Sunday, October 31, 2010

Farewell October

What a busy weekend!  It started off Friday night with the Reformation Fest at church.  We had brats and sauerkraut and watched Luther.  I was positively giddy to be out of the house, soaking in my German Lutheran culture.  The kids were treated to games and other fun activities while the adults watched the movie.

Saturday morning we dropped off the kids at Aunt Sarah's house so that Billy and I could attend a mandatory foster care training.  We were going to be allowed to let this particular training slide since Adrian's adoption is imminent, but with the potential of Baby Adrianna coming home to us, we needed to be current on everything.  The real treat of the day was eating lunch out, just Billy and me! 

Sunday morning was church, of course, and then the weekend ended with a round of Trick-or-Treating through the neighborhood with our butterfly...

 and this guy...
The kids did great and there were only a couple of houses that were somewhat scary for them.  (One had someone pounding from inside the garage and then the lady says, "Look out, the monsters are coming!" Not cool.)
Once we got home we let the kids pick out 5 pieces of candy to eat right away, and I learned that Mikea is truly a daughter after my own heart, choosing nothing but chocolate!
Or maybe she knows that the liklihood of there being any chocolate left by morning is slim to none.  Ha.

Right now the house is quiet and Billy is visiting Adrianna at the hospital, as he's done every night this weekend.  Despite all of my efforts to stay well, I have gotten sick and therefore can't see her.  I miss her terribly, but she's been doing very well and enjoying her visits with Daddy.  Within the next week or so she might begin bottle feeding - what a milestone that will be!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Exactly three years ago today, Billy and I became parents when two-day-old Mikea was brought to our home.  Three years later we are parenting five children and asking ourselves, how did this happen and how will we survive?  The only way to deal with it is knowing that our family was brought together by the hand of God.  Apparently He thinks we can handle it.

Right now we're in the middle of one of the rough seasons.  Every child is currently battling at least one form of sickness.  Today I had to make a special trip to the store for extra toilet paper and pull-ups, if that gives you any idea of what we're dealing with.  Joe has already missed 3 days of school, including what would have been his first-ever field trip today.

Each night either Billy or I spend 3 hours away from home as we take turns visiting Adrianna in the hospital.  It's starting to take a toll on us, but I tell myself that if she were home we'd still be exhausted because we'd be up in the middle of the night for her feedings.  It's also mentally and emotionally exhausting not knowing what the outcome will be.

Right now the house is a disaster.  Books, blocks, shoes, socks, clothes, pillows, packs of toilet paper, toy phones, toy dishes, blankets, and stuffed animals litter the floor.  The dinner dishes are still on the table, and bits of dinner are still on the floor.  (For some reason the dogs won't eat lettuce.)  The laundry room is bursting with what else but laundry, laundry, and more laundry.

Today I struggled to get all four children to take naps at the same time so I could have a few moments of peace and quiet.  It didn't happen. 

Today I pulled a 15-month-old down off of the table countless times.  I chased and snatched him off of the stairs even more times.  I also watched him pull bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer and perfect the fine art of the temper tantrum. 

Today I cleaned poop off the floor, off of clothes, off of multiple behinds.  I picked up dog poop from the back yard.  My kids watched too much TV.

Today I made the mistake of not previewing an online video before letting my kids watch it. What began as a benign clip of a soaring falcon ended with it picking apart and eating a bat.

Tonight during dinner my oldest son held up his hamburger and said matter-of-factly, "Mom, nobody likes these." I don't think he meant to insult me. I laughed to keep from crying.  Then I left the table.

Tonight while reading bedtime stories, I was interrupted at least eight times to correct misbehavior or to stop the incessant barking of dogs. (It's a lot like having two more children.)

Tonight while singing bedtime songs to the boys, Mikea came over from her room and shushed me.  Apparently I was singing too loudly.  And after singing to Mikea, when I checked on the boys again, Joe informed me, "Dan just slobbered on me."  

There are days when I long to be able to just jump in the car and go to the mall, the library, the park.  I wouldn't even mind bringing a kid or two.  But it's impossible with four.  And someday with five?  What's harder than impossible?

It's a grueling life, I tell you.

But do you know what else I did today?  Today I taught my children how to play Follow-the-Leader, which is a lot more fun when you have five players.  Today I caught a fuzzy caterpillar and watched my children examine it in excitement. Today I witnessed Daniel bring a blanket and favorite toy to Joe who was miserably sick on the couch.  Today I heard Mikea tell her daddy that he is "a nice man". Today Baby Adrianna gained two more ounces. And today I recieved countles hugs and kisses from four children who are teaching me how to love, even more than I am teaching them.

All I ever wanted in life was to be a wife and mother.  I have it all, and then some, including that "nice man" who is at Wal-Mart at 11:00 at night picking up a few missing pieces for butterfly, spider, and pirate costumes for his children.

I had no idea it would be this hard, but I also had no idea it would be this sweet. 

Thank you, God.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

So Great To Be Three!

Our dear, sweet little Mikea celebrated 3 years of life today!
I modified a Raggedy Ann doll cake to make it a bit more ethnically-friendly and a LOT cuter!  :)
Mikea requested to eat the eyes of her cake and Daddy decided to give her the heart as well.  The cake went from adorable to gruesome in less than 20 seconds! 
Mikea's expressions should tell you just how happy she was today.  She's waited patiently for over 3 months, through all of her brothers' birthdays, to get to her very own special day today.
What a gift and a blessing to see her beautiful, joyous smile every day!  We love you, Kiki!

Friday, October 22, 2010

One Month Old!

On Wednesday Adrianna turned one month old!  That evening I was allowed to give her a bath, change out her sensors, and administer her vitamins and caffeine.  (The caffeine is supposed to help with breathing.)

She was so comfortable during Kangaroo Care - she hardly moved at all the entire evening.  The nurse took this picture after she removed the blankets and was about to put her back in her isolette.  I just hate letting her go!
We praise God for sustaining little Adrianna through her first four weeks and pray that she will grow stronger, gain weight, and continue to develop without any complications.  We are so in love with her and are in awe of how much God has blessed us!

Billy is still showing signs of sickness - runny nose, headache, sneezing - nothing enough to keep him home from work but still enough to prevent him from visiting Adrianna.  Last night Joe began throwing up and he currently has a fever.  I'm doing my best to keep the other children well and am refusing to let myself get sick, because that's simply not an option right now!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hopeful Signs

Adrianna and I had another wonderful visit together Tuesday night.  We Kangarooed for 2 hours and then I changed her diaper.  You may have noticed I was pretty proud of myself the night before for changing her diaper so easily.  This time, however, Adrianna decided to challenge me and made the job a little more complicated!  (I'll let you figure out on your own how she did that!)
Then I checked her temperature.  She has a sensor attached to her body that is connector to her isolette which regulates the temperature inside in accord with her body temperature.  But before and after Kangaroo Care her temperature needs to be taken to make sure she's warm enough.  I've read that during Kangaroo Care the mother's body temperature rises and falls to maintain an even temperature for the baby.  What I'm not sure is if this is a hormone-related thing that wouldn't apply to a non-biological mom.  It doesn't really matter, though, because I kept her warm enough.  Dads can Kangaroo, too, for that matter.  (Adrianna really wants Daddy to get better so he can finally hold her!)
Yesterday morning we had a visit from Adrian's caseworker (who would have been Adrianna's worker but she's moving to a new department - Adrian's and Adrianna's new caseworker is now coincidentally going to be Mikea's old caseworker) and learned a few things that give us hope that things are moving in our favor.  As far as the relative who was brought in to be Adrianna's placement, it is up to her to contact DFPS to even be considered for the placement.  DFPS is not going to seek her out and she has yet to contact them. Placement will not happen until Adrianna is released from the hospital, which in my estimation would be December at the very earliest. The case is also supposed to be "fast-tracked" with parental rights possibly being terminated once 60 days from the last court date have passed. 

So, more waiting, hoping, and praying.  Good thing we have lots of experience with all three!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mama Kangaroo

This past weekend I was able to begin Kangaroo Care with Adrianna.  Kangaroo Care is holding your preemie on your chest with skin-to-skin contact.  It promotes bonding between mother and baby, and better regulates baby's breathing, temperature, and heart rate, helps them gain weight, and reduces risk of infection. (It also encourages breastfeeding, very important, but clearly not applicable in our case!) One study also showed that during Kangaroo Care, the brain waves associated with contentment and bliss doubled!  Kangaroo Care was started by a doctor in Colombia where there was a shortage of equipment needed to care for premature babies.  The mortality rate dropped from 70% to 30% once Kangaroo Care was implemented.  You may also recall the story several months ago about a mother in Australia (of course!) whose infant was believed to be dead.  She held him on her chest and after two hours he revived!

Saturday evening I held Adrianna like this for an hour, Sunday afternoon I held her for an hour and 45 minutes, and Monday evening we Kangarooed for 2 hours.  Besides being benefical for her, it's nice for me to have some quiet time - time to pray, time to hope and dream about Adrianna's future. Last night I also changed her diaper for the first time, and although it was a little tricky, I think my experience of changing 1000's of diapers over the past 3 years definitely came in handy.  The picture below shows one of her diapers next to one of Adrian's giant size 4's.  (She's actually now wearing one size larger, but those are a little big and need to be folded down in the back and the front.)
Adrianna currently weighs 2 pounds 6 ounces.  Yesterday her doctor upped the amount of protein she's receiving in order to get her to gain weight more quickly.  I'm hoping that between the added protein and the Kangaroo Care, she'll start gaining more weight so we can get her home where she belongs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Holding Adrianna

This past Monday evening I had the privilege of holding tiny Adrianna for the first time.  I wasn't expecting to be able to and watched in wonder as Kendra, the nurse, took a few moments to untangle and disconnect the various tubes and wires attached to Adrianna in order to swaddle her in a blanket. Once Adrianna was swaddled, Kendra held her with only one hand while she closed up the incubator - it was just as though she were a doll. My first thought when I saw her face up close for the first time was, "She looks like Mikea!", mainly due to her coloring and her dark hair. She was opening and closing her eyes and mouth for the first few minutes of me holding her.  She was also sticking out her tongue, which is no bigger than my pinky fingernail!

Turns out that would be the only time this week Billy or I would be allowed to hold her.  Last night Billy asked the nurse to check with Adrianna's doctor to find out when we can start holding her on a regular basis.  I think right now there's only so much stimulation she can tolerate and they want to make sure she's ready for it.  It's hard to fathom that next week she'll already be 1 month old!

Wednesday evening she weighed 980 grams and last night she was up to 1010 grams, which is about 2 pounds 3 ounces.  In the next few pictures you can see just how tiny she is.

We're staying optimistic but I'd be lying if I told you there weren't times when the sadness of it all gets to be overwhelming.  We're still adjusting to the new routine of taking turns driving downtown every night to visit her and it gets harder and harder to leave her each time.  We love her so much already and we desperately want her to be part of our family forever.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fun with Rice

It's been too long since we last played with rice so one day last week I figured it was high time to bring it out again, especially since all it's been doing is taking up space on the shelf.  This time we took advantage of the gorgeous October weather and set up on the back porch.  That made for a much more relaxing and fun time for me because I knew we could just sweep the mess away into the grass.  Even Adrian got in on the fun this time.  All I had to do was keep him from shoveling it in his mouth and showering it upon Mikea's head.  (Fortunately rice comes out of her hair a lot easier than sand!) 

There's a lot of leftover rice in the grass, but the kids pretend the grains are seeds and plant their own little gardens. 

Our visits with Adrianna went well this weekend.  The nurses showed us how to lay our hand on her and watch a certain number on her monitor (not sure what it was exactly) that would move up and down based on how comfortable she was.  If the number drops below 90 that means she's agitated and needs a break.  When it was Billy's turn all was fine for a while but then the number started dropping.  The nurse couldn't figure out what was bothering Adrianna at first but then realized she needed a diaper change.  Then, as the nurse was holding up Adriana's little legs to change her diaper, Adrianna made another poopy mess! Oh my! I am a bit envious I didn't get to see all of the excitement. 

The nurse also told us that sometimes Adrianna sleeps with her arms and legs all sprawled out, which is exactly how Daniel sleeps.  In fact, last night he fell out of his bed (again) and Billy and I were laughing at how even as a baby for several weeks the only way he could sleep was strapped in his car seat.  Otherwise, he'd move around so much he couldn't fall asleep.  Billy says Adriana's features resemble Daniel's, but I can't really tell yet.  Her coloring is quite dark, though, so who knows?  I do know she is beautiful and growing stronger and for that we are so thankful to God.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Meeting Little Adrianna

Last night Billy and I were able to visit Adrianna for the first time.  She is improving!  She has gained back the weight she lost after she was born and is now up to 2 pounds.  She no longer needs oxygen, just a cannula to help with air flow.  Adrianna has also been weaned off the meds needed to treat her withdrawal symptoms from the drug exposure. 

She is absolutely precious!

We were able to touch her and marvel at how just how tiny she is! 

There is some confusion about what her name really is.  We were told Adrianna, but the name on her incubator was Elicia.  I asked the nurse and she double-checked the last name and confirmed it is the right baby.  I checked her little bracelet and it had the correct last name, too. We are planning on changing her name anyway if we are so blessed to be able to adopt her.

Now for some bad news.  This morning the judge decided to give Adrianna's birthmother 60 days to comply with certain requirements that if she follows through, steps towards reunification begin.  In addition, the biological family has found a relative to be the foster placement instead of us, if this person passes an investigation.  (The judge says this placement must be darn-near perfect if he's going to consider it.)  The really aggravating part for me is that for some reason the judge was operating under the assumption that Adrianna is only the third child to be removed from this mother, not the fourth.  I feel that had he known, he wouldn't be giving her another chance. 

That's all I'm going to say for now.  Honestly I'm too angry about what just happened in court today and I need some time to process the situation a little more.  We have zero legal right to Adrianna at this point, yet she already feels like our daughter.  But the most important thing is that she is doing well and for that we are utterly thankful.  Praise God!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Please Pray for Adrianna

For the past several days I've been waiting to share some important news about our family.  On Friday, September 24 Baby A.'s  TDFPS worker called to let us know that his biological mother (and bio mom of Joe and Daniel) had just given birth again.  She had no other information at the time and asked us to decide if we wanted to be the baby's foster placement.  The timing was remarkable because just the night before Billy and I discussed what we would do if the boys' mother had another baby.  It had been the end of a long, mentally and physically exhausting day for both of us and we and we both said that we felt we had enough children.  But it's a completely different ball game when you're not merely contemplating the idea of a child, but a living, breathing baby who already exists.  A few hours after the initial phone call we learned the baby was a girl, but didn't know her name yet.  Keep in mind that due to the history of the biological family and what took place with our boys, we were almost certain that should we take this baby as a foster placement, we would eventually be allowed to adopt her.  (We are still about six weeks from adopting Adrian - hopefully.)

Through many hours of prayer and discussion we struggled over the decision and early Saturday afternoon we decided we would take a leap of faith and say yes.  We were terrified (5 children ages 4 and under!) but knew without a doubt that God would provide the strength needed to get through each day, one day at a time.  We also agreed to ask TDFPS to not call us again if any more biological siblings of our children are born.  The decision is so gut-wrenching and it would be unbearably painful to have to say no, when we'd already said yes so many times.

Once the decision was made we excitedly began preparing for the baby's arrival and bought another crib and a few baby supplies plus a larger vehicle capable of holding 5 car seats.  I unpacked and re-washed Mikea's old baby clothes and set about getting the house in order - us foster/adoptive moms go through nesting, too!  We even enrolled Joe in Pre-K in order to give me a break in the afternoons. But day after day passed and we heard no more news about the baby.  Anxious to visit her in the hospital, we contacted the investigating worker and our current TDFPS worker to try to find out where she was.  Over a week passed without any information and I began to get the feeling that something was wrong.

Yesterday afternoon we finally received word about this precious little baby, now named Adrianna, and the news is not good.  She weighs only 1 pound and is not gaining weight.  She has the organs needed to survive, so if she can gain weight there is hope for her.  But because she also tested positive for drug exposure, her struggle to survive is that much more difficult.  It breaks our heart that she doesn't have any family with her, comforting her and advocating for her.  Needless to say we are very frustrated that we were not notified of her condition sooner and at this moment we still don't know which hospital she is in or if we will be allowed to visit her.  Billy finally talked to the investigating worker this morning and asked for us to get clearance to visit her.

So, I'm spreading the word about Baby Adrianna in order to ask for your prayers.  I believe that God works miracles every day and this little angel needs nothing short of a miracle to survive.  She has an unbelievably difficult struggle ahead of her and if even if she gains enough strength to survive she will most likely spend months in the hospital and face many complications.

We know God is faithful and will not bring us into a difficult situation and then abandon us.  And we know He will not abandon little Adrianna, either.