Red Thread

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break." ~ Ancient Chinese Beli

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 weeks as a family of four!

As times passes, things change...thankfully for the better these days!  Hard to believe that Lexi has been a part of our family for only 10 weeks.  Being a family of four seems so normal now and hard to imagine life any other way.  The progress that Lexi has made is remarkable when we look back to where we were in those first days and weeks.  We have lots of giggles and funny moments together - and we LOVE to see the smiles!!!  These are the moments that we hold onto tightly in order to get through the challenging times that still exist but are getting more spread out and not as constant.

It really seems as though Lexi feels at home with us and her attachment to each of us is finally in full swing.  She comes to us when she needs something, asks for us if we are not around and even gives kisses when prompted.  Still waiting for the unexpected kiss or cuddle on her own account but we know it will happen.

Ella and Lexi have formed a real bond and genuinely adore each other....most of the time.  Thankfully Lexi's aggressive outbursts are channeled else where these days rather than constantly at Ella - or at me for that matter.  She is not afraid to let us know when she is frustrated, angry or upset.  We take this as a positive sign as well because she is comfortable enough to let us know how she is feeling.

We are really pleased with the progression of Lexi's speech and really have confidence that in time it will all come together.  Her receptive language seems quite good and she is becoming more expressive as well.  We continue to speak in very simple sentences, repeat everything multiple times, make a lot of eye contact and use hand gestures/sign language.  What ever we are doing seems to be working well - and of course Lexi's eagerness to communicate helps!

Our first house guests arrived last week and all is going well.  Patrick's brother and family from Switzerland will be visiting us through the Christmas/New Year holiday.  I am actually quite relieved to say that it is going better then expected.  I had some concerns that Lexi would feel overwhelmed and that chaos would lead to additional meltdowns and trauma but that really has not been the case. Lexi seemed quite anxious in the days leading up to their arrival but it all disappeared relatively quickly.  I am sure seeing Ella so happy and content with her cousins helps.  The additional language has not caused any problem either - and if anything reminds us that Lexi does seem to have a comfort level with Swiss German as well as with English. This makes Baba very happy.

Ella and Bastian

Coffee time overlooking Victoria Harbor

Bruder and Bruder with the kids at Hong Kong Park
Introducing Stillis to Dim Sum - Lexi of course in her glory!

A beautiful morning in Stanley

Elvira, Fabian, Tamara and Bastian on Repulse Bay Beach

A fun pizza party on the beach!

We are having a great time and enjoy having family visiting us in our home.  Ella could not be any happier to play tour guide and to show her cousins all around Hong Kong!  Opa arrives today so it will be a wonderful Stillhart Christmas in Hong Kong --- and Lexi's first!!!


Monday, December 13, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

There have always been so many reasons why I love the holiday season...everything from the lights, tree decorating, holiday music, festive baked goods, wrapping presents, getting the annual greeting cards from friends & family etc. But this year we have so much more to add to the list.  Bringing Lexi into our world has made every day a bit brighter for us and it has been so fun for us to enjoy the build up of the holiday season with her at our side.  

Lexi is not sure about the funny looking white haired man in the red suit that we all call Santa...

,,,but Ella assured her that if she smiled for the photo then she would get lots of presents on Christmas morning!!

Not only do we enjoy going to holiday parties but we continue to get so much satisfaction out of contributing to the true meaning of Christmas. It is a wonderful gift for our children to understand that Christmas is not only about receiving lots of presents and eating yummy treats --- but the real joy lies in giving back to those in need. On Sunday we had the privilege of participating in a holiday party for the Cheshire Home for the Disabled. Ella took part in the Christmas Pageant as an angel while Lexi charmed everyone dressed as a little elf.  The smiles on all the faces made the day so worthwhile!!

The greatest gift of all this holiday season is the news that we received from Lexi's neurologist today.  Her MRI and EEG reports came back normal which is great news! This does not mean that there are no medical challenges ahead but aside from Lexi's previous seizures there is nothing of great concern for us today. This leaves us feeling very hopeful for Lexi's future and for this we feel so blessed.

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A week in review

We had a fun week as we got out and about a little more.  Our golden streak of great days came to a halt but we are not complaining because the three days were glorious.  Having said that, Lexi continues to make good progress in so many areas and we just ride with all the ups and downs that go along with it.  

With the winter season upon us, we  had to sneak in one last swim in the outdoor pool. Not a lot of swimming as the water temp had dropped so much but it was fun to enjoy poolside snacks and splash about one last time. 

A bit of a rarity with these next photos as Ella was still awake when Lexi had already gone to sleep - I think this is the only time this has happened in the 7 weeks that Lexi has been with us! Ella loved tucking Lexi in and smothering her with kisses.

Lexi has not really started on the play date scene yet but there are lots of requests out there.  We have been invited to join a few different playgroups that we will slowly progress into.

Brooke is quickly becoming a "good friend" because she shares her snacks so nicely!!

...and she invites us to her outdoor swimming pool which is heated!!

While Lexi is busy getting used to life in Repulse Bay, Ella continues to enjoy her days at school as well as her after school activities.  Gymnastics has become a new favorite past time. 

And Lexi is not too far behind in the extra curricular activities either.  We have signed up for a swim class in the indoor pool and today was her first trial lesson.  Lexi seemed to enjoy it and only let out a few of her ear piercing shrieks! ;)  I am in the water with her so hoping this will also enhance our bonding.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On a roll!!!

I dont want to jinx myself but it really seems that we have taken a a big step forward in the attachment process.  By big I mean Lexi actually wants me to hold her and comes to me regularly with out stretched arms - this is soooo new.  She comes to us constantly with what she refers to as her "owa" and is looking for a kiss or a cuddle.  She has been playful and much more content over all these past few days - ironically since her hospital visit last Friday.  The nights can still be a bit of a challenge but Lexi is calming down within an hour versus several hours. Being void of  rage multiple times through out the day is such a welcome relief!! 

Over the weekend we finally got to enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration with our dear friends Gloria, Tom, Andrew and Brooke - who happen to be the first friends that we made when moving to HK in spring 2007!

Lexi being very protective over the crackers with Brooke

Rooftop dining!

Andrew being a gentleman and serving Ella sparkling cider!

Good Friends - so glad you moved back!

Big turkey dinners are great sleeping aids - Lexi's not in her bed but went to sleep quite easily!

 We continue to be so thankful for our family and friends who are such a great support to us  --- and we are also so thankful for these balanced days because we really needed to recharge our batteries!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not only a fighter but brave and courageous as well!

The morning of Lexi's hospital visit was long but we made it through - foodless and all!  Thankfully the timing worked out as the MRI was pushed back 2 hours which meant that she could eat until 8:30 am vs. 6:30 am.  As you can likely guess, Lexi took full advantage of the additional time and had a leisurely and abundant breakfast!  Hard to imagine but she did eventually get full enough to walk away from the table and I took this as my clue to get out and about.  We spent the morning on the playground and she could not have been happier.

We left the house at 11:00 am and from the minute we stepped foot in the Sanatorium Hospital Lexi knew something was up and she did not like it.  Additionally she was hungry, wanted food and was tired.  Bad combination no matter how you look at it. Thankfully BaBa was there to meet us so that at least put a smile on Lexi's face for a few minutes.  After registering we were admitted to the pediatric ward and got situated in her room.  We brought plenty of toys and games to try to offer as distraction and to help settle her down a bit. 

The next several hours were long and emotional as Lexi was prepped for and had her MRI and EEG.  The team that worked with her was professional and caring - she was in very good hands.    Lexi was scared, upset and angry - if only Lexi knew and understood what was happening and why.  It was all being done out of love and care.  As weary as I was to give Lexi anesthesia it was the best choice for so many reasons - so thankful for the advice and inputs from friends who have BTDT as well as from our own personal family nurse, my sister Karen.

Going in for the MRI

EEG - Lexi was coming out from the anesthesia at this point but still groggy and back in my arms

After the tests, we were brought back to the room to give Lexi time to completely come to.  It didn't take long before she was ready to eat - and she ate lots despite the nurses caution to go slow.

Thankfully, we were quickly able to convince the nurses that Lexi was completely alert and in good spirits and we were given permission to check out.  We were home before Ella was asleep - and how happy the girls were to see each other!

So the day is done and we could not be more relieved to have it behind us.  All I can say is that Lexi does not only have a fighting spirit but she is also so brave and full of courage.  We await the results with lots of hope but at the same time with the strength to accept what ever the outcome may be.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

So much to be thankful for....

The ups and the downs continue but we are making our way.  Lexi has a lot of anger that she is working through this week and that has been hard - and is hurtful both physically and emotionally.  We do wonder what impact if any a hopeful change in her medication will have on her aggressive behavior but we will just have to wait and see with that one.

Speaking of medication, Lexi goes in for her MRI and EEG tomorrow - Friday.  I have lots of anxious feelings as we wait.  I am anxious for the preparation - no eating or drinking for most of the day and for Lexi this will not be easy.  I am anxious for the procedures and for the fear that Lexi will have going into it because she will not understand what is happening.  And I am anxious for the outcome and what we will learn about her condition.  We know the importance of these tests and want to have them done in order to get a clearer picture of what's going on - we are mentally preparing for the worst case scenario but of course are hoping for the best.

In the meantime, we do have some good times during the day filled with smiles and laughter...

and I need to do a better job of capturing all of those moments so I can look at the pics and relive it all during the hard times because the challenges are plentiful.  

I know I likely come across as complainer, or worse, as if we did not prepare ourselves properly for a special needs adoption but I do believe that we really did all that we could to prepare for Lexi joining our family.  We read lots of books and articles on international adoption and more specifically toddler adoption.  We talked to other APs (adoptive parents) to get the BTDT (been there done that) insights, we joined forums (RQ - Rumor Queen, rules), we did the online classes and went to workshops.  We knew there would be lots of grieving, anger, resentment, sadness, fear etc. coupled in with the slow to happen attachment process.  We knew that we were possibly in for some long days, sleepless nights and of course all that comes along with the unknowns associated with a specific special need.  But in all honesty, as much as you try to prepare.. you are never truly prepared until you walk the walk.  And let me tell you, our walk is on a very long, dark, winding road.  Having said that, we will continue on this walk and we will stay hand in hand with Lexi.  She is our daughter and we are so grateful to have her in our family forever.

So as I write this post it is Thanksgiving Day - and since it is obviously not a recognized holiday in Hong Kong life goes on as normal with school and work.  I can't get it together enough to put on a full spread this evening so we wont be eating turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes but we will on Saturday with some good friends.  However, the true meaning of Thanksgiving remains so I am taking time out to reflect on all that I have to be thankful for.  It goes with out saying that my family tops the list.  We are spread so far but are close in so many other ways.  Through all of the pain and heart ache that we have recently experienced we have been waiting for that glimmer of hope that life goes on.  I am so thankful for the joy that Lexi is bringing to our family all around the world - and for reminding us that life truly does go on.  In my heart I know that my sister Susan is looking down on us today and doing her part to help guide her new niece Lexi Susana as she navigates through life.

Happy Thanksgiving.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some say we are making progress.....

It is so easy to get caught up in all the trauma and heartache that fills our lives these days.  So little sleep - so much screaming during the day.   Yet at the same time we are reminded everyday that progress is happening...... and for these steps we are grateful.

- Lexi is beginning to use some of the sign language we are teaching her.  "More", "Thank You" and "Please" are the ones that she seems to know.  Every little bit helps!!

- Lexi likes to "play" with Ella - she will pull at her hair and laugh,  take food from her and laugh, figure out a way to get in and take what ever Ella is already immersed in and laugh or just climb on top of her - we think she is playing and loving it!!

- Lexi will insist on "talking" to BaBa whenever he calls - even if it means she has to get out of the bath, which she loves.

 - Lexi will cry when she thinks I am going to leave the room - and comes rushing to me when I enter a room.  Attachment!!!!!!!

 - Lexi lets us change her nappy - sometimes.  If Ella is in the house it is her job -  otherwise she will let me do the duties (huge change to her down right refusal.  She still insists on wearing underwear over the nappy but that is ok.)

 - Lexi can go for close to an hour at times with what appears to be being happy and content. Especially when she is in the tub...

 - Lexi goes to sleep in under 2 hours - yes still lots of kicking, screaming and crying but by 930 pm it is usually quiet in the house!!

 - Lexi is back to enjoying the playground again - after 5 days of sitting in the corner and not wanting anything to do with the swing, slide or monkey bars. Thank goodness because this is my life saver during the day!!

_ Lexi sometimes gives me kisses!!!!!!!  This is huge bc she was only coming half way for a while but now every once in a while I get one.  Yes, perhaps she thinks it is a game but still I get one from time to time!!

These are all of the things that we need to remember and focus on because it is easy to get caught up in all of the constant screaming, crying and sobbing.  We continue to have many hard days - food obsession continues to be a big battle even though we try not to let it -   but tucked within it all are some good moments.

Thankfully the weather has been great so when we can it is nice to be outside.  This afternoon we spent some time across the street at the beach - splendid!!!

Patrick has been in Europe all week and gets home tomorrow (Sat) morning - we can not wait!!!  Ella had today (Friday) and Monday off for Learning Reviews so it is great to have extra company around!!!

Next week we have Lexi's EEG and MRI - not looking forward to the event itself but so looking forward to getting the results and having a better indication of what is going on in her brain.  It is time to change the meds - so we hope!!!  Our fingers are crossed!!!!

We know we are not alone in this experience - we keep in touch with the others from our travel group and realize that all of the children have their own struggles.  It is what it is....and it will continue to get better in time.

Thanks for all of your continued support!!!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

One month since Gotcha Day!

Hard to believe that Lexi has been with us for one month today.  At times it seems like she has been a part of our family forever - and quite honestly there are times when I feel like I do not even know her and we are still figuring each other out.  Regardless, it has been a month and although there are times that I can attest to being in a much better place then 4 weeks ago - we've had some set backs too.

The girls have really come a long way and it is beautiful to see that Lexi is finally beginning to trust Ella and likes to have her around - most of the time.  She certainly shows some envy when Ella is getting any individual attention and unfortunately she still acts out quite aggressively which is both physically and emotionally hurtful. But during the good times, Ella is soooooo proud to be a big sister!

Two of our last pictures taken in Hawaii - sisterly love!

Getting back from Hawaii and settling into "home" life has helped (at least for a few days!!). We made no plans our first few days and since we arrived on a Friday we had Ella and Patrick with us all weekend too.  We had lazy days of playing, going for walks and to the playground.  Note to self:  being out and about brings more smiles then being indoors.

We were amazed at the many smiles and giggles through out the day - and what appeared to be a real sense of comfort coming over Lexi.  The nights continue to be challenging but nothing that Big Sis has not been able to help sort out by setting up camp on the floor next to Mei Mei.  Ella continues to amaze us daily!

I have also had success at night in getting Lexi to sit on my lap and let me rock her.  This usually occurs after lengthy shrieks and screams but she eventually comes to me on her own.  She does not hold on to me at all but lets me hold her and rock her - her arms and legs lying limp but she obviously gains some sort of comfort from it - as do I.

The night terrors continue and she has even taken to sleep walking a few times.  A bit startling for us because we have never faced this with Ella but we are getting used to it all.  When we really think about it we understand the terror for Lexi with night time hours.  She was abandoned in the middle of the night and her foster Mom would have needed to wake her during the very dark hours of the early morning to make the trip to the orphanage before getting on a bus to the busy city of Nanning..... to meet her new family.  How could darkness not represent something scary to her. So many unknowns and so much insecurity. Plus it gets quiet in the house at night and Lexi finally starts to slow down which allows her the opportunity to reflect and process all that has been happening in her world.  It must be so confusing and upsetting.

I do think that Lexi likes us (sometimes) but I don't think she considers us as family yet.  Every day we see more attachment taking place but she can not seem to share her attachment - in other words she attaches to one of us at a time.  And we do continue to experience the "few steps forward, several steps back" as well.  As with many life changing events this eventually becomes the new normal so we can live with it because even at the most challenging of moments we know that there will be another smile around the corner and a soft moment at some point.  

Lexi is quite fond of her BaBa and when Patrick is at home it is he who she prefers and will flat out rebel against me.  It is interesting because she did not have a foster father so this adult male role in her life is quite new - and other then the terrifying first few days she really finds the most comfort from her BaBa. The first few days we were home it was fine because Patrick was around.  But it started on Monday when he went back to work. That is when we took the "several steps back".  Not only was he gone all day but when he got home the suitcase came out because he had to pack for a business trip (I know seems soon but you need to remember that P spent 3 weeks away from the office on the adoption trip and the month prior he was sick in the hospital with Pneumonia - the guy travels for his work so that is just a part of our life).  As soon as Lexi saw the suitcase you could see the immediate change in her comfort level.  She got tense, expressionless and nervous.  To put it mildly the night was horrendous.

Sadly the days that followed have continued to be difficult.  Lots of crying, screaming, hitting and at times, wild animal-like behavior.  Lexi walks around with Patrick's photo or things of his that she finds - like a baseball cap, a shoe etc.  He calls and she lights ups and will babble away to him but soon after she crashes again.  So I do not know if it is so much that she misses Patrick or that our routine has changed and what had been days filled with all of us has now changed to just the two of us until Elle gets home from school - and she clearly is not keen on that scenario yet - and unfortunately I am not loving it yet either!  I say that tongue in cheek because it does feel right most of the time but there are times that I feel alone and beat up - and plain out exhausted.

Really the only thing that provides comfort to Lexi is food.  If she is eating she is happy.  If we are in the house she just wants to be in the kitchen because that is where she knows the food comes from.  The first thing she does when she wakes at nap time or in the morning is to walk right past me (not even glancing my way!) and to the kitchen.  Similar to what she did in Hawaii when we went to Mimi and Papa's condo - she would walk right in and climb straight up on her chair and start her food squeals. At home I have now put out some healthy snacks for her to help herself to but she eats them all immediately so my point does not last.  I want her to know that there will always be food for her and that she can be in control - but to be honest I am not even sure this is her struggle.  I think food in general just provides her with comfort and until she gets more comfortable in her day to day environment this is what she will look for through out the day.  A challenge that I continue to research and seek out advice on so if you have any, fire away.

I do think the other factor in all of this is that Lexi does not talk.  She says BaBa, Jie Jie, Ella, Medicine and Bah for Good Bye - and that is it.  She is VERY expressive in her grunting, babbling and even singing - and of course her screams are more high pitched then anything that I have ever she gets her point across.  She gestures "more", points and takes my hand to lead me to what she wants.  But for the most part she screams - we try not to give in to it but it is hard because you just want it to stop.  Our poor neighbors!  We will get her assessed developmentally in the coming months so will then likely start some speech therapy but I do not even want to think about that yet.  She still needs time to settle in.

Life has changed so much for us with in the past month.  These are good changes for the most part but there are growing pains all around.  As the old saying goes, time helps to heal all wounds.  I can only hope that Lexi will soon get to a place of full acceptance and comfort with us but we need to remain patient.  In the meantime, when Lexi blesses us with one of her beautiful smiles you can only imagine the warmth that we feel - and this is what we try to focus on!

Happy one month anniversary Lexi - your forever family loves you!!!