Kirsten, Chris, Oliver, Soren, Kiera and Matteo

Kirsten, Chris, Oliver, Soren, Kiera and Matteo

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Another Step Closer to Paid Parental Leave

My union has been working with the governor the past couple of months on the issue of paid parental leave, but I have not been nearly as involved as I would have liked because, of well, children. My theory is that parenting issues never gain traction in our country because the very people you need out there advocating for what they need - parents - are too busy trying to raise their children.  So it was with delight and relief that, while busy out on leave with one of my children, I opened the newspaper to see that paid parental leave is gaining traction in Minnesota, at least for state employees. 

Mark Dayton proposes paid parental leave for all state employees

Whoever out there is advocating on behalf of us tired parents and parents-to-be, thank you.  Reading this article gave me hope for the first time that paid parental leave might become a reality in Minnesota. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Post-Surgery Recovery

Matteo's post-surgery recovery is going a lot better than this point last year.  Of course having this extra year together has helped, both in attachment and Matteo being a year older and able to understand that much more.  But I give a lot of credit to Matteo himself.  This kid is such a trooper!

Matteo was seemingly back to his usual self when I arrived back at the hospital the morning after his surgery.  He was sitting in bed watching a movie and although Chris hadn't been able to get him to eat more than a few small bites of ice cream, he had been drinking plenty and his pain seemed under control.  Chris went to work and Matteo and I hung out the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.  We received visits from various health care providers, played a matching game, put stickers in the sticker book Grandma had brought him and then cruised through the hospital in a wagon.  It was a lazy and quiet day at the hospital for us.

The only time Matteo appeared in pain is when I cajoled him into eating a few bites of his lunch.  Granted, he was eating pureed chicken mixed with gravy, so that there might have been the root of his discomfort, but I knew the nurses weren't going to discharge him if he didn't get some "solid" food into his stomach.  I otherwise wasn't concerned by what he was or wasn't eating because he had practically chugged two bottles of PediaSure and Carnation Instant Breakfast in one sitting and was willingly drinking plenty of water. He had already defied the surgeon's prediction that he was going to barely drink anything for five days following the surgery due to his throat, so I considered Matteo to be ahead of the game.

Into his second full day of recovery, Matteo continued to only want to drink Carnation Instant Breakfast, but I made it with whole milk and added some of the protein powder Marcel had left behind in an attempt to get as many calories and as much protein into his body to fill his tummy and heal his mouth. I got him to eat a fruit puree pouch and then a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dinner, but if he otherwise just wants to drink Carnation Instant Breakfast for the next two weeks, I'm fine with that if it means we get him through the liquid diet.

Overall, I can't believe how much better this surgery has been compared with last year's surgery and compared with what I had prepared myself for.  I brought Matteo into work this afternoon to visit my co-workers, some of his biggest fans, and no one could believe what a good mood he was in.  He was hamming it up for everyone, playing peekaboo from behind the cubicle partitions and basically acting like a typical three-year-old kid who had NOT just had surgery 48 hours prior.

As thankful as I am for his easy recovery, we're definitely not out of the woods.  I'm still very nervous that his palate could suddenly fall apart.  A small opening the size of a pencil eraser or smaller wouldn't be concerning and "shouldn't" affect his speech, but anything bigger than that is something they want to keep trying to repair.  My question was how.  They could do another fistula repair, which would be possibly an out-patient procedure, but would require the same liquid diet during recovery, or they could do a procedure where they take skin from the inside of his cheek and "fill in" the hole.  I know I shouldn't be focused on the options for another repair since it hasn't come to that yet, but it does make me feel a little better knowing that there are options.

Thankfully the p-flap procedure, which extended his palate and will do the most to improve his speech, has a high success rate and the doctor isn't worried about that coming apart.  There is the possibility that the surgeon will need to "tweak" the p-flap at some point in the next year if the desired speech results aren't achieved, but that's at least an out-patient procedure and less painful of a recovery.

In addition to Matteo's physical recovery, a lot of speech therapy stands ahead of him as he learns to retrain his muscles to make all the sounds that have been impossible for him until now.  Even though Matteo had not made much progress in speech therapy prior to his most recent surgery, I took comfort in hearing his speech therapist tell me that all the hours of therapy was time well spent because he was learning proper placement of sounds, even if he couldn't actually master those sounds. He has the practice in place so that once the surgery is completed, he has the potential to make more rapid progress than if he had done no speech therapy prior to his surgery. 

While hearing all this from Matteo's speech therapist was promising, a lot of unknowns still remain about how much progress he will actually make and in what time period.  My biggest concern is that Matteo's speech may be affected by more than just his cleft palate.  My gut has been telling me lately that there's maybe more going on and Matteo's speech therapist admitted the same hunch to me.  She had never mentioned anything until now because a speech disorder is too difficult to properly diagnose in a child who doesn't have much discernible speech. It's an observation she had tucked away and will wait to look into more a few months post-surgery. 

Chris does not believe anything beyond a cleft palate is affecting Matteo's speech and predicts that by his fourth birthday we'll have trouble keeping him quiet.  Let's hope he's right about that!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


I saw this heart-warming video called Chopsticks posted on one of my China adoption Facebook groups.  Watching the video reminded me of how chopsticks connect people to the Chinese culture and how much I hope my kids learn to use them.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fistula Repair and P-Fap Surgery

Matteo had his second cleft palate surgery today. It was a "twofer" surgery with fistula repair (to repair the hole in the roof of his mouth that was created when his palate repair dehissed) and a pharyngoplasty, (also called a "P-flap" surgery) which will lengthen his soft palate and, fingers crossed, improve his speech.

Matteo has heard us talk about the surgery a lot, but we'd never actually sat him down and explained what was going to happen and I realized I owed it to him, even if he's barely three and a half years old, to do that.  Given his lack of a sense of time, I chose last night, the night before surgery.  I explained that when he woke up he wouldn't be allowed to eat or drink anything and that right after getting dressed, we would be going to the hospital for a surgery to fix his mouth.  He seemed sad and when I asked him if that made him scared, he shook his head yes.   

His mood changed at the hospital and he was suddenly excited to push the buttons on the elevator and show me where to go.  He goes to the hospital for speech and other appointments, and it's clear he's become quite familiar with the place.

That his mom is late for everything actually ended up working in his favor.  Last year Matteo had an afternoon surgery, which started late, and it was tortuous trying to keep a hungry, thirsty and cranky two-year-old distracted.  He had what I thought was a 9:00 a.m. surgery, which meant we were supposed to be there at 7:30 a.m.  Well, the surgery was at 8:30 a.m., so we should have been there at 7:00 a.m., but well, I was shooting for 7:30 a.m., and of course we were late.  When we showed up at 7:45 a.m., the staff was waiting for us, checked us in quickly and whisked us back to a pre-op room.  One after another, nurses, the surgeon, the pharmacist, a nurse anesthetist and the anesthesiologist stopped by the room to check in. At exactly 8:30 a.m. a trio of nurses wheeled him back to the OR, he calmly let them put his mask on, he quickly fell asleep, I gave him one last kiss, and the surgery I'd grown so anxious about in the preceding weeks was finally underway.   
The surgery took about an hour and Matteo ended up spending longer in recovery than he did in surgery thanks to needing an extra-large dose of Morphine, which caused him to take an extra-long nap. His surgeon met with me while we waited for Matteo to wake up and he reported that both procedures had been completed without complications. Despite the uncomplicated surgery, he reiterated how painful the next 5-7 days could be for Matteo since a p-flap surgery involves taking skin from the back of the throat to use to lengthen the palate.  He also reminded me how fragile his palate is and why a strict liquid diet is going to be crucial to his recovery.  The failure rate is still relatively high, which makes me nervous.

We spent the afternoon settled in Matteo's hospital room, where he went in and out of sleep.  When he was awake, we tried to get him to drink and eat something, but that was a tough sell because swallowing clearly caused him a lot of pain.  My mother-in-law had come to keep me company, so we hung out and did our best to help Matteo stay comfortable.
I know the therapy dogs are there for the kids, but with Matteo sleeping off the anesthesia, I got to spend some time with Freddie, a six-year-old Golden Retriever. 
Chris and Celina came over after dinner with the kids, who seemed to have forgotten why Matteo was in the hospital and fixated on what they thought was a sweet set-up - all the juice, pudding, ice cream and DVD's Matteo could ever want.  Not even Matteo throwing up dried blood (and what looked like a lot of it!) scared them away.

Chris volunteered to do the night shift, which I'm so thankful for since I find sleeping overnight in hospitals so incredibly lonely.  I'll be back in the morning to relieve him.  Hopefully Matteo's stomach has settled by then and he is finally able to eat something.  He won't be discharged until he's eating and the nurses feel like his pain management is under control. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chinese New Year and the Year of Monkey

恭喜发财! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Welcome the year of the Monkey!!

Because we had arrived home last year just days before the start of Chinese New Year, we sadly did nothing in recognition of the holiday.  We didn't want to miss the opportunity for a second year in a row, especially because the biggest holiday of the year for the Chinese also coincided with the one-year anniversary of being together as a family of six.  We had a lot to celebrate!

The Chinese New Year starts on Monday, February 8, so I wanted to celebrate on New Year's Eve, but that happened to be the Super Bowl, so our party got pushed to the Eve of New Year's Eve, or Saturday.  Such things sometimes happen when you're trying to balance two cultures. 

Before dinner started, my mother-in-law taught everyone about the "year of the monkey."  People born in this year are supposedly "witty and intelligent with magnetic personalities, but also very naughty. Monkeys are masters of practical jokes, because they like playing most of the time."  She then went around the table and told each person what his or her zodiac sign was and what they mean.  Lively discussions ensued about who most resembled the supposed attributes of their zodiac sign. 

Year of the Monkey - Do's and Don'ts

Such as it is in many cultures when it comes to holidays, food is a big component of Chinese New Year. I love to cook and am determined to learn how to cook a few key Chinese dishes, but Chris convinced me that cooking dishes I'm not familiar with for 14 people would not be in my best interest.  A friend had given me a recommendation for a Chinese restaurant run by a woman from Shanghai, so I reluctantly gave in and ordered food.  I set the table with dinner plates, bowls of soy sauce, chopsticks and the tea sets we had bought last year in China and then Chris showed up with steaming hot containers of noodles, meat and vegetable dishes and of of course dumplings, a symbol of luck and fortune for the new year.  As we dug into the delicious food, I knew I couldn't have made it any better.

Chris and I hope that we can gather our family and friends every year for Chinese New Year and that we can expand upon traditions in future years as we learn more about the birth culture of Kiera and Matteo. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One Year Ago Today We Met Kiera

One year ago, it was finally time to meet Kiera. In a crowded and humid civil affairs office in Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong, Kiera surprised us by being one of the first to arrive. Before I realized what was happening, a quiet, curious little girl stood in front of me as her nanny urged her to go to Mama. This brave girl indeed came to me and never looked back. Our hearts were finally complete.

Read about our first day with Kiera.

February 2, 2015 in Guangzhou, Guangdong
 One year later home in Minnesota

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

One Year Ago Today We Met Matteo

One year ago, Chris and I were anxiously waiting to meet Matteo for the first time. What should have been a three-hour car ride from his hometown of Fuyang to Hefei, the provincial capital of Anhui, was slowed down by a very rare snowfall. Just when we were wondering how much longer we were going to need to wait, one of the bravest little boys we've ever met walked through that door and into our lives. Our hearts haven't been the same since.

Read about our first day with Matteo.

January 26, 2015 in Hefei, Anhui

One year later home in Minnesota