animals and they were awake  & active! The girls were so excited.  Lexi really seems to like animals.
Afterwards we walked through the exhibits and saw so many interesting animals up close:  giant pandas, Pygmy hippos, red pandas, koala bears and kangaroos.  The girls got to feed the giraffes which was a highlight for Mia.  We also saw a show with Bali style dancers where a chimpanzee was dressed up like a Panda bear- quite funny.
We had a great time. 
I have to say that Bobby is being such a good sport. Today he had 4 young girls sitting in the back with him ages 5-11 talking & giggling non-stop an he didn't seem to mind at all. :)

A couple of funny tidbits: we are often stopped by locals asking to take a picture of us or take a picture with them- I guess it's the blonde hair-? Many of the young men gere seem to have the "Justin Bieber" haircut.  Also,  Bobby seems to attract the attention of a lot of young Chinese girls- last night it was at the grocery store where the girl at the counter was explaining all sorts of things to him about Chinese money. Oh boy.