Monday, June 5, 2017

Birthdays, School, and Medical Decisions

I have not been very good about keeping our blog up to date.  I also have Annika's Adoption Journey group on Facebook where I do all our updating.  But, I try to remember to upload to Blogger for anyone who doesn't have FB and also where I can update about our whole family.

Annika had a great reunion with her best buddy, Jack.  Jack and his family live in Tennessee, so we were overjoyed to have them come stay with us for a weekend so Jack and Annika could reunite! We had a great weekend of spending time with him and his amazing momma, Rainer.  They joined us in celebrating Annika's and Jadyn's half birthday and then we spent the rest of the time just being together! Annika was shy for a few seconds when she first saw Jack at the airport, but they soon picked up where they left off and were side by side pretty much the whole rest of the weekend!  These kiddos went through a lot together in the orphanage, and now they're making new memories in loving families!  I love seeing them together!  Seeing Jack and his mom before my very eyes was so surreal after having only connected through Facebook and FaceTime for the past year!  They are a great family and we look forward to a lifetime friendship! We plan to take a road trip out to TN this summer and spend some more time with them.  

Annika and Jadyn had a wonderful half birthday celebration on May 21st.  They were surrounded by so many friends and family, and the Lord showed us His favor by not letting it rain so we could have the party at the park as originally planned.  We ended up having WAY too much pizza leftover and our kids ate it for nearly a week straight (without complaint, surprisingly).   This was Annika's first birthday party and she soaked it up.  The girls got a TON of birthday gifts! I'll admit that I couldn't make it through singing "Happy Birthday" to them as I was all choked up and crying from being in amazement that Annika was here in our presence, an orphan no more, and having the time of her life!  And thinking about Jadyn, who so selflessly gave up having a party when her birthday came last November so we could finish the adoption process and get her sister home.... here she was...finally getting that much-deserved party and she was all smiles and laughs! My heart was bursting with gratitude and pride!

The end of school was a whirlwind of activities and doctor appointments for our household!
Jadyn finished 3rd grade, Eli and Annika finished 2nd grade and Asher is an official PreK graduate!

Bring on 4th grade, 3rd grade and Kindergarten!
The first day of school is going to be real hard for this momma.  Jadyn's last year in elementary and Asher's first year.... no more babies in the nest! If you need me on Aug 15th, you'll find me definitely in the BooHoo/WooHoo room!

A couple weeks ago, we had Asher evaluated for Occupational Therapy.  Our zealous Asher has always been that... zealous and full of life... and more.  He's also been the one who is quick to become bouncing off the walls and feeding the chaos of small children in a room :), head-butting teachers or soccer coaches (playfully), playfully throwing himself on the ground or draping himself over people of objects, or blurting out noises randomly for fun when he's been quietly engaged in an activity alone.  He even got his own personal teacher for his PreK graduation that stood by his side to help him stay on task during the graduation ceremony (Jay and I had a good chuckle about that, but it IS what he needed to get through the ceremony without causing major distraction!) My momma gut has told me for years that there was more going on in his brain besides just being a boy, but I wondered if he'd grow out of it or if we just needed to parent better.  Finally, over the last few months, I began exploring different avenues to help us figure out what makes Asher tick.  We did bloodwork to make sure it wasn't allergies or ANYTHING the bloodwork would tell us.  (That came back normal.)  We recently sent off hair samples to have them analyzed to make sure Asher isn't deficient in anything that could be playing a part in his overstimulation and hyperactivity. (We are awaiting the results). And we had him evaluated for Sensory-related Occupational Therapy.  Last week, we learned that Asher has Sensory Processing Disorder and has some mild delays in certain areas.  I can't tell you what a relief it is to FINALLY put a name to it and to have him in weekly Occupational Therapy (OT), helping him at his level and what he needs to be successful in life.  And thankfully, it's only mild.  (He won't have to be in OT forever!)  He likes going to his weekly sessions and getting to do 'fun' things... all geared to helping his sensory needs! We've also invested in a small trampoline and are learning to do some small things at home, like providing him with a weighted lap blanket to help.  Jay and I are still learning what it means to have SPD and what it means for helping Asher, but one thing is for sure, this kiddo is smart and has a bright and successful future ahead of him!

And the medical journey continues with Annika...
We learned a few weeks ago after a routine echocardiogram that Annika has an anomalous origin of her right coronary artery (it's not where it should be).  That means that as she gets older, there's a big chance she's going to need open-heart surgery to correct it.  (Praise God it is correctable!) After another round of testing and meeting with the cardiologist, Annika was deemed healthy enough to keep being a kid and doing with kids like to do.  Our cardiologist said to go ahead and move forward with the ear reconstruction and then we will check on Annika's heart in about a year.

Ear Canals
After meeting with several doctors/otolaryngologists about her ear canals, and them meeting with their peers regarding Annika's case, it has been decided that the best and least-risky route would be to leave her ear canals as they are and move forward with ear reconstruction.  Annika will continue to go into the doctor's office for routine ear cleanings and routine CTs to monitor her canals over the years.  Jay and I both have peace about this after our last otolaryngologist fully examined Annika and reviewed her CTs and MRIs.  Annika's case is very unique and Jay and I appreciate that each doctor has been very honest with us with their professional opinion and expertise.  We have sought the leading doctors in the United States in this field, so we feel comfortable with moving forward with ears.  So, I called our plastic surgeon's office this past Thursday and left a message that we are ready to proceed with the planning of ear reconstruction.

Which brings us to the next complicated step.....based on Annika's anatomy around her ear locations, our plastic surgeon (one of THE leading and top doctors in the microtia reconstruction world) wants to be very careful and thorough with the examining/planning for Annika's new ears.  Dr. Lewin wants a special study done of Annika's vascular makeup around where her new ears will be along with an in-office exam.  That means we may be making a "quick" trip to California soon to get that office exam in so that we can hopefully move forward with scheduling the first ear surgery.  It never occurred to me that it may not even be possible to have ear reconstruction..... if the vascular makeup is not there on either side of her head, no ear reconstruction (whether medpor or rib-grafting) would be able to 'take' if there isn't blood flow to the new ears.  We are still learning what exactly Annika needs to have already existing for the ear reconstruction.  Please pray that when she does have the study, EVERYTHING she needs to have will be there.  As parents, we want the best for our children and our dreams for them and their dreams for themselves... we desire it to be a reality.  Will you please pray that Annika will have EVERYTHING she needs to be able to have ear reconstruction?  That she'll have the veins for blood flow, the cartilage for building ear lobes, and that her current ear canals will be able to be successfully 'camouflaged' behind her new ears? I broke down today with the thought of WHAT IF Annika isn't able to have ear reconstruction? WHAT IF she has to have a life of prosthetic ears (removed every night)?  I dream of her having two beautiful ears on her head... just like you and me.... ears with pretty little earrings in them that she can change out to whatever she wishes to wear that day.  Ears that hold her glasses up.  Ears that don't come off at night like her glasses do.  Ears that she is not self-conscious to show each day when she pulls her hair back into a ponytail.  

So much weighing on my mind and heart... so much going on in our family of 6.... 
Summer school for Annika, swim lessons for Annika and Asher, tutoring for Annika after summer school ends, OT for Asher, VBS fun for all 4 whenever we have the opportunity, and a summer schedule with academic-enriched opportunities for all 4 along with lots of fun adventures in between.  

In the midst of it all... I am indescribably thankful that we serve a BIG BIG God Who loves us and His ways are not our ways.  We are praying for Annika's ears to become a reality (and hopefully this year when we've already met our deductible), for the finances to be there to pay for those ears and all that it entails (traveling, medical appts, etc), and for the Lord's direction and favor every step of the way.

To God be the glory.....

Monday, May 15, 2017

reunion and birthday party

Over a year ago, Annika had to say goodbye to a little boy whom she loved like a brother as he walked out of the orphanage to his new life with his new family. I have often wondered what Annika thought during that time, what she felt when he left.... knowing she'd never see him again, feeling loss once again as one of her friends left, and wondering if she too would ever be adopted.  I remember when Jack's family went to China to adopt him and bring him home to the USA... I was so happy for him and happy for us, for I knew Annika would get to see her Jack again because of technology and using FaceTime.... but at the same time, my heart grieved for my little girl on the other side of the world as I knew she was losing a piece of her world when Jack left that orphanage. Someday, Annika will have the words to tell me about all she went through. 

I will never forget the day we got Annika and how scared and terrified she was... to the point of hysteria. We needed a picture taken of Jay and I with her, yet she was too hysterical and scared to cooperate. I will never forget that moment that I pulled out that little pink photo album and opened it to the back to specific pages as I handed it to our guide to show Annika.  I'll never forget how Annika stopped in disbelief as she jerked the album from our guide's hands and stared through tears streaming and cries still wailing from her at picture of faces she knew so well yet they were smiling and happy with new faces surrounding them. Esther....Alex....Enora... and Jack. Annika knew them by their Chinese names and called them by such. It was then and in that moment that hope once again must have renewed in Annika's heart that she would see them again.   I will never forget that moment. And someday, I know she'll be able to tell me about it through her eyes. 

In the last 5 months, Annika and Jack have often Facetimed or sent videos to each other. And there have been many times when Annika, feeling too vulnerable and shy to see him on FaceTime, yet needing to see and feel close to Jack, would ask me to open up the app so she could see "Hong Fu Jack" and she would literally scroll through Jack's mom's Facebook pictures and videos for a long time, looking for her Jack. In 4 short days, Jack and his momma, Rainer, are hopping on a plane from Tennessee and coming to Texas. For the first time in 13 months, Jack and Annika are going to be face to face for a whole weekend. Annika has been nervous, a bit tinker, yet excited as everyday, she goes to her calendar to cross off another day in our countdown. 

It's going to be a big weekend. Will you pray for Annika and Jack as they reunite?  Will you pray for our two families, strangers just a little over a year ago, now connected together by the bond of adoption and the love of two precious children. The Lord is still writing these two little ones' stories. And I am SO thankful their friendship didn't end 13 months ago. Because of it, our family has grown to include Jack and his family. 💗 And that makes this momma's heart and eyes overflow with gratitude of the Lord's goodness. 

We are also celebrating Annika's and Jadyn's "half birthdays" on Friday evening since we didn't get to 6 months ago. The girls are beyond excited and we've invited a lot of friends and family to join us at a nearby park to celebrate! Annika's first birthday party since coming home....her first since becoming forever a part of our family... 😍💗

A reunion AND a birthday party happening this weekend for Annika??? We can hardly wait. 😊 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Special Visitors!

Annika and Asher reading together
Annika has been doing really well these days. She is doing great in school and we continue to work to get her 504 and special services in place. We continue to wait to hear from the third opinion on her ear canals - hoping to hear before this week is up!
Annika loves all things sports, baseball being her favorite these days. She loves to watch her brother, Eli, play and is excited for the day she gets to be on a team. The soccer season just ended for her and she loved being out there playing. We are thankful for great coaches and teammates who accepted her in with open arms! 

Aunt Cal came to visit!

Aunt Carol came to visit us for a few days and meet her newest great niece! Y'all, Annika is usually pretty shy and reserved, even a bit stand-offish to new people. She welcomed Aunt "Cal" with open heart and arms! Annika literally jumped for joy and squealed with delight that Aunt Cal was staying a few days with us! Talk about melt my heart. We loved having Aunt Cal here, and unfortunately, a stomach bug has been going through our family and it went home with aunt Cal. :( (So sorry about that!) Tummy bug aside, we loved having our aunt here and soaked up every minute. She taught us a new fun activity: kumihimo! It's Japanese braiding! So easy and so fun! Annika enjoys it as do the rest of us (Jay watches from the recliner ;) Thank you, Aunt Carol, for coming and visiting. We always love when you are here! We missed seeing Uncle Jim and hopefully he can come next time. We love you guys dearly!

Yang AoFang and Hong Fu

Yang Ao Fang and Hong Fu......Annika and Jack 
Two VERY special kids who share a special bond. 
They were like brother and sister during their days at their orphanage. I have several pictures of the two of them together...inseparable. Many more like the ones included here. Jack left the orphanage in April 2016 when he was adopted by an INCREDIBLE and loving family. Annika did not see him again until we brought her home in December and they were able to reunite via Facetime and by sending videos to each other. 
Well, GUESS WHAT?!?! On May 19, 2017, these two precious children are going to be reunited IN PERSON when Jack and his momma, Rainer, come to TEXAS from Tennessee to spend the weekend with our family!!! I didn't catch Annka's initial reaction on video when I told her the news today, but she squealed and jumped up and down in excitement! To help her understand the concept of time, we got the calendar down and created a countdown from today until they come. 23 days! 
I cannot wait to witness these two together ... reunited once again! Making more memories! I've got big hugs ready and waiting for Rainer too! We want to give Rainer and Jack a warm Texas welcome and make some great Texas memories when they come! What are some must-dos we should do with them? :)
God is good!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

4 months a Sappington!

Annika saw me getting ready to write on our sign tonight and immediately knew what it meant and what number we were going to write on it! She was so excited and it warmed my heart with her happy reaction! It was picture time and she posed all on her own and I went with it. :-)

4 months since we first saw her in person...4 months since she walked into that Civil Affairs room, so scared and inconsolable for many hours afterwards... what an amazing transformation these past 4 months. What an amazing kid she is and I am so proud and honored to be her momma. 

As of today, she loves all things baseball. She can now count to over 130 in English. She recognizes many of her alphabet letters, and can even read the word GO in English.  Her favorite food is still noodles. She is quick to smile and laugh.  She's a pro on her scooter (she was so wobbly when she first came home). She loves to be outdoors and play with anyone who will join her. Her kind heart and sincerity continue to show more and more, and she is blossoming with each passing week. 

God is good. 
Happy 4th month anniversary, our dear precious Annika. You are dearly loved!


Monday, April 10, 2017

How is it going with Annika?

I know I haven't been posting as much these days, so tonight feels like a good time to get you caught up!

Ears update: 
I heard from our ENT last week and after much conversing with other doctors and thinking through, he felt it best we pursue another doctor to do surgery on Annika's ear canals and cholosteatoma removals. Jay and I highly respect him for saying he didn't want to risk messing up the final outcome and goal: ears for Annika. Her case is a complicated one with the location of her ear canals and cholosteatomas compounding the issue. In a way, we are kind of like being back to square 2, which is frustrating, but I'd rather be back to square 2 than to risk it. Our ENT recommended 2 other doctors for us to look into and they are actually doctors we have heard of because they are the best of the best. Both doctors are out of state. Our ENT said he was going to fax Annika's CT scans (with our permission) over to each doctor while Jay and I decided which doctor we wanted to pursue. That was last week (Thursday, I believe) and today I put a call into the doctor in Virginia to initiate contact as well. Tomorrow or Wednesday, I plan to contact the other doctor who is in California and see if we can get the ball back rolling again on getting surgery on the books to remove the cholosteatomas in the next month or two. 

Tomorrow is our first post placement visit with our social worker. Per adoption requirements, we have to submit a 6 month, 1 year and 4 other post placement reports to our agency who then submits them to China. It's China's way of knowing that we are indeed loving and taking care of our child we promised to never hurt or abandon and to love her as our own flesh and blood. I can't help but be a bit excited for our social worker to come and see our family and meet our Annika! We enjoyed working with her in the adoption process and we really connected well with her, so we are looking forward to seeing her! 

Annika continues to grow and blossom and thrive. She still has many moments of complaining, and often we have to work on our polite manners and not being disrespectful (and lots of patience on our part as parents), but she continues to improve and the Lord continues to give us mercy and grace as parents, as a family, as individuals. Tonight, while at big sister's 3rd grade program, Annika wanted me to hold her so I obliged. She was enjoying her sister's musical program and then at one point, randomly leaned in and gave me a loving and happy kiss on the cheek. I needed that and she didn't even know it. Sometimes I worry that she's not happy with me as a parent, but that random moment when Annika's heart spontaneously came through, my heart melted all over again and I thanked the Lord for that gift. She continues to grow (physically, emotionally and socially!) and I thank the Lord for bringing her into our family. 

Annika's English language continues to grow! And at nearly 4 months since Gotcha Day, I'm also thankful she's still communicating in Chinese. I try to make her read/hear Chinese everyday so she doesn't lose her first language, but getting her to willingly and without complaint to read in Chinese is not easy. Once we are past surgeries and such, we are planning to enroll her (and her siblings, if possible!) into Chinese school once a week after school or on Saturdays so she continues to retain and grow in her native language. 

Prayer Requests:
- for wisdom, favor and provision for Annika'a medical needs. With traveling out of state for ear canal surgery and ear surgery... that won't be cheap, but it will be worth it all in the long run. 
- for Annika to continue to grow in the love of our family
- for refreshing for Jay and I. It's been a busy, tiring and draining several months. 
- for Annika to come to know and love Jesus and her Lord and Savior. As opportunities arise, we try to teach her about our Heavenly Father who loves her and made her for a purpose. Her heart and mind are not comprehending yet, but I pray that one day she will not only understand, but fully receive Him with arms and heart opened wide. 

To God be the glory....


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Library Books in Chinese? Yes, please!

Can I just brag again how awesome Annika's school is? I want to express how amazing the school librarian, Mrs. Toal is! She ordered books in Chinese for the school's library so that Annika would have some books to check out and read. 

Today, she cheerfully sat in my lap as we looked through this book together and she read some of the pages to me. She's even having me practice my Mandarin by repeating her when she reads. (I have no idea what I am saying sometimes, but I love that she's "teaching" me her native language.)  Later, as I made dinner, she proudly counted to 100 in English. This girl is learning so much and having fun doing it! She's also recognizing her alphabet letters and saying them aloud. 

I am so grateful for all the people the Lord has placed in Annika's life. She is truly flourishing and I am in awe of her beauty inside and out. Her tantrums are fewer these days and she's genuinely happy. I am truly blessed to be her momma!

We are currently waiting to hear back from our ENT sometime this week after he talks to Dr. Lewin in California regarding Annika's ears and canals. We have an estimated timeline of Annika's first round of surgeries happening around the end to middle of of April to remove the cholosteatomas in her ear canals.

Friday, March 10, 2017

stop and smell the roses

Can I just be real? 

Life has been fast-paced, nonstop and quite "full" the last few months. It's been hard, it's been fun, it's been worth it.... but this momma is just depleted. A floor of muddy foot prints, laundry piled and a house desperately needing a top to bottom clean...has turned me into a blubbering hot mess today. I texted Jay earlier and said I'm crying and the kids are looking at me like I've lost my mind. 
The truth is I don't know why I was crying except to think those muddy clothes and floors were just one more thing to get done now. And that made me feel even more rotten for thinking that. I should be thankful for the muddy trails in my house because that means I have children who fill our home with life and adventure. 

My sweet husband came home with flowers in hand and "I love you" on his lips and wrapped me in his arms before taking the kids out back to get them to help him fill in the mud hole they had created..... 

Our 11th anniversary is Sunday. If we're lucky, we'll get a date in this weekend, but even if we don't.... I think I'll sit awhile, count my blessings and smell the roses.....