Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In Which We Are Cleaner But Under The Weather

It's been a busy week here as we continue to settle into our new family of four.  Ellen is doing remarkably well for having so many changes thrown at her at once.  She's picking up English extremely quickly, and sometimes I have to remind myself not to speak in sentences that are too complicated-- it's easy to forget that she doesn't understand everything. 

She won't usually tell us when she doesn't understand though, which makes for some frustrating moments on both sides.  Usually if she doesn't understand what I'm saying, she'll just answer "Yes" to it and hope that was the right answer.  I found out a few days ago that the poor girl hadn't understood my explanation of how to turn on the shower during our initial tour of the house, and so she had actually been taking baths and then washing her hair in the sink the last few weeks rather than ask me.  She'd never used a bathtub before coming here, and I thought she was just taking baths because she liked them and not because she didn't know how to turn on the shower.  Cue the Bad Mommy Guilt Trip Syndrome. 

But I'm happy to say she now understands how to use the shower, and as a result the personal hygiene standards have gone way up around here.  I was having a hard time figuring out why I was having to push her to wash her hair when she was taking two showers a day in Thailand.  Problem solved.  Hooray!

She comes from a culture and environment that doesn't encourage her to ask for help or admit she doesn't understand something (and also she's a teenager), so it's probably going to take her some time before we're able to bring home the fact that she's not only allowed to ask questions, but encouraged to do so.  It's something we'll keep working on.  In the meantime I'll keep asking her to repeat explanations back to me to make sure she understands.  It annoys the bejeezus out of her, but at least I know she's gotten what I'm saying. 

She had a friend come over to hang out for the first time this weekend, which was pretty exciting for her.  It was neat to see the girls getting along so well, and I got to see a few new things from Ellen in the process-- she demonstrated some of her magic tricks and taught her friend a dance she'd made up to a Thai music video.  Her friend taught her the "chicken dance" and the "hokey-pokey," so she's now prepared for pretty much any roller skating rink session ever.  She's a quick study.  Right now when she's with me she's really shy around groups of kids, but it's obvious that she's naturally outgoing and I suspect that once she has more English she'll dive right in to the social scene. 

We're definitely having our "teenage" moments, and also I am going to have to get used to spending a lot more time at the mall (we spent four and a half hours there this weekend "just looking") but for the most part things are going really well.

Connor, I'm sad to say, is not doing so well.  He had five seizures yesterday-- all the new kind-- and he's not sleeping well.  They're slowly getting more frequent and longer.  He keeps waking up to have a seizure at two or three in the morning and then having a hard time getting back to sleep.  I wasn't going to take him to school this morning since he had such a rough night (and had already had a seizure today), but he woke up around seven thirty and insisted that he wanted to go.  So I ended up taking him in, since he's not sick and evidently wasn't going to catch up on sleep even if I kept him home.  I've got a call in to the neurologist, and hopefully we'll hear back from him soon.  I'm wondering if these seizures are a different type, and if his medication needs to be changed as a result.  We'll see what the neurologist has to say.

At least he hasn't caught Ellen's cold yet.  She's had the sniffles for about a week, and one of his nurses was out with the flu earlier in the week.  The last thing he needs is to get sick on top of this whole seizures mess.

Hope he feels better soon!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Which I Find A Possibly Hazardous New Hobby

Things have been settling down a wee bit over here; I'm finally getting used to the routine of things and not wanting to go to sleep at seven at night.  So that's nice.  The kids are both in full-day school five days a week, the Christmas decorations are put away and the house is more or less (mostly less) in order.  This means I'm ready to start finding a bit of a personal outlet again.

Derby is not in the cards right now, I am sad to say.  If roller derby practices were some time between ten and two on week days I'd be golden, but since unfortunately most of the derby gals have this crazy thing called work that they do in the daytime and for some absurd reason won't reschedule everything for my convenience, that's not really an option.  Currently evening time and weekends are Family Time.  So I need something I can do during the day sometime between Monday-Friday.  I have sewing and crafting and whatnot of course, which I will continue to do, but I also need something that involves other people.  And by other people, I mean Adult People. 

Anyway, first I looked into continuing education classes at the local college.  I loved college.  I am the kind of person who, if I hadn't gotten married and had children and stuff, would probably still be in college.  I would be eight gabillion dollars in debt since that would mean I would have been in college for thirteen consecutive years, and probably have extremely poor personal hygiene and be living on ramen and dryer lint, but I would be learning, dang it.  But unfortunately all the continuing education classes seem to be targeted at those aforementioned working people, and so are on evenings and weekends. 

Next I thought maybe I could find a creative writing or literature class that I might be allowed to audit, but apparently if you want to do that they make you pay full tuition and fees unless you are over sixty or you, you know, actually work for the university or something.  Or possibly if you know the professor who is teaching the class, and sadly I seem to be fresh out of English professor contacts-- probably since the last college class I took was over nine years ago and on the complete other side of the country. 

There are online classes of course, but they would leave me once again sitting in front of a computer writing and talking to my cats, which is pretty much what I do all day right now for free so there's no point in paying for it.

So then I thought about volunteering at one of the kid's schools.  I always enjoy teaching, and mentoring or helping out kids might be fun.  But then I realized that right now pretty much all I do is mentoring or helping out my kids, and I don't really want to spend my free time right now doing it with anyone else's offspring.  This kind of makes me sound like a jerk, but oh well: them's the facts.

After a bit of floundering around on various volunteering websites, I finally drove down to the local animal shelter and put in an application to help out one or two days a week.  If I volunteer there I'll still be spending most of my time talking to cats, but at least I'll be getting some exercise in the process; those huge bags of cat food are heavy.  And also I might have the occasional interaction with an actual adult human being.  I find this idea to be very exciting.

Now of course, this plan could potentially backfire in a major way.  I have done a lot of volunteering or working in various animal shelters and veterinary centers in the past during my pre-children years, and absolutely adored it.  Except for that one time when I worked for a person with ninety cats and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Really.  That was not fun.

But otherwise I enjoyed it, and even though I desperately wanted to on several occasions, I never took any cats home because I was not in a situation to do so.  I either lived with my parents, in a dorm, or in an apartment that did not allow pets.  Though I did convince my parents to adopt a gigantic gorgeous fluffy marshmallow of a tabby that snored, drooled when she was petted and shed copious amounts of orange fur on every available surface, so I guess that statement about not ever taking any cats home isn't completely true. 

All that has changed, though.  Now I am a Big Grownup Person and I have a house and everything, and if I want to adopt eight cats there's nothing to stop me.  Except Jer threatening to divorce me of course, which is probably what would happen if I came home with eight cats.  And I don't need any more cats; not to mention Loki and Cricket would probably be Slightly Put Out about it.  I suppose I might foster the occasional kitten though, which I know the cats are okay with due to the time I bottle fed those four kittens I found abandoned in my carport one year which I then foisted off on friends and relatives-- including my long-suffering parents.  They got the one with poor personal hygiene and a tendency to bite ankles at random moments.    No doubt they are still thanking me for that one.

The major advantage of fostering, though, is that once the kittens get old enough they actually leave your house instead of staying and growing into larger sized cats with correspondingly larger intake and, um, output.  Yes.  In my case they left for my friends and relative's houses, but I'm pretty sure if you foster in an official capacity the animal shelter has some people other than my parents who I can foist them off on.  

Anyway, while I might foster on occasion I in no way need permanent additions to the household.  So your job, gentle readers, is to whack me over the head if I look like I'm in imminent danger of doing something like adopting eight cats.  I probably won't listen to you, but then after the divorce papers are served you can at least say "I told you so."  


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Which We Go To The Doctor And I Get Used To Juggling More Balls

Ellen had her first appointment with the orthopedic doc today.  It was the same doctor who did Jer's skin graft and the repair of one of the bones in his foot after he got blown up, so that was neat.  And one of the other orthopods, who's a family friend, popped in to say hello too.  Ellen got to learn a few fancy words for various bones in the feet to impress Jer with, and she also got to see x-rays of her spine and legs.  So as far as doctor's appointments go, this was a pretty good one.

Ellen had a double tendon release done a number of years ago and also exercises a lot, and as a result she's relatively flexible and can walk, but does so in what the doctor called crouch gate.  This is very common in people who have cerebral palsy-- especially those who have had her particular surgery.  There's not a lot that can be done for it (and she generally gets around pretty well), but we're going to try some physical therapy to see if we can improve her walking a bit and help her with her balance.  Overall they were pleased with how she's doing though, and told us to come back in six months to a year.  Now we just need to get her in for her follow-up with her primary care manager, and then to an eye doctor and a dentist, and she'll be done with appointments for a while.

Connor had a couple of seizures today-- he seems to have settled into a pattern where he's having up to three a day.  Since he's breathing well through them and they don't seem to be having the kind of effect that the earlier types of seizures had, we'll live with that for now.  If they start getting worse or affecting him a lot more, it will be time to put in another call to the doctor. 

The little guy is due for a dental appointment, so I got that set up.  It's been interesting figuring out how to schedule appointments for two kids not because there are so many more of them, but because I now have to factor in the other child's school schedule when I'm figuring out when I can bring a kid in.  The two kids have different start and finish times for school, so it's proving to be a bit of a challenge!  So far so good, though-- I haven't managed to schedule two appointments on the same day at different hospitals or anything yet. 

As long as I can keep straight which kid needs to be where, I'll be fine!


Monday, January 14, 2013

In Which We Celebrate A Birthday

Ellen had a great birthday yesterday!

She slept in late yesterday morning, something I was probably way more excited about than she was.  This kid is a serious morning person-- as in the kind of ridiculously upbeat, cheery person in the mornings that I used to be before I had kids and could never sleep in again.  But she and Connor both slept in late, so I got to get back in bed after giving Connor his medication and lounge around until nearly eight o' clock.  Bliss!

Anyway, so after everyone got up and moving, we sang the happy birthday song and opened presents.  The child was relatively blasé about our gifts, which included a hat, pair of jeans and shirts in her required color scheme (black, white and black).  The clothes that her aunt and grandmother sent proved to be a much bigger hit, as they were not only black and white but also had skulls on them.  Basically what I have is a teenager who wants to look like she's in a death metal band, but has not figured out yet that it's uncool to hold her Mom's hand in public.  I do not have a problem with this.

Then we left Connor with the nurse and took off for Thai lessons.  It turned out the place was nearly deserted because of the Seahawks game, so we left after about half an hour as there was only one student there and no teachers.  Oh well!  We drove from there to the mall; Ellen had received a gift card to JC Penny's from her great grandparents and she wanted to see what she could find with it.

I think Ellen still finds department stores a bit overwhelming; there are a lot more choices than she's probably used to having in terms of clothing and accessories.  I'm pretty sure the kid's not used to having choices period, so we've come a long way in the past few weeks.  She found a pair of flipflops to wear at her swimming class that were shockingly not in black (probably because they didn't have any black) and then we went to look at jackets.  She hasn't quite adjusted to the 35 or so degree temperature difference between here and Thailand yet, so she's wearing her coat pretty much at all times.  I think she wanted another option besides her competition jacket from Thailand and the black hoodie we bought her before we came home. 

And she found one, after carefully perusing the store a couple of times.  It's a, to quote the tag, "black faux fur bomber jacket."  Basically it looks like they took a knit jacket, skinned several stuffed animal pumas and affixed them to the front and back of it in a sort of furry hooded vest, um, thing.  And as she happily tried it on my brain was having a little argument with itself.  Half of it was going "She's making choices!  This is a good thing!  And she's expressing a personal style!" and the other half was saying "Wait-- she's going to wear that in public?"

I guess this is probably the same thing just about any mom of a teenager goes through.  But it wasn't suggestive, offensive, or inappropriate for a kid her age-- it was just something that I would never, under any circumstances, be caught dead wearing.  Any hey, it was her gift card, and as long as what she wants to buy fits under the not offensive, inappropriate or suggestive rule, it's her money and she can spend it how she wants.  So she bought the jacket, and she happily wore it to school today.  And I say good for her-- she's dressing how she wants to dress and figuring out who she wants to be, and that's a pretty fantastic thing.

Anyway, so then we went out and found her strawberry cake.  Normally I would make one, but she'd absolutely fallen in love with a very pretty cake at the Asian grocery store the other day and I was doubtful that I would be able to recreate it at home.  So we bought a cake this year.  Next year I hope she'll know enough people to have a party and there will be more people to share it with, but in the meantime, more cake for me.

We came home, lounged around for a while as Connor had his quiet time and she showed me several more Youtube videos of herself on national television in Thailand.  I'm still rather stunned by the sheer number of times Ellen has been on TV.  She's been in a soap opera, done a fashion show, and a bunch of interviews with various celebrities who were raising money for her orphanage.  Seriously if I hadn't seen the proof with my own eyes I'd be tempted to think she was making up stories, but this kid has, for example, met the entire Liverpool soccer team (and been given an autographed ball by them) and hung out with more Thai pop stars than I can count.

We had no idea about any of this when we started the process to adopt her, but it helps explain why she's such an interesting mix of mature and naive, and also why she's so open to new experiences.  This is a kid who walked a runway in the Thai equivalent of American Idol when she was seven years old, but who had never seen a microwave before she started exploring our kitchen.

At any rate, whatever the reason behind why she is who she is, she's a pretty awesome kid.    

We went to dinner at her favorite Thai restaurant, where they served her some homemade coconut ice cream for her birthday.  And then we went home, lit the candles on her cake, sang happy birthday again and all ate a piece of what actually turned out to be raspberry and not strawberry cake but was still delicious.  Really, it's hard to go wrong with cake.  She declared it to be a "Good good birthday, Mom!  Yaaaay!" in that bubbly, enthusiastic way she throws herself at life in general, so I think she had a pretty great day.

That's my girl!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

In Which We Are A Family On The Inside

Today is Ellen's fifteenth birthday!

I have no doubt that it's going to be quite a landmark year for the girl.  She'll have lots and lots of new experiences-- hopefully more good ones than bad.  Technically she could get her driving learner's permit now, but we're going to hold off on that for, um, a while.  She's still learning basic written English right now; we're not going to throw traffic laws in on top of that.

Anyway, the week has been relatively eventful.  A couple of days ago we drove over to the hospital to x-ray Ellen's legs, hips and torso.  She's got an appointment with the orthopedic clinic next week to see what things look like in there.  We were standing next to each other when the x-ray tech came out and called her name.  He looked right at me and then said to her, "Is there anyone here with you?"  Ha!

To my mind, it's so obvious that we're a family unit that I haven't really thought about how the rest of the world sees us.  I'm really used to being stared at because of the little guy, so I haven't really noticed a difference there.  Ellen seems pretty immune to the staring too-- I would imagine she got quite a bit of it in Thailand.  The only time people really up the ante is when they see us with Jer.  Here I think people pretty quickly figure out that Ellen is adopted, but in Thailand where adoption is very uncommon we definitely got some very confused looks and questions.  Oh well!  Luckily Ellen thinks it's pretty funny right now, though she may find it annoying later once the novelty wears off.

Connor has now decided that Ellen is his favorite person in the whole world besides Daddy.  It's pretty cute to see how excited he gets to give her a love butt (actually about ten love butts, as he never seems to think one is enough for his big sister) in the morning and evening.  I'm lucky if I get even one!  Mommy is always the boring one, right?  That's okay-- I can just steal kisses.

He's had a few more of those weird seizures in the past few days; we're waiting until Connor's med increase kicks in fully before we change anything else.  It takes about two weeks for the level adjustment to happen.  So in the meantime we're just keeping a close eye on him.

Otherwise things are going well!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Which We're Here

Sorry for the sporadic updates; I know you all are anxious to hear how we are doing.

And we're doing well!  I'm just tired.  Very, very tired.  Even though our new daughter is fourteen (almost fifteen), in many ways it's like having a newborn in the house.  I say that not because she's crying all the time and getting me up every four hours, because she absolutely isn't.  That's one of the major advantages of adopting a teenager instead of an infant.

It's more that our whole lives are in the process of rearranging to welcome this new person into our family, and so while I'm not doing anything exhausting on a physical level, mentally I'm doing some pretty spectacular gymnastics right now.  When I have a bit of idle time, instead of blogging I end up doing something like falling asleep in a chair in the library with an open book on my lap.  I'm not being terribly productive in the writing department at the moment.

But eventually our lives will settle down a bit, and I'll be able to actually form coherent sentences at the end of the day.  So rest assured that while I may not be blogging every single day right now, I'll get back to it eventually.  I will not abandon you, dear readers. 

Anyway, Connor had several seizure free days, and then he started up again last night.  He was extremely tired yesterday, which makes me wonder if he's getting sick.  I'm not really ready to tackle the whole "one child sick and one child well" thing logistically yet, so I'm hoping that's not the case. 

He's been working with a walker at physical therapy, and we're starting to see him have a lot more awareness of his feet and leg muscles, which is pretty cool.  He's not taking steps or lifting his feet off the ground in the walker yet, but he is shifting his weight around and swiveling his feet back and forth, which is pretty cool.  In his wheelchair, he's started amusing himself by kicking the footrest, as it makes a lovely clattering noise when he's got his ankle-foot orthotics on. On the one hand, this is great as it means he's learning how those muscles work.  On the other hand, it gets really annoying after he's done it for twenty straight minutes in the car.  Oh well!

Ellen is loving school-- she especially likes her English Language Learning teacher, which is a very good thing.  After testing her English reading and writing skills and determining that they're pretty basic, they've decided to remove her from choir and put her in some one-on-one tutoring with the ELL teacher for the whole period.  I think that will really help her with her language skills.

She's got a photographic memory for streets, which is pretty cool-- after walking a new route with her teacher once she could tell me how to drive the route backwards while in a car.  I guess that would come in handy during the days when she was taking a motorcycle taxi to her swimming class in Thailand.  She's also been adventurous about trying new foods, which is nice.  We've added peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goldfish crackers, green bean casserole and spicy chicken sandwiches to the list of things she'll eat in the last few days.

So overall we're doing well.  It's just a matter of readjusting and settling in!


Monday, January 7, 2013

In Which We Do All The Things

Well, that was one heck of a busy day!

Ellen had both her first day of school and her first day of swimming today.  It's going to be quite the schedule, though it's not quite as strenuous as her schedule was at the orphanage.  They gave us a rundown of her average day while we were there and it was. . . impressive.

She had a fantastic time at both school and swimming, which was great.  I think that having the routine is going to be really good for her. 

Anyway, so she's starting to test her boundaries and feel out what it's like to have parents, which I think is a good thing as it means she's now comfortable enough with us to relax and stop feeling like she needs to always be on her best behavior. 

Some of the frustration she's experiencing is due to miscommunications; she got pretty angry with me tonight right before bed when I asked for her school class schedule and teacher list so I could make a copy of it.  Despite being upset with me, she dutifully got out the schedule and was just sitting down at her desk with a piece of paper and a pencil when I walked into her room, asked for the schedule again more slowly and clearly, and then introduced her to the miracle of our scanner/printer. 

It turned out she hadn't understood me the first time and thought that when I said that I needed her schedule so I could make a copy of it, I was actually saying that she had to copy it out by hand before she could go to bed-- a monumental task for a child who's a beginning English language learner and one that she would have every right to be upset over.  She was pretty relieved when she realized that wasn't what I was asking for.  Also she thought the scanner was awesome.

So some of her frustration is because of things like that.  And some of the frustration is because she's a teenager.  And she probably had a preconceived idea of exactly what living in America and having parents was going to be like, and we don't always measure up.  But she bounces back quickly, and for the most part she's a joy to live with. 

Connor had a great day today as well; he had no seizures, which was really nice!  Hopefully the medication is really starting to kick in.  We did have a problem this morning-- his g-tube completely clogged and I had to take it out and unclog it in the bathroom sink, which was not nearly as fun as it sounds.  Otherwise things went well for him.

So all in all it was a pretty good day!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Which We Hang Out Together

Yesterday morning we went out and found Ellen a swimming bag and an extra swimming suit for her practices.  Then we went down to the Asian grocery store and bought ingredients for yesterday night's dinner and also a rice cooker, which I suspect I'll be getting significant use out of. 

Then we tried out the walk to school.  Ellen's going to be walking home for at least the first few days, as her school and Connor's get out very close together in time and it's going to take me a little time to set up bus service for him.  Obviously Connor can't walk home.  I'm discovering that coordinating everything for two kids is a whole new ballgame.

She's had her ups and downs; we're definitely parenting a teenager!  She's used to living in a place with a ton of other children to play with all the time, so being home with only one other kid around is pretty weird for her.  But I think being in school and making some friends among her peers will really help.

She and Connor are getting along really well; he demands multiple Love Butts (his version of a kiss) from her at bedtime and seems to really like watching her during the day.  She's very gentle with him and it's obvious they already have a bond.  I had a wonderful time with my siblings growing up and am still very close to them, so it's great for me to see that she and Connor might have that sort of relationship. 

Today we'll be back to a very busy schedule, and then Monday the real fun will start.  Hopefully I'll be able to get everyone where they need to go!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

In Which Ellen Meets Some Folks And Gives High Fives

We had an extremely busy day yesterday!

Ellen and I got up pretty early in the morning-- around four thirty.  We're still kind of on Thai time here, and also I think she was a bit nervous because we were going to go visit her school for the first time that day.  So we spent some time looking through Leela's She Simmers blog, naming all of the food and telling each other what we liked to eat and disliked.  We made some plans to try making a few of her favorite meals together, which is pretty exciting.  The pictures were great and I now know that Ellen would like a strawberry cake for her birthday, which is coming up in little over a week.

Anyway, so after it was a decent hour and Connor was up and moving we dropped him off at school and then drove over to the junior high school where Ellen will be going.  She seemed pretty nervous when we were going inside, but thankfully the staff was very warm and she soon felt at home. 

Public schools in Thailand are very different from in the United States, so it might take her a little while to adjust.  Children in Thai schools usually learn by rote and are not encouraged to ask questions of the teacher, who is the absolute authority in the classroom.  Also the children stay in one class and the teachers rotate out, they stay with the same children the entire day and of course they're in identical school uniforms right down to the socks.  So Ellen was a little surprised to see children with blue hair walking around between classes on our school tour, and she was a bit stunned by the chaos between passing periods.  She's pretty adaptable though, so I think she'll get the hang of things quickly.

She got to pick out two electives, and she chose P.E. and choir.  So it looks like I'll be heading to a performance or two sometime in the future!  She also got the chance to meet the administration and the support staff, like her English Language Learners teacher.  She'll be officially starting school in the seventh grade on Monday.  They're assigning another student to help show her around the first day and to sit with her at lunch, so that's good.  I really hope that the students are as welcoming as the staff has been!

When we walked out the door she gave me a high five, shouted "Yeah!" and then asked if we could go buy her backpack.  So I suspect the girl is slightly ready to go to school. 

Anyway, after that we went right out and bought all her school supplies, headed to a Thai restaurant for a celebratory lunch, wandered around a pet store for a bit to kill time and then picked Connor up from school  He had a great day yesterday, by the way-- no seizures other than a couple at night.  He did refuse to acknowledge that we were coming up on the weekend as there is no school, so I guess we've got two kids in the family who are rather enthusiastic about learning.

We came home, Connor got in a quick nap and then it was off to Tacoma for Ellen's first introduction to her new swimming coach.

I'd contacted the coach of a swim team in the area shortly after we'd found out that Ellen was slightly better at swimming than we'd originally expected, and instead of enrolling her in recreational swimming we needed to be looking for something slightly more intensive.  So we went in and Ellen changed and hopped into the pool.  It's the first time I'd seen her swim, and it was really neat to see how beautifully she moves through the water.  Connor and I sat and watched while he asked her to demonstrate various strokes.  The little guy decided that the pool sounded musical, and spent the time dancing to the water, which was pretty cute.

The swim coach decided Ellen will be in the advanced group, and so she'll be swimming five nights a week beginning on Monday.  I like the coach a lot-- I think he'll push her to show her best potential but will also keep things fun.  The group is mostly typical kids, but there's another girl who competes in para events on the team too, so I think she'll feel right at home.  Her schedule is really filling up quickly!

So I got another "Yeah!" and a high five on the way out of swimming, and she declared it to be a very, very good day-- the best she's had in America so far.  She's used to a really packed schedule, so I think she'll be happy to be busy again!  And I think she's really missing being around other kids her age, so I hope she'll make some friends quickly. 

We're going to take it kind of easy today, because on Monday things will really start!


Friday, January 4, 2013

In Which We Have The Internet Again And Things Are Great

Hi!  We have Internet again!

Everybody is fine, I swear!  Things are just a little crazy right now as we run around trying to get Ellen enrolled in our insurance, the military's various programs for dependents, school, swimming, etc.  I'm sure over the next few weeks everything will settle down.  Thanks for all of your well wishes and prayers; I've got a ton of e-mail to catch up on.  Having the Internet at home is going to help with that for sure!

So it's 2013, which doesn't seem possible.  This will be the first year we'll have our girl home!  I think it's going to be pretty awesome.  Ellen is adjusting better than we possibly could have hoped.  We've seen some grieving in the past few days, which is absolutely understandable, but she's kept her sense of humor and is weathering all the huge changes in her life with grace. 

I'm so enjoying finding out all the little things about my daughter; things I'd wondered about before she was here.  Things like how she likes her hamburgers (mayo and lettuce, hold the mustard and tomatoes) and what her favorite bands are (no one you'd know-- they're all Thai).  She's extremely helpful without being asked, and she seems to enjoy spending time with me right now.  I'll take as much of that as I can get before she discovers moms aren't cool!

I feel really privileged to get the chance to see her encountering so many new things here and to be able to watch her take it all in.  She was delighted to walk out the first morning here and discover that she could see her breath in the frosty air and that the car was covered in ice.  Our fireplace was a marvel and the bathtub proved an instant hit.  I can't wait to see what else I'll get to see with fresh eyes through her excitement with this new world.

I've already developed Mother Bear syndrome with her, as well.  Ellen's shy with new people and her English is still relatively poor (though much better than we were expecting) and that combined with her CP seems to be making a lot of people jump to conclusions.  I was on post getting some of Ellen's paperwork taken care of, and at one point she needed to sign her name.  Ellen can sign her name in Thai right now, but not in English-- probably because the English spelling has changed about six times.  The woman behind the desk said, "Oh, it's okay, you can probably sign for her.  Is she incap?" 

I thought "incap" was some military program and told her I wasn't familiar with the term.  "You know," she said, glancing at Ellen and lowering her voice.  "Is she incapacitated?" 

I was surprised by the strength of my initial reaction, which was that I wanted to punch her in the face.  I suppose under the circumstances it was a reasonable question, but to my mind it was completely obvious that Ellen was in no way incapacitated and was in fact, pretty dang smart. 

So I just gritted my teeth and told her that, no, Ellen just didn't understand a lot of English yet.  She looked kind of uncomfortable and told me that Ellen could just sign her name in Thai, then. 

Oh well.  As Ellen learns more English and can speak for herself, hopefully it will be less of a problem.

Connor, I'm sad to say, is having some issues.  It's not with Ellen-- things are great there and the kids are getting along just fine-- it's with seizures.  He's having a new kind, which we think are possibly simple partial seizures.  But they've got new symptoms and are occuring more frequently, so we're trying a medication adjustment and may end up with an EEG being done soon to see what's going on.  We sent a video of the seizures to the neurologist, and hopefully we'll hear back in the next few days as far as what he'd like done.  Thankfully the seizures haven't been lasting very long (though he's been having two or three a day) and they haven't needed oxygen as he breathes quite well through them.  But of course it's worrisome to see a change like that.

Otherwise he's doing well!  He went back to school yesterday, and is loving seeing his friends again and getting back into his routine.  Hopefully his seizures will improve over the next few weeks as we work with the upped medication, and we'll get things back on track.


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