Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Gary had to work today, but we had friends over to spend the night anyway. Gary was able to get home in time to watch the ball drop:) Cari enjoyed playing with Kirstie & Maria. Macella had her 1st teen New Year's Eve party with the youth group. She is growing up so fast!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More family during Christmas break

Today we went to Bob & Brooke's to visit with Gary's family from Maryland. Gary's niece Leslie has a new baby girl, so it was nice to meet her. All these little girls are so cute:)
Pictures from the Dean's below:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our last trip to NYC in 2009!

12/27--Today we take our last trip to NYC for 2009. We've been to the city 7 times since October. We have an appointment scheduled in January, February, and the 1st of April in 2010.

This trip we stayed with Joy & Al in an apartment in NYC. After a long walk and wrong turns in the subway we enjoyed a nice meal out. We got back to the apartment around midnight and prepared for an early doctor's appointment.

12/28--Gary and I got up with Maria and headed out for the Audiologist around 8am. Today's appointment was to increase the volume in her implants. All four of her programs were updated. We are to try and increase her program level by one level per week. Maria was very unhappy during the appointment, as well as afterward. She became very agitated. She could really use your prayers. We would like her to adjust and not be so upset that she hurts herself. Thanks for all your prayers for our safety in traveling to all of our appointments.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More visits with family

We visited with my dad, Shirley, and brothers and sister today. The kids always get a kick out of playing with their uncles that are younger than them. We had lots of food and opened presents. They were all happy to be able to say hi to Maria. She appears to have adjusted well to hearing, although it certainly scares her when we first turn on her devices.
Enjoy some pictures below:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day!

Today was a busy, but blessed day.
It was so exciting to go around in a circle and read the Christmas story with our girls, and to really know that Maria could hear it was an added blessing.

We opened stockings with Tim and Teddy too. Tim was nice enough to remember our dog Teddy, so he was able to join in the festivities as well.
Pictures at Tim's below:

After opening stockings and gifts at Tim's we went to Gary's parents for Christmas brunch, but with our timing skills it was more like lunch. The girls were excited to show Bob and Brooke their new Bibles, so we read the Christmas story again. We had such a nice time.
Pictures at Bob & Brooke's below:

Then we went to visit Terry & Lana and their family. Taron and Chuck's little girl Kaliah (our great niece) shared some of her toys with Maria. They were all so cute. We had a great time with family and we even got more food! We always happen to stop by when they're putting food on the table---it almost appears as if we do it on purpose, but we couldn't plan it that hard if we tried!
Pictures at Terry & Lana's below:

Then we went to Grandma & Grandpa Gordon's house to see more family:) Maria enjoyed her baby cousin. Macella & Kirstie always enjoy getting together with their cousing Elizabeth. Again, a good time was had by all!
Pictures at Gordon's below:

Macella & Kirstie spent the night with my mom at my grandparent's, so Gary and I went with Tim to see Avatar in 3-D. Maria fell asleep during the previews, so it worked out just perfect.

What a long, but enjoyable day!
I am just so excited that the timing of Maria's hearing activation allowed her to be able to hear the most joyous news of Christ's birth. It's a feeling I can't even describe, but oh what a thrill:)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve!

It's Christmas Eve! We are all excited about Maria's first Christmas with us. We decided to spend the night at my Uncle Tim's house, so that we would be near family on Christmas and have less traveling. Plus it's so much fun!

First we went to my grandparent's for dinner. Allan, Missy, Elizabeth, Tim, grandma & grandpa Gordon, my mom, and all for of us enjoyed some yummy dinner and then an evening of an inpromptu Christmas program and singing. We lit candles and sang Silent Night and then had a birthday cake for Jesus. Maria had no idea what was going on, but she certainly seemed to have a good time.

We ended the evening at Tim's house. The girls slept together in an adjoining room. They had fun. Gary, Tim, and I watched a movie before falling asleep. Tomorrow should be another fun filled day of family and fun. It is just so exciting that Maria can actually hear what is going on. We are so filled with joy!

Enjoy some pictures below:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23, The last day before we officially enjoy some time off

Today the girls had school. Gary and I had work, but we each took Maria at a certain point. Gary worked at home with Maria in the morning, so I could see all of my children. Then in the afternoon Gary went to his office and I took Maria to mine. She enjoyed playing with Becky and the tree and I learned how to help with end of the month billing and filing. Becky is going to be an additional speech therapist for Maria starting in January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another gift for Maria; Maria enjoys the clarinet

Maria received a gift from her aide Kacey today. She also gave me some pictures of Maria when Santa went to visit at Kiddie Kampus. They are so cute. Maria really enjoyed seeing Santa. Kacey gave Maria a shiny bow because she thought she would like it and she was right! She enjoyed the bow and the paper. She got the book "Biscuit's Pet & Play Christmas" which has different things to feel on each page. She enjoyed looking and feeling the Christmas bulbs and the Santa page.

Kirstie was playing her clarinet and Maria became interested. She held onto the clarinet and felt the vibrations while Kirstie played. Then she thought it was funny to pull it out of Kirstie's mouth and then shove it back in. She really enjoys her sisters. Her sisters really enjoy her.

I got more good news on Maria's development today. Her PT showed her how to pretend with animal magnets and Maria copied her and asked for more. Then when she was finished she put the animals back in a bucket. She is really starting to exchange back and forth with people now. We are so thrilled!

We were so nervous about her being sensory overloaded and biting, but she appears to have a calming and happy personality now that she can hear. She really appears much less anxious. Thank you all for praying. Everyday we are more and more thankful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Dec 21

I couldn't think of an interesting title for today. Today it was officially decided that Maria's last day at Kiddie Kampus will be this coming Wednesday. I feel so sad about losing her aide. She is absolutely wonderful with Maria and has been a great asset. Starting in January Maria will be going to Sherry's house during the day. We got to know her through a friend of Kirstie. She watched our blog while we were in China and checks on Maria's progress. She has a real desire to help kids with special needs and she really wants to be there for Maria. There is no doubt that the Lord brought us together.

Maria got a gift from her speech therapist Sheila today. She enjoyed opening it and inspecting it. She got a sign language I love you pin and a sign language I love you angel ornament.

I'm also hearing reports from her teachers, aide, and therapists that Maria is looking up more and smiling more. At home she has enjoyed toys she normally ignores. She has periods of laughter and periods of crying softly. We're assuming sometimes the noises please her and sometimes they don't.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Sunday

Today was busy, but very nice. First we started out the day at church. Maria enjoyed her 1st Sunday School class with hearing. She sat at the table and read books. She copied the girls who were swinging their legs. It was so cute. During church Macella, Kirstie, & I played our clarinets with others during the prelude and during congregational singing. The service was a nice reminder of Christmas leading to the real purpose: Easter.

After church we came home to take pictures in front of our tree. It was quite an ordeal to get pictures with all of us and the dog. It was pretty exciting that Maria could at least hear us calling her name. Toward the end we tried to get Maria by herself. It did not work--she became quite upset. Gary thought it was funny to capture some pictures of her unhappy face:)

Then we headed to a Christmas open house of Gary's co-worker. It was very nice. They had cute little ornaments for the kids to make. Maria enjoyed making hers, although she kept trying to take the nose off. Kirstie met a girl there that is a friend and neighbor of one of her good friends. It is a small world.

Then we went to Red Lobster for Christmas Sunday dinner. It was very nice. Kirstie was sad to see the live lobsters, but she still enjoyed her meal. Maria kept laughing and eating and eating and eating. She really likes restaurants:)

Then we headed back to church for the evening service. We kept Maria with us because she was being so good and quiet. She was so happy that she periodically just began giggling. Then she got giggling very loud and I couldn't stop her and I was joining in, so I took her to the back. Afterward so many people said how wonderful it was to see and hear Maria laughing. She often laughs when she is doing big gross motor flying activities with Gary, but rarely while sitting. Her cochlear implants have opened up another piece of her personality. She is quite hilarious.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Macella's bday dinner & gifts

Tonight we celebrated Macella's 14th birthday. As we have a three year old, who's really more a toddler, it is so hard to believe that Macella is already 14. It seems like she was just three. She really has grown up into a lovely kind girl. We are very proud of her.

When we all got home from work/school we cleaned up while Maria played with her toys. She really has never been interested in playing, but today she sat and played while her toys made noise. I've never seen her sit for so long.

My mom sent Macella flowers, so she opened her flower box while talking on the phone with her. Maria got a gift from her Head start teacher of only 2 weeks, so she opned that. She's still learning what opening gifts is all about. She definitely enjoyed the paper:)

Macella asked for chicken quesadillas for her dinner, so Gary & I made those. Then we had a big cookie for her cake and her favorite ice cream of cookies & cream. Kirstie carried the cookie with candles and Maria seemed very happy and curious about the whole ordeal. It was the first time she ever heard the "happy birthday" song. Macella opened her gifts from her sisters, a Li'l kinz frog and a Cooking Mama DS game. Afterward we watched Macella's new movie, "Unaccompanied Minors" while eating cookie & ice cream. She thanked us over and over. We are so proud that she didn't expect and want so much more for her birthday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maria fully hears; Macella's band concert

This morning we were up early to get ready, to eat, and to pack up our hotel room. We were running somewhat late, but we grabbed some food and ran to the bus stop. It was so cold--they talk about windy Chicago, but it was definitely windy NYC! Apparently a lot of people visit NYC before the holidays because there were people everywhere and the bus had many stops adding many people. Once we made it to the city we caught a taxi and made it to the surgeon's office around 10:20am.

The surgeon said that she was healing well and that she looked good. The people in the office are so friendly and were taken with all three girls. We then had to walk extremely fast to our next appointment with the audiologist a few blocks down. Our appointment was at 11am and we walked through the door wind blown and freezing at exactly 11am. Here we met a lovely little girl in the waiting room. She hugged all three girls and wanted to sit with them. She chatted about their coats and shoes. Her little baby sister had an implant. What a doll!

We went with the audiologist to activate the left ear and to learn some trouble shooting techniques for the devices. Maria seemed more upset today. She cried more with anticipation I think. In the end both implants work and she can hear. Due to her malformed cochleas she needs more of a broad spectrum than other children, but she should still be successful in hearing speech. It is quite obvious that she hears because she either becomes quite fearful or quite curious.

After our appointments we grabbed a cab to the bus station to the car and left New Jersey. We were in a hurry because Macella had a Winter Band concert tonight. We stopped for food on the way and just kept moving. We were able to unload the car, start laundry, do Macella's hair, and then make it to the concert on time.

I was a little nervous about Maria's reaction to instruments. The orchestra was first and when they 1st started she was curious and after a little while she got scared. She tried to hide in my shirt, but she would sometimes peek out and look at me. The scariest part for her was the clapping between songs. I tried to show her with her hands what the noise was, but that made her even more unhappy. She never screamed or cried loud, but teared up and hid. Then Macella's band came up, which was a different sound than strings. She actually sat up to look for the sound, although I don't think she very understood where it was coming from. During their second song, a very slow one, she seemed content and just kept staring up into my eyes and giving a little smile. I cried through the entire song. I think with our lives being so busy we really haven't had time to sit and think. We've been on the go with our trips to the city, our jobs, church, and the girls activities with school. I was finally able to sit while Maria looked in my eyes and I just told her that I loved her and know that she heard. She just looked in my eyes, as if she knew I would protect her and as soon as the song was over and the clapping began she once again grabbed on tight and just hugged.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Maria Hears!

Today it is official! Maria can hear! Her right implant was activated today! Thank the Lord that all the electrodes work!

This morning we all went down to breakfast. Then Gary went to Kohl's to get Maria a new outfit with Macella. Kirstie, Maria, & I got ready while they were gone. Then we headed out into the very cold air to wait for the bus. We took the bus and caught a cab and made it to our 2pm appointment a little early.

Gary video taped and Kirstie took pictures at first and then later Macella took over the video taping. At first the audiologist tested each electrode and different volumes on Maria's right ear. When she heard a sound everyone clapped and pointed to a lit up toy. When Maria first heard a little at a time she was curious and scared. When all the electrodes were turned on she was very frightened. She turned around and hugged me so tight around the neck that I couldn't get her arms off. It was wonderful to know that she was hearing, but sad to realize how scared she was.

We left the audiologist with her device set at 1 with a volume of 6. She was fearful and the only noise (since we weren't talking) was just the heating system, which wasn't that loud--although she could've been hearing other sounds that we just take for granded. We were supposed to get her to 4 with a volume of 8 before she went to bed. Knowing that she was so scared inside where we had the volume controlled we were nervous to take her outside with all the city noise. Once oustide she was scared and when the processor kept falling off her head she would laugh. She laughted at the silence and cried at the noise. She kept it on though, so that was very good.

After her appointment we went to eat, then to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, and then to the Toys R Us at Time Square. The tree at Rockefeller Center was much bigger than we imagagined! Toys R Us was huge with a ferris wheel inside. We girls rode on the Playschool School Bus car. Maria enjoyed it until her device fell off. Then when I put it back on she tried to climb out of the car. I just left it off for the ride and she had a good time. It was a pretty exciting store, although we didn't feel the need to buy anything:)

Back at the hotel we worked to increase Maria's settings and volume. She appears a little more nervous with Gary's voice, so he tried to keep talking to get her used to it. We ordered in food and watched the end of Happy Feet. Off to sleep for another day tomorrow.

Tomorrow they activate the left side and we carry a ton of equipment back with us.

We are so blessed and so excited. Thank you all for your prayers. As far as we've noticed she hasn't been biting or scratching herself. She is also keeping the device on even though she really doesn't want to. She's such a brave little girl!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leaving for NYC for Maria's implant activation

Today we all went to work/school. Then Maria had a CPSE meeting to change her current speech goals and to increase services due to her implant activation tomorrow. She will getting speech 5 times a week for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

We all finished packing the car and left the driveway at 5:15. We made it to the hotel at 9:30 and settled in. Just as we were ready to drift off we received a phone call from the front desk at 11:30pm. They informed us that our car was broken into. Gary headed out to talk to the police. To get in they must have used a screw driver to break into the lock. Then they basically pulled the dash down to steal the stereo. They were in the process of that when a security guard noticed them. They ran and of course were not caught. The lock, the heater controls, and the 4-wheel drive controls are broken. We are thankful though because we left the spare set of keys right in plain sight in the center console, but apparently they didn't notice them, so our entire car wasn't stolen:)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Macella's bday & Kirstie's concert

This morning Macella opened a present for her birthday. She decided to wait until this coming Friday to have the rest of her presents and cake & ice cream because tonight is Kirstie's Christmas concert and we have to be packed for our trip to the city tomorrow.

Kirstie's concert went well. She was in band and chorus. It is amazing how far they improved since 4th grade. Macella did some homework while Maria just hung out and tried to sleep.

After the concert we stopped at the store to get Macella some birthday cookies. Yum Yum!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adoption Christmas party

Today we had our Christmas party in Rochester with our adoption group. This is our 4th Christmas party, but our first one with our Maria. The party last Christmas was the hardest. To see everyone with their children and know that we had a child waiting for us to pick her up was so hard. Two other families were able to bring their children for the first time as well.

Macella went to a friend's house for a Christmas party. She's growing up and the kids in our group are much younger, so we gave her a choice. She had a nice time with her friends.

Gary, Kirstie, Maria, & I made our way to Rochester and had a wonderful time. Many people were missing because of sicknesses. One family in our group could use some prayer. They've adopted two children from China and just came home recently with their daughter. Their son just had his tonsils out and he has not been doing well and their daughter is going in for a tonsillectomy and hernia surgery on Monday.

It was a blessing to have a visitor to our group from Romania. She is the mother-in-law of a woman with 4 adopted siblings (2 from Korea & 2 from China). She grew up in an orphanage in Romania and she said that she was blessed to see children taken care of and being shown such love. She blessed us with a story that her daughter-in-law translated for us. She said that people would take the kids candy and they loved candy, but when asked what they really wanted they said they just wanted a home. She was a sweet woman who blessed us with her presence and her thankfulness for us loving our children.

We had a great day with our friends. Maria wasn't feeling well, but she still enjoyed opening her gift. Kirstie did a great job taking care of her.

Enjoy some pictures of Maria's 1st Christmas party and our 4th!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Our 1st snow day!

Well today was officially this school year's first snow day! We really don't have a lot of snow, but the snow turned to rain and froze, so the roads were very slippery this morning.

The girls had a very lazy morning. Maria & Kirstie haven't been feeling well, so they really took it easy. Macella practiced some piano just for fun. It was a nice slow day of paperwork catching up, phone calls, and cleaning for me.

In the afternoon the older girls were feeling up to playing outside. Macella built a snowman and then Kirstie went out to help add the decorations. Once inside it was time for hot chocolate:)

On a side note: Gary had to pick Maria up at daycare yesterday because she was sick. She appeared to have a stomach bug. She had a fever, but it subsided by evening. In the last 48 hours I think we figured out that she has slept for 41 hours. Anyway she doesn't have a fever or any stomach issues, but due to the daycare regulations she is not allowed back until Friday and they are closed Friday. Gary took Tuesday off, I had today off (snow day), and one of Kirstie's friend's parents is going to watch Maria Thursday and Friday. We are so thankful to have found a babysitter for these two days.

Please pray that Maria & Kirstie feel better soon. For Maria it's really terrible not being able to ask her if her head hurts or her throat hurts or her ears hurt. Also, please pray that we'll have wisdom to be able to make some decisions concerning Maria's daycare, as well as some decisions that need to be made at next week's CPSE meeting with the school district. She really needs more services to address the intense listening therapy that she needs after her implant activation. I'm hoping for a teacher of the deaf, but not sure if they will give her one.

It has been a wonderful day of rest with the girls today. I love being a part of snow days again:)

Thanks to you all for your love and concern for our family. It has been such an encouragement to have so many of you put actions with your words:)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More blessings and encouragement

Today was a wonderful day for all of us.

Maria was so happy this morning--full of smiles and laughter. I attend her Sunday School class with her, so that she will learn to sit and "listen" and play with the other children. She sat at the table and played with Play-Doh.

Side note to understand the blessing: Her therapists have been trying to get her to place items into a container, but they have not been successful. She dumps things out of the container or holds them in her hands, but will not release them into a container when they request her to. Anyway, I used a "cookie cutter" to make a whole bunch of little stars in Maria's play doh. She picked up the play doh container to drink from it, so I signed "no" and then she put it down and started putting the stars in. She filled the cup with stars and then dumped them. Then she looked at me and watched me drop the stars in and she did it again! She did it over and over again and smiled at the same time. She finally enjoyed putting something in a container! I know it seems like a small thing to some of you, but when you've been waiting months to get something to "click" it is very exciting when it finally does.

Then Maria sat in her little chair for the Bible story. Her teacher has been wonderful using some sign language and teaching some signs to the other children as well. Maria sat for the entire story without crying or trying to climb all over me! She even watched as her teacher moved the figures of Mary, Joseph, and the donkey. Again, it was just a thrill to see her participate and actually attend to her teacher and the story. She obviously did not understand it, but this is just the beginning of more wonderful things to come! I'm so much anticipating the joy of reading the Christmas story to her after December 16th.

After church we all did our normal "get ready for the week stuff", but then Macella, Kirstie, and I played clarinet together. It was the first time we all played together. Kirstie has been practicing, so that she would be good enough to play with us. Our church announced this morning that anyone who plays an instrument is welcome to join in a practice for Christmas. Kirstie was thrilled to hear that she would be able to join. She was nervous, but I told her if the music was too hard that I would write out a part that she would be able to play. After the evening service we went to the practice. It was so fun as a mom to be able to play with both the girls. To be able to play for the Lord on Christmas Sunday with my two oldest girls is already a blessing. What a joy! And to think that Maria will be able to hear it makes it even more special!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Special blessings & Encouragement--churches

This is the first I've been able to reflect on the kindness we were shown the week of Maria's surgery. First, Sunday Nov. 22 we received numerous phone calls from family and friends telling us of our old home church in Whitney Point praying for our family. It was a service orchestrated by God. Gary's parents, my parents, and my grandparents all attend different churches. None of them attend Whitney Point, but that Sunday, unbeknownst to them they all attended Whitney Point. They all had different reasons to attend, but it was no coincidence that they were there together on a day that they all needed encouragement. They were all surprised to see each other. The pastor of the church, before seeing the family, felt led to pray for Maria at the beginning of the service. Then when he walked into the church and saw all of our family he knew that he was indeed supposed to pray for her. At the end of the service (due to Thanksgiving) the pastor gave a chance for people to share testimonies and prayer requests. Again, the church took the time to have 3 other people pray for Maria and our family. Imagine our joy to hear that our families were able to be at a service where we were being uplifted before the Lord. Also, imagine our joy as we did not know of the pastor's plans. It is so encouraging to realize that our bond in Christ has kept us together even though we moved from the church 3 1/2 years ago. We are so blessed by the love they showed and continue to show through their prayers, phone calls, e-mails, and cards.

We've just recently been attending a new church where we live and the people there have also been so kind. They added us to their prayer chain. They check with us to see how we're doing and how Maria is doing. It is hard to begin new relationships, but much easier because we have the same common bond. We have a Savior who is Christ the Lord. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It is a great comfort to know that they were and are continuing to pray for us as well.

Kirstie's 10th birthday

Tuesday 12/1--I can't believe our little Kirstie has turned 10! She said she wasn't ready for double digits---I don't think we were ready either! The morning of her birthday she opened her 1st present--Zebra gum. It's quite funny, but zebra gum was my favorite as a kid too:) After school she wanted to frost her cake and then Macella & Gary decorated it. It says Li'l K in M&Ms, but Gary had to tell everyone of us what the cake said! Kirstie picked her meal of taco hamburger helper, cheeseburger hamburger helper, and cheesy Kraft macaroni & cheese---imagine all the saturated fats in that meal! Afterward Kirstie opened her presents. Maria gave her a Li'l Webkinz and Macella gave her a Wii game. She loved her huge chocolate bar from us and Nintendogs for DS. Poor Maria was quite unhappy for most of the evening, so she went to bed right after the candle blowing. The rest of us watched Monsters vs. Aliens together.

Saturday 12/5--Kirstie wanted to take her best friend Sarah to the movies. We switched kids with Sarah's parents. They took Maria and we took Sarah and her younger sister Rachel. We saw "Old Dogs." It was a lot of fun. Then when we took the kids home we crashed their house for supper and then brought them home with us to spend the night. Kirstie had a great time with Sarah and Rachel enjoyed having Macella around to listen to all her stories.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tree and House Decorating

Saturday Nov. 28th--Today we cleaned and then decorated trees. We had so much fun. We bought decorations and lights after Christmas last year, so we had a lot of options this year. We have a white tree with blue and silver ornaments and blue and white lights. We have a green tree with red and gold ornaments with red and white lights. We also have a small tree with multi-colored lights and all of the kids' special ornaments. Maria enjoyed watching and trying to get into things. Once the trees were turned on with all the other lights off she seemed so amazed. Her eyes were really big and she looked at me and then back at the tree and then back at me. She finally started laughing.

Sunday Nov. 29th--Maria is doing better, but she is still very tired. She continues to have difficulty with balance and sometimes appears to be in pain. It feels awful to not know exactly what she is feeling. She got a lot of rest today, so hopefully she'll do well at
school/daycare tomorrow. Gary, Kirstie, and Macella put lights up on 2 outside trees and on the porch this afternoon. I am so excited to finally get lights up outside. I've been waiting for 3 years. Last year's Walmart sale on lights was fantastic! Our neighbor called tonight to let us know that she was already enjoying our lights:)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday; Visit Family

Friday Nov. 27th--We were apparently quite tired. We didn't get up until 9:45am. We packed up and headed out just before noon. We ate at KFC on the way back. Maria continues to have jaw pain and some dizziness, but she enjoyed eating some macaroni & cheese and a pudding parfait.

We decided to visit family on the way home instead of heading out again on Saturday. First we stopped at Marsha's dad and Shirley. Gene and Tim enjoyed playing hide and seek with Kirstie and Macella. Maria enjoyed Carol's soft pink pillow.

Afterward we visited Gary's brother Terry. Lana was working, but was able to make it before we left. Kristy, Taron, and Taron's daughter Kaliah were there. Terry had the girls dress up in Victorian dresses for pictures. Maria was beginning to get some energy, unfortunately she had an accident on the brand new dress. Gary dried it with a blow dryer and then she was ready for pictures galore:)

Then we visited Gary's dad and Brooke. We enjoyed some time talking with them. They were doing well and were happy to see Maria doing so well.

Finally we visited Marsha's grandparents and mom. We had forgotten to eat dinner, so we ate Thanksgiving day leftovers:) Kirstie's birthday is coming up, so she opened up her presents from her great grandparents and grandparents. Maria seemed to be doing well, but her balance continued to be off.

We made it home around 10:30pm. It was another long day, but so enjoyable to visit with our families. Maria was so happy to be home. She rested on the couch while we unloaded vehicles and cleaned up. She was all smiles:)

Thanksgiving Night

Thanksgiving night we were able to find the Cracker Barrel. It was about 40 minutes from the hotel. They had a Thanksgiving Dinner which we all ordered and then the waitress had to come back to tell us that they were out of turkey. She felt so bad. We all had chicken instead. She gave us free dessert and drinks though. We had huge pieces of chocolate cake, ice cream, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pecan pie. Of course a trip to the Cracker Barrel isn't complete until a little time is spent on the outside rocking chairs.

Maria did pretty well. She had a little bit of a bloody nose before we left, but it wasn't too bad. At the restaurant she was tired at first, but she did eat some bread, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. It was obvious that her jaw hurt because she wouldn't chew anything hard. She wouldn't even chew her favorite Teddy Graham crackers.

We had a very nice family time together. Afterward we went back to the hotel and sat on the beds in a cirle and said what we were thankful for. We took Kirstie's suggestion of taking turns saying one thing at a time and continueing as fast as we could around the circle. It ended in a laughing session, so we knew it was definitely time for bed:)

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Gary, Macella, and Kirstie were able to go to the Thanksgiving Day parade. I think the girls enjoyed it more than Gary:) They had to leave the hotel at about 6:30am. Once in the city they stood quite still for over 4 hours! It was all worth it to see the huge balloons and floats up close and personal. The girls were excited to see some of the people who are on Nickelodeon and Disney channel.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maria's surgery day

Thank you all for your prayers for Maria and our family. Today (Wednesday the 25th) ended up being a very long day.

We got up between 4 and 4:30am. None of us were overly thrilled about the early hour, but we were all feeling some kind of anticipation. Well, everyone, but Maria. She clearly had no idea what was going on and was happy to be out in the cool air. We were running a little late, so we were nervous. We knew we needed to be to the hospital by 6:30, but we were not going to meet the 5:20 train like we planned. Gary drove to the train station and we caught the 5:56am train into Penn Station. After the train we caught a Taxi to the hospital. The city is so much nicer that early in the morning. We didn't have to fight traffic or pedestrians. We made it into admissions at 6:15am. We were 15-minutes early! The Lord knew we didn't need to be nervous.

In the operating waiting room we had paperwork and visits from the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses. The nurse had us put a Princess movie into the DVD player for Maria (she cared very little for it obviously). They gave Maria a sedative, so that she wouldn't get upset by the oxygen mask. She is very strong and non-compliant where doctors are concerned. The medicine made Maria extremely "jolly." We changed Maria just before leaving for the OR. I waited to put my gown on until seconds before leaving for the OR!

On the way to the OR (at 8:35am) the nurse handed me a face mask as well. That made it so I couldn't see, as every time I breathed my glasses fogged up. Anyway, Maria laughed all the way to OR. It was a blessing that she was so happy. Obviously the Lord knew we needed that!

The surgery was supposed to take 3 hours, so we went out to find some breakfast. It took quite a lot of walking to find a breakfast place. Most restaurants appeared to be lunch or dinner only. We ate a ton, which ended up being a very wise choice considering we would not be eating for quite some time.

We made it back to the hospital at 10:15am. Macella & Kirstie played games, while Gary listened to music and I read. We were exhausted already:) The surgeon came out and talked to us at 11:40am. She went through surgery well and he was able to put all the electrodes she needs in her cochlea. He seemed very pleased and said that the activation on December 15th seems very promising. The only thing that happened was that some spinal fluid started leaking, but he said he packed it up well. We are just supposed to watch for it just in case it happens again.

It was back to the waiting room again. We waited until 12:30 and we were then called to recovery. Gary and I figured that we would see Maria first and then let the girls in. Unfortunately that was not an option right away, as Maria was extremely out of it. She wasn't really waking up and when she did she just flailed her arms and cried. Then she would fall back asleep again. After a little while the nurse noticed that she was bleeding from her nose. She continued to bleed. We were told that it was due to the tube they put up her nose, but then I informed them that they did not put a tube up her nose. They double checked and I was right. Then they said it was due to dry air. She has never had a bloody nose before and we have dry heat at home, but we continued to wait out the bloody nose. We tried to clean her up periodically. With her bandaged head and blood everywhere we were just too nervous to let the girls come in. Also, there was a man constantly screaming at the top of his lungs the whole time we were there. They finally sent for a doctor who then sent for an ENT because her nose had bled for so long. The ENT said that it was normal and that the blood from surgery was exiting her nose instead of going down the back of her throat. We were thankful and continued to hope and pray that the blood would stop.

We periodically checked on Macella and Kirstie. They were so anxious to see Maria, but were doing a great job with continued hours of waiting. They begged to see her, but with the screaming man and Maria's bloody appearance we decided against it. Finally a nurse knew that we wanted to get out of recovery and she made the paperwork say what it was supposed to in order to allow us to leave (Maria was technically still too groggy). We finally left recovery at 3:45pm. Maria was wheeled on my lap in a bed to the pediatric floor.

They put a crib in Maria's room, which was very very tiny. Then the nurse and I tried to wash Maria up. She again seemed very concerned about the bloody nose. She brought in a basin of water and Maria perked up a little. She tried to put her feet in and her arms in and her head in. She continued to try to put her face in and then she frantically signed for a "drink." I was so proud of her. We brought her a drink and we had to pull it away because she was drinking so fast. I finally called Gary in the children's waiting room and told him to just warn the girls that Maria was clean, but would still look scary to the girls. There really was no way to keep her clean. Maria was seen by another doctor and another ENT. Again, some seemed to think that the nose bleed should have stopped and some said it was normal. None of the nurses thought it was normal. It was very nerve wracking, but at the same time we could feel your prayers. We remained calm and just continued to wait. Thanks to all of you who put Maria on your prayer chains---it was and is greatly appreciated.

Since the room was so small and the girls couldn't really hold Maria and we were starving Gary, Macella, and Kirstie walked to Subway. While they were gone Maria's surgeon stopped in. He reiterated that the blood from her nose was normal for 24 hours. I was thankful to hear it again, but it certainly didn't make taking care of her any easier. They finally had her sleep in bloody blankets and sheets. Gary's shirt and my shirt were not looking very healthy either:)

Gary brought back subs. We ate together and Maria even had applesauce and yogurt. Gary and the girls headed out around 7:45pm. They had 45 minutes back to the car and needed to go to Wal-mart for drinks, snacks, and umbrellas. They made it to bed around 10:30pm to get up at 5am to head out for the parade.

Maria & I had a long night together. I had an uncomfortable chair to sleep in. They didn't bring a blanket, so I used my coat. I read for awhile to hopefully force my eyes to close. Maria's roommate was constantly crying, moaning, and yelling. I finally was about to sleep at 11:30 when they came in to check vitals,which didn't make Maria very happy. I cleaned up more blood at this point. Then I was almost asleep again, when Maria's roommate cried and vomited liquid all over. In the beginning of the night I was selfishly praying that the girl would just fall asleep because my head hurt and I was exhausted. I felt very convicted at this point and just prayed that the poor girl would be able to sleep and feel safe. Her mother was there, but unable to communicate do to language barriers. I think I fell asleep around 2am and Maria woke up at 5am.

Thursday--Thanksgiving Day! Maria woke up very unhappy and very bloody. She wanted her head dressing off and she looked scared and nervous. It was nice that she wanted me to hold her and she clung on very tight. A new nurse came in and changed the bedding and brought her a different gown. We didn't get her completely clean, but her nose was bleeding less and less.

It took me some time to get ready. I did everything in separate steps because if Maria woke up without me she would cry with the most pitiful cry I've ever heard. She signed "eat" and cried, so I asked the nurse for food and Maria ate some Rice Crispies. A doctor from Dr. Roland's office (the surgeon) came in and took Maria's bandages off at 9am. She was so happy. It was the first time she actually stayed still for a doctor:) It appeared that her nose had stopped bleeding, so I asked if I could give her a whole body sponge bath. That was Maria's turn around point at the hospital. She played in the water and finally started to look like herself. Maria was going to be discharged at 10am, but when the nurse found out that I would be taking a taxi to the bus station she said that it would probably be impossible due to the parade, so Maria and I hung out:)

Maria and I watched some of the parade while Gary and the girls were at the parade in person. (Parade pictures will be in a separate post). I took Maria for a walk in the hall and then asked if I could sign the discharge papers. It took quite some time, but she was finally discharged at noon and as we were walking to the outside door, Gary and the older girls were just walking in. It was perfect timing.

The cab ride to the bus station did take longer due roads being closed from the parade, but we made it to the bus station and back to our hotel by 1:30pm. We thought Maria was finished with her nose bleeding, but it started bleeding at the end of the bus ride. Once in the room we put her down for a long nap. That she seemed to enjoy! She just woke up a few minutes ago and is enjoying some time with Gary. Again, her nose is bleeding some. Obviously it is more of an inconvenience than a health concern, but we would still appreciate your prayers.

We are thankful for all of you and wish you a wonderful rest of Thanksgiving day! We are heading out to the Cracker Barrel (if we find it) for our Thanksgiving dinner in a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving! Again thanks for all your calls and e-mails. I will leave you with a couple of verses that I found encouraging this morning. Psalm 28:6-7, "Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him."

Tuesday--Leaving home for Maria's surgery

Tuesday after school/work we all worked hard to get out of the house quickly, but we had a lot to do. Macella had a lot of math homework that had to be done on the computer, Marsha had notes to do for work, Teddy needed a bath, and Maria needed a bath. All of that meant that poor Kirstie had to do all the last minute cleaning of vacuuming, dishes, and laundry. By the time Gary made it home from work we were just about ready. We left a little after 6pm.

We drove to Marathon to drop Teddy off with Marsha's mom and grandparent's. We were able to see and say hello and goodbye to Marsha's mom, Marsha's grandparent's, and Uncle Tim. We left Marathon at 7:42pm and were finally officially on our way to NYC.

We made it to our hotel in Secaucus, NJ around 11:30pm. We unpacked and made it to bed around 12:30am. Our 4am morning came much too quickly!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Presurgical Testing

Yesterday Gary and I took a day to take Maria to NYC for pre-surgical testing and orientation. We left the house around 6:30am and returned around 8:30pm. We found a parking lot in New Jersey for the car and then took the train and a cab to the hospital. It seems that no matter the transportation route we take, we're looking at 1 to 1 1/2 hours from NJ to her appointments in NYC. The cab driver was very interested in Maria and gave her 2 lollipops, a tootsie roll, and twizzlers. He said he had 4 grandchildren and he liked to make kids smile.

At the appointment we met with an anesthesiologist, a nurse, and a physician's assistant. The whole appointment took 2 1/2 hours. Between each person that we met with we were returned to the waiting room. We were supposed to wait for a little while for Maria to produce a urine sample, unfortunately during this time I think that they forgot about us. I finally told Gary to go up front to look around. As the nurse was calling another lady in, Gary pointed to Maria and suddenly they asked the other lady to sit back down and they took Maria. Maria did very well considering her day consisted of 9 hours in a car, 2 1/2 hours in public transportation, and 2 1/2 hours at the doctors.

Maria's surgery is still on track for next Wednesday. We need to be at the hospital at 6am, so we'll be leaving the hotel at 4:30am that morning. We won't be getting in until 10:30ish the night before, so hopefully we'll hear the alarm that morning.

Thank you all for your prayers. I met with Kirstie's teacher today for a parent teacher conference. She said that Kirstie told her about the surgery and asked her if she wanted to share with the class. Kirstie shared with the class and then the teacher told them that if their family believed in praying to God that this would be a perfect opportunity for them to pray---how encouraging!

We'll do our best to keep everyone posted on the surgery, but the internet connection at our hotel sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, so we'll see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Points to ponder

As I drove into work yesterday I saw a road sign that said something like this: NYS law, Truck brake noise not to exceed 90db. Then I realized even with Maria's hearing aids she cannot even hear a sound that most of us have a law to protect us from. Just a thought.

While I was holding Maria, someone looked at Kirstie and asked "now this one is actually yours?" How do you respond to that? They're both actually mine. I know it's hard for some to fathom, but the love is the same. When Kirstie came into the world we wanted to hold her and hug her and protect her right away. When Maria first came into our view we wanted to hold her and hug her and protect her right away.

Another comment that we're hearing a lot is "well at least you already knew she was deaf and had delays." Just because we knew doesn't mean that we don't want to give her every possible advantage. Many parents know ahead of time that their child will have a disability, but when that child is born they still grieve what could have been. They still long to fix every hurt and every potential mean word that may be directed at their child in the future. Whether or not Maria hears is not in our power, but in God's. Whether or not she will catch up with her peers is not in our power, but in God's. We don't know the end of Maria's story and we have to be content with what lies ahead, but just because we had a warning does not mean that this road is easy. Yes, we chose this road, just as a person with an unborn child chooses to keep her child with disabilities, but that does not mean we do not need God's grace everyday to make the choices that will not only affect Maria, but will also affect everyone in our family. If she never hears or never catches up will we love her any less? Most certainly not, but we still must give her every opportunity to grow into the person God wants her to be and only He knows what her future holds.

Just some random thoughts that must have needed to be written down:) We travel to NYC again next Thursday morning for presurgical testing. Thanks again for keeping us in your prayers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sight seeing in NYC

We woke up this morning ready for another day of walking. After so many trips walking miles and miles carrying Maria we decided that a trip to Toys R Us for a cheap stroller was in order. What a difference that made on our backs today:)

Today we took the bus to the city and then got all day passes for the subway. Macella & Kirstie were so excited! It helped as walking today would have been too much. Our first trip was to Ground Zero. It is amazing how that touches my emotions even to this day and even though I personally did not know someone who died. Kirstie was confused and we didn't realize how little she actually knew about 9/11. At the time Macella was in Kindergarten and we didn't want to scare her, so we didn't talk of it much around her. We gave the kids a quick history lesson and tried to explain the panic and terror that people felt that day. We saw where they're building the new "Freedom Tower" or "One World Trade Center."

We walked to Battery Park from Ground zero and were able to see the Statue of Liberty from a distance. Again Kirstie's awe of learning and seeing things that she's learned about and heard of was very catching. She wanted pictures of everything. It was very beautiful. We tried to take the subway back to Columbus Circle, but it didn't actually stop there and we ended up several blocks away. On the way Kirstie, Maria, and I were on one side and Gary and Macella were across from us. At the first stop a ton of people got on and a man and woman started arguing in Spanish near us. It was very disconcerting not knowing if it was a serious argument or not. Macella told us afterward that the man kept saying "I don't have it" and they were talking about money.

After getting off the subway we walked through Central Park to get to Mickey Mantle's to eat. It was neat to think we were in Central Park, but it smelled a lot like horse with all the horse carriage rides. It seemed a little strange to smell "farm" and at the same time hear tons of car horns blowing. When we made it to Mickey Mantle's, Macella was excited to guess his number as 7. A number 7 was carved into every chair. When Gary came with his old boss they sat in Mickey Mantle's booth.

After lunch/dinner we walked through the city and saw different stores and lights. The girls were excited to walk by "Eloise's hotel" the Plaza. We also saw the Apple store in which the Apple logo is etched in a big cube above ground, but the store is below ground. Then we went to FAO Schwarz. Huge stuffed animals for over $1000 and 3 floors of toys. The top floor had the piano like the one from the movie "Big." Macella and Kirstie took Maria on it. She thought the lights were great. We saw a couple of the workers play 3 songs on it. They did a great job.

Afterward we walked back to Rockefeller Center and took the subway to the bus station for the hotel. It was a tiring, but wonderful day again.

Tomorrow we leave for home again. We have all had a great time together.

Here are some more pictures:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Meet with surgeon, pick device, enjoy NYC

We made it to our hotel lastnight at 10pm. Kirstie was so excited. It took a little while to get settled and into bed for our early morning this morning. We were able to eat breakfast at the hotel. They have a fantastic free breakfast. We took the bus to the city and walked our "little over a mile walk" to the cochlear implant center. We met with a different audiologist about the 3 major cochlear implant companies that are on the market. He was informative and said that normally parents would make the complete decision, but since Maria has cochlear dysplasia he said it would be better to see if the surgeon had an opinion.

We then walked to the hospital for our appointment with the surgeon. We got there relatively early and filled out paperwork. He took us in early and we saw a good view of the Empire State building and the Chrysler building from the office window. Kirstie took some pictures:) The surgeon showed us the CD of Maria's cochleas and said that she actually has 1 1/2 turns not 1 like we thought. That puts her in the mild to moderate category instead of the moderate to severe category we thought she might be in. Her prognosis is good with a lot of intervention, but obviously not as good as a child with fully developed cochleas with implantation at an earlier age. They try to implant children before age 1 now. Due to her age they rushed her surgery for us. When we told the surgeon we were penciled in for the day before Thanksgiving he said, "wow someone must be looking out for you." Anyway, now her surgery will be the day before Thanksgiving. We go for presurgical testing the week before on the 19th. The surgeon said that the Cochlear company makes an implant that is 1 1/2 turns long, so it seems to be the best for Maria. We are going with their model called the Nucleus.

We finished our appointments at 12:43pm---two minutes before our appointment was even scheduled for:) That gave us time to walk and see more of the city. On our way out of the hospital a lady kept tapping my shoulder, but I thought it was Macella. Finally I turned around and a woman held out a tiny blue teddy bear. Maria grabbed it and I didn't know what to do. Gary was far away from us by this point and I didn't have a dime on me. I just said thank you and she walked away. I'm not sure whether she expected money or not, but if you hold something out to Maria she will grab it no matter what it is. It just didn't give me time to say "no thank you." After that we found that we were targets for all kinds of "money making" scams. I'm assuming it was due to the city being full of Yankees fans and we had three kids with us. We kept getting stopped for all kinds of donations that Gary & I were not stopped for on our previous visits.

Even though Gary & I have been to the city multiple times we haven't actually "done" any of the sights. We played today by ear, but Kirstie was so excited by the fact that she could see the Empire State building we thought we would go up in it. We went to the 86th floor and walked around the observation deck. Due to the Yankees winning the World Series it was completely packed, but still fun. If we thought it was windy on the ground we were wrong when we met the wind 86 stories up! Gary was excited to see the USS New York in the Hudson--the ship's bow is made out of recycled steel from the Twin Towers.

After the Empire State building we walked around the city some more, ate at an italien place, and found the American Girl Store. It was a huge store with fancy displays and lots of things to do with your dolls. People spend more money on their dolls than we do on our kids. It was unbelievalbe how much the accessories, pets,and clothes cost. They even had a place for the dolls to get their hair done. It was quite a neat place to see. Gary of course enjoyed himself immensely:) Then we were off to Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center is beautiful on the outside and inside. We enjoyed looking at the lights and watching people ice skate. Inside Rockefeller Center there are many stores. We visited the NBC store. It was so full of lights that Maria just laughed and smiled. Finally since it was after dark we decided to head back. Even though we are becoming "pros" at the city, once darkness falls it is a little nerve wracking with 3 kids and crowds of people trying to cross the busy streets. We took the bus to the hotel and I took the girls swimming while Gary did a Walmart run. Yes, we forgot to bring extra diapers for Maria. It worked out though because Gary was able to buy us a nice cheap dinner of fast macaroni and cheese. We ate macaroni & cheese while watching Sponge Bob.

We had a wonderfully enjoyable day with the kids. We were blessed by the surgeon, as well as our day together. Obviously it is the Lord who is looking out for us. His plan is perfect. We are defintely thankful that Maria's prognosis is better than the audiologist originally thought, but continue to ask that you would pray for our faithfulness as we continue to try and juggle our family, church, and work life with Maria's constant need for attention.

Enjoy some pictures of Macella & Kirstie's first trip to the city.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Packing for NYC again

After church the realization hit that I was not packed for our trip tomorrow---oops! Now hopefully everything is packed and ready to go. Gary is out loading the car as I type. The older girls are going with us this time. We could really use some "whole" family time, so it will be nice. We're leaving when Gary gets home from work about 6:00pm tomorrow, so we won't be getting to the hotel until 11ish. Then we have to up by 7am the next morning:)

Friday's first appointment is picking out the actual cochlear implant company that we want to go with. The second appointment is with the surgeon. After talking with the receptionist this week she said "and now you know that we don't take Blue Cross right?"--That was a bit of scary news. All I know is that we have to pay out of pocket for the consultation on Friday and that the rest will be considered "out of network." We have to leave whatever that means in the Lord's hands. Obviously the Lord directed us to this particular surgeon. We've already been to so many appointments in order for him to ok the surgery that we know going with another surgeon is not an option, but the Lord already knew about the insurance and He will provide. We always have more to learn and we can't ever stop growing:)

The surgeon will hopefully give us a more thorough understanding of Maria's CT Scan and be able to give us a reasonable prognosis. We're praying for a miracle--something that only God can do! In fact, that's what I taught in Olympian Club tonight at church. Isn't it amazing how what we teach kids is usually something we need as well.

Thanks again to you all for your interest, concern, and prayers. You are loved and appreciated!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Maria starts at Kiddie Kampus

Today was Maria's first day at Kiddie Kampus. It is a classroom for children 18 months -3 years old. She has a teacher, a teacher's aid, and even a 1:1 aid all to herself. Her four therapy services of OT, PT, Speech, & Special Ed will see her while she's there as well. She really seemed to enjoy the class and was so excited to use their inside jungle gym. Everyone is working so hard to give Maria the best that they possibly can. It is a joy to watch her grow and learn.

Even though she had a good time and didn't really seem to mind saying goodbye to me, it was a great feeling that she smiled and laughed when we pulled into the driveway. She loves going places and loves new people, but she always enjoys coming home. We're so blessed that she really understands that this is her home and she can feel secure here.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treating

Macella & Kirstie made pumpkins with their grandma yesterday and really enjoyed it. Kirstie saved some of her pumpkin to carve with Gary. They carved it this morning. Maria had no idea what was going on, but she certainly enjoyed it.

Normally Gary works on the 31st because it lands on a weekday. Since it was a Saturday he was able to join us this year. Since we moved in 2006, we have always gone with our friends the Proper's. They were certainly a blessing the first year when we really didn't know anyone. Every year they have continued to be a blessing to us. We had nice weather, so that was nice. A guy dressed as Freddy Krueger jumped out at the kids and Maria laughed at him. The guy's family had a nice laugh over that. Between Katie, Susan, Gary, and myself Maria visited every house and picked out candy. Afterward we headed to Susan's parents for some pictures and rest. Then we headed to our house for pizza and cake.

We had a busy, but very enjoyable day. Susan's parents were able to hand out over 100tracts. Pray that they may have an impact on the children/parents who received them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Danny's welcome home from boot camp

Marsha's brother Danny had a welcome home party. He just finished boot camp for the Marines. It was nice to see the family. Maria's little Uncle Tim enjoyed carrying her around and feeding her. She ate and ate and ate! Of course she was an absolute mess! Keep Danny in your prayers. He'll be headed to North Carolina on Monday. Then after that he will be sent wherever the Marines elect to send him. So far he says that he has enjoyed it.

The girls were so tired that Macella and Maria fell asleep in the car. I think Kirstie always has energy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday in NYC

Today we packed up and headed into the city for our last two appointments this week. It was a beautiful day, so that was nice. We are certainly getting our exercise with all this walking.

Maria's 1st appointment was at 1 with the speech pathologist. She talked with us and got acquainted with Maria. Maria signed for a drink, even when the drink was not present, so that was an encouragement. She also copied the speech pathologist and knocked on the door that was in the book. She also got excited by some very fun handstamps. She wanted to remind us that even after the implants are turned on that it could take 6 months for Maria to speak.

Maria's 2nd appointment at 2:30 was with the audiologist again. She ran the tests with Maria's hearing aids on. Again Maria only responded to very loud sounds. She definitely responded though because she became very agitated and started biting herself. She also vocalized a lot, but then stopped when the loud noise came on. It was so loud that I jumped at one point and Maria didn't even seem to notice. Overall it left us at the same point as we were on Wednesday. She is definitely hearing very loud noises, but we are not sure how much she will hear with the implants. We'll find out more next Friday.

Also, we are looking at possible surgery on the day before Thanksgiving. That's not sounding like a lot of fun, as it would have been Maria's first Thanksgiving with lots of family. Also, the city will be a zoo due to the Thanksgiving day parade. It is also likely that we'll be there during the parade, but not be able to line up to see it. We're also not sure how much rest, etc. Maria needs after surgery. Please pray that if this is the day she is supposed to have surgery that all works out with presurgical testing in our area as well as with the massive amounts of traffic that will be in NJ and the city at this time. After surgery we will have to travel again 4weeks later, then 1 week later, then 3 weeks later, then 4 weeks later, then 6 weeks later, and then every 3 months. We'll be pros in the city by then!

After Maria's appointments we had to go to Gary's store in the city to pick up a laptop. Again we continued to walk to look for a cab. During the walk we ran into Dora on the street. Maria noticed her right away and started laughing. She was so excited. Then after her picture she kept trying to climb over me to get back to Dora. I put her down to see where she would go and she ran back to Dora and gave her a big hug. She also tried to take her head off:)

We caught a cab. I was able to see the Steuben store in NYC. It's very nice. Gary picked up the laptop. Then we went to an italien place for a very late lunch. We walked again to the bus station and then made it back to the hotel to pick up our car. We left NJ at 5:30. On the way home Maria started signing ice cream at the gas station when she saw the ice cream in the freezer. When we got back in the car she started screaming. It was so neat to once again see her sign on her own volition without us modeling for her first. We stopped at Krispy Kreme to take donuts home to Macella and Kirstie, so donut holes made Maria feel a lot better, even though she didn't get ice cream:)

We were able to see Macella and Kirstie at 10:30 when we got home. We missed them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday in NYC

This morning Gary got up to work at his store in the city. It took him an hour to take the bus and walk in. Maria & I got breakfast at the hotel and then just hung out. I worked on bills and paperwork while Maria played and took a nap. It seemed slightly unfair that yesterday's weather was terrible, so we really didn't walk around the city and today's weather is beautiful and we're all stuck inside, but we're still enjoying the day. Around 1 Maria & I could no longer take the hotel room, so we took a walk to the only restaurant in walking distance--the Olive Garden. We had a fun time. She enjoyed her macaroni & cheese. On the walk back Maria noticed the fallen leaves. She loved them and it made it nearly impossible to walk back with her. She kept falling to the ground to pick up leaves. Then to entertain ourselves we looked in a mirror and tried to get a good picture. It seemed to take forever. Then Maria thought the Olive Garden bag was a much better toy than the toys we brought. Who knew?!

Gary made it back at 5:40pm:) I think we have another early night tonight. We have to be packed and leave our room in the morning even though tomorrow's appointments are in the afternoon. Tomorrow we meet with the audiologist again and with the speech pathologist.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday in NYC

Tuesday night the 27th we left for NJ again. It was a terrible drive in the rain, but we made it there safely and Maria slept the entire trip.

Today we ate breakfast in the hotel and got ready slowly. We knew how to get to NYU Medical Center and we were just planning to take the bus and then a cab when we reached the city. Unfortunately we didn't plan for the fact that rain makes cabs absolutely unobtainable if you're country folk and have no idea how to make a cab stop for you. The bus ride took longer because so many more people were riding this week and then in the city it was a sea of umbrellas. We watched the time continue to move on as we were half running half walking and half hailing a cab. Once we realized that we were closer and we weren't going to get a cab we had to walk/run slightly faster. We showed up 6 minutes late completely drenched and we were using an umbrella. I'm not really sure why I even did my hair:)

Maria did a little better with the audiologist today. She responded to vibrations at 95dB in the right ear and 110dB in the left. Next time we go they are going to try the test with her hearing aids in to see if she responds differently. After the audiologist we met with the education consultant. She is available to make sure her IEP is written correctly and to make sure she receives all the services she needs. She'll have to auditory training/auditory bombardment after her implants are turned on.

That gets us to the big prayer request---Maria's CT Scan showed that her cochleas have only 1 turn bilaterally. Both sides are supposed to have 2 1/2 turns. She has cochlear dysplasia. Technically this means her cochleas are not fully developed and it gives them less to work with when they do the implants. We were not sure if our trips to the city instead of a more local implant team were worth it, but now we know they were. We have one of the best surgeons. Her surgery will not end up being as routine as most of these surgeries are. She will have less frequencies available to her---please pray that miraculously she will have the speech frequencies. We will have more details after we talk with the surgeon next Friday.

After our 2 appointments we walked back in the rain once again. The walk back was more fun as we stopped for lunch. Lunch here costs more than we pay for a fancy dinner at home---and then Gary informed me that we actually ate cheap for the city!

We had an early night in with movies and Dominoes pizza!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend in Lisle/Marathon/WP

On Thursday 10/22 Maria visited my new work place and crawled through the big caterpillar. She dropped off a picture of herself and a thank you note to her friends at Head Start since she didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

We had a wonderful weekend visiting family and friends. We spent the weekend at Marsha's parents---her poor mother never gets a break from us:)
Fri. 10/23--My Uncle Tim had a birthday party at her grandpa & grandma's house. It was nice to see everyone again. Maria & Kirstie enjoyed riding on my grandma's new hospital bed. how fun!

Sat. 10/24--Dale made wonderful french toast for all the girls and pancakes for Gary. We are so spoiled! We watched movies and a had a relaxing day. The girls haven't felt well, so it was good for them to rest. That evening we had an encouraging evening at our friend Lesa's Thai dinner.

Lesa is home on furlough from Thialand. She's working in an orphanage there. She had the dinner tables hosted by one of the kids from the orphange. We watched a video of the kids singing songs about God's love, peace, and grace. It was quite humbling and encouraging. It was nice to visit her, as well as some other dear friends from Whitney Point.

Sun. 10/25--We were able to visit our church in WP and once again visit with our old friends. Lesa presented her work in Thailand in more detail. She has such a great love for the children in the orphanage where she ministers. After church we had lunch with Gary's parents and then went to Gary's great niece's 1st birthday party. What a wonderful party theme---Curious George! Curious George is so totally awesome!

Enjoy some pictures from our busy, but encouraging weekend!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kirstie's last day of soccer

Kirstie and her friend Sarah had their soccer party tonight. They didn't win a game this season, but they had a lot of fun. She and Sarah get along great together.

Monday, October 19, 2009

1st Appointment at NYU Cochlear Implant Center

Today Maria woke up around 8:00 after a very restless night of sleep. We tried to get her to eat breakfast at the hotel, but she was not interested. She was tired and had a tummy ache. We tried to wait it out at the hotel, but she just became more and more grumpy. We decided to leave the hotel and take the bus to the city a little early. She was definitely happy to be outside. She enjoyed the bus ride. It reminded us of our time in China.

We made it into the city around 11:45am and started walking. It was a beautiful day and we had until 2 for Maria's appointment. It took about 45 minutes to walk approximately 12 blocks. We carried Maria on and off. She enjoyed walking, but would suddenly fall down like a limp rag doll. We carried her while she just hung, which made a 20 pound little girl feel much much heavier. Then when she was ready she would get down and run down the sidewalk once again.

We made it to a Subway around 12:30. Again Maria had no desire to eat. She played and made a mess with her food instead. After Subway we checked in at the medical center and Maria played with the toys in the waiting room.

At 2:15pm we met with the audiologist and discussed the future appointments and what to expect. Then the audiologist took Maria for sound field hearing testing with hearing aids and without. We tried to train her to the test---in other words to look at a tv when she heard noise. We also used a bone conduction vibrator for her to feel the vibrations. She appeared to maybe respond to 2 sounds.

We discussed that a cochlear implant would not be as effective if she does not respond to more sounds. On the other hand it seems to be the best and only option we have at this point. She has 3 more audiological exams, so hopefully she'll respond better next week. The only thing that would completely stop the process is if her CT Scans show an abnormality of her auditory nerve or any other abnormality of the ear in which a cochlear implant will definitely not work.

This week we are looking at 3 cochlear implant companies in order to choose the manufacturer that we would like to use.

After her appointment we walked a little faster, maybe 35-40 minutes to the bus stop. We took the bus to our car and started our 5 hour drive home. The trip home was longer as the traffic out of Jersey was worse than when we drove in.

We made it home at 9:30pm and were able to say goodnight to Macella and Kirstie, so that was nice.

Next week we leave after work on Tuesday night, so we'll be getting into NJ around 10pm. Please pray for the 4 appointments we have next week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maria loves the wind and learns to use a straw in NJ

We left this morning for New Jersey. We wanted to be sure that we made it before running into evening traffic. We've figured out how to get into the city tomorrow, so hopefully it will go as planned!

Maria traveled the four hours without incident. Once we arrived to our hotel, the wind was tremendous. She loved it! After check-in we decided to walk to a mall in the tremendous wind. I for one complained that I was freezing and was not enjoying the street crossings. All the while Maria took it all in as extreme fun. She giggled and smiled and tried to catch the wind in her face.

After walking for awhile we ended up at a TJ Maxx-----a very crowded and overheated TJ Maxx. We just walked around to warm up and headed back out into the wind. This was all a great adventure in Maria's eyes.

We walked to the only restaurant in sight, the Olive Garden and waited to be seated. We didn't bring Maria's sippy cup and I've been wanting to teach her to use a straw anyway, so why not start at the Olive Garden?! Maria thought it was quite hilarious to get milk dropped in her mouth. She didn't quite get the concept of sucking from the straw, so I put my finger on the top to capture the milk inside. Apparently Gary thought my teaching was going much too slow, so he put the straw in her mouth and waited. She was surprised at her first sip and then was so excited. She kept signing drink and didn't eat anything, but she loved drinking from a straw!

We're thankful that we made it safely and the weather was beautiful for the entire trip. We're thankful that Macella and Kirstie had a good time with their friends and grandma today. Now we're attempting to get Maria to sleep---we shall see how that goes!

Please pray that we get to our appointment without incident tomorrow and that we ask the right questions for Maria. We are so hoping that she will be a candidate for a cochlear implant.

Enjoy some pictures of our day-----

Friday, October 16, 2009

Maria's 1st CT Scan

They say a picture says 1000 words and since I have no picture of today's CT Scan you're going to get the 1000 words! The camera was ready for pictures the last time we checked, but when I went to use it the batteries were dead. Now for the story:

Maria needed a CT Scan of her head, so the pediatrician quickly made us an appointment for this afternoon at 3pm. I had to go by myself because Gary is already taking off so much time for Maria. I was a little nervous because I knew she had to be completely still and obviously I would not be able to explain that to her.

We walked into the hospital went to reception and they immediately sent us to x-ray. The room was full of people who were waiting. We were there less than 2 minutes and Maria's name was called. We went to a back room to fill out paperwork and ran into our friend Roy. He's a radiology student at the hospital. Not 5 minutes later we were taken to the CT room. Maria was happy and making noise the whole time.

The technician asked my name and explained that Maria would have to be tied down and that I would have to hold her head by the chin. She needed to be as still as possible. I thought "finally, a good reason to have all those sensory issues. She loves to be squeezed!" I put her on the table and they started wrapping her up with velcro and blankets. After we had her arms tied down she looked up at the technician and gave him a huge grin. She was still holding her head up a little and seemed a little bit nervous about laying it down, but I gently pushed her head down and she appeared excited. They added extra padding around her ears to hold her head in place. She was all smiles!! Then they gave me an x-ray vest and said that the 1st few scans it would be ok if she moved a little, but the last ones I would have to make sure that her head did not move. As soon as the table moved into the "tunnel" Maria giggled. She seemed so amazed. The table moved in and out and she watched the lights. When it came time for me to hold her chin I wasn't sure if all this "fun" she was having would disappear, but once again she amazed me with a giggle. She was finished within minutes and we untied her from the table.

I put Maria's coat on and was trying to put mine on, but Maria kept trying to get back to the table. I think she thought she was at an amusement park! The technician picked her up, so I could put my coat on. Maria just loved it.

When we got home she kept babbling and babbling. She was so excited to "tell" grandma all about her CT Scan adventure! I say getting a CT Scan machine for the house might be a good investment if it brings this much joy to our sweet little Maria:)

I started out nervous and prayed that I would be able to handle carrying my purse, the diaper bag, and our winter coats (we have snow). I was concerned about Maria not being cooperative and just prayed that we would make it through. The Lord blessed me and Maria with the best possible CT Scan ever. He gave me more than I ever asked or imagined. Isn't that just like our great big God! What a great beginning to Maria's cochlear implant appointments that start next week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Upcoming appointments for Maria

10/12--We are taking a swab test of Maria's mouth for more genetic testing. At this point they have not found anything, but this test may. The results take up to 2-3 months and the tests are $5000. Thank goodness for health insurance, although we are not anticipating full coverage.

10/19 at 2pm--Our 1st visit to NYC to the cochlear implant team. We'll be spending the night Sunday the 18th, so that we can get to the appointment on time.

10/20--We have a CPSE meeting at 9am at the Horseheads school to request the 1:1 aid.

10/27--We leave for NYC again for Maria's appointments on 10/28 at 1pm and 2pm. She also has two appointments on 10/30 at 1pm and 2:30pm.

11/5--We leave again for NYC for Maria's appointments on 11/6 at 11am and 12:45pm.

Again we are thankful for insurance, but believe these appointments will at most be 80% covered. Please pray that we will be wise in paying for Maria's medical bills. We are staying in NJ instead of NYC in order to save money on hotel bills, so that should help. Also please pray that these appointments will reveal whether or not Maria is a candidate for a cochlear implant.

We have some videos on cochlear implants, one for children and one for adults if you are interested in understanding the process. We've already had some family and friends borrow and watch them. Even though they aren't exciting, they help with understanding where we are as a family and what Maria is experiencing and will experience.

Thank you so much to those of you who have requested to know where we are with Maria's hearing and education. We appreciate your interest in our family. Macella & Kirstie are doing a great job as big sisters. We are so very proud of them.

The Lord has blessed us with wonderful family and friends. He is also providing for us in many ways. Thankfully Marsha was able to begin work and has been given permission to take off for all of Maria's appointments. Thankfully there is a safe place for Maria to go during the day and receive all of her therapies. Thankfully the girls are settling in to school and doing well. Thankfully Marsha's mom was able to help us out once again and stay with Maria for now. Thankfully we have a great support system in Christ and in you, our family and friends. We appreciate your prayers and love.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Marsha's mom saves the day again:)

Monday 10/5, We heard back from the school & county and they will give Maria a 1:1 aid if she attends the 2 year old preschool/daycare. It is the only place in the area that has a school curriculum, so she can qualify for the aid. We were not aware that we would be sending Maria to college already, but it's the option that seems the best:) Her school meeting is not until the end of October and since Maria's NYC appointments are at the end of Oct. she will start the preschool/daycare the 1st Monday in November. Ana is babysitting today and tomorrow. Thanks to Ana for working so hard and showing Maria such love. Marsha's mom will be coming out Tuesday night until the end of October. She will go home on the weekends, but spend the week with us. God certainly gave me the most wonderful mom!

Wednesday 10/7, Maria enjoyed speech therapy with grandma:) They had such a great time.

Thursday 10/8, Maria had even more therapy. Grandma is enjoying helping Maria show off her skills.

Friday 10/9, Our friends the Proper's are so sweet that they took all three girls so that we could go out for our 16th anniversary. Wow--where did the time go?! We realized that this is only the 2nd time since bringing Maria home that we've had a night out alone. Thank you Proper's for being so kind:)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple farm in Rochester

Today we went to Rochester to the Apple Farm with our adoption group. It was so exciting to see 3 of our newest additions. It is so neat to see how families are put together and to see such great love in everyone's eyes.

Maria took her 1st hayride and enjoyed picking apples with her sisters.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Marsha's new job and Maria's schooling

Wednesday, 9/23--Today I started my job at Pediatric PT & OT Services in Horseheads. Maria was not able to go to Head Start today because there was not a substitute teacher to be her 1:1 aid. Thankfully our friend Ana has decided to watch Maria on the days she cannot go to school. In addition, this Monday there is a meeting for Maria. If they do not give her an aid, she will not be able to return to Head Start. Ana has agreed to watch Maria and have therapies at her house. We are so grateful for her help.

Friday, 9/25--Jeremiah, Ana, & the kids spent the night at our house. It was an overdue time of fun. The next day Ana and Marsha attended a CPR and First aid course. It was a lot of fun!

Monday, 9/28 at 8am we met at the school with the therapists, the Head Start staff, the county staff, and the school staff. We knew it would be a long meeting. We were told that Head Start found Maria to be too big of a safety risk even with an aid. The school district and county did not believe that Head Start was an appropriate placement, so they would not give an aid anyway. We finally decided that she would have to get less services at Ana's house. Most wanted her in a preschool setting, but nothing really exists in our area. We have one 2 year old preschool/daycare, but it is very expensive. After the meeting, we explained everything to Ana and she agreed to watch Maria for us.

At 3pm, a social worker from America World met with us to write Maria's 6-month report for China. It was kind of funny because we had to explain Maria's typical day and we have yet to have had a typical day since beginning September. We guessed what her schedule would be at Ana's and apparently to that was good enough.

Thursday, 10/1, Ana let us know that she would no longer be babysitting. She is going to substitute teach at the school. She felt really bad about it, but it is what is best for her family right now, so we certainly understand that. This meant that we had to double check on all the phone calls we already made to see if there was some place else for Maria to go. The problem with a daycare with multiple kids is that a 1:1 aid would not be given to her there. Her safety would certainly be an issue with a bunch of kids and only a few adults. With her not hearing and putting everything in her mouth, we really didn't feel as if this was a safe solution. We also checked into having her babysat at a home with only a few kids, but then we were concerned about her safety as well. A babysitter would not have all the regulations of a daycare. Also, since we did not personally know any of these people and Maria does not have a "voice" she is the perfect target for child abuse. All of these thoughts brought us back to the fact that our only real choice is the 2-year-old preschool in Elmira that is quite expensive. I called the preschool and found out that they would not accept her without a 1:1 aid. After more phone calls, we have to wait the weekend to find out if she will get an aid.

We would ask for prayers that Maria will end up where the Lord deems best.