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.