"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." -----Martin Luther King, Jr.
"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet,regardless of time, place, or circumstance.The thread may stretch or tangle,but it will never break."
- ancient Chinese belief

Friday, December 10, 2010

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Backing up... Halloween

Last minute costumes for the boys: 2 nerds and a Falcons player. And, of course, Junie in something pink!

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Friday, November 5, 2010


We are home and Junie is doing much better than I had expected and prepared for.
The surgery went well. We got to the hospital a little late because I somehow missed the exit (well, it was 6 in the morning, things look different in the dark!). They took us right back to triage and then to her room. The nurse came in and explained everything to us. We saw the doctors and met the anesthesiologist (who was so sweet and has a daughter about Junie's age). They took her back right at 8:15 (her surgery time). We walked with her to the doors and with the versed in her system, she didn't mind us leaving her at that point. Fortunately, they don't even put in the I.V. until they are under so a lot of stress was reduced beforehand.
The ENT came in at 8:35 to tell us the tubes were in and that Dr. Williams had started with the palate repair. He said she had quite a bit of fluid on both and "a huge ball of wax" on one ear!
At 8:45 the anesthesiologist came in to tell us that Junie was doing fine and had gone under perfectly, helping them out by holding the mask. That's our girl, Little Miss Independent.
At about 10:15, the surgeon came in and told us he was done. He said Junie did great, that he did the p-flap conservatively and that everything looked good. He also told us that he did NOT use the retainer thingee that they made the mold for under IV sedation a few weeks ago (we just got the bill for this today, thankyousomuch!). He said once he got in there, and had done the p-flap, he didn't think he wanted it in there.
So thankful for this doctor, his sweet bedside manner (with Junie and us!)and his very skilled hands!
Until this point, I had held up surprisingly well. My aunt came down and stayed with us which was a great distraction for me, especially since David spent a good deal of the time on his i-phone (why do people love those things so much?!). But the hour between when the surgeon came in and when they brought her back to us was excruciating. Finally, they moved us to her room and then a nurse carried her in about 15 minutes after that. I'm not gonna lie, she looked pretty bad and it broke my heart. She had dried up blood at the corners of her mouth and nose and a (HUGE!) "nasal trumpet" - to keep that airway open- in one nostril.
She was pretty dopey, but when she saw us she started crying. I can't imagine how much it would hurt to be crying under those conditions so really tried to settle her down quickly which she did. She was very "gurgly" from the blood drainage and mucus. They said that she doesn't want to swallow so it pools there in her throat making that sound and then dripping down. yuck.
So the entire rest of that day and night (Tuesday) was spent holding and rocking her, with her getting a well appreciated dose of morphine every two hours, a constant drip of fluids and her vitals checked (which seemed to bother her more than the nasal trumpet!). She cried every time they checked her vitals or messed with her at all, but only for a little while, and fairly easily went back to sleep. In the early evening (as soon as I had changing into my cozy pants), she sat straight up and coughed a bit and then threw up blood all over her gown, my pants and the floor. At that moment, I was thankful for the room directly across from the nurses station! I was absolutely freaking out and Junie didn't like it too much either. The nurses, however, were totally nonchalant and told me it was expceted because of all the blood dripping from her mouth down into her tummy. Expected? really? Junie hated having her gown changed and being cold but again, settled down pretty quickly.
Junie threw up blood 4 more times, causing a change of gown (which she hated!), change of sheets (they switched the crib out for a twin when they finally realized I was not going to put her down) and a good bit of tears.
I was well prepared for the worst of nights thanks to my adopt-cleft yahoo group and I'd say it went a little better than expcected. Not a lot of sleeping going on for the parents but Junie seemed to have her pain managed pretty well and did do a lot of sleeping.
Wednesday morning started out a little rough for Junie. The surgeon visited and told us we'd probably be in until Friday. But she perked up a little when the grandparents and my sister visited. She reached for all of them and let them all hold her, giving my butt a break from the numb/tingling sensation it was experiencing from hours of sitting in the rocker with her! :)
They switched her from morphine to tylenol with codeine mid-morning. They were so anxious for this switch as it apparently has a more even effect on the pain and only has to be given every 4 hours vs. every two hours with the morphine. However, it tastes awful and has to be given by mouth! She hated that and cried and cried every time she had to take it.
Most of that day and afternoon, Junie spent awake. The nurse said that after they have the nasal trumpet removed (which they took out in the morning)that they usually perk up. She didn't exactly seem "perky" to me, just awake but tired.
Around 5, the surgeon, his PA, and two others (students?) came in again. This time, Junie was sitting up on my lap, eating pudding. When he said hi to her, she raised her big ol' restrained arm and waved to him! I think she must have known how much was hanging on this visit. After this visit, he said she could probably go home in the morning if she's still doing so good.
Then, as evening came and she was still awake, I got a little worried about her being up so much and wondered if the drugs could be causing it. About 6 (time for her next dose), they said they'd ask the doc about switching her to Lortab to see if that had a different effect on her. I quickly called my sister to get her advice. My sister, Connie, is a pharmacist at Hughes Spalding, the CHOA hospital in downtown. She told me that at her hospital, they almost only give Lortab and that she thinks it actually works better than the Tylenol 3 so that made me relieved. Having bad reactions to codeine drugs myself, I thought maybe Junie did too and that the drugs were keeping her up.
So finally around 8 (two hours after she was due for meds!), they brought in the lortab. Apparently this tastes awful too and she fought taking it. However, even though she was not sleeping at all, she really didn't seem to be in pain.
Well, this night proved to be rougher than the night before. She was fitful the entire night. She'd lay on me, fussing, close her eyes for a few seconds and then bolt up fussing more. Switch positions, close her eyes and fuss again. She really didn't seem to be in pain, just not able to get to sleep. Whenever she did finally get to sleep, almost on cue, a nurse would come in to check her vitals. Or one of the godforsaken monitors would start beeping. And EVERY time one beeped and beeped I would have to call them and tell them it was going off. And EVERY time I pushed the call button, instead of coming in to turn it off (really? can they not tell it's beeping from the nurses station?!?!?), they would loudly come over the intercom, "do you need something?". And she would wake up. And every 5 hours, I would have to call the nurse (the same nurse that came in every 2 hours the previous night like clockwork to give the morphine) to tell her Junie was an hour overdue for her pain meds.
So, this night proved to be the most taxing. She finally fell asleep on David around 4:30 and slept for a few hours. The surgeon came in at 7:30 to check on her and David told him what a night she'd had. So then he'd have to see how she's doing later to see if she could go home in the afternoon.
I ordered Junie a bunch of different food that A.M., knowing that her eating food and drinking were our ticket out of there. She didn't want anything. She wants to be holding it and feeding herself but she CANNOT. She has on her arm restraints and we cannot risk her damaging her stithces. All day she would say "more" in her cute little way and do her sign for drink. And all day I would point to EVERYTHING we had. Yogurt? shake her head no. Apple juice? No. Oatmeal? no. Gatorade? Ice cream? Milkshake? Soft eggs? Water? Pudding? No. No. No. Then she'd say more. and fuss. Poor thing. I don't know exactly what she wants, she can't tell me.
We got a wagon for her around lunchtime and David wheeled her around while I grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria. She enjoyed the wagon ride but as soon as we got back to the room, fussy again. I brought her down to the playroom and showed her all the toys and she shook her head at all of them. She finally agreed to a "baby mozart" type DVD and we went back to the room where she continued to ask for something and then shake her head at all her options!
The sweet sweet day nurse agreed with me. She was just miserable to be there. Not in pain, just miserable. So at 4, we switched her to regular Tylenol (!) to see how she did on that. We got our going home instructions, prescriptions, packed up, and at 5, headed for home. As we entered the parking deck we asked Junie if she wanted to go home and she nodded "yes". And finally, our first glimpse of a smile in days as we put her in her carseat and said "Junie's house!?". A true blessing that there was hardly ANY traffic at 5 o'clock in Atlanta.
I (and Junie, I think) was SO happy to see my boys. It felt like I'd been gone much much longer than 3 days! Junie seemed so content to be here, too.
She was tired but not too fussy and stayed awake until 8 for her next dose, Motrin (at this point she's been on OTC since 4).
This afternoon she had a few more bites of food, colored with markers, watched her brothers do stunts in the family room (one of her favorite things), barely choked down all her meds at bedtime and then went right back to sleep. If it's true that sleep heals the body, she should be back to 100% sooner than I thought!
I too feel like I could sleep the day away so please forgive the less than perfect post. I just wanted to get down what I could so we could remember this big event and what a trooper our girl is.
We are so thankful everything has gone so well and that she's home, comfortable and now with a palate! :)
Pictures to come!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Prayers please!

Tomorrow our little Junie-bugs is going in for her BIG surgery: palate repair, p-flap and tubes. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers!
Her surgery is at 8:15 so we will need to arrive at 6:15 (yes, A.M.) and she is expected to be in the hospital for 2-3 nights.
My brave mom is home with the boys, so pray for her too! :)

And, because I know a blog without pictures is boring...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Junie's Walking!?

Junie is taking her sweet time making the switch from crawler to walker! I was so happy when we got her that we'd be there for her first steps but now my back is ready for her to walk full time.

She loves to practice, though, especially with such an enthusiastic audience! During this practice session, every time she fell she would laugh and laugh. Jack remarked, "she is the best baby ever"! I love them!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Junie's mealtime fun!

Well, it may not be the best lesson in manners, but at our house we'll do anything for a laugh (especially one this cute!).

The noise in the back is Jack's new saxaphone. Never a dull (or quiet) moment in the Gruskin house!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Part 1- Cleft Team Appointment

Here is a great picture of Junie's "level 2" (classified by China. They classify them into level 1, 2 and 3 with 3 being the worst) palate. Junie had her big "cleft team" appointment a few weeks ago. It was 4 hours long!

This isn't so bad... as long as these snacks don't run out.

Killin' time with my daddy. Please check out the cute onesie!

We met with a speech pathologist, a social worker, the plastic surgeon, a dentist. Junie had x-rays and photos taken and her teeth cleaned (which she hated the most of all!). She was charming and adorable for the most of it and made her parents look like the impatient and distractable ones. :)

Per the dentist's recommendation, she will have a retainer-type device made just for her. They will suture the retainer into place on the day of her palate surgery (November 2nd-yikes!) and it is supposed to come out on it's own within 2-3 weeks. The purpose of the retainer is to protect her palate until there is enough healing.

Did you know that to repair the palate they just basically pull the two sides together and sew it up? Did you know that it is then very easily damaged? Did you know that Junie sucks her thumb and puts everything, and I mean everything, into her mouth? So, the retainer thingy sounded like a really good idea...

So, the dentist told us that if she sits still and gets comfortable enough with the hygienist that perhaps they could just make the mold of the roof of her mouth at that appointment, while she's awake. The pool of sweat and tears under her head after her 5 minute teeth cleaning determined that the mold making was going to be turned into an "I.V. sedation" procedure.

After teeth cleaning.

Part 2- Mold making at CHOA

So, last week we had to go back to Children's Healthcare and Junie was sedated while they made the mold of her palate. We have been so very blessed that we have never ever had to go to the Day Surgery (or any part of Children's) with our boys. No tubes, no MRIs, nothing. So, this was our first trip there. But not our last.

Yes, I am cute in my gown but please pick me up!

Getting suspicious!

Playing with MeMaw

Because David couldn't go down with me due to a work conflict, my mom came to stay with me the night before and help me with Junie. I couldn't have done it without an extra set of hands and a little moral support.
First, Junie got her ID bracelet. Then they brought us back and weighed and measured her. She cried on the baby scales! She just had to sit there. We all chuckled and said, "boy, you're in for a long day if this upsets you!".

Then we got our room and our very kind nurse, Tina (btw, Junie got a "hope you're feeling better card" from nurse Tina in the mail yesterday). Tina explained everything to us- all the people we'd be meeting with that day and what the time frame would be like.

About 30 minutes later, Tina and another nurse came back in to put in Junie's IV. This was the worst part of the day! She hated being pinned down and cried and cried but almost as soon as they were done, she settled right down and started watching the Baby Mozart DVD we brought for her. Surprisingly, she basically ignored the IV splint and just acted like it wasn't even there.

Luckily, David was able to move around his lunch "hour" and showed up in time to be there as we spoke to the IV sedation Dr and the dentist who was making the molds. Junie's procedure time was at noon but we had to be there at 10. She could have nothing to eat all A.M., only clear fluids (she had apple juice and jello) before 10. I really thought this part would be the worst because my girl does not like to miss a meal (much like the rest of her family!), but she was fine and never even asked for anything!

Yay, Daddy's here!
So, right around noon they had us walk Junie down to the procedure room. As we got closer, I had to hand her off to David for fear I would pass out. They let us hold her as they all "gowned up". I thought this would scare her but she was so brave, not a peep out of her. Then the sedation doc started putting things in her I.V. "This one will dry her up, we don't want too much saliva while making the molds". "This one will relax her, maybe make her eyes flutter". Uh-oh, am I going to pass out? "This one will make her go to sleep, it may sting her a little". Then, the faintest little whimper from my brave girl. We were then instructed to lay her down. I was hesitant because I thought she'd be scared, but I guess the meds were already taking effect because she just laid there. And that's when I lost it and was asked to leave! :)

A nervous mommy

I am so fortunate to have a "connection" at Children's who came over and sat with us for a long time. She told us how wonderful our sedation doctor is (very comforting to know) and I cannot tell you how much it helped having her there with us. I don't know if it was my imagination, but people sure seemed to be nice to us with her in our room! After the dentist came in and told us he was done and that Junie should be awake soon, we continued to wait for some time. My friend went and checked on her and let us know what was the holdup (the sedation doc had to come back in to check her vitals). I really wanted her right away but procedure comes before obsessive adoptive parents' desires I suppose. My friend assured me that Junie was awake and calm and shortly after, they brought her back to us tucked under a warm blanket. She was still pretty "dopey" and was indeed calm. When she saw me she fussed a bit but was fine when I picked her up.

Almost right away she signed for a drink (have I mentioned how smart she is?) and as soon as we got the green light, she downed a bottle of apple juice. After about an hour, they took out her IV, and released us. We were there for a total of about 5 hours for a 15 minute procedure. Junie was basically her usual self the rest of the day, just a little more low key and ready for bed a little earlier than usual. The next day she was back to normal.

Ahhh, juice at last!

Ready for this day to end.

She is a total trooper. I am so impressed by her strength and by her trust in us.

This was just a minor little procedure but it got us acclimated with the hospital, the day surgery dept, and I will feel a little better walking in there on November 2nd knowing how nice everyone is. Please keep little Junie in your thoughts and prayers as that big day approaches.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One Month Later...

August 2, 2010

September 2, 2010

What 30 days and a whole lotta love can do!

Things are coming right along for Junie Mei.

She is learning so much about her new world:

1. Food is yummy! When we first met Junie she acted as though she had never had solid foods. Well, that is partially true. We were told that she got 4-5 bottles of formula mixed with rice cereal a day and one bowl of congee (congee is like a rice soup sometimes with soft pieces of veggies or meat but always quite flavorless). Congee is so soft that it really doesn't count as solid food. At first, she was so picky about what she ate. At the buffet in China she ate yogurt every day, spitting out the tiny pieces of fruit like a baby learning to eat new foods. She ate a few soft scrambled eggs and a smashed banana every day. She refused almost everything else. For her other meals in China, she ate strictly baby food. And loved it. Even the fish paste which was the most disgusting by far as the smell lingered in her mouth, and nose, for some time!

But, since we've been home, Junie has discovered, perhaps by watching her brothers, that mealtime rocks. She will try absolutely anything now. If she's not so sure at first, I get one of the boys to eat it (whatever it may be) in front of her and make a yummy noise and then she's game to try it! She loves most of the food she tries, although sometimes it's not until the second time around. She will eat for 30 minutes to an hour and if I try to remove the highchair tray before she is done eating, she will grab it and make a very fussy noise!

She has also discovered utensils and is really very good at using them! She loves using a spoon or fork and will put a lot of effort into getting the desired object on said utensil without losing her patience. She even swipes across her own mouth, just like Mommy, when using her spoon.

Too cute.

Junie has learned to drink, and enjoy, water. In one update from the orphanage it stated she

"no like, no taste water" (which we put to music, sang to her at dinner one night and subsequently saw her first "dance"). I am not one to give my kids much besides water to drink so that is what she got in her sippy cup and now she is used to it.

2. She has learned that her brothers are not a threat, not going to hurt her and are actually a source of entertainment! (in her face a tad much at times, perhaps, but not ever out of anything but love!) :) At first Junie did not like the boys (or any child OR adult) "up in her grill". She swiped at their faces with her nails and/or hit them on several occasions. This absolutely broke my heart for them as they just wanted to be close to her so badly. As we were in the "new puppy" phase and they were all over her, we had to tell them to back off a lot. She hated it! But now, we go to the bus stop together and as they get off the bus, she doesn't cringe or try to climb up me to get away from them. She plays with them on the floor sometimes and lets them carry her around without boxing them! We are measuring our progress in baby steps here!

3. She is cruising more and more, walking behind push toys and walking while holding my hands. I am beyond thrilled that we will get to see her take her first steps! That being said, I do hope that will be sooner rather than later for my back's sake and for her sake. I think she will be so happy when she can just get where she wants to be more easily, like at the park for instance.

4. She has learned that swinging is fun. The first day home we went to our neighborhood park. We put her in the baby swing for just a moment and she did not like it at all. Since then Junie and I walk almost every morning and stop at the park. Now, she loves the swing! She is starting to like the slide too.

5. She can do many signs (sign language). Her first sign, and the one she uses for many many things, is "more". This comes in very handy during her hour long mealtimes! I showed it to her one day during lunch over and over. The next day, after she finished the cheerios on her tray, I asked, "do you want more?" and she immediately did the sign for it! I had not even done it. She's clearly a genius! She will use "more" for another book, or whatever she wants more of. She can now do the sign for eat (notice a theme here?), drink, thank you. And she can nod or shake her head for yes or no. Did I mention genius?

6. Animals are not so scary. Junie has gone from freaking out over our neighbor's Yorkie (perhaps she just inherited Daddy's dislike of tiny dogs) to feeding the animals at a farm last weekend. She fed mini goats, cows, sheep, alpacas and full sized horses. All the while signing "more" for more animal food!

7. She has learned how to give kisses. For Junie, this means leaning towards the person receiving the kiss with her mouth open wide and sometimes saying "ahh". She doesn't like to give kisses unless she sees me kiss the boys- then she doesn't want to miss out on the action. She can also blow kisses and does this much more freely. She waves to people while we walk together in the mornings as well.
8. She now knows how it feels to have a Mommy or Daddy rock her to sleep every night. She gets a warm bottle at bedtime and we rock her and sing to her. She goes to bed so nicely. She will usually just lift her head up from the crib and make a little noise and then lay her head back down. She must be exhausted from all she's experiencing every day and seems to fall right to sleep. She also does not wake up crying anymore. I can hear her stir in the A.M.s and then "talk" for a while. Before she gets agitated we will get her up. In China and when we first got home, mornings were very hard for her. In fact, the first 2 days in China, we thought she called a name when she woke up. When she realized where she was, she lost it.
Now, when I walk in her room in the morning, or after nap, she is all smiles!
There is so much more to tell. There is even more that words simply cannot describe.
However, if this post sits in the "edit" box much longer it will be time for the 2 month post!
The most important thing is that we are all doing really very well. I feel like I was not prepared enough for how hard it would be in China (even though i read and read) but I was really expecting the worst at home. It has gone much more smoothly than I expected- for Junie and the boys.
The boys are doing REMARKABLY well with Junie. They are not one bit jealous of how much attention she demands or how much Mommy needs to hold her. They take it in stride when she pushes them away. They want to introduce her to everyone. They keep giving her love and kisses and I just could not be any prouder of them . They are going to be such wonderful big brothers and I cannot wait to see their relationships bloom!