Friday, September 30, 2011

Shenzhen: Fishing Village to Major Port

Shenzhen is the city in which Shaling was found and lived until we adopted her. One of my fellow adoptive families found this nifty link to a page of pictures displaying the absolutely incredible growth that Shenzhen City has experienced over the last 4 decades. I had previously learned that in the 1970s, Shenzhen was a small fishing village and that by 2010 had over 9 million people. It turns out, they have closer to 12 million people. Shenzhen greatly benefitted when China designated it as a special economic zone, allowing a bit more freedom and encouragement for economic growth than other areas of China.

It's worth checking out the entire page of photos, but here are two of the most intriguing ones:

This one is of Shenzhen, showing mostly agricultural areas, around 1980:

Here is one of several photos of modern day Shenzhen, which apparently has become the second busiest port in China:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Don't Know Whose Baby I Was

Over supper tonight, Shaling was a bit curious about my being my mom's baby and my mom being my grandma's baby. Then, she opened the door to a conversation I expected to have "some day", but figured it would come closer to her teenage years. Her grammar is still often mixed up, so it came out, "I don't know whose baby, me." She said it very matter-of-factly, with only a bit of curiosity. She didn't seem to want to grieve about it; she wasn't upset in anyway, so I wasn't quite sure what to say. I just nodded knowingly and told her that she was mine now.

She continued on, telling me that her mom died, so she got a new Chinese mom and new Chinese dad (some of the caregivers at the welfare center) and now she has an English mom and English dad. She further explained that she didn't know if she had a brother or a little sister, etc. All of this was unprompted.

Next, she told me she couldn't remember when she was a baby. She started counting backwards, "I remember 8, 7, 6, 5..." I gently told her that she was in the hospital when she was a baby. Via gesturing and sound effects, she asked if someone had hurt her. I told her no, that she was sick. She was quite dubious, explaining that she couldn't be sick because she's not short. I assured her that she's not sick now but that she was sick then and we don't know why.

I'm not quite sure how she digested all of it, but she was quick to ask if we could start her homework. Homework came a bit late today because she had a one-time cheerleading practice after school and a 5:00 trumpet lesson. The cheerleading practice is for a one-time performance at the high school football game this Friday night. I regret that I'll miss it due to a previously planned "girls getaway weekend". I'm hoping for video and pictures! On a school-related note, she had her highest spelling test score yet this year last week -- a 17 out of 20.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quick Update on Shaling's Ear & Teeth

Shaling had an afternoon of doctor appointments yesterday. First, we had our initial visit with Dr. McDaniel, an orthodontist. He confirmed that she will need oral surgery. What we didn't realize until yesterday is that she will actually have to have TWO teeth extracted, not just one. On both sides of her upper row of teeth, she has a space wide enough for two teeth, but three teeth trying to fit. Two of the teeth are exposed and one is underneath, trying to push it's way in. The surgeon (which may end up being our dentist), upon the orthodontist's recommendation, will take out one of the teeth already exposed (the one overlapping the tooth underneath the most). He will do this on both sides. We are awaiting a call from our dentist (whom I happen to know just left on vacation today) to schedule when this might happen.

Next, we saw Dr. Huang for a follow-up on her ear surgery. He said the ear is healing nicely, but he was not yet able to remove the packing inside the canal. We have to continue ear drops twice a day and she still cannot let any water enter her ear. However, the good news is that her physical activity restrictions were lifted. She did the happy dance because she is able to return to P.E., go outside for recess, ride her bike, play on the trampoline, and return to trumpet lessons. We go back to see Dr. Huang in two weeks -- actually ON Shaling's 10th birthday. Dr. Huang is also leaving on vacation this weekend. He is going home to Beijing to see his parents.

Tomorrow we are going to the Illini football game. I'm anxious to see how Shaling likes the pageantry of college football.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shaling's scar is healing nicely. Just to reiterate, the visible scar is from the doctor digging in to retrieve some fascia cells, which were used to fill in the hole in the eardrum. The surgery itself was completed through the ear canal. This picture is from 2 days after the surgery (and courtesy of Grandpa Reynolds):

She was on Amoxycillin for several days and is still on prescription eardrops, morning & night. She also had Tylenol with Codeine, but due to a high pain tolerance, took it for less than 24 hours. She finally dropped having to put in a cotton ball & bandaid last Friday. Although, we will still have to do so anytime we wash her hair. Additionally, we have an antibiotic ointment (bacitracin) that we apply to her scar occasionally. We felt like a regular old pharmacy for awhile.

She is frustrated that she cannot go to P.E. or recess, but we see the doctor this Thursday, and I'm optimistic that her restrictions may be lifted. It was especially difficult for her yesterday, when she attended her good friend Katie's birthday party at a skating rink, but couldn't skate. It helped that Mom was more generous than usual with money for tokens in the arcade area.

She's definitely back to her stubborn self. At lunch on Saturday, she thought Mom had kicked her under the table (turns out that Dad did it). She looked under the table, aimed right at my exposed big toe (I was wearing sandals), and stomped as hard as she could right on it. I have to say that it hurt. She & Preston had stayed up late the night before and had been misbehaving at lunch anyway, so I reacted with an abundance of anger and sternness. It was enough to send her to tears & curl up in Dad's arms. Even after Dad 'fessed up to being the culprit and told her she needed to apologize to Mom, she defiantly stayed angry at me (not him), continued to cry, and continued to lean up against him.

We had driven both cars there, as we had gone a variety of directions that morning, so she rode home with Dad and Preston rode home with me. On the way home, Dad tried to discuss the incident with her, but she only cried all of the more. Apparently, she has a difficult time admitting when she's wrong. Personally, I
(ahem) wouldn't know anything about that. We made both kids take naps and after her nap, she finally came downstairs, sat down next to me, and apologized.

On another note, Preston has been saving his allowance money, birthday & Christmas money, etc., for several years. He typically doesn't spend any of it -- just the gift cards. Therefore, he's saved a decent sum for an 11-year-old kid. He really wanted to go buy an iPod Touch. Since he doesn't nickel & dime his money away, we felt he had every right to go do so (otherwise, what's the point of saving it). All told, he spend almost $300 on the Touch and some accessories for it.

Of course, Shaling now wants one. She has a birthday coming up. She is now begging for a Touch for her birthday. Two obstacles fall in her way. One - that is entirely more than we tend to spend on a gift for our children on their birthdays. Two - her gift (which she requested previously) has already been purchased. So, I told her that perhaps we could take any money she gets for her birthday (I happen to know at least one set of grandparents hadn't yet purchased a gift) and combine it with some of her own savings to buy one. Her savings consists of money she received at her open house in February and her own allowance. Truth be told, she has enough money to buy a Touch, but it would wipe her savings out. Besides, she needs to learn the value of saving and the patience of waiting, not to mention the idea that we don't always get exactly what our older siblings least not immediately.

For several days, she would ask me, "For my birthday, can I get an iPod?"

I would respond, "We don't know yet. We have to see how much money you have." (I don't want her knowing it's a sure thing.)

After redoing this conversation several times, one day she began, "For my birthday,..." I got ready for my standard "we don't know yet" response, but she finished her sentence, "can I have lots of money?"

One final story today -- one of the applications Preston has downloaded to his Touch allows him to text, so long as he is somewhere with wireless internet. So, over the last few days, he has gotten into texting us when he goes to the neighbor's house. It also lets us text him when it's time to come home, so we don't have to walk down there or call and disturb the neighbor to send him home. While I had Shaling at the birthday party yesterday, I received a text from Preston that initiated the following conversation:

"What is Shaling doing?"

"She's watching Katie open presents."

"Is she having fun?"

"Yes! What are you and your dad doing?"

"I'm at Elliott & Adam's house. I think Dad is watching football."

I just thought it was so sweet that here he is playing with some friends, but he uses his new texting feature to see if his sister was having a good time at the party. No whining about if she was coming home soon. No jealousy (and believe that rears it's ugly head around here sometimes). Just a simple, "Is she having fun?"

Like typical siblings, they can sure fight like cats and dogs sometimes, but he loves her so much.

They've come a long way from their first hug:

their first night together:

their last full day in China:

the plane ride home:

and the arrival home (when Preston gave her the grand tour while Mom & Dad unloaded the car):

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Want To Go Home

Today was the big day -- surgery day. Grandma met us at the clinic. Shaling was able to bring her Hello Kitty from Build-A-Bear. After a minimal wait, she was called back to get ready. Grandma & I helped her change into her hospital shirt & pants (plus special socks). Shaling correctly pointed out which ear needed to be repaired, even referring to it as her "right ear". I answered the usual health history questions (mostly with a lot of I don't knows, which always seems sad -- not to know your own child's health history). I also had to write her initials next to her right ear.

The nurse put a special mask on Hello Kitty so that Hello Kitty could accompany Shaling to the operating room. She also gave Shaling special goggles and her anesthetic mask (with no tubes yet inserted). The mask was cherry-scented, but Shaling was not impressed. Shaling also insisted that she was NOT going to go to sleep. She wasn't swayed by my stories of a special medicine that would make her sleep. Nor was she swayed by the anesthesiologist telling her that he had "magic" that would make her sleep. She firmly replied that she, herself, had magic and would not sleep. Her stubbornness was a bit hysterical.

Here she is with Grandma & Hello Kitty, modeling her special goggles and the dreaded mask, which she would later find to be her enemy.

When it was time for Mom, Dad, & Grandma to head back out to the waiting room, Shaling showed no fear whatsoever. She energetically followed the nurse down the hallway to the operating room, smiling broadly the entire time, as if she was headed for an afternoon at the park. We were so inspired by her attitude.

They told us later that she climbed right up onto the operating table of her own accord. She was brave right up until she realized the anesthesia was working and she was getting drowsy. She became distraught at that point and removed the mask, refusing to put it back on. At that point, they had to hold her down to finish administering the anesthetic. She was THAT determined not to go to sleep. She battled valiantly, but lost.

The procedure itself took a couple of hours, plus we had to wait for her to wake up before we could see her. I use the term "wake up" quite loosely here. After she fluttered her eyelids a bit, a nurse greeted her and asked her if she was ok. She replied, "ow". At that point, they came to get us. This is what we walked in on:

Keep in mind that this is the little girl that just 4 hours earlier had insisted she wouldn't go to sleep.


I confess.

I teared up.

Her bravery was such a beautiful thing to see, but seeing the life literally sucked out of her was quite difficult. I sat and caressed her back for awhile. I gently asked her if she was hot, if she was ok, if she was thirsty, etc., in between long periods of silence. I received no responses. She repositioned herself a few times, but it was obvious she was incoherent. She was similar to a drunk. After about 15 minutes, she looked me directly in the eye and weakly said, "I want to go home. Can I go home?"

I had a twofold reaction. Firstly, as any parent would react, my heart ached that she was in so much pain and confusion that all she wanted to do was go home, where she felt safe and comfortable. Secondly, my heart filled with love and joy that all she wanted to do was go home, where she felt safe and comfortable. We literally just got her home 8 months ago yesterday. To know that in such a short time, home has become such an important haven for her overwhelms me with emotion.

The nurses told us that her vitals were good, so despite the fact that she was still so oozy, since she wanted to go home, they would go ahead and discharge her to us if we were comfortable taking her. Roughly ten minutes later, we helped Shaling stand up and Brock lifted her up to carry her. She promptly vomited all over the floor and herself, somehow sparing Hello Kitty & Daddy. The nurses quickly went into action cleaning it up and getting her in a wheelchair.

After a brief stop at CVS to pick up an antibiotic, a pain reliever, steroid ear drops, an antibiotic ointment, and bandages, we got her home without further incident. She has spent the last roughly 6 hours on the couch, watching television. The one exception was when she got up to use the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet, she vomited again. Her balance is all thrown off from the surgery, and I think that is what is causing the nausea. She's had perhaps a 1/2 cup of soup and some Sprite. She really wants her big brother to stay with her on the couch. She even sacrificed watching tv, so he could play the wii. In the almost nine months I've known her, this is the least energetic I've ever seen her.

Perhaps because I knew her surgery was being squeezed in with patients getting ear tubes, I was naive to how restricted she was going to be following her surgery. I knew she wasn't going to be able to swim for two months, but here's what I didn't know:

No running for two weeks.
No jumping for two weeks (therefore, no trampoline).
No bike riding for two weeks.
No heavy lifting for two weeks.
No P.E. for two weeks.
No blowing her nose for two weeks.
No trumpet lessons for two weeks.
No sneezing for two weeks.
Ok, if she can't stifle the sneeze, she's supposed to keep her mouth OPEN during the sneeze.

That is quite a list. I thought I was merely being precautionary by planning to keep her home from school tomorrow, but now I realize there is no way she was going anyway.

All in all, it went well and the doctor was pleased. He is optimistic that her hearing loss will be reversed as the ear heals. Because I don't believe there can be too much prayer, any prayers thrown her way for a smooth recovery are much appreciated.


I have to slip in some good news for Preston here. He re-auditioned for the SVYS (Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony) last week. Last year was his first experience with it. There are 3 groups:

Prep Orchestra (a mostly beginner group - primarily grade schoolers)
Concert Orchestra (a mostly intermediate group - primarily junior high)
Symphony Orchestra (a more advanced group - primarily high schoolers)

Last year (his first year), he made the Concert Orchestra. He struggled a bit, especially the first two months, but persevered. We were so proud of him at the semester concerts, standing up there playing the tympani, which were almost as tall as him. Well, this year, he made the Symphony Orchestra. As a 6th grader, he'll be up on stage with mostly high schoolers. I'm both thrilled for him to have the opportunity and nervous for him, as I know the music will be a bit of a challenge. He is super proud of himself!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend at Grant's Farm

Yes, that's correct -- Memorial Day, not Labor Day. Preston & Shaling, along with Grandma Coonrod, her friend Shelly, Aunt Ann & Uncle Frank, cousin Maggie, & cousins Mike & Laura & their kids, Elizabeth, Rebecca, & Stephen, went to Grant's Farm. Mom was in Colorado & Dad was in Mississippi. I'm just now getting some pictures of the event, so I'm sharing them here. Thank you, Laura Grichnik, for the pictures & permission to post them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Party in the USA - Preston & Shaling style

During our trip home from Monticello, Indiana today, Preston & Shaling serenaded Mom & Dad with Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." Brock videoed our budding stars with my Blackberry while I drove. Make sure to turn your speakers up!

Party in the USA, by Preston & Shaling from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.