Sunday, May 31, 2009

Music and Prayers

Buckle your seat belts for this one...short and sweet, as we are heading out today for my nephew's high school graduation. Hard to believe it is one year since Mick's graduatin from the same school. Will is the last of the boys in the family (until Shane comes) and the fourth to graduate from the same all-boy's college prep school. Very cool.

We went to Mass last night since we are going to the graduation this morning. A wonderful woman from our parish plays the guitar at the 5:00 Mass and she is a retired teacher of the deaf (how cool is that?). She has, of course, taken a special liking to Sophie and has followed her progress. She was so excited for the activation. We came in to the church, and Cathy was already playing her guitar. We sat in the pew and I pointed to the guitar and told Sophie to listen. A smile lit up her face and she signed "I hear it!" All through Mass (when she wasn't fidgeting, laughing, and distracting the whole congregation) I would alert her to the music starting, the priest speaking, the readers speaking, etc. At the closing song "They will know we are Christians" Sophie burst into song (we sit right up front, near the music). She often sings when we go to Church, but this time, hearing the music, she was very excited. Cathy, looked at Sophie singing, and knew she could hear the music. Suddenly, the song went into instrumental only...Cathy could not sing for the tears streaming down her face....

From the very beginning, when we brought Sophie home, we showed her that we prayed before meals. Since she did not know many sings, and we prayed "Bless us Oh Lord" with an adapted sign language, which we still do today. When she learned enough signs to know the words, I tried to change our prayer to the actual signs, but she would have none of it.
On Friday night we all made homemade pizza, and each of the kids, including Sophie, made their own 'pizzone'. Sophie's was first to be out of the oven, and by the time we sat down to eat she had finished her prayers and wanted to eat. I told her to wait for all of us and she signed she had already prayed. We all said the prayer, and she was a bit impatient, waiting. Suddenly, her face changed, and a small smile appeared on her face.

She signed " I hear my family praying..."

I warned you to buckle your seat belts.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sound from Silence

Well, the big day was Wednesday. Sophie was so excited that morning...she woke up signing "Today, CI" We made a road trip out of it, and we kept Sarah and Meg of school, and Mick took off work. Sophie was ready, understood what was going on, and her teacher, the infamous KB met us there. How cool is that? Kate herself has a cochlear implant, and was so excited to see Sophie's reaction. Kate has been such a great teacher for Sophie, and we appreciate her help, support, and patience this school year. As a teacher, I know the love and affection Kate feels for Sophie, and how she appreciated teaching such a bright, fun, challenging child!

The audiologist showed us how the implant works, and took us through the steps of turning it on, placing the batteries in, finding the settings, etc. Luckily Matt was there to help with the details (trust me, later that night I needed him to refresh my memory). After she showed us the device, she gave Sophie the ear piece to try on. Sophie took it and placed it on immediately, knowing exactly what to do from watching the other kids in class do it. She went out into the hall to 'play' and when I checked on her, she was taking apart the device, replacing the batteries, and playing with the controls! Sophie, Sophie, Sophie!!! Needless to say, the first thing Matt and I asked to learn was how to lock the controls, and we will NOT let her see us doing it as she will quickly find out how to undo it!

The audiologist said we were the largest group who had ever fit into their small room to see an activation. With Kate, we made eight, and we all waited while the controls were set and the CI activated.

Sophie sat with the head piece on and a wire attached to the bottom of her CI and connected to the computer. (We will be able to use this port to attach her earpiece to an ipod!) She sat expectantly, and the activation began. She was still and solemn, and a bit worried. She did not react at first, and we were not sure what she was hearing. As the testing began, she suddenly had a different look on her face, and when asked by the audiologist if she could hear her, Sophie nodded yes!

At this point in the process, Sophie is on a low setting, and is just beginning the process of hearing. We think that you turn on the CI and you can hear, sort of like turning up the volume on the TV, but not so. The brain is so much more complicated than that, and we are learning, every day, what she can hear.

We went out to lunch after leaving the hospital, and at the restaurant she was beginning the realize that she was hearing things for the first time. She asked what a sound was, and she mimicked a humming sound was the music playing in the restaurant. Later, in the ladies room, Sophie flushed the toilet, and then looked in amazement at the water as it swirled in the bowl and signed, "I hear it!"

Matt and I learned a long time ago that miracles are a part of our every day life, if we just stop and see them as they are. But now, we are watching miracles every day, with Sophie. It has only been two days, and we are only at the beginning of this process, but what a joy to see a little girl get so much delight from hearing her feet walking on the hardwood floor, or listening to water flow into the sink. The dog barking, the phone ringing, the sound of the keys being placed on the counter...everyday sounds that our brains never even pay attention to we are so used to them, and they seem so meaningless. Now, for us, there is meaning to every sound, and joy in hearing Sophie tell us to be quiet!!! (No, that's a major accomplishment!!!)

Stay tuned as we begin therapy next week, and continue to watch miracles happen!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inch by Inch, Row by Row....

Last year's garden

Sophie hanging out in the garden with me. She took most of these pictures!

Gardening with attitude!

Janette and Kate come to visit!

I remember when I was around nine years old, and we lived in a row home (now we call them Townhouses!) in Philadelphia, and one day in the spring, I noticed that the 'bush' in our backyard was actually full of beautiful red roses. I had never paid much attention before that as out yard was only a passway from the house to the alley that led behind our row of houses and into the houses and yards of the other kids in our neighborhood. I was amazed that a thing of such obvious beauty could grow in what I considered an average, ordinary, mundane yard. I asked my mom all about the roses, I was so fascinated with them. She replied that the bush had been there when they moved in, some 15 years before, and that it came back to life every spring. I was hooked, my green thumb officially born that day. To see such beauty and not have anything to do with it, but to enjoy it year after year! I was in.

I started a vegetable garden the next year, in a small 'L' shaped patch at the perimeter of the yard. Tomatoes were the hit of the summer, and I moved my attention to the front yard, which would challenge the best of horticulturists. Nestled under a large oak tree, our front yard was full of 'dirt' not soil, and there is a big difference. My dad was my partner in my projects and would bring home a variety of plants for me to work with. Soon our yard, full of large rocks and patches of dirt, was dotted with flowering annuals and I was off and running.
We moved to a new home when I was in 10th grade and by then I knew much more about annuals, perennials, shade-growing plants, and the value of pruning trees in the spring and fall. Our new home had a large yard, and my Dad and I were set. He and I spent hours, and I do mean hours, after school, and on the weekends pruning trees, planting borders, and mowing a very large lawn. To this day, I think of the trees he and I planted, and one in particular in the front of the house that years later my mom would use to hang the Easter treats for all the grandchildren for our annual Easter Egg Hunt. Amazing memories.

Many years later, gardening is still my passion. It still amazes me that if I plant it, it will grow. Our home of 21 years has seen many garden transitions, and I continue to learn more and more each year. I have come to know the names of all the plants that grow, and can recognize the perennials by their leaves as they emerge triumphant each year, bringing hope for renewal. I know when my irises will bloom, according to color, and which irises are my own, which swapped with two neighbors...both of them now deceased. When Gail's yellow iris blooms, I think of her, and when Mary "Grandmom" Thomas's purple irises display their vibrant color all over our garden, I know she is smiling down at me.

My vegetable and herb garden is by far my peice de resistance. It is a 20' x 60' area behind our garage full of vegetables, herbs, berries (our blueberry bush yields about 10 quarts of blueberries every year!) and this year a big pumpkin patch. Every year I do things a little bit different, for fun, and for soil preservation. I love going to the garden before dinner to pick fresh lettuce, fresh herbs, and check for tomatoes. I love when the kids come to help me, and I love working there on my own. Behind the garden I see the neighbor's horses, the new chicks in our chicken coop (yes, we are raising free range chickens! Don't tell our teenagers, they think we're hillbillies!) and I am in heaven. Forgotten are the bills, the wash, the paperwork. For a while, I concentrate on where the lettuce will do best and how many marigolds I will need to border the tomato beds to protect the plants from nasty bugs. Life is good.
Sophie helped me again this year, and she romped through the straw I use for mulch, and dug holes for me in various places, told me she was too tired to put the plants in, but she could dig the holes. She discovered my Nasturtium seeds (fabulous plant if you never planted these...edible leaves and flowers make an awesome addtion to a summer salad!) I let her plant these hardy seeds wherever she wanted, as this plant is another great natural bug-repellent.
Some pictures of this year's garden, some from our harvest last year. Zizi, our Northstar puppy, loving the great outdoors, and she had a great time running through the straw. All that dirt gave her her first official bath, so you see her wrapped up snug and warm in a towel, and then sound asleep next to our 15 year-old Lab, Belle.
Sophie, as you can see, is fully reovered and doing well. We were thrilled when her teacher and teacher's aide came to visit last week!
Have a great day, everyone.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Today is my 19th official Mother's Day. Funny, the number 19 doesn't seem large enough, because I have had so many "Mother's Days" the day I found out I was pregnant:after 5 years of infertility, five surgeries, applying for adoption, waiting for our child, many tears of sadness...or the day Mick was born, after 40 hours of labor...getting beta strep, struggling to make it, he and I, and (we almost didn't), and thanks to Matt, our 'coach' who talked me through the last hours of labor when my hearing was gone, and I could only hear his voice, and God, who so richly blessed us and helped us through that ordeal... or the days our daughters were born, and I looked into their eyes and cried with tears of joy that I was so privileged to hold another miracle, a gift from God...or the day when Meghan got sick, and the months and years that followed with the many challenges she faced, and overcame, one by one, when I knew what it truly meant to be a mother, to help my child who was seriously ill... or the day our Shannon, at 3 months, was sedated and slid into the MRI tube and we waited to find out if she had something serious wrong , and prayed that God would make it not so...and He did...or the day that Sarah had scoliosis surgery, and we waited 8 hours as she underwent spinal fusion, and we prayed, and she recovered...when we saw Sophie for the first time, after waiting too long for her and bearing with paperwork glitches and files lost...and she looked up and me five minutes after we met her, and signed "mother'...

Being a mother is so much more than we can begin to catalog, or list, or recite. Being a mother is truly a gift, whether we bore our children under our hearts or in them. God intended that gift to be a precious one. Like gold in the fire, he intended that we would not just be handed that gift and finished, but that we would be blessed with our children, and then tried, like gold in the fire, with sadness and hardships, difficulties and illnesses, so that we would never lose sight of the beauty of the creations He chose to call us 'Mom". If it was easy, anyone could do it, but He chose us to do it.

On this Mother's Day, I am thankful for the precious gifts that God has given me. After five years of praying for 'a child', God has given me six! (Remember, God cannot be outdone in His generosity!!!) I am thankful for my husband Matt, who has shared my life for almost 25 years of marriage, who is the most awesome Dad in the world, who helps me to be the best Mom I can be, and whom I love with all my heart. And I am thankful for my kids, who are the light of my life, and who are growing up to be awesome people. And I am grateful, beyond measure, to God, who has tried us many times in fires of illness and obstacles, but who has never left my side, and who strengthens my resolve to fight the good fight by giving me the joy of my family each and every day.

For all my friends who are mothers, I wish you a happy day, lots of TLC, and if you are lucky, a quiet moment to thank God for the blessings who wake you up in the middle of the night, need to be fed more times than you think is possible, drink countless gallons of milk and consume more food than developing countries:and who love you in a way that takes your breath away.

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cochlear Implant update..."Hurt finished"

Well, she made it through! I had great plans of posting last night, even had my camera, got a laptop from the hospital (avaialble to the kids courtesy of Astra Zeneca) but things did not go as planned to give me any extra time!
Here's the update: We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 in the pouring rain. It rained absolute buckets all the way down I-95. The team got ready pretty quickly, and they were great, as usual. Everyone was fascinated with Sophie and interested in her story. Before she went in, one of her surgeons drew a Sponge Bob face on her right wrist to prevent any confusions (thank you very much for that!) She was thrilled with this little drawing! They let me walk back with her, complete with scrubs (sorry, no pictures of that, but it was quite a sight!) The doctor kidded around with me when we walked into the OR and asked if I was going to assist them. I told him they didn't need my kind of assistance, as I would be flat on the floor. I could handle it when I worked at the vet's office, but not for people.
By then, Sophie already had had her 'happy juice' (versed) so she was calm and cool. She slid right over to the OR table from her gurney, and they let me sign to her what they were doing, I told her Matt and I would wait for her until she woke up, that we loved her, etc. Within a few minutes she was out, and I wished the team luck, and told them to take good care of her. Boy, I'm glad I didn't go into medicine! But I'm glad so many wonderful people did!

The surgery took a little more than three hours, and during the wait you are updated regularly by Meg, who is a nurse who scrubs, goes into the OR and finds out what is going on with your child during the surgery, then comes out to give a report. She has an amazing knowledge, and a wonderful personality. She is the same nurse who updated us during Sarah's 8 hour scoliosis surgery 4 years ago. What a blessing this is, giving parents real-time info, reassuring us and informing us, at the same time.
Before we knew it, they came out and told us she was finished, and they were calling audiology to test the implant. The surgeons (ENT and Cochlear implant specialist) called us in to a room to let us know how she did. They were both as laid back as good be, were thrilled with how she did, and explained where we go from here. As a part of the surgery, they looked at her left ear, which was the worse ear to begin with. It does not look good at all, and there is virtually no ear drum left. Looks like at some time in the future (hopefully not too soon) she will need reconstructive surgery to close off that ear drum. The good news is that if the cochlear implant works for her right ear, they might be able to implant her left ear.

Sophie woke up well from the surgery, relatively speaking. I was very happy we were staying the night. She was able to tolerate liquids, and was VERY hungry! Once she started to get a clearer head, she watched TV, wanted to inspect her bandage (thanks again to her teacher Kate who prepared her for the bandage and the whole surgery). She would have been totalled freaked about about the bandage if she did not see a picture of her beloved Kate with the same bandage on.
Oh, the bandage! You might notice from the pictures that Sophie's bandage is different sizes. Well, let's just say what she came out of surgery wearing is not what she tried very hard to rip off. The nurses reinforced it many times, until it was almost a turban on her head. Finally, by about 4 am, she had it up so high on her head, it was not even covering her incision, and the nurse took it off the rest of the way. When she could feel the incision, she was thrilled, because it felt like the incision she saw that Kate had! Only Sophie would want the EXACT same incision!

We were very happy for a visit from Bonnie, Sam and Keira. Bonnie and her husband Dave live near DuPont and they adopted Keira the summer before we adopted Sophie. Bonnie and I, along with about six other families, have kept in touch over the last year on a Yahoo Group. We had dinner once before at their house when Sophie and I went in for one of her tube surgeries. Sophie was thrilled to see the kids, and we had a nice visit, complete with a fabulous story Sam shared with us, for Sophie! It was so cute!

Sophie was not very steady on her feet, so we toured the hospital in a wheelchair, and she and I went down to the cafeteria for breakfast. Sophie is not too great when she is cooped up for too long, and I often think about her months at Swallows Nest, during the winter, when many of the kids were sick. I can't imagine how Pam and Clay did it, with no effective communication. Another tribute to these two wonderful people. We owe them so much, and we figure they are going straight to heaven for their wonderful work at the Swallows Nest Children's' Home.

This morning the nurses wanted to give Sophie her pain meds and when I asked her if her ear hurt, she said "no", "Hurt finished". Way to go, Sophie Wu!

Next step is activation on May 27Th. For now, she needs to heal at the site, and then wait. We are very excited about the activation. After that, she has therapy twice a week to teach her what she is hearing. Always an adventure. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and good wishes. I know there were many angels hanging out in that OR yesterday.

Off to sleep, or just to chill. Hoping for a better night's sleep! We'll see what happens.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Introducing Zizi

Well, here she is! This morning we drove up to North Jersey and picked up Zizi, our newest 'passenger' (boy this train is sure getting full!). We are raising Zizi for a family who lives nearby and whose son Leo has autism. Leo's family chose the name 'Zizi' because it means 'free' and 'dedicated to God'. Sounds like the right name for the right puppy.

Zizi is absolutely adorable. She is nine weeks old and is easy-going, spirited, and sweet as can be. She loves the other dogs, and of course, they are all used to puppies coming and going, so they are fine with her as well. Right now she is asleep in her crate. Shannon is petting her with one hand, and Novac (our first Seeing Eye puppy) with her other hand.

Sophie loves Zizi and has been pretty good with her, considering how tough it is getting used to a new puppy in the house. She is learning the rules (no picking her up, careful when she is walking near her) and tries really hard to say her name.

We will be teaching Zizi signs as a part of her training both to help ZiZi and to help Leo when he is interacting with her.

Tomorrow we are heading down to the Cathedral in Philly for a special Mass to celebrate our 25th Anniversary!!! Our Anniversary is in June, but this is a city/county-wide Mass to celebrate 25 and 50 anniversaries. Hard to believe we are here..seems like yesterday we were married. We have had many challenges in our life together, too many to list her! But we have come through with so many blessings, and we are so grateful to have each other, and to be truly happier and more in love with each other today than we were 25 years ago.

On Monday morning we need to be at DuPont at 6:30 am. UGH! Sophie's surgery will be somewhere around 8 am. Please keep her in your prayers. I will post from the hospital.