Thursday, December 29, 2011

Call from Dr. Blount came today

Well, after 10 days of waiting on Mei Li's MRI results, we got a phone call from Dr. Blount. Yay!! It was a relief to hear his voice on the phone this morning. This is the low-down.

After reviewing Mei Li's MRI, he says that it is exactly what he expected. She has a large lipoma on her spine and it has a substantial risk of causing tethering of her spinal chord as she grows. He says that "tethering" is nothing that is going to happen in the next hour or the next week. . but, as she "is" growing every day, we do not need to "sit" on this and let the grass grow, either. He is glad we already had the urodynamics test done on Mei Li (which we did just yesterday). He said that waiting for the urodynamics test is usually the thing that slows down the surgery process. It was "DONE" yesterday!!! So, there is nothing standing in the way of him being able to perform surgery as soon as he can get it put on his calendar.

He told me that Geoff and I will both need to come in to meet with him before he performs any surgery so he can review the film of Mei Li's MRI with us, discuss surgery, explain the risks. . . and get on the same page with a game plan. We are to hear from his nurse by the end of next week to get some dates on the calendar. He is backlogged on cases from December due to some academia he had to pursue. And, he is going out on holiday tomorrow to return next week. He is anticipating Mei Li's surgery to happen sometime around the end of February.

I asked what this surgery would look like (as far as how long Mei Li will take to recover). He said that the surgery will take several hours, she will be in the hospital for 3-4 days (unlike his colleagues who keep them in for 7-10 days). He usually tries to keep them in the hospital a shorter time and then let them recover at home where we will need to keep her "as still and on her back" as possible for about another week after she is sent home from the hospital. She will then come back into the clinic for a follow-up. The soft tissue will take 4-6 weeks to heal. . . then, normal activity!!!! Mei Li could essentially be ready for normal activity by the spring!!!!

I look forward to getting these dates on the calendar and getting Mei Li's life-changing surgery done. . . so she can start embracing her new life and claim her "new future" as opposed to what lay before her in China!!! Thank you, Lord!!!

OH. . . and about Mei Li's urodynamics test, yesterday. It was not completely normal, as there were some abnormal bladder contractions early on in the test due to abnormal nerve activity. But, it didn't interfere with her ability to control her bladder, at all. Dr. Joseph was very pleased, overall, with her function. It was a traumatic test for Mei Li. It hurt and she was wide awake for it. She had to be awake in order to be able to respond to the fluid being pumped into her bladder. Thankfully, I was able to be with her and hold her hand. And, her Mama B was in the room too, and that was a comfort to Mei Li as well. And, the sweet nurse blew bubbles and Mei Li loved trying to catch them. That worked for a while, until her bladder got so full of the contrast solution that she couldn't focus on the "fun" anymore. Then, there were some pretty major tears. But, mommy was there to wipe them, and then the test was over. Bless her sweet heart. With her eyes and lips swollen from crying so hard, and as I was dressing her after the test, Mei Li told Dr. Joseph, "Bye bye and thank you." We are so thankful that is behind us. . . especially now that Dr. Blount is wanting to do surgery by the end of February.

I will keep you all posted on the details as we learn more!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Magical Christmas Moments 2011 :)

Some magical moments this Christmas. . . in pictures! Merry Christmas, everyone!! :)

Angel in candlelight

Silent Night, Holy Night. . .

Sweet girl

Christmas Eve Candlelight service with Mama B.
Candlelit angel

Snuggles with Mama B

Childhood innocence. . .
Hope. . .

Enjoying this most magical and blessed Christmas with my family
Anxiously awaiting the moment they can open their "first" present of Christmas!!
Oh my goodness!!! It's an American Girl box!!!!!! :D

Enthusiasm uncontained!!! ;-)

I absolutely LOVE this sweet face!

Cousin Ramsey. . . "OH BOY, OH BOY!!! :)

Sweet expression of "This is JUST what I wished for!!!"

My lovely Anna Grace and her first sewing machine!! This girl is going to sew some doll clothes!! :)

Bryant is excited about his dinosaur fossil toy!!

Hey!!!! She looks like ME!!!! :D

Sweet Bryant is overcome with excitement!!

Cutie-patootie on her new little scooter!! :)

AG checking out the treasure in her stocking. . .and Milo (the cat) wants to know if any of it is for him. ;)

A trike to build up Mei Li's leg muscles! AND, it has a basket to hold all of her goodies!! :)

AG got her BIG wish!!!

AG is overcome with "WOW!!!" Dooley??? Not so much ;)

A "Wah wah" for Mei Li

Check out those pretty finger nails!!! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adoption. . . a beautiful reflection of God's love for us.

This is one of the most powerful Christmases we have ever had. And, the reason for that is not some crazy, awesome gift in fancy paper under a twinkly tree. It has to do with something God has opened our hearts and minds to. . . and now we understand some things that we never fully understood before. And, he has used a 4 year old little girl as His instrument to teach us.

When we began our journey to adopt Mei Li, we "were" acting in faith on that still small voice inside that was telling us to step out, act boldly on what we were being called to do and believe. But, we still didn't see the whole picture. However, over the four years of our roller coaster ride to Mei Li; and in the time that she has been with us. . . an amazing picture has emerged and shown us a truth with great clarity. That picture was painted for us just last night when our little Mei Li was in her Daddy's arms at the mailbox looking back up at our house on the hill with all of it's Christmas lights twinkling against the night. She stood back, in her Dad's arms, looked up at her home and said, "Daddy, Mei Li's home." When she was in that orphanage in China for all of her years, she had no idea the wonderful future that awaited her in America. She truly couldn't conceive of the treasures that were in store for her, the bedroom that had been prepared "just" for her, and the unconditional love that was waiting to embrace her. Mei Li did not "initiate" the adoption. We did. Her parents "chose" her and invited her in to be a daughter and an heir. It is a permanent offer. . . not temporary. . . not conditional.

The Lord has shown Geoff and me through our journey that "adoption" on this earth mirrors God's adoption of us as His children through the gift of His Son, Jesus. And, I can't think of a better time to share this truth that has been made clear to us than on Christmas Eve. . . Our heavenly Father authored "adoption" when He sent the gift of His only Son to us on Christmas over 2 thousand years ago. As a result, we are invited to be heirs in His heavenly kingdom. . . a permanent home on high.

I am also reminded, often, of the verse in the Bible where Jesus says, (Whatever you do for the least of these, you do to me.) And, that is paraphrased. Every time I look into Mei Li's sweet little face, I remember Jesus saying that. And, I realize that I may be looking right into the face of Jesus.

So, as we prepare for all of the celebration of Christmas morn, I remember the "gift" of Jesus who is the foundation of it all. And, I think of the love and hope that gift brought the world. And, I will enjoy both of my precious gifts of Anna Grace and Mei Li as they experience the wonder of Christmas. But, as I look into the beautiful brown eyes of my sweet daughter, Mei Li, I will remember that I, too, am adopted. . . by my heavenly Father. And, having learned from His demonstration of love for me, Geoff and I share the same gift given to us with her. And, the result? Our hearts feel as if they might burst with love and joy over the incredible "gift" Mei Li is to our family this Christmas, and from now onward.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Friday, December 23, 2011

2 Magical Moments with our Mei Li. . . just in time for Christmas

Today, we had two magical moments with our Mei Li. I'll start by sharing the funny one. Tonight, Anna Grace wanted to help wrap some of Mei Li's presents. So, I went downstairs with her to help. I told Mei Li she needed to stay with Daddy upstairs, and that I would be right back. She had a bit of a meltdown that Mommy was leaving, so I explained that we were wrapping some of her Christmas presents. I told her that she couldn't see because they were surprises for her. That worked!! She was happy and I headed downstairs. After AG and I finished wrapping her gifts, AG brought them up and placed them under the tree. Before we knew it, Mei Li was under the tree and grabbed the biggest of her presents. In one swift rip, she had half of the wrap off. We all screamed, "Noooooooooooooo!!!!!" And, Mei Li looked up confused. We told her that the presents were to be opened on Christmas, not today. She grinned really big and said, "Mama, I see it!!! I see it!! I see it!!!!" And, I said, "Baby, you can't have the present tonight. You will get to open it on Christmas". She grunted in frustration and repeated, "I see it!! I see it!!" I picked her up and asked her, "Mei Li, what did you see?" She said, "Toe-fah" (which means hair in Mandarin) "I see it!!! Toe-fah!!! Looooong toe-fah!!! Pretty!!!!!" Then, I asked her, "What do you think it is?" And, she stated, matter-of-a-factly, "Wah wah" (which means doll in Mandarin). And, she hmphed in frustration that she couldn't open it. Then, she said, "Mama, presents. . . Mei Li... happy".

OH BOY. . . I am giddy with excitement. Mommy can't wait until Christmas morning, this year!!!

The second magical moment went like this. . . Daddy was heading down to the mailbox this evening to check the mail. Mei Li ran to the door exclaiming that she wanted to go with Daddy. He went and grabbed her jacket and carried her down the hill to the mailbox. As they got to the curb, Mei Li looked up at the house and said, "Daddy, Mei Li da home" (that means Mei Li's home). Geoff said, "Yes, Mei Li, this is your home." Then, she said, "Faygeelah!!! Hen dah, hen dah faygeelah!!!" (which means airplane. Very big, very big airplane). And, Geoff said, "Yes, Mei Li, you rode on a big airplane from China to come to your home in America. Then, Geoff asked her, "Mei Li, do you miss China?" Mei Li quickly and firmly responded, "No! Mei Li boo yaw China. Wo yaw home." ( Mei Li doesn't want China. I want home.)

Mei Li warms our hearts every day and fills us with such incredible joy. Geoff and I aren't exchanging gifts this year. We would rather make sure the girls have a special Christmas. And, we both agree. We already have our Christmas present. A little angel on Earth, named Mei Li, is our most precious Christmas gift, this year. . . and for every Christmas from now on. Geoff and I are incredibly thankful for our two most precious Christmas gifts. . . our Anna Grace and Mei Li.

Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mei Li has her MRI!

Heading out at 7:15 a.m. for her MRI of her spine. Got her Santa hat and her ever-ready smile!

Mei Li was THRILLED when Santa paid her a visit in the MRI waiting room!! She flew off of my lap, sprinted to get her Santa hat out of the wagon and nearly tackled Santa as she ran to him waving her Santa hat! Then she gave him one of her famous Mei Li hugs! :) Children's Hospital does an AMAZING job making their children feel special and happy. So glad Mei Li can get her medical needs met at a wonderful hospital like Children's!

Mei Li's favorite treat is a good sucker! She is a sucker for suckers!! She also has taken a BIG shine to Santa. So, when we found this Santa sucker in the gift shop, we knew it had to be her treat for being such a trooper. She LOVED it! :)

Still groggy from the anesthesia, Mei Li got to get her picture taken with Santa before we left.

Resting her sleepy head on Daddy's shoulder. . . our Christmas angel. . . She truly is a Christmas miracle. She is our gift this Christmas.

Today was a big day for Mei Li, and it went smoother than I ever could have hoped. We felt the prayers of family and friends with us today! Mei Li had her MRI on her spine. They had to put her to sleep for this procedure. The last surgery, when they put her to sleep, she was sick the entire rest of the day. Thankfully, they only used gas for this test, and she suffered "no" sickness!! :)
Today's test will give Dr. Blount the information he needs to make a game plan for Mei Li's spinal surgery. They took images of the fatty tumor in her lower back to see how and where it attaches to her spinal cord. We have no news on the test yet, but we hope to learn something tomorrow.
On the 28th, Mei Li will have a test to measure the functionality of her bladder. Dr. Blount ordered both of these tests to be done before he operates on Mei Li's spine.

Mei Li was very brave today, as always. The hardest part for her was "not eating". She ate around 8:00 Sunday night, and she was not allowed to eat again until after the test, which was noon on Monday. She could not drink anything either. But, like everything in her life, she took it all in stride. And, most of the time, she had a smile that would make everyone who passed by her do a double-take and turn around to talk with her. Her bravery and hope and determination and overcoming spirit inspires me every day. . . and challenges me to take notes from a little 4 year old girl and strive to do half as well :).
Once she got to Children's, she was in for some exciting surprises. Santa came to visit her right before she went back for her test!! That was an exciting moment for Mei Li, for sure!!
The testing and her recovery took just about 1 hour. And, we greeted her when she awoke with a big green Santa sucker! Her eyes lit up immediately. That was all it took. . . seeing Mama and Daddy and a big green Santa sucker. . . to bring her out of the fog of anesthesia!! Haha!! She said she was hungry, so we took her to Surin (a wonderful Thai restaurant. . . and Mama's favorite!!) and ordered her Coconut soup and dumplings. She ate every bite!! For her, it was a taste of home and good ol' comfort food.
She is down for the night, and has been her sweet, mischievous happy little self all afternoon! :) We pray for a good report from Dr. Blount tomorrow.
Good night! And, I'll update again as soon as we know something more.

Thanks for following!! And, thank you for your prayers for our little Mei Li!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deck the Halls with MRIs, orthopedic visits and urologist appointments.

Our hearts are bursting with joy and thankfulness this Christmas. We have been waiting for so long for our baby girl to come home to us, and finally we can celebrate this beautiful season as a family of 4. Our Mei Li will be enjoying Christmas for the very first time, this year. She has quickly learned who Santa is. I don't know if she understands the "present" thing. But, she calls Santa "Ho, ho, ho!!" Today, Anna Grace and Mei Li had their picture taken with Santa. Mei Li literally climbed down out of my arms and sprinted down the red carpet to Santa! She climbed right up on his lap and put her fingers in his snowy white beard! I got it on video. You can see it in my video feed at the top.

More importantly, Mei Li is showing all of us the true meaning of Christmas. Besides knowing that Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus' birthday, she loves her family so dearly. She doesn't have an extensive list of wishes and wants for mom and dad and Santa. Instead, she talks about how much she loves her family. She will say, "My mom, my dad, my sister. . . my family". That is what means the most to her. We tend to take family for granted. . . just a given. But, for a little girl who has lived all of her 4 years in an institution without the love of a mother and father, she does "not" take the love of her family for granted. She cherishes it. . . more than any new toy or gadget. She is a breath of fresh air for all of us. And, her beautiful spirit and clear perspective is teaching us all to look at the world and all the blessings the Lord has given us with a new set of eyes.
Mei Li loves to sing and her favorite song is "Jesus Loves Me". She is precious to watch and listen to when she launches into this song. You can see the video in the feed at the top right.
Monday, Mei Li has her MRI of her total spine. She will be put under for this procedure. And the results will determine Dr. Blount's game plan for surgery for Mei Li. Also, on Dec 28th, Mei Li goes in for a test on her bladder to determine its level of funtion. We know that she is 100% continent at this point. But, with her special need, incontinence is very common. And, Dr. Blount needs to establish a baseline. I'm not sure if she will be put under anesthesia for this test, but I am guessing she will. The results of these two tests are important for determining our plan of action for Mei Li and her surgery on her spine.
Today, we took Mei Li in for a follow-up with Dr. Khoury. Her foot has been hot and swollen for several days and she has been running about 100 degree temp in the evenings the last 4 nights. Dr. Khoury did lab work on her and x-rayed her foot. It appears she has a small stress fracture on her toe. Bless her heart. Her bone density is compromised due to her lack of walking, but she needs to walk in order to build her bone density.
Even though there are so many Dr. appointments and tests, we are incredibly thankful to have our precious daughter home. And, we are thankful we have the medical team available to take care of her needs. Her future is bright, now. And, our family's future is brighter than ever because she is now a part of us. :)
Merry Christmas to you all!! I'll update when I have more news.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Caroling, Birthday Wishes and Mei Li WALKS! :)

AG and her good friend. . . ready for a night of caroling!

Mama and Mei Li come along to help support!!
Singing songs of Christmas. . .
One of the beautiful homes made a great backdrop for our group photo!
Another Gigi group shot. . .

Hot cocoa after a night of caroling puts a smile on Mei Li's sweet face! ;)
AG helps Mei Li try her hand at ping pong. :)

Our 1980's wall mirror serves as a great artist's pallet! The girls LOVE drawing on it with dry erase markers!
It's present time!!!
My birthday girl :)

Mei Li is having a BLAST at Big Sis's birthday party!

The prettiest ornaments don't hang on trees ;)
Time to blow out the candles and make a wish
Look who followed me upstairs to put Mei Li to bed!! Mei Li loved the attention. . . Guess who didn't want to go to sleep!? ;)

Getting ready for Wii Dance party!
OH YES. . . and we built foam Santa's workshops, gingerbread houses and a sleigh!
AG has some of the sweetest friends!! :)
Getting their "dance" on!

Love this shot! Dance queen! :)

Break dancin'

The worm!!
AG just hangin' around :)

Daddy surprised the girls with "Hot Nows" from Krispy Kreme for breakfast. . . served with hot cocoa :)
Closing out a swell birthday party with a tasty doughnut breakfast! :)

We have had quite an eventful week at the White house!! Anna Grace turned 9 years old this week!!! I can't believe my little AG is NOT little any more. This is her last year in single digits. :( We had a birthday party to throw together and I had a LOT to get prepared before having anyone come over to my house!! Especially, since AG requested a small sleep over. Oh my!! Since coming home from China, I have spent my time and energy taking care of Mei Li, running back and forth to Dr. appts and surgeries and check-ups, and homeschooling Anna Grace. Lots of "house-keeping" details happen "when I can get to them", but that is not often enough ;). There is only one of me, and I do all I can to address the "most important" things first. Haha!!! So, last Saturday, I spent the day trimming the bushes in the front of our house!! You can actually "SEE" the house now!! ;) And, as the week has progressed, I've gotten carpets steam-cleaned and other house-beautifying details addessed. Whew!!! Just in time for the sleepover on Friday night. I told AG it HAD to be small, this year. No more than 5 girls. Mama needed a manageable group. And, I told her to carefully choose 5 girls who will enjoy one-another's company for an entire night!! Tricky business!! ;) These girls will have to get along well for 12-15 hours. AG has lots of wonderful friends in different places. . . the theatre, from school, from horseback riding. She wasn't able to invite everyone she wanted to. So, she picked a few that knew each other well for our "pilot group". Did I mention this was our "first" sleepover??
Drum roll. . . . It went so well, that we will do more. AG had a blast and the girls had a wonderful time! Next time, we'll pull in folks we weren't able to this first go-round. Now that mama knows what she's doing ;)

In other important news. . . and I'll leave you with this. . . Mei Li got her cast removed on Wednesday and the 5" pin removed from her heel. She got her nighttime brace to wear and we are still awaiting her smaller daytime brace which we will get this coming Wednesday. The daytime brace will protect her foot and keep it positioned properly while she walks. But, an amazing moment happened yesterday. I took her brace off and asked her if she could stand. She stood right up, put her weight equally on both feet and grinned a mile across!! Then, before I could grab hold of her or instruct her on the finer points of taking her first steps. . . .she was off like a bullet!! She took off walking and she hasn't stopped since! I caught some of these first steps on video and you can see it in my video feed at the top right.
I was invited to come perform my original song, "Snowflake Lullaby" (that I wrote for Anna Grace and recorded on my album, "Dancin' on the Wind") at Local Color Cafe's Christmas Show last night. Geoff, AG and Mei Li came out to support mom. It went great! Even though their CD player wouldn't work with my accompaniment track, and I ended up doing the entire song acapella!!! Haha!!! (that's called "rollin' with it!!! ;) Everyone seemed to enjoy the song, and I have been invited to come back to perform an entire show in March!! What an honor! This was Mei Li's first music venue, and her first time to see mama perform. She was PERFECT!! She enjoyed the music all night, and was thrilled when mama got up to sing. And, during the intermission, she got up out of her seat and went from table to table greeting the guests and telling them her name is "Mei Li"!! Truth be told. . . Mei Li was a highlight of the night! She walked everywhere. . .she made friends with every person she met. . . and she wouldn't let mama or dad pick her up. So proud to be walking. . . and correctly. . . for the first time!!!
AG did her best to hold her head up during the show, but she was suffering from a bad case of "stayed up all night last night" itis. Haha!!! She had a ball at her birthday sleepover, but it left her hurting the next night when mama had to perform.
I hope you enjoy the pics and Mei Li's video!! Thanks for following along our journey!! And, I hope each of you is having a wonderful Christmas season!! I know that we surely are. Little miracles every day. . . and reminders about the true meaning of this wonderful season. :)