Happy Hog Days!

It has become an 11-year tradition for Chance and me to spend Labor Day weekend with my family in my hometown of Kewanee, IL. Eleven years ago, I took Chance home with me before we were even dating. This year, we celebrated seven years of marriage and the adoption of a third son! A lot has changed!

Some things that haven’t changed though – Kewanee was once the Hog Capital of the World (boasting more hogs than people for many years). There are no longer any hogs, that I know of, but there’s still a big celebration every Labor Day. My mom (and many others in town) go crazy for this holiday by decorating with pigs, making cookies or cakes shaped like pigs, buying Hog Days shirts, etc.

We had a great Hog Days weekend. It’s nice having this under-celebrated holiday as a family tradition!

IMG_2591 Diado (my dad) obviously enjoyed having us all in town!

photo 1We enjoyed using Diado’s pool!

photo 4It took E a little coaxing to get in, but he liked being pulled around on the raft.

IMGP6781 Downtown Kewanee has a festival with the typical rides and food (but with the addition of pork chop sandwiches, of course!).

IMGP6780 The kids (big and little) enjoyed the rides.

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photo 2Chance had to play a little skee-ball!

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photo 2I don’t get to psyched up about rides these days, but I did tolerate the carousel once!

photo 3Chance developed a fever and was out-of-comission for part of the weekend, but thankfully my sister-in-law jumped in to help!

photo 4Louis LOVED the ride!

IMGP6776 IMGP6772 Louis also loved all of Baba’s cooking…

IMG_2595…and being the source of entertainment!

IMG_2596Nasko’s birthday is this week, and we’ve been too busy for our typical, big party at our house, so we decided to take the party to our Labor Day get-together. One day during nap, I decorated for an airplane-themed party.

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IMG_2608I also brought along the beginnings of Nasko’s halloween costume; he’ll be a pilot. He enjoyed dressing the part for his birthday party.

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IMG_0039The paparazzi was present at this party, obviously!

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IMGP6788Heidi’s birthday is also coming up, so she had her dreams come true by celebrating at an airplane-themed party as well.

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IMG_2617Nasko received an awesome Playmobile airplane as a present, but it was in 164 pieces and required assembly!

IMG_2618My brother, Brian, and my dad were up to the challenge, thankfully. Brian is a graphic designer, and my dad taught high school math and science. I think they determined they process things differently enough that they couldn’t work together. No problem though, because there was also a control tower, plane taxi, and stewardess cart to assemble!

IMG_2620The next morning, in keeping with the airplane theme, we attended the local Fly-In Breakfast. It’s held at Kewanee’s airport and there are little planes and a helicopter to see.

IMG_2627Nasko insisted on wearing his pilot costume. I think he was secretly hoping no one would notice he was a kid, and he’d be allowed to pilot one of the planes.

IMG_2628No such luck, sadly.

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IMG_2638We had a great weekend with family! Happy Hog Days, everyone!

 

Life Hacks in the USA

 

 

While we were in Europe, I wrote a couple posts (one and two) containing life hacks. We had to be creative as we were far away from the convenience of Wal-mart and Amazon Prime. Since coming home, I wondered if we had any life hacks here in the USA though. My list is much shorter, but Chance and I still came up with a few to share.

IMG_2578 Connected to our kitchen is a small deck. Sometimes (all the time) when I am cooking, the babies are underfoot, and I have to get creative to entertain them. Chance came up with the idea of putting a “gate” on our deck so that they could go outside, but still be contained close by. He used a piece of plywood and screwed it to the deck posts.

IMG_2579  I was buying expensive razors at Wal-mart, and then never changing the blade because, well, they are expensive. A few months ago, Chance joined the Dollar Shave Club for Men. He paid the initial cost of a razor, and then $1 per month and the company sends him five new blades every month. Every week of the month, he was changing his blade and getting a smooth shave.

I started to wonder if there was a Dollar Shave Club for Women. (There isn’t.) So one day, I got looking at Chance’s razors, and realized there was no reason I couldn’t use them on my legs and armpits (except that Chance wouldn’t appreciate putting it back on his face the next day). So, I asked Chance to add me to his shave club plan. He now pays $2 per month and gets enough blades for both of us! It’s cheap and I get to change my blades weekly.

(FYI, the baking soda and apple cider vinegar in my shower aren’t life hacks, they’re how I wash my hair.)

IMG_2580 Also in the shower, we were looking to buy hooks for our loofahs, but realized that our shower curtain hooks worked for hanging them!

IMG_2582 This is what happens when you have two toddlers who can’t sleep independently. We took one side off of each crib and used a clamp underneath to keep it butted up to the queen-sized bed.

(This is the first time I’ve made my bed in months. Just for you all. You’re welcome.)

IMG_2584 This is the most embarrassing life hack of them all. In fact, I took it down before snapping the previous photo of our mega-bed, but Chance insisted I include it.

The Reverend and I have been sleeping with a pillow between us since shortly after Louis was born. It’s attached to our headboard using a thin piece of wood and grip clamps. Chance NEEDS* a fan blowing directly on his face in order to sleep. I need nothing of the sort and actually hate when the fan blows my hair around while I’m sleeping. I usually remedy this marital difference by pulling some of the sheets over my head. But since Louis now ends up in bed with me (lazy breastfeeder here), I can no longer cover my face (or his) with a blanket or sheet. Chance’s fan was driving me crazy, so I told him that he had to come up with a solution, or sleep elsewhere. Considering one of his suggestions was bunk beds, I decided a pillow separating us wasn’t so bad.

*”NEED” is debatable. Once, in college, he told a hotel that it was a medical condition so they’d rush him a fan. He has since repented.IMG_2586 You might remember this motorized toy car. Nasko has since moved on to riding his bike, but E spotted the car in our garage recently. He was itching to drive it, but his height and physical disabilities kept him from being able to reach the pedal. Chance rewired the car and used an old light switch to make it “handicap accessible”. E can now get in, flip the switch, and the car moves by itself. He is delighted! I, on the other hand, now have a damaged rose bush because of this life hack and E’s inability to steer.

 

As you can tell, we (ok, mostly Chance) are still pretty creative with life hacks here in the states, I guess!

 

Medical Tests

Last Monday, my mom (Chance had strep!), the two littles and I made the trip down to St. Louis Children’s Hospital to meet with the infectious disease staff. I thought this appointment would last no longer than an hour, so you can imagine my shock (and exhaustion) when we finally pulled out of the hospital FIVE HOURS LATER.

The doctors wanted to create a very thorough picture of E, so we were sent for blood draws and x-rays that day. They also grabbed a dietician (who had outdated beliefs about food and calcium, but whatever) and they all checked him over from head to toe. This was the team of doctors who ordered the bowel samples (you remember those…) as well.

On Tuesday of this week, this group called again and had lined up a hard-to-get appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, so “Could we get back to St. Louis by Thursday?”

We dropped everything and made a quick trip down yesterday. Since we were already going to be there, our doctors added a few more tests so we could make a day of it! (I am learning that these people have a very different view of a “good time” than I do!)

Here’s a report from our day:

We first met with the orthopedic surgeon. E was taken for x-rays of his back, pelvis, and legs. Until this point, we’ve merely guessed at his bone structure, so I was giddy to see the films detailing what’s actually going on inside.

The x-ray of his pelvis shows that he had surgery in [EEC] to put his left hip into its socket (we had sketchy records about this). This surgery, however, wasn’t done quite right, and it killed some growth part that makes the left leg keep up with the right one. His left leg will always grow significantly slower than his right one. (More on this in a minute.)

The hip, however, seems to be placed pretty well. The surgeon does not believe any more surgery needs to be done at this time (hurray!). There is nothing stopping his mobility, except for tight muscles and tendons. We’ll be working with a physical therapist to help loosen him up.

The bad news though, is that this hip is not going to last him forever. The doctor believes that in 9-10 years, he will probably need it replaced. At that time, he will probably need to have his left leg lengthened as well. The doctor did state that E’s leg isn’t so horrible that he would even consider amputation, so that was good to hear!

It’s difficult to know exactly, but from the medical records we do have, and from all of E’s old shoes with a lift on the bottom, it seems that his left leg has gone from being 4 centimeters shorter (right before we adopted him) to only 1 centimeter shorter (.5 inches) today! This information defies the odds, and we are attributing it to God! Because of this growth, the shoes with a one-inch lift (most recent pair from the orphanage) are much too high, which explains why he’s been refusing to wear them! His .5 inch need no longer requires special shoes or soles, just a small insert inside regular shoes! We’ll be going shoe shopping soon!

E was also fitted for a leg brace today that will extend from under his left knee to his heel.

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We were able to see x-rays of E’s spine today as well. The beautiful thing about St. Louis Children’s Hospital is that the doctors all work so well together. I had a couple questions when looking at his back, so the orthopedic surgeon went and grabbed the spine specialist’s nurse practitioner while we were there.

From the films, we were able to see that E has two extra half vertebrae in his back. It’s like if someone were building a block tower using square blocks, but partway up they threw in a triangle block. The tower no longer extends straight up, but turns slightly.

E has two triangle pieces in his block tower!

Because the spine is woven with nerves and parts of the brain stem, we’ve now been given a date for two sedated MRIs. The doctors want to determine what is fused to what and who is connected to who in his back! Back surgery is pretty much inevitable in our near future. We’ve got to get those triangle pieces out of his tower.

We were told that his back brace from [EEC] is no longer needed. So while we were waiting on doctors, we ceremoniously threw it away at the hospital. E was afraid we’d make him wear it, so Nasko threw it into the trash can for us!

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Good riddance, back brace!

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After the appointment with orthopedics, we had a sonogram of E’s kidneys. He was born missing some important parts of the structure that eliminates waste (I’m trying to protect his privacy here. His future prom date might read this.) Some surgery was done in [EEC] at birth, so the doctors here want to be sure everything is functioning properly. No results yet, but the technician could not believe the amount of gas in his belly. I’ve changed the child’s diapers, so the amount of gas was of no surprise to me.

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Next, we ate lunch at Applebee’s. :) No conclusive results yet there either.

Finally, at 1:00, we did an echocardiogram because multiple doctors have reported hearing a murmur (not reported in any of his [EEC] medical records though).

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(The results from lunch are in – it made us all sleepy!)

The murmur (which was confirmed) became the least of our problems when the tech called in the doctor. He apparently could not locate a main artery. It is shaped like a candy cane and comes from the top of the heart down the patient’s left side. The doctor thinks E’s is on the opposite side and goes down his right side. This happens sometimes, but can be a problem as the valves (which extend like fingers off the artery) can essentially strangle the trachea and esophagus.

Thankfully, E doesn’t have symptoms of that yet (labored breathing, severe reflux), but this could be because he is so small and behind in size (thank you God for Your ultimate protection!)

So, we’ll be doing a CT scan and barium swallow study to get a better understanding on where his valves are.

In all this excitement, I forgot to ask the doctor my list of questions about the heart murmur. We’ll be back to St. Louis in early October though. We scheduled the sedated MRI for a Tuesday and then we meet with a big team of doctors in the International Adoption Clinic (they specialize in foreign kids who have lived in orphanages) on a Wednesday.

During that trip, we’ll also be able to pick up E’s new shoe insert and leg brace.

Overall we were encouraged by the results and reports from today. I’m excited to hear everyone’s perspective when we get the doctors together in October. Until then, we are following our orthopedic specialist’s advice for the best way to help him develop appropriately – and that’s to let him be a kid! Running, jumping, chasing and moving are all on his to-do list everyday! Thankfully he cooperates with those instructions better than he ever did with wearing his back brace!

Guest Post from the Reverend – Reconciliation Not Retaliation

[My husband, the Reverend, has some rather insightful things to say once in a while. Today is one of those times:]u

Confession Time: Periodically, I can be a jerk.

I am especially prone to being a jerk when someone wrongs me, particularly in a public sort of way.

Let me explain…

Not that long ago, I was getting documents apostiled for E’s adoption, and the person behind the counter (we’ll call her Sally) was particularly unhelpful and unfriendly. Sally wasn’t hiding the disgust and disdain she had for me (and others).

What had we done to deserve such treatment? Nothing. Simply being born and coming to the government’s facility for services they offered was cause for Sally to ooze hostility.

Nevertheless, I patiently angrily sat in the corner and waited my turn.

I reasoned:
What is this chick’s deal?
Does she not value the fact that she has a good job?
Who does she think she is?

Finally, my number was called, my documents were given a seal, and I was on my merry way.

End of story.

Not so much. This started back up today when I read Matthew 5:38-42:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.’”

Hold the phone, Jesus. What you just said flies in the face of my natural reaction when wronged (i.e. “Do not resist the one who is evil”). I want the evil one to pay for their offense, but you’re telling me to turn away, give them my jacket, and walk a little further with them? Craziness. Has anyone ever told you that you’re crazy, Jesus (Mark 3:21)?

Then it hit me: I felt violated by Jesus because He was calling me out on my sin.

Plain and simple, when I’m wronged, my initial reaction should not be retaliation, but reconciliation. Not just reconciliation between her and I, but reconciliation between her and her Heavenly Father.

At first, my internal questions were very accusative, when in reality, I should have asked them humbly, with an investigative tone.

Perhaps her boss treated her that way from the beginning and it’s all she’s ever known.
Maybe her parents lacked patience and raised her using sharp words, wounding her deeply.
It’s possible that her husband physically and emotionally dominates her and work is the only place she feels like she has control.

Jesus, you’re not so crazy. When you had all the right in the world to guard your cheek, keep your coat and stop walking, you moved forward. You didn’t retaliate. You didn’t reciprocate.

You stayed true to your mission: reconciliation.

May I be one who does the same.

First Day of School

In order to keep up with all our friends who have been uploading “first day of school” photos this week, I thought I should take a picture of Nasko starting school. Unfortunately, when he started last Monday, he was in desperate need of a haircut, so I put off taking the photo.

Yesterday, Nasko asked if his stuffed dog, True, could be his classmate. 

I don’t mind the extra student as long as Nasko signs them both in. (Any way to encourage Nasko to write more!)

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So, just to fit in with all our public school friends, I took a “first day of school” photo for the 2014-2015 school year. 

True’s First Day of School.

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Medical Sample of Poop

If you are offended by poop -

1. How are we still friends?

2. You’re going to want to skip this blog post.

On Monday, St. Louis Children’s Hospital told me to collect E’s poop for three days. He’s been having constant diarrhea since he came home, and they’re wanting to check for a few different diseases and illnesses. I am guessing that they thought I had done a bowel sample before (I have not) so they gave me no instructions, but handed me a bag of supplies. They did tell me to drop the samples off at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield (locally) when I had them completed.

When I got home, I opened their goodie bag expecting instructions; when there weren’t any, I decided everything must be self-explanatory! There were containers with a preservative liquid marked “poison” that I assumed the lab would use (because who would trust the average citizen with poison?!), and there were plastic ziplocks marked “medical samples”. They also included rubber gloves and tongue depressors, that I inferred were not actually for the tongue. See, self-explanatory.

On Tuesday, E pooped a great poop (as he always does – again, we’re not collecting these samples out of boredom), so I scooped a huge chunk into one of the “medical samples” bag. When I showed my accomplishment to Chance, he suggested I use a gallon ziplock to double-bag the poop. I willingly obliged.

I was starting to doubt whether or not this process was so self-explanatory (mostly because, what if I had not collected enough poop?! The amount I collected didn’t fill the “medical sample” bag completely.), so I decided to add “stop at St. John’s Hospital Lab” to Wednesday morning’s to-do list.

 I didn’t want to forget the sample (in case they needed to test it immediately for preservation sake) so I put the double-bagged poop near the diaper bag and my purse, in our laundry room.

When I woke up this morning, half the house smelled rank. I was shocked by the smell. I couldn’t believe the “medical sample” bag wasn’t something with a better seal. I made a mental note to ask if there was a better method for containing the smell. I also decided it was worth the one-hour round-trip to drop off the samples daily, rather than waiting for all three.

 When it was time to get to all our morning appointments, I gathered the poison bottles, the bags, and the smelly poop before heading out the door.

Unfortunately, the hospital was the boys and I’s third stop of the morning. Because of a torrential downpour, I had to keep my windows completely up; my car has never smelled so bad. (And I live in a house with all males. I. know. bad.)

We finally arrived at the hospital around 11:00 and it was still pouring rain, so I opted to use their handy valet service. I wanted to unload all three kids under the covered drop-off area. As I handed the valet my keys, I apologized for the smell, and explained that we had a poop sample for the lab. She assured me that she understood and had boys of her own.

We located the lab, and I attempted to begin by explaining why I was there to the lab worker. She was rather confused as E wasn’t in her computer system (since this was ordered from St. Louis), so she asked me to open my brown paper “goodie bag” to show her what I’d been able to collect.

Since I was proud that I’d figured out what to do without instructions, I confidently opened the bag and pulled out the poison bottles “that SLCH sent for you to use in the lab, ma’am. You’re welcome.” Then I dug into my bag a little deeper, and produced a (double-bagged) lump of poop, the size of a softball. As I pulled it out, I apologized that it wasn’t enough to fill the entire foot-long “medical sample” bag. I set the “sample” onto the gal’s reception counter, and looked up in time to see an expression of shock and panic.

She managed to maintain professional behavior (I’m sure she’s seen all kinds) and asked if my poop collection had been refrigerated. I answered that it had not. Should I try and do that for the next one? Would it make my food smell bad though?

She ignored my questions and said that she was sorry to inform me that this sample was not able to be tested – since it had not been refrigerated, and was, in general, contaminated. I told her that I could refrigerate the next one, but I’d be needing an additional bag.

She, again, ignored me and showed me to a waiting room where she left the boys and I alone for a few moments.

When she returned, she had three new bottles of poison and three new baggies. She explained to me that the bottles of poison were actually a preservative for the poop. It was, in fact, poisonous, but it would allow the sample to keep from decomposing. She also pointed out (twice) that I only needed a sample smaller than a ping pong ball. She assured me that the lab was resourceful and would gain all the knowledge they needed from that very small sample.

Apparently, the “medical sample” bag is actually – in essence – for double-bagging the bottle of poison. And this combination will keep the samples from smelling so “You won’t need to return to the lab again until all the samples are collected.”

Got it. That lady does not want to see me or any amount of my child’s poop for at least three more days.

It’ll probably take her that long to stop laughing…

What We’ve Been Doing

When we had been home from Africa for a month, I reported that I’d been spending much of my time dealing with “dirty laundry, homeschooling, sickness, grocery shopping, playdates, warmer weather, colder weather, cooking, getting rid of training wheels, learning to talk (x2), horseback riding lessons and becoming mobile enough to touch EVERYTHING.”

Not so much of that is different from this past month after our trip to [Eastern European Country] except add in calling insurance companies, multiple appointments at the chiropractor, a trip to St. Louis for doctor’s appointments, Mama AND Taty both getting sick, soccer practice and now being mobile enough to CLIMB on top of everything!

We’ve seen much of our extended family – some multiple times. We’ve laid down for 30 naptimes and 30 bedtimes (these are not a fun time with E) and we’ve changed more than 425 diapers (half of which were nasty – we’re now collecting some of that nastiness for the lab to run tests!).

Is it any wonder we are all sleeping well?!

Chance and I typically fall asleep shortly after the boys’ 8:00 bedtime. It’s not worth staying awake to watch TV! We need energy to get up and do it all again the next day!

As I reflect on this past month, there are a few things we’ve had to change (grocery shopping every week instead of twice monthly and diaper laundry every other day rather than twice weekly), but overall, adding E to our family has not been as big of a change as I had originally pictured.

(That does not mean we are preparing to adopt again or trying to conceive. Three boys in three years is enough to keep me busy for a while…)

E has a very happy, easy-going demeanor most of the time, so he has aligned with our routines well. He is beginning to anticipate that baths are right after supper and the dreaded naptime follows lunch. He does have a feisty attitude and throws some award-winning fits, but they’re nothing we can’t handle/ignore.

Overall, I believe I can report that we are adjusting well to one another. We’re settling in to life as a family of five!