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

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!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Fun Fact:
Outbound ticket from Hong Kong read Min Xi Xiu
Inbound ticket to Hong Kong read Lexi Susana Xixiu .........  :)

Needless to say a HORRIFIC flight from Hawaii to Seoul but the second leg from Seoul to HK went better as Lexi fell asleep for 3 out of the 4 hours.

I wouldn't be surprised if we showed up on a u-tube video - that is how upset and angry some of the passengers got so i would not put it past them.  I did initially feel bad because I know it must have been a tough middle of the night flight with a screaming child but to get angry?  Come on - even with out the reality that Lexi had no clue as to what was going on or where we were off to next - she was scarred and frightened as she always is at night - then once she fell asleep about 2 hours later her night terrors started and there is nothing we can do to console her during these.  She does not let us hold her let alone touch - we just do our best to keep her safe.  We did not even bother to explain it all because the passengers were just so rude - and despite all that Lexi is going through she is still only 2 yrs. old.  

The flight attendants were very courteous and kind to us and wanted to help but there was nothing they could do.  The only thing I can fault them with was listening to the other passengers who wanted us moved but i guess their job is to keep everyone happy and that was what they were trying to do. But where would they have moved us?  To the crew's bunks or the wing?  Patrick said flat out that we would not be moved and suggested that the attendants pass out ear plugs...what he really wanted to say was that the complainers should rent a private jet next time they travel to avoid other disturbances.  

I guess the moral of this blog entry is that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are sitting near a crying, or screaming, child on a long haul flight....don't assume that the child is a brat or that the parents need lessons in how to control their child.  There could be so many different scenarios going on or the child might just be having a hard time.  Perhaps I am in the minority, but I believe that young children have the right to fly - even those that cry.  Lexi is a paying passenger and she has the same right to fly a public mode of transportation as anyone else does.  I really do not expect much from strangers but a sympathetic look rather then the daggers that we were getting would have been much appreciated. 

Anyway, we made it - we are home sweet home and it feels great!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Homeward Bound!!!!

A rainy day today so not much to do but pack, shop and wait for the time to pick up Lexi's passport.  2pm came quicker than we thought and Ella & I went to the Federal Building to get what we came here for - Lexi's US passport - hurrah!!!  We celebrated with a mani/pedi in a shop close by. :)

We have really missed Mimi and Papa these past 24 hours.  They left yesterday morning to head to CA to visit Papa's sister Aunt Janet as well as my sister, Karen and family.  It was so wonderful to share this time with them and so special for them to be with Ella again and to meet their 10th grandchild and be here when she became a US citizen. :)

Waiting for Mimi and Papa's pick up to the airport

Lexi really seemed to be out of sorts today and I am certain that it is because she notices Mimi and Papa's absence.  She really took to both of them - especially enjoying treats and back scratches from Mimi and playing "when you are happy and you know it" with Papa.  Plus the added stress that fills a room with packing and getting ready for another big trip.  She doesn't quite understand what is happening but she knows something is coming and clearly doesn't like it.

Lexi has picked up a few words this week.  MaMa, BaBa, Papa and Ella - clearly likes the "a" sound so don't take it personally Mimi - as well as Bye Bye.  Other then that no other new words but lots of babbling that was not taking place before.  It doesn't sound like Mandarin and there is nothing that Ella picks up or other Chinese people that we meet - just plain old babbling that means something to her and nothing to us.

We are not too worried about the lack of words because her tongue use seems good, she can suck through a straw easily and loves it, she does not drool and again can communicate in her own way - lots of pointing, babbling and of course the screams and shrieks continue!

Lexi continues to be a big BaBa lover - definitely prefers him over me but will come to me late at night (sometimes) or when P is not around.  We are so thankful that she has been able to demonstrate that she can attach - she looks for him when he is not in the room - runs to him when he walks into the room - and will call out BaBa when she needs something.  She also enjoys giving him kisses but still is hesitant to hug.

The night terrors continue but are short lived and non stressful to us because we have gotten used to them.  She even had one today while she napped. A night terror is very common for a newly adopted child and brought about by the stress of life disruption and the huge changes in their environment.  A child's reaction to such stress or trauma may be controlled by day (and for Lexi this is clearly through her eating) but released at night when she feels more vulnerable.

We are making great strides in the potty training department.  Lexi can tell us when she needs to go and we often have success on the toilet!  She also responds to her new name and does so with a smile!!!!

If Ella and I are holding hands she wants to also hold hands too - but only with Jie Jie - that is okay because it makes me happy for Ella because it brings her much joy.

The eating is something that we have gotten lots of input on from other adoptive parents - and to all of you who have given us feedback and inputs, thank you!  We do know that eating gives Lexi a feeling of control and provides her much needed comfort during stressful times.  Lexi's eating lends itself to some aggressive behavior as well as eating vast amounts of food very fast, and often trying to eat out of the garbage or from other people's hands/plates.  It is hard but what we need to accept and work with right now.  We always try to have some healthy snacks on hand and allow her the control of grazing through out the day and this seems to help a bit.  But the truth of the matter is that she is really over eating and this creates a problem in other ways - ie. regurgitating it in the middle of the night!  We have been told that this could last weeks, months and even a few years - again just something that we need to help her manage while providing her an environment that she feels safe and loved.

So we have a long flight ahead that some might dread but to be honest we are just so excited to get home that our 11pm pick up could not come soon enough!  It is 930 pm now and P just took Ella down to the playground while Lexi is actually happily playing and singing around me - miracle!!!  Here is hoping that they both pass out when we board the plane at 2am!!

Thanks again for all of your continued support and care.  It all makes this so much more easier when we know that there are lots of people thinking of us and sending positive energy our way.

Hong Kong here we come!!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Oh, say, can you see..."

We did not need to sing the Star Spangled Banner (the American National Anthem) as a part of the interview but we were humming it as I signed the paperwork!!  

Lexi is now a US Citizen - and we were able to apply for an expedited passport that we should get back by tomorrow afternoon!!  This means that we can make our scheduled flight on Thursday very early morning -  so relieved!!!!!

With Lexi becoming a US Citizen, her Chinese Citizenship becomes obsolete as the Chinese Government does not recognize dual citizenship.  As excited as we are to have the US citizenship it did cause us reason to pause and hope that some day Lexi will also be happy about the decision we made for her.  Having said that, if as an adult Lexi chooses to move back to China and become a citizen again then she has the right.  She would have to give up her US passport to gain her Chinese one back again but it will always be a choice for her.  For some reason this makes me feel a bit better.

Going out for our celebratory dinner

Our own hula show!!

Due to our Constitution, Lexi will never be able to be President of the United State but she could hold another office such as Secretary of State.  But to be honest, my hopes are bigger than the Presidency.  I am thinking more along the lines of finding a cure for cancer or bringing about world peace. :)  We are just excited that Lexi Susana Xixiu will have the opportunity to be anything or anyone she wants to be someday.

A proud citizen - with her Gerber Puffs

Now we just need to figure out how to obtain Lexi's Swiss Citizenship as well - but that is another story in and of itself!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beautiful Hawaii

Not many words needed for this post - the beauty of Hawaii tells it all.

Our drive along the coast

A stop to enjoy Halona Blowhole

Lanikai Beach

Kualoa Beach is where we enjoyed our picnic and swimming for the afternoon.

Mimi & Papa

Second Honeymoon - 50 years later!!!

Building sand castles with Papa

Papi/BaBa and his girls

It is easy to understand why everyone who has been to Hawaii loves it so much!  Although we are tired of being away from home and need consistency in our lives for Lexi's sake - it has been so wonderful to enjoy Hawaii along with Mimi and Papa.  Being out and about (as well as eating) seems to keep Lexi content and provides lots of opportunity for bonding so even though we are tired and away from home, there are benefits of being together 24/7 as a family.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lexi's First Halloween - Waikiki Madness

Being American, Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine - I mean who doesn't like getting dressed up and getting candy all in one go?  And I guess one could say that the apple does not fall far from the tree because Ella LOVES Halloween and it seems like her new sister, Papi, Mimi and Papa do too!

Backing up a bit we started the day with a Halloween brunch at Mimi and Papa's place - they had lots of festive decorations up and created a fun atmosphere for the kids with lots of goodies and treats.

Per Ella's request, Papa is dressed up as a scary Monkey with fangs - note the yellow shirt and the banana :)

Ready to hit the street parade!!

All I can say is that Waikiki really knows how to throw a good Halloween bash!!  It is crazy, it is fun, it is a night for the young and the old to parade up and down Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenue dressed up in ghostly ghoulish costumes, as favorite super heros or princesses, as sexy barmaids or nurses or what ever else someone might fancy.  It is a bit like I would expect Mardi Gras to be like - just hundreds of people lining the street - some parading - others gawking - but everyone having fun - us included!

After parading up and down the boulevard a few times and stopping to trick or treat at store fronts or the people lining the walk ways, it was time for us to call lit a night.  For all the ghosts and goblins out and about the night was still young - but we knew we likely had a long night ahead of us as well :).

Happy Halloween!!!