Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Malia's Surgery May 2014

Malia had the first of three surgeries yesterday.  As I mentioned in my last post, we had been told all 3 procedures would be done at one time.  However, that was not the case.  In fact, it is impossible to do the bone graft at the same time as repositioning the teeth.  I was/am a bit frustrated at the lack of communication on the surgeon's part.  I'm the type of parent that asks lots of questions to ensure that I understand everything correctly so that I can tell Malia the correct information.  We had expected, and had prepared for a 2-3 day hospital stay.  Malia was home by mid afternoon!  We were all relieved and incredibly grateful to be home and to spend the night in our own beds!
We arrived at the hospital shortly after 6am...and waited...and waited...and waited...and waited...for over 4 hours!  This sleep loving lady does not appreciate getting up at 5 am to sit and wait in an uncomfortable hospital waiting room!  Even the Starbucks mocha didn't do much to soothe my tired body. lol!
 Malia and Martin were being goofy...pulling Malia's over sized hospital PJ's up to her arm pits!  :)  I couldn't help but laugh! 
 Malia was mostly calm, somewhat fidgety, but mostly at peace.

I was able to go into the OR with Malia and stay until she was asleep.  I've done this twice before.  The first time I was completely at ease...until I left the OR, and then I felt all shaky.  The second time the anesthesiologist had to suggest that I ease off on the pressure I was placing on the mask, but when I left the OR I was completely at ease.  This time I nailed it!  I was completely calm before, during, and after!  In fact I would have liked to stay in the OR to watch the procedure...although I would have asked for a chair...just in case! 
(Malia and I seconds before leaving for the OR...me all dressed up in a monkey suit!  :)

Malia never ceases to amaze us!  She is such a trooper and handles everything amazingly well!  This procedure was the one where her rotated teeth were moved into the correct position and wires were placed on her braces and an appliance was put in place to hold the teeth in place.  The surgery only took about an hour and everything went very well.  The doctor simply snipped the bone, moved the teeth forward and positioned the appliance.  Moving the teeth caused a hole, about the size of a dime, to form in the back of her palate.  This will be repaired in a later surgery.
She awoke trying to touch the appliance in her mouth.  We repeatedly asked her to stop...so then she proceeded to grind her teeth and run her tongue all over her appliance.  I think she was simply trying to figure out what was in her mouth and trying to figure out why her mouth/face felt numb.  She had a fair bit of swelling and a little oozing.  Both are completely normal and expected.  

Within an hour, she was more awake, smiled and gave us the thumbs up!

Here she is talking to her Daddy asking what the little thing on her finger is...completely unaware that she still had the intravenous needle in her hand.  

Malia has taken a few doses of Tylenol/Advil and has not complained about being in pain at all!  However, her lips are cracked, swollen and uncomfortable.  Being the tough, independent kid she is...she found her chap stick!
The swelling in Malia's face has gone down a lot.  She has difficulty eating and is on a soft food/liquid diet and will be for at least 4-6 weeks.  She can't use a straw, due to the hole in her palate...too much air escaping.  She is also having trouble talking, but that is not stopping her.  She thinks she sounds like a boy when she talks...not sure what that means, but it makes me smile!  Nothing, and I mean nothing will stop this girl from talking!!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Malia's Dance and Surgery Update

Malia had her dance recital today and did an amazing job.  She took ballet this year and loved it.  She has already decided she will not be dancing next year and wants to take voice lessons and piano instead, so hopefully I can find someone in our area who can teach her.  
The recital was a good distraction and kept her occupied for the morning.  Malia is nervous about tomorrow, but all the excitement of dance this morning and packing her bag with all kinds of treasures has kept her in a positive mood.
We had an unexpected appointment with the surgeon on Friday to take an impression of Malia's teeth and to review what will happen.  As I've said before, Malia's case is a difficult one and her team of doctors have worked long and hard to figure out the best way to approach her surgery.  Originally they were going to do the bone graft, move the teeth and the tongue graft tomorrow.  However, there has been a change in plans.  Tomorrow's surgery will only be to move her teeth into the proper position and to attach wires to the braces that are already in place.  This will cause a hole to form in her palate and it's a bit of a guessing game to know how big it will actually be.  Based on the model, it looks to be a fairly significant opening.  I am not looking forward to the challenges of Malia trying to eat without food coming out of her nose.  Poor girl!
In spite of these changes, everything else still stays the same.  She will still have a 2-3 day hospital stay and will be on a liquid/soft food diet for at least 4-6 weeks. 
The plan is to do the bone graft and tongue graft in 2 separate surgeries.  The first surgery should happen in about 3 months with the second surgery following 3 months later.  Both surgeries will require Malia to be on a liquid/soft food diet for 4-6 weeks. 
I trust our team of surgeons, but am disappointed that this is going to be a longer, more difficult process than we had expected.  I wish it could all be done at the same time as originally planned, but such is life!  :(

Monday, May 19, 2014

This n' That....End Of School, Planting Garden, and Malia's Surgery

We are done school for the year!  Hallelujah!  We finished last week and I couldn't be more relieved and excited!  It was the most intense, insane, frustrating, difficult, and stressful 9 months of my life!  However, I do think it was worth it!  My kids are happy...for the most part.  They are confident.  They learned as much if not more than they would have in school. 
I asked all 3 kids a few questions. Here are their answers.
What was the best part of being home schooled?
Alex:  Shorter days and finishing school in the middle of May.
Morgun:  Shorter days and not being rushed.
Malia:  Having no homework.
What was the worst part of being home schooled?
Alex:  Not having many friends.
Morgun: Not having as many friends.
Malia:....didn't have an answer.
Do you want to be home schooled next year?
Alex:  Yes!
Morgun:  Yes!!
Malia:  Yes!
I am a bit surprised that they all want to do this again...even with less friends.  We're not 100% sure that we will home school next year, but do know that some serious changes have to happen at our local school in order for us to feel comfortable having our kids in that environment again.  We have expressed our desires to the appropriate people, but these changes will likely not happen.  It will take a miracle!
We finally finished the patio (aka School Room) sometime in March.  I love how it turned out and I love that it will be very easy to convert from patio during the summer to school room during the winter. 
I had a bunch of old chairs that the kids and I repainted.   I bought the folding table and love it!  It is very versatile with 3 drawers on each side and it folds so that it's only about16 inches wide.  It was perfect for the kids to store their pencils, etc and it will be great to pull out and use as an extra table during the summer.
 I also had an old bookshelf that I repainted.  I love this piece!  It actually makes me smile!  I added a few white tins and a cutlery rack for all the markers, etc.  Once all the school stuff is put in storage these containers will be used for cutlery, napkins, etc. and the shelf will be used for storing paper plates, cups, and for serving food.
These chairs sit right across from the bookshelf and create a cozy spot for reading.  I love that they can be used for both the school setting and during the summer too.  Best of all...we LOVE the view of the river from this room!  Sometimes the kids get distracted, but that's OK!
 So far we've spent our summer vacation relaxing...well, some of us anyhow...being served like a king!  lol!
We planted the garden.
I spent about $120 in seeds, but will have enough corn and beans for next year.  So that works out to about $100.  I still need to buy my tomato plants so that will add another $20 or so.  I added some "for fun" plants like ornamental corn, ornamental pumpkins, sweet peas and will be planting some marigolds to discourage the potato bugs from claiming this patch as their home.  


I'm trying a few new things this year.  I purchased some reusable ground cover that is suppose to add approximately 2 weeks of growing season at the beginning and end of the season.  I figured that living in Sk. with all our cool weather, my garden could use all the help it can get!  I weighed it down with rocks and as the plants grow the cover will likely only cover one row instead of the 2 it now covers.  I only bought 2 rolls of the ground cover so it only covers portions of each kind of vegetable.  Hopefully it works!  I also had Martin put pegs in so that once the peas are growing we can string some baler twine between the posts so the vines grow upward instead of spreading all over the ground.  As you can see, I plant my rows very close together...less weeding and less space needed.  Martin also built a little box...you can see it in the far corner, almost at the center of the picture...for growing potatoes.  I've read that it's possible to grow 100 lbs of potatoes in a 4 ft square plot.  I don't actually think it will work.  I researched it a bit and most people had very little success.  However, I thought it would be fun to try.  At the rate I'm increasing the amount I need to plant, my garden will have to get bigger.  I love having my garden where the kids play and do not want to till  up more grass area, nor do I want to move my location.  So, my goal is to learn to garden in a more compact space.

This picture was taken from the edge of my garden.  I have a spectacular view, however, the down side is the cool breeze that comes off the river.  My garden tends to be a bit behind the average garden and I'm hoping that using the ground cover will change that.

The kids have been spending a LOT of time outside on the swings, riding their bikes, "hunting", coloring on the cement and, best of all...

...having a wiener roast!

With all the wonderful smoke!  :)

We've been enjoying the back deck too!

And even though we are not officially "doing" school, the kids are still learning!  In this case...learning to measure your little brother!  lol!

 We had planned to finish school at the end of May and then take a week or two of vacation prior to Martin's really busy season.  We had our sights set on Banff or Jasper.  However, we got news that Malia's surgery date has finally been scheduled for May 26th.  We pulled up our socks and did 2-3 days worth of  school work each day to finish 2 weeks earlier than planned.  Now the only thing left for me to do is suck in my lower lip and get over the fact that there will be no summer vacation for us this year...again.  :(

This is a "big" surgery for Malia.  She's had 3 procedures since coming home and this one is the biggest.  I will try to explain the procedure as best as I can...keep in mind I am not a doctor and am using terms that I understand.  :) 

This is the surgery where they take a small piece of  bone from her hip to create a gum line, attach her rotated teeth to the gum line, causing a hole to form in the back of her palate.   A sliver of tongue will be used to cover this hole and will remain attached to her tongue for about 2 weeks until it has grafted properly.  After about 2 weeks the sliver of tongue will be severed completely.  This surgery requires a 2-3 day hospital stay and will require a soft food/liquid diet for several weeks or longer. 

We waited to tell Malia until the last possible moment because she is very worried and nervous about this surgery.  I will be helping to sedate her so she will not notice that I am leaving her.  This alleviates some of her concern.  She HATES the smell of the sedative!  She does not want anyone to know that she is having this surgery...not even her cousins.  She is concerned that her mouth will look differently on the outside.  She is happy to have her front teeth looking nicer, but at the moment stress is clouding that thought.  I haven't told her that she will not be swimming for 2 months following surgery...not sure her little heart could take it...and mine isn't ready to see her sadness at that news.

If you would keep Malia, the surgeon, and us in your prayers this next week and especially on the 26th, we would be very grateful!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Child Dedication

This Mother's Day was especially meaningful.  We had the opportunity to dedicate our 3 youngest kids.  It is incredible to have an entire church stand behind us as we do our best to raise our kids and teach them to love God and love others.  It was touching to have some family members attend...you know who you are...thank you! 

For those of you who may not know what a Child Dedication is...in a nut shell...it's a public declaration that we, with God as our leader will seek to teach our kids all about God and His promises, to teach them what Jesus has done for them and for us.  For us personally, it's saying we need the body of Christ to stand beside us, to support us, to pray for us...and by "us", I mean our entire family.  It is not about salvation or ensuring entrance into heaven.  That is something that each of our kids will have to or have already made a decision about...who they will trust, love and put their faith in.  Our prayer is that God will be the one they choose.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Birth Mother's Day!

This post is dedicated to 3 VERY special ladies that I have never met, nor will I likely ever have the privilege of meeting them. 
To the 3 ladies that gave birth to the precious children we call "ours"...
Thank you for choosing to give life.
Thank you for so thoughtfully placing our children in a safe place where they would be found quickly.
Thank you for wrapping them in your love while you carried them in your womb and for the few hours you held them in your arms.
Thank you for having faith that someone would love your child and provide the special medical care your child needed.
Thank you for all the wonderful DNA you passed on to our children.  They are the sweetest, most beautiful children any parent could ever dream of!
There is so much more that I would like to say, but mostly I would like to give you a great big hug and tell you that each of your treasures are loved and well cared for. I pray that somehow God in His almighty power would let you see Him; that He would somehow let you know that your child is safe and loved.  That somehow you can deal with whatever emotions you may be dealing with. I pray that you do not feel guilty.  I pray that you have peace and joy.   I pray that somehow you know what a blessing you have each given to us.   I pray that someday you will be able to meet your child...even if it is in heaven...cause we will all be waiting to meet you and thank you in person. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Jackson's 3rd Birthday!

We celebrated Jackson's 3rd Birthday yesterday.  We always sing "Happy Birthday" to our kids first thing in the morning.  Jackson grinned from ear to ear, completely tickled that we were singing to him...so we sang it again.
I can't help but reflect on where I was and what I was doing 3 years ago.  I do remember an incident very clearly about me trying to figure out what God wanted for us.  You can read about it here.
I remember being completely confused, wondering what Haiti had to do with what God was trying to say.  If we were suppose to adopt again, was it from Haiti?  If so, some huge mountains would have to be moved because Haiti was not open to Sk residents.  Long story short...we travelled to Haiti to work at God's Littlest Angels.  I worked very hard the entire time not to fall in love with all those adorable and lovely kids.  Even though I loved them with every fibre in my body, I did not have the connection I have with my kids even before they arrive home...except perhaps with one or special kids.  ;)  I walked away from our trip to Haiti knowing we would adopt again....strongly knowing we would adopt again.  I had this incredible urgency that we needed to start the process NOW...or better yet...yesterday! 
Martin, being the realist, wasn't so sure.  In fact he was convinced we were done!  Can't say I blame him!  The poor guy comes home day after day to see and hear all that has gone on that day, to see his wife exhausted, frustrated, and feeling isolated and alone...and then she says we should adopt?  To be truthful it sounds downright stupid!...even to me!  But that's were the power of God's still small voice and constant prompting comes in.  How do you ignore God?  How do you say "no", when you are sure God has more in store for you?  The next year was spent praying, begging God to show us, to change Martin's heart if we were to adopt again and if not, to remove what I was feeling.  By Mother's Day 2012, Martin began to see how convinced I was and began to see there was in fact another child waiting for us.  He gave me the SWEETEST Mother's Day gift ever...a note saying that he agreed we should adopt again!  :)
When we finally got our proposal my eyes welled up with tears when I saw Chen Wenlong's (Jackson's) birth date...May 8, 2012....right around the time that I seriously believed and felt with every fibre of my being that there was a child waiting for us!  How cool is that!?!  That God would lay that on my heart so I could pray for our child even though he was a newborn and on the other side of the world...and pray I did!
So to celebrate Jackson's birthday is indeed special.  Special because he really is the sweetest boy ever!  And because it is a reminder of how much God cares for us, and how He never leaves us...He is always there, waiting to have a conversation with us.

Jackson has been home now for just over 9 months.  He is slowly bonding more and more.  His speech is slowly coming along.  He still rarely sleeps through the night and seems to have a lot of things that make him feel insecure.  Any change sets him back.  Being in close proximity to Asians stresses him.  Walking into an institution like a hospital makes him tense.  He is easily hurt.  Even being lifted hurts him.    I understand that trauma causes all kinds of issues.  I do understand why he is like this...sometimes it's just hard to see and hard to know what to do.
Jackson is smiling more.  Yelling more.  Playing harder.  Loving more.  Giving hugs more and even kissing me on the cheek.  (He used to only kiss Martin...little stinker!)
Jackson has an incredibly tender spirit and is easily hurt...but is also very easily humored.  He loves to giggle and be silly.  He loves to draw.  He loves to do puzzles.  He loves playing cars.  He loves his scooter.  He loves his trike and rides it like a real biker.  He loves being outside.  He loves jumping and crawling all over the couch...and falling!  lol!  He is a boys boy with a soft and gentle heart.  I fall more in love with this amazing boy each and every day!

Jackson is still profoundly deaf in one ear.  The other ear has healed itself and his hearing is fine in that ear.  Jackson has had so many ear aches that were left untreated, that it has caused the holes in his ears to be way too big.  So big, in fact that he will be having surgery to correct it.  Our wonderful doctor has put a rush on things so we expect Jackson to have day surgery sometime at the beginning of June.  The surgery is considered quite urgent due to the issues with Jackson's speech delay. The surgery will significantly improve his hearing and as a result his speech should also improve.
Jackson loved everything about his birthday, but refused to blow out his candles.  He sat there and smiled!  Little monkey!  Gotta love that boy!  :) 

I was quite disappointed in myself.  Growing up without much fuss around my birthday has made me determined to make out kids' birth day special.  However, with 2 days of appointments, kids wanting to shop for Mother's Day, trying to finish school by next week, little sleep, no energy...well, lets just say Jackson's 3rd Birthday was the lamest party ever.  lol.  His cake was super simple and took a matter of minutes to decorate...and it looks like it too!   There were no balloons...forgot to buy some.  However we did have a banner.  Even his gifts were unusual, in the sense that they were recycled gifts.  I meant to sell/donate some of the toys the oldest 2 boys had outgrown, but never got around to it.  So instead of spending a bunch of money on the same things we bought for the boys many years ago...we recycled them!  And Jackson didn't know the difference!  Haha!   Love how God is helping me get over being so...you know what!
He loved his barn and all the cool animals...and the $3 worth of cars that were on his cake!  :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Orphan Care

I've had something weighing on my heart a lot lately.  Something that grieves me.  Something that is dividing God's children. 
I hope and pray that I can address this topic in a very sensitive, sensible, gracious and loving manner.  Most importantly I hope I can address this topic in a way that would honor God, and be supported by God's word.  I ask that you read this post very carefully.  Please do not skim read it.  I really want you to hear my heart, to understand what scripture says, to not judge, to be open to what God is telling us.  If you have come here with an angry or hurt attitude, I ask that you please take a moment to spend on your own with God.  I pray that you will come here with an open and forgiving heart that is ready to love as God has designed for us to love.  If you have come here to prove a point, or if you have come here to look for fault...I ask that you please leave this page and find something better to do.  You do not have to read this.  It is your choice.  I ask that you read this with an open and loving heart.

The division I am talking about is the topic of caring for the orphan. 
Before I begin I would like to explain what I mean when I talk about the orphan and what is generally meant when the topic of orphans is addressed.  An orphan includes any and all children that have lost both parents through death or other circumstances, any children that have biological parents that are unable, (for whatever reason) to care for their children.  This includes, but is not limited to children within our foster care system, those available for adoption within Canada, children in orphanages around the world, children waiting for a forever family regardless of country.  It refers to any child whose voice is voiceless or unheard.  The child that can not defend him/herself.

First of all I would like to apologize to any of you whom I may have offended by being too harsh, too angry, too ungracious, too unforgiving.  My intent has never been to hurt.  My intent has always been to tell others about our God and about what I have learned.  I am well aware that I can sometimes be a bit of a "bull in a china cabinet" when it comes to words.  I tend to "shoot straight from the hip", which isn't always a good thing.  That sometimes results in feelings getting hurt and for people getting defensive.  And for that I am sorry.  I honestly try very hard to be gentle with my words so that others will be drawn to God and the truths in His word.  However, I will not apologize for offending when I have simply pointed out what scripture says.  It is up to those that have been hurt and/or offended to decipher the difference.

Based on personal experience, I would suggest that there is a huge misunderstanding.  When I say something, or when an orphan advocate says something it is often misunderstood.   Let me give you a few examples...

*A number of years ago we were visiting with a couple about adoption.  With enthusiasm and a huge grin I said, "You should adopt!"  The couple interpreted it to mean that I thought less of them because they did not care/feel led to adopt.  For years they were offended by that comment.  What I meant was that I thought they had the perfect skills, loving home and had so much to offer.  I meant they were more than qualified.  The comment could have been interpreted as me having an incredible amount of respect and faith in this couple.

*When I say ALL Christians have a responsibility to care for the orphan, most people hear..."EVEYONE should adopt".  I have never said everyone should adopt.  Nor do I think everyone should adopt.    We are all called to do something.  What that looks like will be different for each one of us.

*When I say the Church needs to do more for the orphan, people often think I am directing it at their particular denomination, their church. I do not mean any specific denomination, I mean the body of Christ.  I honestly believe that if we quit seeing our "church" as standing on it's own and saw ourselves as a part of the Body of Christ, a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements could be avoided.  

*When I say the Church needs to do more for the orphan, people think I am pointing fingers saying they are doing nothing.  I am not.  Many people support the orphan through missions trips, Compassion, World Vision, by supporting an orphanage or by praying.  I think we could agree that these are the most common ways the Church supports the orphan.  If we search scripture, we can not deny that all of these things are wonderful.  If you are doing these things...good for you!  You obviously understand that we need to care for the orphan.  What I am saying is this...that we can and should do more. 

Now before you get all defensive and angry at me, and think I am judging you...hear me out.  It is not my job to judge and that is not my intent.  However, I do believe it is possible to look at a situation and say "we can and should do better/more" without judging.  It is a call for us as a body of believers to seriously evaluate what we are doing, where we are successful, and where we are lacking.  If you take a close look at what we, as a Church, commonly DO when we "DO" orphan care, you will see that it is generally quite limited to sending money or mission teams to another country.  And as I stated before...this is awesome!  However, we can not and should not limit ourselves to this.  There is so much we can do even if we are not called to foster or adopt. 

Recently Martin and I attended a workshop presented by Forever Families of Canada.  They  gave us a booklet put out by Focus on the Family.  It is entitled Wrapping Around Adoptive Families.   It is an amazing book that is very clear on how to help adoptive families.  Although it focuses on how to help adoptive families, I believe the tips given, can and should be applied to foster families as well. 

The basic concept of the book is to W.R.A.P around adoptive (and foster) families.  W stands for "wrestle in prayer", R for "respite care" A for "acts of service", and P for "promises of God".  You can find a complete copy of the book here:

There are two things that foster parents and adoptive parents often list as the most difficult things they encounter....feeling lonely and financial stress.  I honestly don't think that any Christian really intends to contribute to adoptive/foster parents feeling this way.  I'd like to think it is simply an oversight and a lack of understanding on how much help is really needed and also the lack of knowing how to help.  Please understand that parenting a foster/adoptive child is not the same as parenting a biological child.  Now that's not to undermine the difficulties of parenting bio kids.  Any parenting is difficult.  It's about bringing awareness and understanding.

I ask that you take the time to look at the booklet and also take the time to read the scripture passages below. They are in no particular order, but all relate to how we, as a Church should care for the orphan. (and please ignore the various fonts, etc...I was lazy and copy and pasted from various web sites)  :)

 James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Psalm 82:3

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Job 31:16-18

"If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,  if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless--  but from my youth I reared him as would a father, and from my birth I guided the widow--

Psalm 10:18

defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

Psalm 10:14 A Psalm of confidence in God’s triumph over evil. “But you have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 10:17-18 “LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of earth may oppress no more.”

Psalm 68:5 “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in dry land.” He is concerned for those in need. Let us set our minds on Him and try to be more like him so that we can be used of Him to meet needs we can’t even see.

Isaiah 1:17 
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

Jeremiah 22:3

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place

Psalm 82:4 

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked