26 March 2009

Chapter Four: Two Surgeries Down + Birthday Time

Chapter 0: BW (before Willow)
Chapter I: Invisible Red Thread Unites Us With Willow, Though Separated by 7,000 Miles of Pacific Ocean
Chapter II: Forever Family Together in China
Chapter III: Home
Chapter IV: Two Surgeries Down and Birthday Time

Ouch. But getting better every day (the bandage is bloody; that's not the entire incision)

Getting ready for the birthday party (Willow is napping upstairs)

What are these things?

Nothing is more fun than a metal box that opens and closes.

March 26th: two years old! We can't stand it; she's growing up.

Too much birthday cake ....

You can get a feel for how tiny she is when photographed next to her balloons.

The next day, Willow's bandage was starting to fall off so I put some steristrips over it (she was not happy about it).

25 March 2009

Wee Willow Pre and Post Surgery Number 2

Random adorableness, the week before surgery.
Waiting for the doctors to tell us it is time to join them in surgery.

Disclaimer: I mentioned in my last blog that she is quite swollen, and her surgical site and steri-strip covering are encrusted in blood; we can't clean them, but rather are instructed to bathe her as normal (water will loosen the gunk) and let everything slough off when it wants to.

We are in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit). Willow has awoken, but she's miserable and crying (interspersed with sleep).

Leaving PACU, on the way to our room for the night.

After a very long evening, Willow slept for most of the night. Her oxygen levels kept dropping, thus the tube above her head is providing a little boost.

A new day has dawned. Willow is awake and hungry (note the raspberry yogurt on her face).

Looking precious, as she strolls around the hospital halls (waiting to be discharged).
The end.

24 March 2009

Surgery Went Very Well

The doctors are super-pleased, and Willow reacted as well as possible. She had a rough day (Monday, post surgery), but today (Tuesday), she is feeling much better and is hungry :) Glad to have this hurdle behind her now.

I will post pictures soon. She's quite swollen, and her surgical site and steri-strip covering are encrusted in blood; we can't clean them, but rather are instructed to bathe her as normal (water will loosen the gunk) and let them fall off when they want to.

We watched the movie Nemo again. To remind you, Nemo was born with a fin that is smaller than the others: he and his Dad call it his "lucky fin". Willow has a lucky nose and lip.

Thank you for all your prayers and well-wishes.

Meryl, Willow, Chris, Chloe, and Gus

20 March 2009

Happy Feet

After Willow has eaten her own (large) meal, her tradition is to see what Chris is eating ... She goes in for the lean (hanging by her elbows on Chris' knees).

Then the feet go into action: happy feet, moving up and down, left and right ... over and over again.

This little move slays me: the upkick followed by leaning on the toes. By the way, Willow went to the doctor yesterday and she has gained a pound (despite having not eaten much for a week, after placement of her orthocleft retainer).

Mass quantities.

A day at Pioneer Park (actually visited 3 times this week, now that the temperature has gone up). The wooden walkway has been a big hit (the other objects in the playground are a little too big).

Eye Candy

I wonder what she is thinking?

Warm days helped with snow on the trail.
Learning how to run downhill, uphill, across the hill.
Wee !

Ooops again.
After walking for almost a mile (Willow limitation), it was time to turn around and head home. Willow fell apart, when we tried to put her in the carrier; nor would she walk.
All forgiven.

16 March 2009

Maybe ... God Willing ... " A 'Miss Donna'"

Willow's "Finding Ad", published in the Wuchuan newspaper in November 2007, when Willow was approximately 6 months of age. This is the earliest photo we have of Willow, who is pictured on the left (thank you to Brian Stuy, researchchina.org). The precious girl on the right is discussed below.
My last blog was about my new life, that is, specifically about a new friend that Willow and I have here in Minnesota. That post provided the inspiration to mention another wonderful friend ... an amazing friend I have never met. Her daughter, Faith, and Willow are from the same orphange, and were adopted by us--their forever families--only 3 weeks apart. In addition, their "finding ads" were published in the newspaper at the same time (and the girls were next to each other: Willow is in the middle, and Faith is on the right (she's 3 months younger than Willow). To protect her anonymity (no last name), let me introduce the amazing Miss Donna (she's from the south, so this is the appropriate moniker). There are no coincidences; there is kismet. There is Miss Donna.
The Adoption-ator
Donna is grace, Donna is a force. Donna is unrelenting determination: a heat seeking missle when it comes to negotiating the world of international adoption and encouraging everyone to consider adoption as an option. Not sure if she has a photographic memory, but she knows more details about international adoption than most professionals working in the field. And, dang it, she's always right :) This statement won't mean much to those of you who aren't adoptive parents, but Miss Donna was the first person in the United States to negotiate her way through USCIS and the new (2008) Hague Treaty on International Adoption regulations without a hitch (every other documentation had been returned to the applicant because of errors or missing info). Donna has four children, two of whom were adopted from China. Her family is wonderful, but I'd expect nothing less from this Mama Polar Bear.
Toe cuteness.
Related to the above discussion (about Donna) is the news that Chris and I have decided we will try to adopt another little one from an orphange in China. Because of certain age regulations, the mounds of dossier paperwork has to be in China by July. The only way we can accomplish this will be to pull a Miss Donna, seriously. She's "on the case", willing to help, and I am grateful.
Change of topic. I put a finger puppet on Willow's zebra pull-toy. The phone rang ... we got involved in other activities. It wasn't until later that I noticed the riding partners Willow had created in my absence:

Riding partners (by Mommy).

Obviously Willow grasped the concept: this is what I discovered later, when I walked back into the room we had been playing in. She slays us.

13 March 2009

More Post-Surgery: Our New Friends

Our new friends, Kristen and Sam (you can see that Sam is in love with Willow already). Kristen has three great children, two of whom were adopted from China (Sam is 3, and also was cleft-affected). Kristen is supermom, so I joke and tell her I can't be friends with her anymore (as her parenting prowess is intimidating)! She's been a great source of support and knowledge (it has been a huge benefit to us as we negotiate this new world). Thank you Kristen, Jake, Carly, Ruby, and Sam.

Kristen and her family filled a very nice birthday package for Willow. We absolutely love this toy (see below).

Willow has had some very unhappy moments post-surgery (in contrast to the happy photos above--and below). Pain? Fear? Both, probably.

It is very apparent that she feels this sadness at her core. These episodes occur infrequently; consoling her can be an artform (she often is angry at everyone and everything). Hey, I can remember having those feelings ... can you?

Happy morning on Daddy's back, going for a long walk with the dogs at Jackson Meadow (a cluster development, where the majority of land is meadow and forest, coupled with a network of trails).
Finding a detour through an adjacent cornfield: the trail-dips were filled with large icy ponds from a recent thaw and freeze.

Pick me up! Yikes, she was up and down the first week post surgery. Make sure to read our other posts, below.

Willow: Ups and Downs. Mommy: Ups and Downs!

All in all, it hasn't been that awful (now that Willow's first surgery is behind us). It's relative: it was bad, it was painful, I felt helpless, but it isn't bad on the scale of life's really hard things. I had lots of friends who have gone through similar surgeries with their children to cheer us on. My cousin is a professor of pediatric nursing (intensive care), and she was able to provide a lot of tangible advise. And a good friend has worked at a pharmacy for about 20 years (and can advise me on drug do's and don'ts).
Ten days to go until surgery number two. The second surgery is when they will (1) remove the orthocleft appliance that is screwed into the roof--and wired through the gums--of Willow's mouth, (2) repair the clefts in her lip, and (3) clean her ears (impacted with wax ... weird). Here are a bunch of pictures to illustrate our life these past 10+ days, post surgery. I'll try to add some captions, too.

A few images from day 2, post surgery. Gave her a bath to brighten her body and spirit. She seemed great (and some friends explained it this way: the kids feel so much better that they get up and act normal ... until they realize that they really hurt and are way out of sorts). Willow is still in happy delusion ...

Dancing with Chloe.

Anterior segment of wire that actually goes right through her gum, from side-to-side.
Cutie pie (wearing pants from her red-couch photo in China).
Have you ever seen anything as cute as toddler feet? You can see what a coquette she is (just by looking at the foot-pose). I painted her toes .... I don't think she's really old enough to appreciate it, in a girly way (though she seemed to like it!)

She loves to get into Gus' "den-den" (maybe it feels cavelike and secure to her, too).
Here they are together (Gus is tolerating her); after I snapped the picture, she was distracted and removed. Gus and Chloe like her, and we want to keep it that way (she now thinks it is fun to chase and generally annoy them). That said, they still rush up to give her a kiss when we come home from an outing.