Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011 Parts 2 and 3

Christmas in Stillwater with Grandma Barb and Grandpa Ken, then in Eau Claire with Uncle Paul and Grandma's relatives:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011 Part One

Christmas in Burnsville with Grandma Marilyn, Grandpa Ben, and Aunt Stephanie:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Selling house - empty office

This is not how Baba's home office is supposed to look - much too barren. We put the house up for sale at the beginning of November & have had to keep it immaculate for surprise tours.  About half our stuff is in boxes & bins over at Grandma & Grandpa's house...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Selling house - empty living space

We've repainted the living room, back porch, and my office downstairs. It's very well staged, and a lot of our stuff has already been moved out. Doesn't really feel like we live here anymore ... hoping a buyer comes along soon (ah but then we need to FIND a new place closer to Yinghua...)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Little Pony, for real

Ann and I needed some time to do heavy-duty cleaning and re-arranging here at the house today, so Grandpa Ken and Grandma Barb graciously picked Wynn up mid-morning. She had quite an adventure today - they went on a hayride, picked pumpkins and painted them, and Wynn got to ride a horse!

Apparently Wynn is something of a 'natural' in the saddle; she had excellent position and full control of the horse (Miss Chevious) from the get-go. Barb & Ken's friend who owns the horse said that Wynn was handling the reins properly all by herself - not needing any intervention - and with just a couple more hours' practice could be riding around solo. 

Tonight, Wynn's reading the Fleet Farm toy catalog and making the clicking noises you use in the saddle...

Our little girl is all business - wearing her Pony shirt of course. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie seem to approve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

She's so much like us

 Ann and Wynn realize they're wearing matching outfits for school.

After we tuck her in at night, she often likes to read quietly for a little bit and listen to her music. Several times last week I found her in a similar pose, fast asleep with (literally) her head in a book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Loving Yinghua Academy!

Here she is Monday morning, at our front door in her uniform and ready to go to her new school.

Any worries we had about Wynn transitioning into Yinghua were put to bed Monday afternoon; she adores the place. This morning as I dropped her off, she was skipping all the way to the front door of the school. She has art and music classes several times per week, gym every day, an hour plus of math every day, and of course all the Mandarin she can drink in.  She's already begun showing off what she's learned; last night she wrote the characters for 1 through 6 for us, and then used wooden building blocks to make the symbols, too.

* proud Baba smile *

Friday afternoon I'll pick her up a little early and we'll go to her ear doctor for the post-surgical follow-up. She's not complained of pain at all over this past week - had some dry skin back behind the ear a couple nights ago, which Vaseline took care of. No fever, nausea, or any other complications, and she never needed the Tylenol with codeine that she was prescribed. (In fact, she only had a pain reliever Wednesday afternoon, and nothing since.)

She is one tough cookie.

I'm hoping she gets the all-clear to start swimming again Friday! I'm missing our Friday Family Swim Nights!

Monday, September 26, 2011

First Day of School, Take 2

When your first day of school is in late-September, you leave when it's dark out.
Snazzy new uniform, though...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Feeling MUCH better

The bandages were off Thursday morning and she had a wonderful time with her Grandmas Thursday and Friday. She did need more nap time these past four days, but otherwise she was active and up to her usual activities.

She's not reported any pain or nausea, and has had a normal appetite this whole time. She's taking eardrops three times a day to prevent infection, and we'll get a follow-up appointment scheduled in the next few days. She's got packing on the inside of her left eardrum which will dissolve over the next couple weeks; right now she's a little hard-of-hearing on that side because of all that stuffing. Outside, there's only a small patch behind her ear where they shaved off hair and a teensy scar; if you weren't looking directly at it you'd never see it.  We have to keep the area dry until the follow-up appointment, so we carefully wash her hair - and no Family Swim Time.  That's probably been the biggest disruption this weekend.

Ann and Wynn toured Yinghua Academy Friday afternoon and she got to meet her teacher.  The first day at her new school is tomorrow! Hooray!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Second Ear Surgery

 Here's where they're going to be working...
 Mmm...a bomb pop is just the thing after 17 hours with nothing to eat or drink
 Can we go home, already?
I'm home but still really tired

The day started far too early; check-in was at 6:15, and neither Ann nor I had gotten adequate sleep last night. The staff at the Ritchie Surgical Center was well-prepared, however, and the check-in process was smooth. We were never sitting for more than five minutes between seeing nurses, specialists, or the surgeon.

The surgery, while taking about 2-1/2 hours, went even better than expected. As planned, her surgeon took a tiny, thin layer of muscle tissue from just behind her ear and used it to patch the tear in her eardrum. The drum tissue itself had some areas where it had calcified, but there was more healthy tissue there than originally thought, so the regeneration process will be faster and stronger. The tiny bones in the inner ear that transmit sound from the eardrum to the auditory nerve were all in perfect working order. Some bony deposits in the inner ear were removed, which should improve aeration and eliminate the "in a tunnel" sound that Wynn has probably been registering on her left side.

No tube was put in on the left; we want the drum to heal up first and then see if anything else is even needed. As you can see from the photos, she has quite a bit of dressing on her left side, but that will be coming off later tomorrow. There is also packing inside her head which will dissolve over the next couple weeks.

We got home about 2:00 - Wynn fell asleep in the car on the way home and had a nice nap on the couch, too. She's been logy but still cheerful and able to tell us if she needs anything. A Matchbox race car from the hospital and a Fashion Rarity My Little Pony from Grandma Marilyn have kept her occupied, and she's had a good appetite, too, already eating mashed potatoes, half a banana, some pancakes, and apple juice. And unlike last time, no problems with nausea.

We have pain meds ready if she needs them, but since we got home she's had no complaints, and her temperature has been running as expected; no fever. She'll need eardrops for a week to prevent infection (and she really doesn't like eardrops), but outside of that the only prescription is good food, good rest, fresh air, and taking it easy for several days.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kindergarten Switch!

Here's what the building looks like without snow.

From back in January - Wynn had a great time.
This is what we in the education business call a "text-rich environment". No worries about how much teachers can put up on the walls here...

A sudden change of fortune Friday night - we got a call from Yinghua Academy, the Mandarin immersion school from the Minneapolis district asking if we were still interested in having Wynn attend!

As you recall back in January 2011, we toured this building and put Wynn in the enrollment lottery for getting into one of the two Kindergarten classes they had available. In February we found out her number was too high, and so we began the enrollment process for our local White Bear Lake elementary. Well, it turns out that Yinghua was able to get more money and more native-Mandarin teachers, so they now offer four Kindergarten classes.

Still, it took two kids to leave the school before Wynn's number finally came up to the top of the list.

Ann and I had to wrestle hard with the decision Friday night and Saturday morning - Wynn just left the preschool she'd attended for four years and all her friends from there; she's been so enthusiastic about her teacher and being in a big building these past two weeks; and the building where she's at does get good test scores and has a strong community support base. Plus, it's literally five minutes' drive from our house.

Yinghua has a solid math and language program, also very strong test scores. And she would learn Mandarin now - White Bear doesn't even touch it partially until middle-school. Yes, the commute would be longer for both me and Ann - her especially; the school's about 10-15 minutes on the far side of my office. Certainly the parent profile of this new school is different - they've seen a huge number of adopted kids. We'll be among fellow travelers at parent meetings.

We don't have any reservations about Wynn's resilience or her ability to thrive in a new environment - but it is going to be hard on her this particular week, with her second ear surgery on Wednesday (more on that later). She was so gung-ho on making new friends here in White Bear, and now she's going to have to say goodbye already.

But we drove her past the new school Saturday afternoon, and will be taking her there again Tuesday evening for "curriculum night."  Ann is going to try to arrange a walk-through at the school with Wynn Friday afternoon to meet the teachers & staff. Wynn's first day will be next Monday, the 26th.

With our acceptance, we've already fired off a list of questions to the administrator on how to get Wynn up and running, figure out her speech-therapy schedule, set up extended-day hours, and such. We've got to pick up fresh supplies again, and this school has uniforms that we have to scramble to find in her size. Can't say I'm looking forward to all the paperwork, either, both on the admission side for Minneapolis and the transfer-out side for White Bear.

Still, a new door has opened on Wynn's future. It's what we wanted for her in the first place. And when something as pleasantly unexpected like this happens - like how we were matched with Wynn in the very beginning - we have to jump through that door.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don't Hold Me Back

Our little rock star gave us an impromptu performance the other night ... I sure hope her kindergarten teacher is ready for this kind of creative energy!

First Day of Kindergarten!

She has been pumped up for this day since about the middle of last week; literally skipping around the block last night as we took Shadow for his walk!

No anxieties at drop-off, great report from her teacher, pickup was easy as pie. She said, "Kindergarten rocks!"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eardrum update, August 11

Wynn had her follow-up appointment Tuesday, and essentially we know now what we believed a week ago. Wynn will need reconstructive surgery on her left eardrum; they'll use a thin snip of muscle tissue to rebuild her eardrum & serve as a medium for regeneration. The procedure will take 3+ hours but she'll get to go home after surgery.
They tested her hearing again, and the audiologist found that on her right side, where the tube insertion was successful, the excess fluid has drained nicely and Wynn's hearing is on par or a little better than other kids her age. (Huge sigh of relief.)
On her left side, it seems the fluid has drained too, and she is actually picking up some sound; this is good news for the surgery as it means the little bones of the middle ear are still hooked up to the eardrum, and that part of the eardrum is at least trying to do its job.
The surgery is scheduled for September 21, which gives Wynn a chance at settling into her new Kindergarten routine and Ann a chance to settle into routine at her new school position, too.
Meanwhile -- Wynn's been taking swimming lessons, and tonight was the final lesson in her first course. The kids in the course got to ride in a foam canoe, apparently! And our Wynn more than passed her test - she floated on her back without needing a foam support; while on her back she was able to swim and change direction; and then she flipped over and swam for about 15 feet to the other side of the pool! Her teachers are very impressed at what she's learned in just the past 4 weeks.

While she is definitely ready to move on to the next level, the schedule for next month's course runs right into the ear surgery, so she'll have to pick it up in October. However, Ann and I take her to the YMCA on Friday night and Sunday morning for family swim time, so she'll still get to practice her skills.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eardrum update

We got the news we were pretty much expecting to hear at today's eardrum follow-up visit. Her right eardrum is healing up nicely and she's able to hear a much more complete range of sounds on that side. However, she's effectively deaf on the left side.

The left eardrum has a substantial tear which has been there for years. The examining doctor today was able to see right through it into the inner ear (using his normal scope.) The drum membrane is scarred and brittle, so it's not doing its job of vibrating when sound hits it and sending those vibrations into the little bones of the inner ear which are wired up to the brain. No idea what the cause of the tear was; obviously it wasn't there when she had tubes put in back in September 2007. Sometimes there can be a weak spot in the eardrum tissue and once a hole develops it can tear just like in a piece of fabric.

Surgical repair is the plan. There are two options - but we probably won't know which one we have to use until Wynn is on the operating table and the surgical team is attempting the repair:

1. "Patching" the tear using a small amount of tissue they would harvest from Wynn's jaw muscle. This would be a very thin layer of course, and it would serve as a base for her eardrum tissue to grow into. This surgery would take about an hour and recovery time would be a week or so.

2. A "lateral graft" - which is more like a total rebuild if they find there isn't enough viable eardrum tissue remaining to make the "patch" work. More muscle tissue would be needed, and the ear would need to be packed up for about 3 weeks to heal. This procedure would have her in surgery for 2 hours or more.

To make sure there aren't any other surprises hiding in her inner ear, after the exam we were sent downstairs to the Children's Hospital radiology department for a quick CT scan of Wynn's head. The rad tech was great, showing Wynn all the parts of the CT scanner, how the platform raised and moved through the machine, and what she'd need to do. (She loves to see people doing science and having scientific tools explained to her.) I put on a lead suit and stood next to my daughter as she got strapped in and the machine started its work.

Wynn was very, very good at keeping still, and the whole time she had to be strapped in was less than five minutes. No complaints, and the tech said she got good images.

We have a CD with the data, and a follow-up visit with the ear doctor next Tuesday to review it, determine the next steps, and probably get the repair surgery scheduled.

The start of the school year is coming up fast for Wynn and Ann - of course we'd like to get through this development as soon as we can to make kindergarten as enjoyable as possible.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Swim, Wynn, Swim!

Wynn has been swimming four days a week lately - two nights of lessons and two family splash times. She's loving it, and we're loving watching her have fun learning something new.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Update - Eardrum Repair

We have an appointment this Thursday, Aug. 4 to follow up on the puncture & scar tissue in Wynn's left ear. Hoping we'll have a plan of action after that meeting.

Meanwhile, she seems to be healing up just fine on the right side. She's not cranking up the volume on the TV anymore & is able to hear me whispering to her.

She's wearing wax earplugs for swimming and baths (and she's really learning a lot in the pool!) Friday nights & Sunday mornings are Family Fun Super Splash Time :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not According to Plan

Wynn was a great patient this morning: genial to the nursing staff, uncomplaining for having gotten up early and skipping breakfast, and not afraid in the least (she had been asking questions of us for the past week, and I guess we answered everything she wanted to know.)

We arrived at Gillette Hospital at 6:15, by 6:45 we were in pre-op, and by 7:30 I was suited up in white Tyvek and holding Wynn's hand as she drifted off to unconsciousness.

We'd barely sipped our coffee and tea when our pager went off and the operating-room nurse was telling us that the procedure was done and Wynn was moving to the recovery room.

The surgeon, Wynn's ENT specialist, came out to tell us the procedure did not go as planned. While he was able to insert a tube in her right eardrum, on her left side he said there was tissue scarring and an open hole. She will need some reconstructive work done there, but this was not the right time for that procedure.

In a couple weeks we will take her back to the ENT clinic for an additional exam and surgical consultation where the next steps will be determined.

Meanwhile we are hoping the tube on her right side will relieve the fluid imbalance there and improve her low-frequency hearing. Wynn's speech pathologist suspects we will see another significant improvement in her speaking clarity when she is able to accurately hear all she is saying. (If this is the case, it may be that continued speech therapy will prevent having to operate again on the back of her palate this winter.)

Everything is dependent; her hearing affects her speech, but the problem with her hearing comes from the same root cause as her speech issues; that is, her palate muscles aren't strong enough to do all the things they need to do. We do what we can to help her get stronger, but we're anxious that exercise alone won't get her to where she needs to be.

We were back in the pre-op room with Wynn shortly after 8:00, where she was trying to eat a blue popsicle but not having much success keeping it down. She had a blank look on her face, locked on the TV where Dora the Explorer was playing. The nurses checked her over and gathered her post-surgical documents, and by 9:00 we were on the road for home.

She barfed twice in the car. Thankfully Ann was sitting next to her, with a little pan to catch the bright blue goop in.

Wynn was parked on the couch out on the porch for the rest of the morning, watching some TV, napping for a bit, working on a paint-by-number set, and playing with My Little Ponies. Her tummy was still queasy for a few hours, but at 12:45 she was able to eat some soup, and she's working on a slushy-pop right now.

We'll keep watching her through the afternoon - will she crash or will she bounce off the walls? Will she be going to preschool tomorrow morning?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Case You Haven't Heard

We've been noticing that Wynn says, "What?" an awful lot and sometimes needs us to say her name two or three times before she turns around and acknowledges us.

Then we had a storm.

Wynn, Shadow, and I were home the other day when a thunderstorm rumbled through. Shadow was shuffling around, spooked by the noise, so I explained to Wynn that he was afraid of the thunder.

"What thunder?" she asked.


This morning we took Wynn to the ENT/audiologist's office, and (after removing a TON of wax from her ears with a tiny vacuum) they confirmed that she has significant hearing loss in both ears. The good news is that it has nothing to do with the nerve; it's all about fluid building up behind her eardrum, which is fairly common among kids with cleft palate.

She'll be going in for surgery in two weeks - a quick insertion of tubes in both ears. She won't have to stay in the hospital overnight, but she will probably spend the rest of her summer swimming lessons with earplugs in.

She is not excited about having surgery and is already arguing her case by pointing out how she can already hear better without the wax and by telling us that she doesn't want super hearing because it might make things too loud in her ears.

We're just glad this is a relatively simple fix and that we'll be able to get it taken care of before she starts school in the fall.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wynn's in print!

Teachers, be watching for the TREND catalog to arrive in your mailbox around the 4th of July...

Wynn's on the inside front cover...

And the page 4-5 spread!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Copenhagen Trip - Conclusion

This was an amazingly great vacation, and we wouldn't hesitate to come to Copenhagen again. Denmark is such a friendly place, and so easy to get around in. There's plenty in the city we didn't see, and outside of town there's of course Sweden as well as other museums and castles on the Danish side.

We came out really well on budget, too, spending only about 60% of the cash we'd expected to use. Having that kitchenette in the hotel room was a real money-saver - and we still got to experience fresh, healthy Danish food. Ann appreciated the ability to just relax - read - and not have to rush anywhere. Wynn loves spending every hour with us. And I light up exploring a new culture and figuring out how to get around.
Ann finally got the time and space to read a few novels just for enjoyment, instead of for school

Monday morning we set out at 7 am for the train station, catching the 7:11 to Copenhagen's airport to allow plenty of time for our 10:15 to Amsterdam. (I like lots of time in airports...) And it was good that we arrived early, because when we went to the KLM/Air France/Delta counter to check in and drop off our luggage, the agent couldn't find our reservation.

Turns out Delta had cancelled the Amsterdam-Minneapolis flight we were supposed to be on, and rebooked us on another flight instead. (They emailed us, but in the middle of the night Copenhagen time, so we didn't have a clue...)

Instead of being put on a Delta flight directly from Copenhagen to Atlanta or New York, instead we were routed on a British Airways flight to London's Heathrow Airport, to connect to Delta's London-Minneapolis nonstop. It would add another 2 hours to our travel time, and we didn't have seat assignments on the Delta flight, but our little family is a band of explorers, after all, and what choice did we have?
It gave us an extra half-hour in Copenhagen's airport, which may well be the nicest airport on the planet. Wood floors, friendly security agents (great with kids), a full-on shopping mall airside, including an H&M, lots of places to eat, plenty of windows and sunlight and green plants. And enough seating for everyone to be comfortable.
Plus, a teensy Little Mermaid on the international wing for little girls to pose next to...
None of us had ever been on British Airways or through Heathrow before, so this was going to be interesting
Spare time to goof off at Copenhagen

Arrival at London was a little early, but the way Heathrow is set up - with five different terminals spread around the outside of the property instead of next to each other - required a long shuttle bus ride from BA at Terminal 5 to Delta at Terminal 4. (But we got to see all sorts of airplanes really close up, so I'm not complaining about that.)

Where we will complain is about the decidedly third-world setup for transfer passengers at Terminal 4, and how Delta and its partner airlines manage their London operation. We waited in line in the bowels of the building for a half-hour, bouncing from unmarked line to unmarked line and among three staff before obtaining boarding documents - but still not seat assignments.

We hoofed it up to the gate level to get to the gate for seat assignments (our worry being that we were going to be split up with neither of us next to Wynn) - to find no agents at the gate. I stayed at the gate area with Wynn while Ann ran back to a Starbucks for drinks and a sandwich - by the time she returned a few agents and another hundred passengers had shown up, all wanting to ask questions. (No monitors or self-service terminals for passengers to figure things out on their own - and the computers the agents were using were laptops, with tractor-feed paper printouts to try to determine last-minute seat assignments.)
These weren't Delta staff, by the way, rather a mix of Alitalia and contract agents, whose fist language was not English. The Olympics are in 14 months, are these people going to be ready?

We did end up sitting near each other - Ann and Wynn together, with me in the next seat across the left-hand aisle. Wynn was awake most of the way, only sleeping for the last two hours of the flight. We landed at Minneapolis about 5:20 - and waited another 15 minutes for the jetway to be repaired so we could get off. At least we didn't have to wait for our luggage!
Wynn likes having the personal touchscreen system - she hung out with Elmo most of the way over...

We finally got home about 7 pm last night (or about 2 am Copenhagen time) - I was in bed and passed out by 8:30 (and down for the count as well); Wynn and Ann only got a couple hours' sleep and have been up and down all day today.

Even though the last bit was messed up, we still got home safe and sound with all our stuff, and having had a marvelous adventure. Tomorrow, back to everyday life.