Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baking Bread

My mom loves to make homemade bread.  One day last week she made bread with Rachel.  Judging from the pictures it was quite an adventure!  Let's just say that Rae is a very enthusiastic baker.
Rachel chanted "Knead! Knead!" and rammed her little hand into the dough.

Oooh!  It's a LOT of dough!

Now it's time to let it rise.  Mom always uses a huge enamel bowl to raise the bread.  It belonged to her great-grandmother and she has long joked that it is The Inheritance.  I love the idea that Rachel was using something that was her great-great-great-grandmother's!

While the bread baked, Rachel and Granny had a major wash-up, changed clothes, and cleaned up half a pound of flour off the kitchen counters and floor.  It's a good thing Rachel likes to clean as much as she does bake.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sidewalk Chalk

Katherine went outside while I was cooking dinner.   After a while she begged me to come out and see something - "It took a  lot of chalk!"  I went out to see hopscotch squares snaking all the way down the driveway and then U-turning back up.  Kate had made and numbered 101 squares and was so proud of herself!  It did take a lot of energy to hop through it all, though!

Friday, November 26, 2010

She's Back!

Rachel is feeling much better today - pretty much her usual self.  Yeah!  She has eaten anything put in front of her and happily brushed her teeth, so I'm guessing the mouth sores are gone.  I am glad to see her back - it's been a long, rough week.
I took Rae with me to run errands and she was just happy to get out of the house.  She had birthday money to spend, so we hit the toy aisle at Wal-Mart.  Rachel checked out all the toys and pushed every button and finally made her choice - a microwave and play food.  She has had a grand time cooking this afternoon!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


   Rachel is a little better today.  She slept 5 hours straight last night and has managed to eat a little today.  She is also smiling again.  But, she is still not herself.
   Katherine and I went to the big family Thanksgiving gathering at my uncle's house.  There were lots of us there - my mom's siblings and their children and grandchildren.  I counted 38 people!  Obviously, we didn't do the magazine illustration all-sit-at-the-table-together version of Thanksgiving.  We just set all the food out buffet style and everyone sat wherever they could find room.  There was enough food for three times as many people, of course!  Katherine had a good time playing with assorted cousins and even got to ride a horse, so she was happy!
My 97 year old Great Uncle George was there, too.  Katherine is named for his beloved sister, Katherine, and the two have always enjoyed each other's company.

I took along a cooler and a list of food requests for Steve.  He and Rachel went through the drive-through at McDonalds for lunch (along with a long line of other people!).  So they had their Thanksgiving dinner for supper.  Rachel managed a few bites.

It has been a strange Thanksgiving, but I am no less thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shopping Adventures

   Rachel was slightly better today, but still not herself.  The fact that she won't talk and won't smile was a big clue. The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally Steve's and my big Christmas shopping trip and we'd already scheduled our car to have the oil changed in the city.  Granny still volunteered to keep the girls, sickie Rae and all.  I felt guilty about it, but changing the car plans was going to be a big pain.  So we drove to the city and planned to keep our shopping quick.
   Steve and I dropped off the car and walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch.  While there we stumbled across some old friends that we hadn't seen in years - not since we'd all added more children through adoption.  We had a nice visit over lunch and caught up with each other.  Then Steve and I walked back to get the car.
  We started off on our shopping agenda and had only gone a few miles when emergency signals started flashing on the dash of the car.  We pulled over and tried to interpret all the symbols.  We called the car dealer and they told us to drive back to their shop.  Our car is a hybrid and relies on both batteries and a gas engine to move.  It was evident that the engine was not cycling on and we were running out of batteries fast.  A mile later, the car died entirely.  We managed to push it mostly into a driveway and called the car dealer again.  They called a towing company.  We waiting for quite a while for a truck to arrive.  Then we loaded the car (pretty fascinating to watch).  The tow truck driver warned us that he only had one seat, so we would be "lapping".  So, Steve rode on my lap back to the car dealer!  Despite the frustration of the situation, it was funny. 
   The dealer gave us a loaner vehicle and hauled the car into the shop.  We went on and did our shopping and found most of what we were looking for.  Steve, of course, fretted over the car the whole time. 
  At the end of the day we went back to check on the car.  The woman at the front desk quickly led us through the Employees Only door and into the shop.  There the mechanic explained that he knew what was wrong, but didn't yet know how to fix it.  It seems whomever changed the oil earlier in the day put too much in and "it got sprayed around where it shouldn't have and the computer just shut it down."  In other words - it was their mistake.  Steve quickly stopped fretting about potential car repair bills.  Everyone was very appologetic and assured us that the loaner vehicle was ours to use as long as needed. 
   So we finally headed home, two or three hours later than we had planned.  It wasn't how I'd expected to spend the day, but it was an adventure!  All in all, we are just thankful.  Thankful that the girls were not with us, that it wasn't 20 degrees or 105, that we broke down in an area with tow service, that we were not getting ready to travel far away, that a loaner vehicle was available, that the problems were not our mistake, that we were all safe.  Today we learned a little about patience and tow trucks and hybrid car mechanics.  And about the blessings we have received.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Birthday Blues

Today is Rachel's 3rd birthday, but she was too sick to care.  I am so glad that we had our big celebration over the weekend, so that she wasn't miserable on her party day.  Rae stayed with Granny all day and did very little but sit on Granny's lap.  She's feverish and whiney and utterly miserable.  Her mouth is so full of sores that she can't eat.  She's hungry (she's had nothing but icy pops to eat) but every bite/swallow hurts and she cries.  At our house, the birthday tradition is that the Birthday Girl/Boy gets to pick the restaurant for supper.  Rachel couldn't go out and couldn't eat, so we had take-out pizza and ate with her looking on longingly and fussing.  (Isn't that awful?)  I did manage to distract her this evening with an art project, so this will have to do for a birthday portrait.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl.  I hope you feel better soon!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Change in Plans

Rachel was supposed to start school tomorrow, on her 3rd birthday.  But today she broke out with a mysterious painful rash on her hands and in her mouth.  Steve took her to the doctor and it seems she has Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.  It's a harmless virus that is very contagious among young children, but rarely infects adults.  It just makes Rachel cranky and keeps her from eating.  So, she's not starting school tomorrow.
But here are some great pictures of Rachel and Aunt Robie at the big birthday party.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Look Who's 3!

Rachel's birthday party was today.  She was SO excited!  She walked around announcing "MY birfday!  MY party!"  Granny made her a kitty dress to wear at the party - Rae is obsessed with kitties and the color pink.
I am NOT a cake decorater, but I made Rachel a kitty cake.  It was pink inside, of course.  Rachel was delighted.
Pink cake and pink ice cream are tasty!

Then it was time to open presents.  Last year on her birthday Rachel was so innocent - she's never opened a gift.  This year she knew there were presents for her and she couldn't wait to get to them!  She got lots of dress-up clothes - a whole box full.

There were books and puzzles, an electronic toy with lots of buttons to push, a giant coloring book, silly zhu zhu pets, and then... DORA!

It was a good party.  Rachel had a lot of fun.  Later she asked if there was "more birfday".  Although her birthday isn't until Tuesday, as far as Rae is concerned she is "Free!" and holds up 3 fingers to prove it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Day, Another Doctor

   Rachel had an appointment with an ENT today.  For a kid who is almost never sick she sure has seen a lot of doctors - our family physician, a pediatric orthopedic specialist, another pediatric orthopedic specialist at Shriner's and his still-in-training colleague, a pediatric gastrointologist, and now an ENT.  Actually the ENT is the only doc that has actually suggested any sort of treatment - the rest were just diagnosing.  Rachel has had "flat tympanograms" on several hearing tests over the past year, indicating that she has fluid behind her eardrums.  This probably has a big impact on her speech articulation delays.  So, we were referred to the ENT.  He was a really nice guy and spent a lot of time chatting with Rae and making sure I understood everything.  He recommended that Rachel have tubes put in both ears, which is what we had expected.  She is scheduled for surgery (it will only take 15 minutes) on December 2nd.
   I always feel a sort of dread about doctors' offices and my girls.  There is always so much paperwork and so much of it is useless to them.  On every form there is a section about Family History or Birth History or Early Development and I have to just leave it blank because I have no information about my daughters' early lives.  At all.  All I can say is they have no scars, so they must not have had surgery.  And here's what illnesses they've had since I've known them.  In Rachel's case, the sum of her known medical history is her hand diagnosis, her immunizations as to date, and the fact that she had a virus with a fever and vomiting once.  That's all.  In the doctor's office I get a glimpse of the depth of my daughters' loss.  Of what they are missing.  Of the huge blank spaces in their lives that will never be filled in.  And how they will be reminded of that every time they fill out a medical form.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Miss Turkey

Granny has been sewing again.  Her latest project has been a turkey dress for Rachel - after all, doesn't she need a dress for every holiday?  The turkey's feathers are made from scraps of other dresses Granny has made over the past year.  Have you ever seen a turkey with Dora on his feathers?

Monday, November 8, 2010

School Girl

   We knew Rachel had special needs long before we brought her home, so I scheduled an evaluation for her with our local early intervention program before we even left for China.  I figured that, if nothing else, Rachel was missing a hand so her fine motor skills were probably not on par with a typical kid's.  I realized the first day that we had her that Rachel's hand was not an issue, but within a few days I noticed that speech was.  At 21 months Rachel had only one word.  Mama.  And she used that word for everything. 
   Rachel went through an evaluation a few weeks after she arrived home and she qualified for services.  The early intervention staff felt she needed some work on fine motor skills (after all, she was missing a hand) but were not overly concerned about her speech.  So once or twice a week Miss Linda came to our house or to daycare to play with Rachel.  She brought a big bag of toys and all sorts of books and art projects.  Rachel adored her.  It soon became obvious that Rae really didn't need any help with fine motor skills, despite the missing hand.  But her language was another story.  Rachel understood everything but her spoken words were very slow to come.  Miss Linda added language activities to her bag of tricks.  Little by little Rachel started to talk.  Soon she jabbered non-stop.  But we had a hard time understanding what she was saying.  Making certain speech sounds or putting syllables together is HARD for Rachel. 
   I have worked with speech-delayed kids for years.  Rachel's speech is nothing new to me, but it has been more difficult than I had imagined to be the parent of a speech delayed child.  Watching her struggle to express herself has been hard.  I feel so helpless when she tells me something and I can't decipher it.  But I am amazed by how hard she works to make herself understood.  And I cheer her on with every little step. 
   Once Rachel turns 3 she will no longer be able to receive early intervention services.  She'll move on to preschool and a classroom just like mine.  We have been working on that transition, with all the testing and paperwork that it entails.  Today we had Rachel's IEP meeting.  She met her teacher and her speech therapist and charmed them both.  We visited her classroom and she didn't want to leave.  Rachel will go to preschool two mornings a week and get speech therapy there.  She will start on her 3rd birthday!  I know some people think she seems awfully young to start school, but sessions with her speech therapist and lots of time listening to other kids talk is exactly what she needs right now.  Rachel, of course, can't wait!
   Since Rae had a doctor's appointment today as well as her meeting, we made a fun afternoon of it.  We went to the park so that Rachel could swing.  We have a huge park with fabulous equipment, but all Rae really wants to do is swing.
 Then Rachel found a ladybug and we watched it crawl around.  She loves bugs! 

Rae kept repeating "Me.  Mommy.  Just Mommy and Rachel."  We both enjoyed our afternoon together, just me and my Big Girl.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Animal Train

We came home from dinner last night and found our neighbors had borrowed a cool animal "train" pulled by a riding lawn mower.  They invited the girls for a ride.  What fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Meow Meow Kitty and the Ruthless Toothless Pirate

Halloween!!!!!  The weather was perfect and the girls had a grand time on Halloween.  Katherine has been longing for a "girl pirate" costume for a year.  So Granny made her one, of course!
We just decided that Rachel needed to be a kitty, since she's crazy about cats.  She loves it!  She very much understood that she was a kitty and meowed and wanted petted while in her costume.

Our church had a trunk-or-treat party, with people handing out candy from the backs of their decorated cars, face painting, s'mores and apple cider, an old-fashioned fishing pond, and a cupcake walk.  It was a huge success, with so many community people attending that they ran out of candy!  We had a lot of fun trick-or-treating and playing games.  Although Rachel knew that she was going to wear a costume on Halloween, she didn't realize that other people would, too.  She just stared in amazement at all the costumes and decorations.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way