Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Catching Up...

I've been a very, VERY bad blogger. I apologize to everyone about that! I just seem to stay so busy these days.

Kaelie is growing by leaps and bounds! On February 16, she had her first well-baby checkup, where she weighed in at 19.75 pounds and was 29.5 inches long. She received three vaccinations on this visit, and will recieve another round in three months at her 15-month check-up. Our pediatrician agreed to keep Kaelie on formula unti she is 15 months old.

Kaelie visited Babies Can't Wait on February 17 for a developmental evaluation. There are some things that she is simply not ready to do yet. However, she is catching up quickly! We will know next week if she is going to receive any services to help her reach her developmental milestones. She's not too far behind, just enough to make this mama hen worried! Kaelie is coming a long way with her eating and feeding issues...she ate a biter biscuit for her afternoon snack. We are also practicing with a Nuby beginning sippy cup.

Kaelie had a birthday! She was the "Big One!" on February 13. We had a celebratory weekend. On Friday night, we had dinner at Logan's...Jeremy picked the place to celebrate his fantastic progress report...which followed Shelby's mid-term progress report of ALL A's, which Shelby hasn't pulled off in a very long time. Then, on Sunday afternoon, the boys and I went over to my grandmother's for a mini-birthday party. Cake and ice cream was enjoyed by all, and Kaelie received a Fisher Price learning puppy from us, a stuffed animal from Lisa and the girls, and a teddy bear from Nana. Unfortunately, the photos from this joyous occasion were lost due to two young men fiddling with the camera!

Kaelie has had the opportunity to meet new friends and family over the past week! My Uncle Ken and Aunt Marilee came from South Carolina for a visit, and let me tell you that they made a mess out of Kaelie! I had the chance to show Aunt Marilee a bunch of my China pictures. She crocheted the cutest little baby soccer ball for my sweetie and they also bought Kaelie her first Nursery Rhyme book which comes with a CD.

Kaelie and I met our friends Kim and Lia at the Golden Sun for lunch Tuesday afternoon. Sweet Lia finally warmed up and showed me some AWESOME ballet moves! We are going to Albany this Saturday to meet and have a playdate with Kim and Jen and their families on Saturday. I'm looking forward to meeting Emily and Jay and their little one who was also adopted recently from China.

Kaelie had a great first day at the nursery today! I was so was so hard to leave her. I cried all the way home and then called the nursery mid-morning to check up on her. I think she had a great first day. Poor thing was tuckered out and went right to sleep tonight!

OK, a few pictures and I'll try to go through and add a few more later!

Playful Kaelie can pull herself up on this walker toy, but only if it is propped against the wall. She doesn't have enough balance to walk behind it yet, but it won't be long. This is from Fisher-Price. It's a cute walker that plays ABC's and music, and has some shapes and other objects to put in the basket.

Kaelie and Ma-Ma-Ma. I love the expression on Kaelie's face...SO photogenic! My grandmother is thrilled to have another great-grand to brag about!

Daddy's Girl!

Who is this mountain man?! Uncle Ken of course!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ear Advice

Hi All ~

I guess I've been putting off the inevitable by not visiting the doctor, but I was hoping to save myself a trip and give this ear stuff I've had a chance to fix itself. That's not happened, so maybe you can offer a tip or two to get me through the weekend. Here's the whole story:

I got sick with a chest cold two days before Kaelie and I came home. On our second flight of the day -descending into Detroit - I experienced horrible ear pain and I had a hard time clearing my ear but I finally did and it was fine. Then, when we landed in Jacksonville, I had horrific pain and lightheadedness, and I couldn't really hear anything at all. I felt like my whole head was going to explode. I've not flown alot, but only on one other trip have I experienced something like this (and that was 10 years ago!).

Here I am a week later, and I'm getting more uncomfortable by the day. I'm taking a decongestant but it isn't really doing anything for the ears. I can feel the fluid moving behind my eardrums. Now I have a strange sensation when I even move my eyes, like the rest of my head is lagging behind. Also, I have some pressure in the roof of my mouth.

I would feel great if I could just get over this! Please send your best advice!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

First Week Home

Well, our party of five has survived our very first week home! What an exhausting, fun, and joyous week it has been. Let me do a quick run-down of the details:

Sunday afternoon found us at the pediatrician's office. At first, the office staff (they work a skeleton crew on the weekends) refused to put her on the list, saying that it was office policy not to take new patients on the weekends. I calmly explained that I had already made an appointment for her first well-baby appointment, then explained that she was running a fever and that we didn't get home until Saturday morning. After the office girl stated once more their "policy", David approached the window and told the girl that he wanted to see the doctor on call anyway. Well, she huffed, but in about 10 minutes she called me back to the window and gave me the weekend form to fill out. Then we went back into the room, and in about 10 minutes, GUESS WHO? walked in!? Only OUR pediatrician, who wasn't on call at all. I guess the office clerk called him when we demanded to be seen by the doctor on call. It was a blessing to see good old Dr. H., even if he did have on a polo shirt and sneakers under his white lab coat.

Dr. H spent a good 30 minutes with us and Kaelie. He did a quick medical check as well as an quick overall developmental assessment. David and I were both very impressed! We came home with a nebulizer to give Kaelie breathing treatments (she had the same chest cold that I left China with and her breathing was raspy.). Dr. H said that she was moving air OK, but that he didn't want her to "go wheezy" on us. She also got an antibiotic shot (which in 10 years he's never given one to the boys) and two other prescriptions (for ear drops and a decongestant). Dr. H was very reassuring, and he said he knew that Kaelie was going to be OK.

Monday found David and I in the social security office. Here's a helpful hint: take all your documentation with you and make an appointment online if you can, which will save you some time. We needed Kaelie's passport, adoption certificate, and birth certificate (which is basically a notarial statement).

Kaelie made her first visit to ATA on Tuesday night when I took Jeremy for practice. Kaelie was the star of the show that night, though! Our ATA is such a small school, and we are just like a big family up there. I've had the privilege of making so many new friends who I know I can count on there. It's pretty special to think about it now...that the reason I got involved in ATA was to pass the time until Kaelie's adoption. Now I'm an instructor trainee and enjoy working with the kids and helping them to improve their ATA skills and techniques. I guess Kaelie will be a Tiny Tiger in a couple of years!

A.W., one of my ATA students, made such a mess of Kaelie! He and his mom brought Kaelie some toys and A. was so sweet to play with her after his class.
Wednesday, we went to our local bar-b-que restaurant, Fat Boy's, to eat dinner, and Kaelie was again the hit of the evening. Everyone was just oo-ing and ahh-ing over her. It was amazing that in just a few days, Kaelie was feeling so much better. Finally, smiles are coming more regularly, she is crawling from one room to another, and she is just so interactive. I can look back on our time in China together, just the two of us, and reflect at how she was just very withdrawn. Almost in shell-shock. It has to be difficult for the kids, from having nothing and no one to call their own to suddenly having everything. It's just amazing to see her bubbly little personality and sweet smile.
Kaelie at Fat Boys Wednesday night. It's amazing how much more relaxed Kaelie is, compared to our time together in China. Smiles like these sure were hard to come by! But they are coming more and more easily.
Kaelie and I went to visit Nana and Ma-Ma-Ma for an extended visit Friday afternoon. We visited for about 4 hours. Kaelie wore herself out, but fought a nap. Finally, after I left her briefly to pick the boys up from school (Shelby's school is right across the street) she finally dozed for about 30 minutes on Nana's lap. My grandmother is just taken with Kaelie...even though she worried like crazy while I was in China!
How did Ma-Ma-Ma (my grandmother) get her name? When Shelby was a baby, he couldn't say "Grandmama" and it came out "ma-ma-ma" and it just stuck. My nieces call Grandmama "Grandma Sara" but to my boys she is Ma-Ma-Ma. Grandmama is an incredible person, and has been a huge influence in my life. I need to write a post all about her later....
Kaelie took a nap on Nana's knee Friday afternoon
Tonight for dinner Kaelie tried Sweet Potatoes and Chicken. She's worked her way up to the Stage 2 baby foods already! Yeah! Kaelie had never eaten any solids before (not even congee!) and so David and I are really working with her to get her to put things in her mouth and to try solids. I mixed in a few tiny Ritz cracker crumbs with some of her spoonfuls, and she wasn't quite sure what to do with them, but she didn't spit them out, which is a huge step forward. We may end up getting Babies Can't Wait (early intervention) involved, but for now we are just going to wait a couple of more weeks and see what happens. Today, Kaelie put her mouth on my bare arm and just licked and licked it, and she also let me put my finger in her mouth, touching her gums and the insides of her cheeks. That might sound gross, but to a baby who should be putting everything in her mouth, and has just totally missed this stage in her development, this is really GREAT progress. We try to keep mealtimes very, VERY fun and upbeat! David and I bought a couple of Stage 3 jarred foods tonight and hopefully next week Kaelie will feel like trying them.

No, No, Kaelie! No raspberries during a mouthful of sweet potatoes and chicken!

Wow, Mom! Mealtimes are just the best! Kaelie has a Ritz cracker in each hand, and while she won't gnaw on them yet, I think it's just a matter of time. I try to make it real silly for her, and she is REALLY enjoying the pureed foods. She hasn't rejected anything yet, so long as it's pretty hot! What a cutie, even if she does have sweet potatoes on her nose (and on her eyebrow, and in her hair, and up her sleeve....)
We are making progress in the sleep department as well. David and I bought Kaelie a Fisher-Price Rainforest Animals Soother for her crib. It has a nightlight and plays soft, gentle music. It is adorable and it's been a lifesaver! Last night was the first night that she got up only one time! The other nights she was up 4, 5, even 6 times. Another thing that helped was leaving her door open and turning on the light in the bathroom. I think this helped her to have some background noise which she in probably used to in the orphanage. She took a late-afternoon nap this afternoon, and we kept Kaelie up a little later than usual tonight, so hopefully she will go all night tonight without waking up!
Finally, let's not leave out big brothers Shelby and Jeremy! These two guys have held up so wonderfully to the changes in their lives. I can't believe how much they've grown inside and out in the three weeks since I left for China. Shelby is definitely the big brother who is going to be the protector and the teacher. Kaelie got so tickled tonight, watching Shelby try on all her cute hats. I mean laughing out loud laughing. Kaelie would laugh, then Shelby would laugh, which made Kaelie laugh harder!

Wise "ge ge" Shelby!

Jeremy is more hands-on than Shelby, but no less protective. Jeremy feels very comfortable carrying Kaelie (with much supervision!), and he even volunteered to help change a diaper! He loves to kiss his sister and lay on the floor and play with her. Kaelie definitely looks up to the "men" in her life.

Jeremy, right before he posed with his new homemade "weapon" that he used outside for playing.

Kaelie is also bonding extremely well with her daddy, who finally summoned to courage to change a poopy diaper last night! David has just been great during this first week home, washing clothes and dishes, fixing bottles, taking care of homework and shopping. I'm getting over the same cold that Kaelie has experienced, plus getting up with Kaelie as she recooperates from jet lag and gets used to her room. David has been very relaxed and laid back as he makes the adjustment from 2 kids to 3, and I'm so happy. David has definitely been my rock on this roller coaster ride! Love you, honey!

Please pray that the fluid in my ears will begin to drain. My chest cold is nearly gone, but I can't shake this buildup. Flying into Jacksonville was horrible, I've never experienced ear/head pain like that in my life! I just feel like my head is underwater! I guess I need to go to the doctor myself next week, but it's just so hard with a little one!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Welcome Home, Kaelie!

Our "tag team" of four became a "Party of Five" Friday night at the Jacksonville Airport!

Our long travel day began at 12:30 am Friday morning in China, when Kaelie got up with a fever and cough (I think the same one that ran rampant through our travel group). She wouldn't settle back down, even after the fever broke with the Tylenol/Motrin combo. So, on about 2 hours of sleep, Kaelie and I began our long travel day in what seemed to be the middle of the night on a bus with three other quietly reflecting families....reflecting on the wonders of a magnificent adoption trip and and heartaches of saying goodbye.

Kaelie did great on all the flights and I was so glad that I bought her an adult ticket for the way home. I couldn't have done the trip without it. She slept through many take-offs, landings, beverage and dinner servings, and slight episodes of turbulence. Kaelie took her bottles and was a real trooper getting her diapers changed in the lavatories...and I learned that it was possible to use the restroom on an airplane with an infant! I didn't realize that we would be flying through the night over eastern Russia and into a beautiful sunrise over mid-Canada. It was great to touch down in Detroit, where Kaelie and I waited in line about 45 minutes for her immigration visa to be processed. Kaelie is now a permanent resident alien of the United States of America. Because David did not travel with me and personally see Kaelie before returning to the US, Kaelie's visa with an IR4, which requires the re-adoption to take place before citizenship status will be granted.

Many helpful people aided in the loading of luggage through customs, getting all the stuff loaded onto the conveyors for the security screening, and so forth. In Detroit, I felt almost ill after getting off the plane, and Kaelie was no different. I found McDonald's and ordered some chicken strips and fries, only to realize I left my extra-large diet Coke on the beverage bar, and that retrieving it would require a long and strenous walk back around the moving sidewalks. The taste of fries at that point made me sick at my stomach anyway. I threw the food away and chose a 20-ounce diet Coke from Chili's and a fresh-fruit cup from another food vendor. The watermelon and pineapple seemed to help in the dehydration I seemed to be experiencing. Kaelie didn't seem to feel much better, with periods of crying, and low-grade fevers. I did what I could to keep her spirits up and her body comforted.
After a nearly six-hour layover, the service representatives from Northwest finally came to the gate, only to announce that "We are in an overbooking situation and we need to ask three volunteers...." You know the rest, promises of meals and travel vouchers. There wasn't anything that was going to stop me from getting from getting on that plane!!

Finally, we get boarded for our final leg of our halfway-around-the-world journey. Our seats were in the almost next to the last row, which was cumbersome since I had the baby plus three carry-on pieces (one for computer equipment and documents, one for a diaper bag, and another for an overnight bag...just in just never know when the unexpected might happen). We got settled in, and by this time my sweet baby girl had turned into one big screaming nightmare. A bottle seemed to cure her tantrum, and she slept more peacefully on this flight than on the entire journey.

Then, just in time, I gathered her up and changed her now-worn, medicine-stained, drooled-on outfit for the special meeting outfit that I bought in Guangzhou. I chose a pretty blue outfit trimmed in red and yellow, along with a pair of silk red squeaky shoes, white tights and laced bobby socks, a Gymboree ladybug sweater, and a beautiful headband I found at Jordon's. Kaelie looked absolutely stunning for such an exhausted little girl who had come so far from everything she'd ever known before.

It was time. I took my time gathering our things and was greeted in the jetway by the now-familiar blue stroller that found us in China. The left front wheel seemed a little wobbly, but it did the trick. I put Kaelie in the stroller and arranged our bags, said my good-byes to the flight crew and attendants who were waiting for me to make my exit, and off I went. Through a corridor of closed stores and dimmed lights, again quietly reflecting on a wonderful and amazing journey and so excited about what was about to come next.
I followed the arrows and signs toward baggage claim, secretly thinking about how those signs were pointing me toward such a sweet reunion. Then....our party of two weary travelers joined with a party of three eagerly awaiting fellows, holding a sign...I remember hearing "There she is!" in Jeremy's familiar voice and suddenly my feet weren't on the ground any more! I ran past security, pushing baby and lugging my three carry-ons and jumped into the arms of my loving family! It was a feeling I'll never forget.

Our party of five headed downstairs to baggage claim, and David and Shelby scooped up the luggage, Jeremy pushed the stroller. We walked together to the car and headed for Ruby Tuesday for a decent meal and to the hotel for a short stay. And a short stay at that, as at 3:30 am we were all still awake (due to my horrible cough) and so decided to go ahead and miss morning rush-hour traffic and get home. We arrived shortly after seven, and soon all five of us were in our own beds for a peaceful nap.

At one in the afternoon, we all got up and enjoyed a breakfast of grits and toast (well, Kaelie had her formula...), followed by a dose of ibuprofen for Kaelie and some cough suppressant for me. After a catnap, Kaelie decided that it was time to show her first company (Aunt Lisa and Grandma Annette) her cute little personality that I'd grown to love so much in China.

Later, we went into town, where I learned that the biggest news in forever in our small town was the burning down of our town's peanut mill, a three-day fire that temporarily closed several businesses due to thick smoke and horrible stench. We stopped by for a quick introduction of Kaelie to my grandmother and mom, then off to the grocery store (NOTHING remotely like the Carrefour!) for a buggy-full of meals. After a warm bottle and a warm bath, and a rubbing down with Vick's Baby Rub, Kaelie is out for the night in her own crib. What a beautiful sight!

I'm about to follow in her tiny footsteps, off to bed, in my own bed with my own covers, with no agenda for tomorrow except to play with my wonderful children and recooperate from this chest cold. I believe that Kaelie will sleep through the night, and I will too, and tomorrow when we wake up we'll be on eastern time and hopefully no signs of jet lag. Now another journey begins, the journey to raise Kaelie, to teach her the proper ways of life, to love and be generous, to be kind to others and to never give up! I love this baby so much already, and David and the boys do too! I'm looking forward to tomorrow and what the future holds for all of us!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Day in China

Hi Everyone ~

Well, our journey to China is coming to an end. But, in a brand-new way, the journey is just beginning. A new person to love, Kaelie, a life to watch grow and blossom, to nurture a human being and teach her all the new things she needs to know. A new beginning in my family, as adding a child through adoption is certainly a most joyful occasion, it is sure to bring its challenges.

How I love China! I love the people here, the hustle and bustle of this wonderful city, Guangzhou! The traffic, the smells, even the smog. The mixture of the old and the new, the ancient and the modern. I'm sad to leave this place, the country of my daughter's birth....the wisdom that so many here seem to have and be willing to share. The joy in people's faces, the more relaxed way of life. It's amazing, that even in the hurry and rush of this gigantic city, people practice the ancient art of tai-chi, friends and couples gather in the parks to play badminton, even without a net! Or a group of people smiling and laughing through a round of hacky-sack! Oh, this wonderful place so far, far away from home! I only hope that I can teach and show Kaelie how thrilling and facinating her birth country is.

And, how eager I am to go home! To see the three loves of my life, David, Shelby, and Jeremy, to hold them in warm embraces and see how much taller they will have seem to have grown. To sleep in my own bed, to watch American TV, and to have a taste of the familiar. They say that "Home is where the heart is" and I believe that is true. While in China, I've tried so hard to embrace the culture and way of life, and now to look forward to going family is where my heart is and I can't wait to be reunited with them.

So long from China! Please send prayers this way for good travels...we have a tight connection in Tokyo (only 50 minutes!) and also for good weather in Detroit so that Kaelie and I can fly straight to Jacksonville. Also, Kaelie and I see to be quite under the weather, I have a chest cold and Kaelie has the sniffles.

Love, Karen

Group Photo in the White Swan Hotel...Alison said that we've been the biggest group on Shamian Island during our stay!

May from Sherry's Place holding Kaelie. Everyone commented that Kaelie is a "lovely girl." Travel tip: Sherry's Place has the best selection and highest quality of squeaky shoes on the island!

Brightly-colored lanterns have greeted us everywhere. The excitement and anticipation of the New Year keeps building every day! I've never really understood until now how important Chinese New Year is.

Kaelie's last sleep in China. She is dressed for an early day tomorrow (we are meeting downstairs at 5:15 for the bus to the airport). All I have to do is put on her shoes and give her a bottle and she will be good to go!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Been Awhile!

A few random pictures...
Happy New Year Greetings! These statues are in all the restaurants now, the excitement is building to a fever-pitch for the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year)!
My pouty girl!

Home sweet home...Room 8304 at the Victory Hotel

Brides are everywhere on beautiful Shamian Island...this couple from Miami took a break from thier picture shoot to pose for us

Sorry I haven't posted's hard when you're basically a "one-woman" show! Kaelie and I are doing great except for a little chest cold which has spread pretty rampantly among our travel group. It wouldn't be so bad except for the coughing at night! I have some Tylenol cold for me but it is basically for a head cold. I'm hoping to find something for a chest cold among our group today.
On Sunday, we attended the Chinese/English service at the Christ Church on Shamian Island. What an experience! The message was a beautiful sermon entitled "The Assurance of our Hope" from First Corinithians.

After lunch, we filled a bus and a van and headed out for an afternoon at the zoo!

Pomerianians on display!

A girl has to primp for an important photo shoot, right? Kaelie LOVES taking a bath!

All ready to's time for the red couch photos!

Panda sisters...Kaelie, Lauren, and Giorgia with their sweet moms Stephe, Donna, and me
Jill and Mary Elizabeth, me with Kaelie, and Kathy with Sierra

My angel :>)
Six sweet babies pose, and another is very unhappy...guess who!
Look at that cheeky grin!
Red couch nap!
Ray and Leslie celebrate their daughter Isabela's first birthday! We had a get-together on the M floor in the lobby with cake and fellowship and sad good-byes
The hotel staff always coo over, before the birthday party

Our group of 15 is now a group of 7! The 8 families who traveled to other provinces (besides Guangdong) all got off this morning for home. And in 24 hours, Kaelie and I will be heading east! I think in all it will take us about 27 hours to from Guangzhou to Jacksonville. I can't wait to see all my guys and show them their beautiful daughter and sister! I love you all so much!

So, what have we been up to? SHOPPING, a "quick" trip to the consulate to re-do our vaccination affidavit, an outing to the Guangzhou zoo, shopping for pearls at the pearl market, and more SHOPPING! We've had a great time here and the only thing that would have made it better would have been to have the rest of my family here.