Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Catch Up Part 2

It seems that life continues to get busier and busier. Just when I think I can't fit anything more in my life something or things come up. I'm not complaining. Our life is filled with good things but even good things take time. The miracle of it all is that we seem to be staying on top of most things and getting more accomplished than expected. I take no credit for the ability to get more done. I know we are experiencing miracles and receiving help in our efforts. God is so good and when he asks us to do things he always gives us the ability to accomplish His work.

Doug and I felt prompted last fall to reduce and simplify our lives. Funny that the act of reducing and simplifying actually complicates life for a while but it is so freeing to let go of things of this world. I got a small start cleaning out the house and sorting through things when our schedule for practices and performances for the production Savior of the World combined with the holidays took my extra time. When Savior of the World was over we then had adoption paperwork, planning and travel to get Simon. So here I am still cleaning things out. I am so close to being done that I now look at the rooms that I did first and want to go back through and let go of more things. I seem to always need boxes nowadays.

In the midst of everything else we had the privileged of having our local news station KSL, do a story for Mothers Day on our family.  They came to the house 3 times to film. I was warned that they wanted to take video of the family doing normal things like laundry, breakfast, making bread etc. The night before they came we did a good clean on the house and got the laundry room cleaned up. 8:00 am the next morning the crew showed up bright and early. This was the second filming so we knew the drill. The story came together a little differently than I had thought. There is a reporter that does all the leg work and most of the interviewing. I love this woman. She is so kind and organized and completely understands that we are normal. She had the camera man stay a little longer the first day to film the laundry party so I didn't have to worry about cleaning the laundry room again. The anchor woman then came for a short time to get some questions on film. During the question and answer with the anchor woman she commented 3 times on how clean the house was. The first time she made  a comment I told her the house wasn't always that way. On her second and third comments I just let it slide. I just wonder how many people wouldn't clean their house knowing that a news crew was going to be there.

Celebrating birthdays has also kept me pretty busy. In the Spring we have 6 birthdays in 7 weeks. That is a lot of shopping and going out to dinner. Because Simon had never witnessed a birthday celebration he was standoffish for the first one. Each consecutive birthday he became more excited and animated. On Casey's birthday Simon wanted a present. Because Simon has never had to watch several other children be honored and he has never had that opportunity we decided he needed a birthday party. His estimated birthday is in October but that was too long to wait. We decided on a day the next week and we ordered some gifts. Simon had so much fun. He was embarassed and didn't know quite how to act but soon he got the hang of it and loved everything about his celebration. The next couple of days after his party were hard. He became more angry and struggled emotionally. That is normal and he is now doing well. I'm glad he has another birthday coming up. There are so many things I would like him to have and experience. He is so full of gratitude that it's hard not to give in to him all the time.

I would love to add pictures but taking and transferring pictures isn't getting done very well right now. :) I'll add some later.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Catch Up Part 1

Well......Where do I start after more than a month of not blogging. At a different phase of our life I would have been hard pressed to come up with something to write about but what we pack in over a months period of time some days feels like a years worth of life.

I'll start with a quick recap of Simon and his heart. Simon went in for an MRI and 3D echo. The poor child was completely traumatized by just putting the hospital gown on! We waited quite a while to be brought down for the MRI so it became quite a trick keeping him occupied and not in hysterics. I mistakenly thought I could handle this procedure on my own and had Doug go to work. The panic set in as I watched Simon scream just before he went to sleep. I had to walk out of the hospital and called Doug. He answered and I said "You need to talk to me!".  With tears streaming down my face I began shaking so bad that I had to get off the phone. I had no idea I would react that way. The trauma of losing Gideon is real and raw some days. Anyway, back to Simon. A week and a half after the MRI the pediatric cardiologists gathered and came to a conclusion on surgery. Simon is not a candidate for a repair. The valve was in a good position to separate it into two valves but the arteries and such are so misplaced that it made a repair impossible. What the future holds only God knows and I will trust Him. That doesn't mean it's easy or that I really like it but our Father in Heaven knows all things and will only give us the "best gifts". We are all trusting in His plan and hoping that plan includes sustaining Hyrum through another loss and this time a brother he has embraced with his whole heart.

We went into the cardiologist the day after hearing the bad news of no repair. We discovered, as we suspected, Simon has lost weight. He really should have gained a few pounds so the doctor was pretty concerned about it. If we don't get his weight up by the next appointment Simon will go on a feeding tube. We feed him whole milk with heavy cream chocolate milk all day long. We can't get him to eat anything so tonight I decided it was time to force the issue. Through many tears I force fed him 5 bites of lasagna. I felt lucky that he didn't spit it back out at me. He's done that you know. Simon is also on daily antibiotics because he has no spleen and oxygen at night. I haven't been real good at putting the oxygen on him because he looks so good right now. I know he will get purple again but while he is not I will give us all a break.

Simon is very connected to Gideon and Joel! He talks about Gideon and asks questions every day. I love to see that connection and love Simon has for his brothers that he has never met in this life. I wouldn't believe this if I didn't witness it every day. It is not something we have created. Just a few days after being home Simon wanted to know who the pictures on the wall were. I told him it was Gideon and Joel and they were with Jesus. It went no further. Simon has made it very clear to us that he knows those boys. He is adamant in letting me know he does not want to go with Jesus though. The day he tells me he wants to go see Gideon instead of Gideon coming here I will get worried.

This picture was take this week. He's had a hard time emotionally and some of his anger is back.
One night he pulled out his clothes from China and his coat and had to dress in them.
The poor little guy. I am so grateful he is HOME!

Yes, his shirt says "Handsome is my middle name".
Very appropriate.
He loved feeding the ducks. The ducks just need bigger mouths for the 
large pieces of bread he throws.
From now on we are using duck food. Novel idea huh?

Simon has done well overall with his adjustment. He calls me "mama" often and not just "ma", which is great progress. The other day he told me he has 3 mama's. In the beginning Simon would tell me that he didn't need another mama because he already had 2. He was counting his Ayies, or nannies, from the orphanage and I was not one of them. I am now counted as a trusted person in his life. Simon can be very funny! He can also be a good manipulator. I had to leave for the day last week and I was worried about how Simon would do. I gave him a hug and kiss goodbye and he started to whimper. He asked if he could watch a Thomas the Tank Engine movie that he had just finished watching. Like every good mother I thought a movie may make things easier with me not around. So I said yes. Later that night when I got home Pierce and Creed told me that Simon had told them a story. With a big grin Simon said "Mama bye, Simon whaa whaa, two Thomas movie." Needless to say, I have his number and he isn't getting away with anymore of that.:)

4 days after finding out about Simon not getting a repair Bria had a yearly checkup at Shriner's. The doctor we use now discovered for the first time that Bria had 6 toes on one foot. This had nothing to do with her Amniotic Banding or club foot. The extra toe is genetic and the chances of having both issues in one child is, from what the doctor said, zero chances. I would have to disagree with the doctor on this one. Bria has it. Leave it up to a Walker, we can't do anything halfway. The next day Bria was in for surgery to take out the 6th toe. We didn't have to go in for Simon so why not fill it with another child, right? Bria did really well. They took out most of the bones of the 6th toe but could not remove the last bone connected to the tissue that controls the movement. They ended up cutting that bone in half which causes a lot more pain during the healing process. Bria was down for two days when we encouraged her to get up a little and move around. She took that advice and has been up all day since. She was off the hard core pain killers in two days and is now on intermittent Ibuprofen. She used the walker for about a half a day then got rid of it. She is one tough cookie.

Bria's doctor is great! She is good with the kids. Good with the moms. But best of all....
She finishes a day of 8 hours and 7 cases of surgery and still 
cuts out hearts from wet glow in the dark cast material.
You gotta love a doctor like that!

Lovely hair.
Yes we use Christmas wrapping paper all year long.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

First doctor visit

We took Simon into the Pediatrician and Cardiologist. They both had similar things to say about Simon's overall health. "He looks really good." I can't tell you how nice it is to hear that about your new child and especially one that could follow in the footsteps of two of his brothers and have a very short life.

The Pediatrician did an overall check and ran some blood tests. We still don't have any news on the blood work but I would assume this doctor would call if there was an issue. Simon is in the 3rd percentile in weight and 10th in height. We haven't seen any weight gain in the 5 weeks we've had him despite offering high fat junk food. If he eats, it's just a couple bites or some kind of cookie or candy. Slow growth and weight issues with no appetite are part of the heart problem so we aren't surprised at Simon's eating habits.

Our Cardiologist is awesome! He isn't just a good doctor but he is a good friend and encourages and supports us in all our adoption endeavors. After we got home we called to make an appointment. The soonest opening was a month away. I asked the receptionist if he would contact the doctor and ask him if waiting 4 weeks was OK. If so, I was fine with it. The receptionist called back the next day with an appointment for the day after. We did an echo cardiogram and x-rays. From there we saw the doctor. We now have two possible options for Simon's treatment. The first option is he continues on the course he is on and gets the next stage surgery in the next year or so. At the age of 17-18 he would need to go on the heart transplant list. The second option was so unexpected and "out there" that it couldn't have even entered our thoughts. There is a possibility that Simon could have his heart repaired, not just have another "band aid" surgery. We need to do an MRI and another echo to make a final determination but there is hope that they could go into his heart and separate the chambers and single valve. There would also need to be some plumbing changes. If this were to happen Simon wouldn't need any more surgeries and he would have a full life expectancy. This is a miracle we don't want to get too set on, but it's hard not to have hope for a normal life for a little boy with such a special spirit. The tests are scheduled for April 29th.

Simon had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours so record heart patterns during different activities.  He was pretty proud of it.  He even help stick on the leads

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gideon's tree

Our 16 year old son, Pierce, has been getting into photography - inspired by our oldest son, Tyler, who is a very talented shutter bug and is good enough that he is starting to get paid gigs.  Anyway, about 10:00 PM a few nights ago, Pierce grabbed the camera and tripod and headed outside.   We had just been discussing increasing our efforts to get the kids in bed earlier, so this late night photo activity seemed to be a violation of our newly determined bed time.  With a little bit of frustration in my voice and probably on my face,  I questioned Pierce about what he was doing.  He just gave me his big "can't say no to me" grin and said, "It just rained and I wanted to get some good shots."  In photography, timing is everything, so I let him proceed.  He didn't tell us what he was planning to get "good shots" of.  So of course when he came back in and posted these photos of Gideon's tree on his facebook page, I had a generous helping of dad's humble pie.

This is a tree that was given to us by some very close and thoughtful friends.  It was sitting in our yard with the sign on it when we came home from Gideon's funeral last February.  We hadn't ever seen it in bloom like this before.  

The day we came home with Simon, this is what we saw out our back window. Deanne and I just stared at it with tears streaming down our face. It was Gideon's gift to us and Simon to welcome him home.  
This is Gideon's grave marker that we had placed recently.  We also included Joel on it.  You might have read a previous post about him, but he was another heart baby that we were in the process of adopting when he passed away before we were able to bring him home.  We wanted to remember him even though his body is not buried here,  
We didn't think Gideon would mind sharing his marker with him. 

Simon and Hyrum are getting along just like old buddies. We put this toddler bed right next to ours for Simon and after the first couple of nights, he wanted Hyrum to sleep with him.  A few nights later Simon wanted in our bed with us.  We took that as a very good sign for bonding.  He is getting more and more comfortable with us in his space.

Pierce was the first one that Simon latched onto at the airport arrival.  With goofy faces like this, it's no wonder.

The older kids were bringing everyone to the airport to meet us and they found out that the squeaky pulley we have been hearing lately was the water pump. Sereen saved the day and piled most of the kids from the bus into her Honda Pilot which as a little short on seat belts - thankfully it was only about 5 minutes from the airport.  So we had just about everyone there to see us walk into the terminal.  We had some good Samaritan friends from our neighborhood go to our house and bring our regular van out those who couldn't fit in Sereen and Jared's pilot.  They arrived just as we were getting our luggage.  We could not survive this life without friends....
I told AAA to send a larger tow-truck... somehow the guy made this one work.  Just what we wanted to be doing on the way home from the airport after a 30 hour trip home from China.

This is Michael Morris, a good family friend who was left stranded with Tyler, Jessica, and Britton on the bus on the way to the airport.

Capturing some precious moments on video.  
Tyler took this picture - you can get an idea of his artistry with the camera.

It's hard not to take a good picture of this boy.....

Saturday, March 28, 2015


We've been home for a day now. Simon really likes playing with his big brothers and sisters. He has his own entourage at his beck and call. I had to seek him out a few times so he knew I was still here. Not that he cared but it's necessary for his adjustment. I laid on the floor by him while he played with the trains and he laid down on me. I was shocked!! It lasted about 15 seconds and abruptly ended. I would love to say that he wants to accept me and love me but that's not where he is at yet. He is still angry at me because I am trying to replace his nannies at the orphanage.

Simon spent the day wandering the house and discovering new things. He played trains quite a bit of the time and played outside. He is going to love the bikes. He was intrigued by the trampoline but didn't last too long. Niya was on the tramp with him and noticed that after just a couple of minutes he was breathing hard and climbed down. He is fairly good at slowing down when needed but not quite as in tune with his body as Gideon was. Simon is very active. He is always moving and talking. I know some of that is the anxiety he feels but I also think that is partly his personality. I expect he will begin to feel peaceful in the next couple of months. We were in the car going to get ice cream to celebrate Malia's 9th birthday. Simon was between Casey and Creed. If you know anything about Casey and Creed you probably know they both love to talk. Casey asked me if Simon always talked like this and then followed the question up with who was the first to talk a lot. My answer.... Creed then Casey. They both talk about the same amount. Both the boys then started calling themselves the Three Amigos. Simon does talk a lot just like them.

We were getting ready to take Malia out to dinner for her birthday so I asked everyone to clean up their toys. Simon didn't like the idea of cleaning so he walked away. I brought him back in the room and he refused to pick up the toys. That is not an option in my house, especially at that age. I held Simon's hand in mine and picked up the toys with him. He cried the whole time and when we were done I held him in the chair. He sat there crying and angry. He started saying something in Chinese and Scott translated. I had been wondering what he has been saying while he was crying. I thought he was most likely saying things like, "I want to go back" "I miss my home" and things like that. Nope, not even close. You want to know what an angry 4 year old that has just been taken from all he knows says to you? Here goes;

"I hate you! I want to go back to China!"

"I don't want you! I have two Mama's!"

These things were not said in a way that elicits sympathy. Oh no, he was mad, mad, mad!! See, I told you all he didn't like me. I just wonder what Bria was thinking. She Hated me. Not fun things to hear when you are thoroughly exhausted, sleep deprived, and running on emotional empty.

He didn't break me but it's not a pleasant thing to feel. Honestly, as mothers we put in the bulk of the effort to adopt. We get to wade through the paperwork. We do the hard part of sifting through child after child and saying no until you find the one that feels right. We put our heart and soul into loving these children while we wait, mostly, impatiently. It doesn't help matters that I have already struggled allowing myself to open my heart to Simon for fear of losing him like we did Gideon and Joel. To hear those words hurt. The part that hurt the most was watching Hyrum. Hyrum adores his mother!! I saw the look in his eyes. The hurt of someone rejecting all that he held dear. He just couldn't understand how Simon could hate his mother. Hyrum never went through that. I got to explain to him why Simon struggled and in that explanation it brought me back to a place of strength and understanding. Soon Hyrum was back to hugging me tightly with excitement and saying "I"m so excited to have a new brother. I like Simon."

The first few months in adoption are the hardest. Trying to find the new norm. Helping everyone adjust to their new places in the family and most importantly helping an abandoned child learn they are lovable and deserve that love. Helping understand what it's like to live in a family and how to get along with others. We have an extremely bight child on our hands which also means some real work to be done by Simon and us as parents.

Simon is incredibly smart. I really can't believe it. He is constantly surprising us with what he can do and how quickly he learns. He can already count in English  up to 5 and recognizes many of the numbers. He can count at least up to 20 in Chinese. We don't know how high he can go because we are limited in our knowledge of counting. He recognizes some of the letters of the alphabet and spontaneously points them out. This all comes from a couple of trial apps on the iPad that he has played. Tonight when we sang Happy Birthday to Malia he sang every word in English. We don't know if it's because they sang it at the orphanage or because he heard another family sing it to their son while at ice cream. Either way, he is good. He didn't even have an accent. Hopefully his ability to reason sets in quickly when it comes to bonding and obedience or I get to learn patience and charity while walking through the fire.

It's been almost a week since this post was written. Stay tuned for the miracles. They are truly great.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Last Days in China

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty busy days. Wednesday started early so we could get everything in that Hannah wanted to do. We didn't end up accomplishing as much as we would have liked. 
We spent some time on Beijing Road. It is a shopping area that also historical value. In the middle of the road are large rectangles in the ground covered with glass. You can see different layers of the road that date back as far as 900 BC. It is very interesting to see the types of road used and to recognize how old and continuous this civilization is. We didn't get any pictures at Beijing road. We were a little preoccupied at the time.

Later that evening we went on a riverboat cruise down the Pearl River. We haven't heard great things about the cruises especially the food served so we have never done it. Doug really wanted to go on our other trips but because of finances, a stingy wife and a sick child we hadn't done it yet. Our guide isn't a fan of the cruises either so he chose the best boat without food.

This was our boat. We sat on the top and were able to see everything clearly.
It was a cloudy night but there was no fog like earlier that week. It was also warm.

The bridges were lit up and some of the buildings. There were a lot of other boats on the river
that were also lit up. We definitely had the coolest boat.

The lighting wasn't great for pictures but I had to put at least one of us in the post.

This is the Canton Tower. If you remember we went there earlier in our trip but the clouds covered it so we didn't get to see the lights. Every few seconds the tower changes color. This was my favorite color scheme.

Thursday morning we traveled from Guangzhou back to Chengdu as the beginning our trip home.
Simon spent way too much time sitting in airports and on planes. He did really well though. He loved the color changing markers and paper as well as stickers.

Back in Chengdu we were a little nervous about getting to the hotel from the airport on our own. Many people speak English but you have to be in the right place. We called the hotel to request the shuttle but the people, yes a few different people, didn't understand what Doug was trying to say. Eventually he hung up hoping we got the point across good enough. We had a security guard take it on himself to make sure the hotel staff knew we were there. Right about then the shuttle pulled up. There are so many good people in this world.

The hotel we stayed at was the nicest hotel we have been to. Definitely a 5 star. The first thing Simon did was jump from bed to bed like every other child we have. It was fun to watch him play like that.

Well, we found the "Great and Spacious Building". This is the biggest building in China, located in Chengdu.

It is six stories of pure marble! There are two hotels, many high end stores, restaurants galore, many activity centers for children, and much more. We couldn't help but think of all the great things that could be done for other people with this vast waste of money.

The building is called the Global Center. With so many other things they have the larges screen in China and possibly the world. What the screen shows outside of the people standing there gawking we don't know. If you look close you can see we are in the shot. Below the screen is a wave pool. It's pretty cool. They even have sand volleyball next to it. Twice a day they say they make it smell like the ocean. I would love to know how they do that. We need some of that smell in my house.

There is also a little fair area with rides. Simon rode a ride and got bored with it before it was even half over. We need to work on attention span.

On the sixth floor is a glass bridge. I didn't thin I would have a problem but it was pretty spooky to walk across. I had to hold on to the rail and half way across look up. Hannah and Simon however, had no issue.

This is the biggest slot car track we have ever seen. We had to hurry away so Simon didn't throw another fit. When Simon saw something he wanted to buy or do that we didn't allow he got angry.
One tantrum he ended up in the corner until he could smile. We knew once he smiled the hitting, kicking and screaming would stop. We have had to do the corner a few times.

Simon loved the bath! It's clear he hadn't taken many baths by how quickly his hands and feet shriveled up. He really didn't want to get out but was compliant and happy in the end.

Consulate - final step

We had an early morning appointment at the consulate last Tuesday in Guangzhou.  That is when we take the oath to confirm that all the information in our adoption paperwork is true and accurate.  Then there is an interview and a discussion to make sure we are aware of the special needs of the child so there are no surprises.  

We had just heard the previous afternoon from some friends, the Whickers, at the safari park that the government computers were down and no appointments happened for the families who were scheduled for their consulate appointments on Monday.   We then bumped into our guide a little later and he told us the same news.  It looked grim for us to have our appointment the next morning, but he said we would go anyway and hope for the best.

So the rest of the afternoon and evening we were contemplating all the options to change our airline tickets, extend our stay, let our older children know so they could arrange their schedules to continue watching the children at home for a few more days., etc, etc.  By the time we had gone through all the scenarios, we knew it would cost us over $2,000 to change the flights and extend hotel stay so we figured we would make the most of it.  The last time there were Embassy computer problems around the globe it was almost a week to get them back online. We started to think about going to Hong Kong for the rest of the week since we have never spent any time there and we actually started to a get little excited about a few extra days to do that.  

As we were standing in line the next morning outside the consulate, we received the news that the computers were back up and they didn't expect any delays for us.  Other families in line were ecstatic and cried tears of relief.  Deanne and I looked at each other and said, "Bummer".  Then the excitement came to get home on time and not spend the extra money.  We will just have to make another trip back to China and Hong Kong for sightseeing one of these years.   

There were no bags or electronics of any kind allowed in the building, so we didn't even take anything with us... hence, no photos for the consulate appointment.  

We went back to the hotel for a short rest, then we went out to Samian Island for lunch, sightseeing and shopping.  We went with the Wickers and planned to go with some other friends we met there, the Danners, but Theresa Danner wasn't feeling very well so we had to go without them.  We have been told about a restaurant called the Cow and Bridge on the island.  The Whickers had been there 10 years before and knew about where is was, so we were headed there for lunch first.  After walking every street and ally of the island searching for the restaurant, we finally stopped to ask a shop owner where it was.  She said it was right be the Subway sandwich place, but she informed us that they changed the name.  We had walked by it within the first few minutes of getting on the island, but the name changed to "Carefree Vegetarian" so we walked right by it.  That was a far cry from "Cow and Bridge".  

We had a great lunch of rice dishes (pineapple and mango with sweetened coconut milk), curry soup, potato balls, and Thai chips.  Thai chips is code for french fries.

We had a great time shopping, but we had Hannah and Simon pose with all the statues on the island and it was absolutely hilarious to see what a ham Simon is.  He really go into it.

We bought 23 book marks and four other larger pictures done with finger painting by this artist.

It was really amazing what he could do with just hand - no brushes or other tools at all.

Simon had to have this police car.  It hand sounds and lights and he loved playing with it in the hotel room.  We were pretty glad when the sound broke the next day. :)

The progressive Chinese woman.  Hannah is the latest version.

Very interested in the math lesson with the abacus.

I think that was a little fish she was offered by this nice old gentleman.

You can't complete an adoption without putting your new adoptive child in this line up.  The Chinese government might as well require it because every family does it 

Simon - posing with perfect form.

Hannah planking.  She got the attention of some onlookers with this one.  China doesn't have much access to social media and I don't know if planking has caught on there, but maybe she just started it in Asia.

She was so compliant with our pose requests....

Simon walked right over this statue and posed all on his own.  
He got the idea of what we were doing pretty quickly.

Too cute!!

Deanne and Hannah kissed the cheeks so Simon kissed the knee.  I had to stop laughing long enough to take this one.

Again - this on his own.  No coaching needed.

Feeding the fish at the hotel.  Simon just loves Hannah.