This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

pony tails again (finally)

A few months ago I had the back of Olivia's hair trimmed so that the sides could catch up...which meant it was too short for her beloved pony tails. The back is finally getting long enough again so that I can gather a little hair for pony tails (with a lot of clips!). Today, when she got her "pone tails" again, she was in heaven and so thankful. I'm taking notes from my little teacher about contentment and gratitude! I've posted a pic from this afternoon showing her joy as well as one from Thanksgiving Day. We have much to be thankful for :)

Emily's school conference

It's been a few weeks since we had Emily's IEP and parent teacher conference and I'm finally getting around to writing about how she's doing at school. A quick background for those that don't know Emily's history...she was born 15 weeks early at 1.5 pounds and had quite a few issues as a result. Her fragile, damaged lungs were her main health problem that kept her on life support in the hospital for five months and then she eventually came home on supplemental oxygen which she needed until she was almost three. Miraculously, she is now amazingly healthy and does not even suffer from asthma :) Thankfully, health is no longer a concern, but she still has a few lingering developmental/neurological issues that impact her learning.

This is Emily's first year in all-day school--first grade--so we were curious to hear her teachers' impressions about how she is doing. And...(drum roll, please) I'm pleased to report that she is doing very well :) Her classroom teacher said she is very proud of her and that she is "holding her own." In the IEP report, I was very happy to read the words, "Emily is a good student." Some other descriptions in the report that pleased me were: sweet, happy, friendly, eager, conscientious, kind, caring, respectful, prepared and ready to learn, anxious to please, works hard to do her best, takes great pride in her work, a good listener who follows directions... all music to my ears :)

I bolded that last comment because of it's significance. One area of weakness continues to be auditory processing (listening comprehension) so I was particularly pleased to hear that she is able to follow directions and function well in the classroom. Her teacher pointed out that in first grade there are still a lot of pictures and visual cues to aid in comprehension so Emily has been able to do well in spite of her listening weakness. However, we're not out of the woods yet. Her speech teacher reports that "She does very well re-telling stories or events with picture support, but had difficulty when auditory information is presented by itself." So, while we are very pleased that she is doing well, we know that we'll have to continue working on this area since picture/visual support will fade as instruction moves to more of a lecture style through the years. We are continuing to try to build up this area of weakness with NILD Educational Therapy after school twice a week. You can learn more about NILD (National Institute for Learning Development) here.

The teacher was also pleased with her reading ability and noted that Emily knew 50/50 on a test of sight words and her reading comprehension test scores put her in the range of end of first grade/early second grade level. Her spelling and writing were also at a good level, but she will be working with an occupational therapist to work on her writing form (she needs reminders to use lower case letters, start at the left side of the page vs. middle, and to write within the lines).

The teacher said that while Emily is doing well and holding her own, if she had to pick an area of weakness, it would be math. This summer we worked on addition (using Touch Math) and that's coming along quite nicely and now we're drilling with flashcards, but counting mixed coins is another story. She doesn't seem to have a good grasp of numbers and sometimes prefers to make wild guesses rather than think through the problem. I recently started doing Hooked on Math with her and after we tackle addition facts, subtraction is next...and then book #2 gets into coins. I have faith that even if she struggles with math concepts, she's got a good memory that will come in handy for remembering math facts. Hopefully the concepts will eventually sink in, too.

Overall, we are very pleased and encouraged, but we also want to make sure we keep plugging away to make sure she continues to be successful. I'm thrilled to see how far she's come and how she is now just a "normal" kid. Normal in the sense that not only had she defied the odds by being alive and healthy, she is fitting in well at school, has friends and is a good student. I just love getting answered prayers :)

Oh, there's one more piece of good news from the IEP meeting that I almost forgot to mention. When Emily was in preschool and again in kindergarten we'd taken her to a pediatric neurologist due to concerns about her distractibility, wondering if she had ADD. At our last visit he said to wait until she's in school all day and to return if she was still having difficulty staying on task. Knowing that it may take a while to see the doctor, I made an appointment for December just in case it was needed. However, I was thrilled to cancel the appointment after bringing it up with her teachers! When I posed the question, everyone at the IEP meeting agreed that her focus was no longer an issue and that no one thought I needed to keep the appointment :) WOO HOO!! That means we don't have to deal with a possible label of ADD or face the sticky dilemma of whether or not to medicate. At least for now. Another answered prayer :)

Next week we'll celebrate Emily's birthday. On December 6 she is going to be EIGHT years old!! Some of you have been following--and praying for--her progress through these updates, long before this blog, back in her NICU days. Thank you for your all your prayers and support that have gotten us to this point. Maybe it really does take a village ;-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

medical mystery solved

When Olivia's initial blood work in March revealed that she was slightly anemic, her pediatrician prescribed iron supplements. However, after a month of iron and no improvement (though I initially, mistakenly thought there was in May), I started to look at her all the lab results we had from her pediatrician and her orphanage. As I studied them and did some research, I started to suspect that Olivia might carry a trait for a blood disorder called Thalassemia. With this condition the hemoglobin does not produce enough protein, resulting in smaller and fewer red blood cells which can cause varying degrees of anemia. Once I suspected that Olivia might have this I stopped giving her iron because #1 the iron hadn't improved her anemia, #2 I knew that if she had Thalassemia, iron was not the problem or solution, and could actually cause problems if she were to get overloaded with iron, and #3 her anemia was so slight that I wasn't overly concerned if went untreated.

To test my suspicion, earlier this month I requested a hemoglobin electrophoresis (a blood test to check the different types of hemoglobin in the blood) ...and my hunch was correct. She does carry the trait (Thalassemia Beta minor), but she does not have the full blown disorder (Thalassemia Beta major) which can result in life threatening anemia and require regular transfusions. Since she just carries the genetic trait she will probably not experience any health problems from it other than mild anemia. No symptoms and no treatment required :) The only thing we have to do is make sure she avoids iron supplements, and when she's ready to have kids, she'll need to find out if her husband also carries the genetic trait. If he does, their children could be at risk for getting the full blown disorder so they'd need to get genetic counseling.

If you're still reading, I'm sure that was way more than you ever wanted to know unless you've also got a child from China. It doesn't affect too many WASPS, but is commonly found in Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, southern China, and occasionally the Mediterranean region. Among Chinese adoptees, those from the south, particularly Olivia's province of Guangxi, seem prone to having this condition. I found it interesting to learn that having this trait can actually be advantageous because this particular mutation seems to have protective effects against malaria.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The girl can dance!

Yes, Olivia can dance! And no, she didn't get her moves from me! I shot this video clip when we went to the circus a few weeks ago. I posted it on YouTube in preparation for posting it here, but just realized I apparently neglected to post it here. Better late than never?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One year later

This day has two special meanings. First, it's my mom's birthday--Happy Birthday, Mom! And, second, exactly one year ago today we got THE CALL about Olivia!

As you may know, adopting a four year old was never our plan, and I explained how that came about here when I introduced her a year ago. I'll be the first to admit I was a little scared about what kind of baggage a four year old might come with and how difficult the bonding process might be, but we decided to take a big leap of faith. And for that, we have been greatly rewarded :) Some may have the wrong impression that we "settled" for less than perfect (i.e. a healthy infant, bio or adopted), but in fact, we couldn't be happier. Babies are wonderful, but there's a lot to be said for being closer in age with her sister, being potty trained and sleeping through the night! We had no idea that Olivia would fit so perfectly into our family, but I believe Someone else did :). That scowling little girl turned out to be an affectionate, sweet, loving, happy, giggly, social, strong-willed, smart little girl!

Here I've posted the picture we got one year ago today along with two pictures I just took moments ago. It may be cold outside, but Olivia has taken to multiple clothes changes in a day. Moments ago when I decided to take a "now" picture, she was in a swimming suit that she had found (she was dressed warmer for preschool this morning, against her "better" judgement!)...then, while I was trying to take her picture, she was trying to add a black gymnastics leotard on that (behind her in the pic), and now she's got a princess dress on top of all of that. I wanted to include a picture of what she looks like at the moment, but I just can't keep up with her!

Friday, November 16, 2007

She ain't heavy, she's my sister

There was no school today thanks to parent teacher conferences so we enjoyed sleeping in and lounging around in PJs until noon :) I also took a vacation from the elliptical machine this morning (I've lost 9 pounds, but still have many more to shed!), but as you can see, the girls did not!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No, not me!

This is a follow-up to the aforementioned dentist appointment during which Olivia was to have a filling.

Emily was a trooper and model patient when she got her preventative fillings (permanent alternative to temporary sealants) which took all of 5-10 minutes. Olivia, not so much. She insisted, "no, not me, not dentist" as we pulled up to the building and continued to voice her opposition in the waiting room. Then, when just Emily's name was called, Olivia thought she'd been spared and her mood suddenly lifted. Unfortunately, her reprieve was short lived and she got a rude awakening when her name was called.

As the dentist tried to familiarize Olivia with the scary tools he showed her a big vacuum tube that he referred to as being like an elephant's trunk, or nose. At the word "nose," Olivia immediately covered her nose and mouth, protecting them for dear life. This was when the dentist quit before he ever started, saying he does not fight kids. And that was that. He said we could wait six months to see if she'd be more cooperative or we could take her to a pediatric dentist who is better equipped for kids. I think I'll go for option #2, but after dreading this appointment, I'm disappointed that we're still not done. Not only do we need another appointment, but probably two more because the next dentist will need to do his own initial exam (trip #1) and then the follow-up to finally fill the cavity (trip #2). UGH.


Olivia recently started taking a gymnastics class and she loves it. But then again, she loves just about everything, so that wasn't a surprise. It's a bit early to tell if she's got any potential as a gymnast, but she's got a couple things going for her; a petite body and a fearless attitude!

Fearless, that is, until we go to the dentist this afternoon for her first filling! Not looking forward to that!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


After seeing how much Olivia loves Sunday school and classes at the park district, I thought she might like going to preschool for a few hours twice a week. It's mid session, but there were a few openings so Olivia and our next door neighbor, Mary (who is just 3 months older), started today! Olivia was SO giddy with excitement and kept asking hopefully, "Olivia school?" and,"Olivia back pack?"

When I told the teachers that Olivia has only been here 7+ months and is still perfecting her English, their eyes widened a bit, probably a little fearful of communication problems. But their eyes got even bigger when Olivia interrupted to say, "Hi, I'm Olivia...and this is Mary!" They seemed quite surprised and impressed when she answered appropriately when asked how she was doing...and when she complied when I asked her to hang up her jacket.

The report at the end of class was that she was very outgoing and fit in very well with the class. Just as I suspected :) She is an amazing kid!

(click to enlarge)