“For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho
Born January 17, 2007 Guangdong Province, The People's Republic of China Forever Ours April 12, 2010
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A More Positive Update

3 days on antibiotics and Sarah is back to herself! Thank goodness! She is adjusting very, very well.

Three nights of Melatonin and she has adjusted to the time change (as have we, thank goodness). She is sleeping 12 hours at night (7:30 - 7:30 or 8 - 8). She is taking a 2 - 2 1/2 hour nap each afternoon. She loves her bed, her toy Minnie Mouse, and her Minnie Mouse sheets and comforter.

She is eating up a storm! She has a phenomenal appetite! A typical breakfast for her is: one full hard-boiled egg, once slice bacon, 1 bowl dry Cheerios, several pieces cantaloupe, 1 or 1 1/2 bananas, cup of juice (apple), and other assorted fruits. For lunch today she ate homemade dumplings Rupert had made her with noodles and then pointed to the goulash leftover from last night that the boys were having, and proceeded to eat a full bowl of goulash too, and a cup of milk. She's not big on vegetables at all, so we will be working on that. But unlike Aaron (when he joined our family), she is fine with meats (Aaron was not used to the texture/consistency of meet). She loves sausage, bacon, ground turkey, pork, ground beef, shrimp, etc.

She recognizes a lot of English words. She says, "pee pee," Mama, Minnie Mouse, banana, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, "uh oh," and "yeah!"

She is very interested in our cats, Lily and Jack. When she sees one of them (and she can tell them apart), she shouts, "Lily" or "Jack" and laughs and points at them. She's tried to go get them a few times, but they run off.

She loves musical toys. She plays her toy piano and finds ways to make music with any toy it seems. She is interested in the boys' Magna Tiles building toys. She is fascinated by their Legos, but leaves their structures and kits alone (thank goodness!). She has started to learn how to do peg puzzles and the shape sorting toys that toddlers play with. She loves putting things in bags and taking them out again. She is helpful like Donovan in putting toys back in the correct locations and keeping things neat. Here she is with her puzzle.
Sweet Sarah working on a puzzle

Where does the piggy go?

 Putting the piggy in the barn


So happy!

(Wish this one was not fuzzy!)

She loves the boys.  The boys (Donovan especially) think she is very cute. Donovan is protective of her, and will watch her and play with her for 10-15 minutes to help out. He is also very helpful when he knows I am busy with her. Aaron is learning how to be a big brother. We keep reminding the boys that Donovan was already a big brother,and this is Aaron's first experience with being a big brother. Both boys have been pushing her each afternoon in her little pink car (which has a big push handle behind it). One boy pushes her and I walk beside, and the other boy either uses his scooter or bike. And then they switch.

She does not particularly like riding in a carseat. We had a couple of car rides where she screamed the entire time. Poor Donovan was with me on one of those. That is improving. Seated between the boys with music playing (she likes Sheryl Crow, and Goo Goo Dolls thus far...), she claps her hands and taps her hands against her thighs like drums. Today we went to Hannaford (grocery store) and Shaws (another grocery store) to pick up a couple of quick things, and it went much better. Donovan gave her the case of one of those grocery store machine toys that he got and she invented a game passing it back and forth to Aaron and Donovan.

Tomorrow we are hoping to use the pool, and see how she does with that. It is going to be cooler water than the hotel pool in Guangzhou, which was about 95 degrees (but felt cooler than the 100 degree air temperature!).
UPDATE!!! She LOVES the pool. (even though the water is about 80, about 15 degrees cooler than the hotel pool in Guangzhou!)

THREE siblings in the playroom :) :) :)

Donovan pushing Sarah in her pink car down the driveway (NOT towards the road, towards the grass!)

Here she comes!

2 weeks ago I would never ever have predicted (or thought for a second) that we'd have a daredevil on our hands!!

Pure happiness!

I am trying to let go of my frustrations over the incomplete physical exam by the pediatric resident, allowing her to leave the hospital with an elevated wbc without figuring out the cause, and a HIPPA violation of examining her and asking me detailed questions about her in a crowded waiting room (when there was a "family room" close by, I later discovered). I have to trust that the proper departments and agencies are going to handle those complaints in an appropriate manner. While luckily, there was no severe consequence for the patient, this resident needs to learn now, before he is THE doctor who finds himself with malpractice suits.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

We are HOME and it has unfortunately been very eventful....

Well, our arrival in the U.S. and home started out good...

We arrived at JFK airport on Wednesday evening, and spent the night at the Fairfield Inn. A very special family met us to welcome Sarah to the U.S. She received an absolutely adorable Minnie Mouse Costume with Minnie ears! I know she will love wearing it! After settling into our room, we went downstairs to the hotel restaurant, Mediterranean Grille, and met our special friends down there. We enjoyed a really nice visit with them. We hope to see them again soon! Although they live on Long Island, they have a place at one of the Vermont ski resorts, and we would love to visit them there!
A special family greeted us at the JFK Fairfield Inn Hotel! (We are delirious after 18 hours of flight, during which Sarah slept about 4 hours, but not at one time, Rupert slept about 6, and Nicole slept about 15 minutes...)

First meal at an American restaurant. She loved spaghetti!

It looks like she's aiming that silly laugh at Minnie but it was across the table at her new friends!

 We all slept from about 9 pm until 4 am. We ate breakfast around 5, and headed to the JFK airport at 6. I enjoyed using a CLEAN bathroom at the JFK airport (as opposed to the bathrooms in China, the worst being one at the Guangzhou airport, which I believe had not been cleaned since April 2010 when I used it when we were flying home with Aaron - it was that bad! Sarah screamed when she saw the inside of the bathroom and I wanted to cry. But at JFK airport it was all I could do to not kiss the floor. And I have high cleanliness standards, believe me!)

The flight home was a mere 45 minutes! Sarah SCREAMED on the descent and became hysterical (and we now know why, but did not then).  We drove home (Sarah vomited in the car, and we are hoping it was a result from so much crying and not from motion sickness...Many of you may recall that Aaron suffers from SEVERE motion sickness. For 2 years, just a 5-10 minute car ride resulted in vomiting, almost every time. It has improved a bit, but it is something we still deal with.). We arrived home around 11 am. The boys were very eager to see Sarah. Here are some photos.

Giving Sarah presents they bought

 Sarah discovered the grocery shopping cart.

A kiss from Aaron

About to kiss Donovan

Sarah has grown so much during our time in China, but she is very, VERY frightened of new people and places. And unfortunately after the events of Friday and Saturday, that has become even more so. Her whole world has changed and she is just learning to trust her new family. This will be a very long process for all of us. The language barrier makes everything more difficult. Sarah's smiles and laughter are infectious, and we see more and more of them in our own home, when she feels safe. 

We slept okay on Thursday evening, and Friday morning enjoyed a great morning and lunch as a family of 5. That all changed about an hour after Sarah got up from her nap. She suddenly started hysterically crying/screaming, and could not be distracted, consoled, or calmed down by anyone or anything. At first we thought it had to do with jet lag. (But she has slept okay during the night and during her nap. When it had been about 2 hours and dinner was on the table and she continued screaming - this child with an incredible appetite, we knew something was quite wrong.) Unfortunately our pediatrician's office had just closed so the pediatrician on call directed us to the ER. He suspected she might have an ear infection (and that made sense to us given she had cried on the plane descent), and also wanted to be able to rule out a hernia and other things that could be causing such a serious and sudden response of what seemed like pain/discomfort from her.

Our experience at the ER was horrific. ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIC. We were there a total of 11 hours, 4 in a waiting room, 7 trying to figure out what was going on and 4 of those 7 hours (so more than half) was spent by Sarah actively screaming hysterically. They needed to do some bloodwork and had tremendous difficulty with her tiny veins (and she was perhaps a bit dehydrated from the plane ride - and all the crying). After many attempts (and little did we know that she would be "poked" with needles between 20 and 25 times in the next 6 hours) I suggested a vein on the side of her hand. Although they told me they felt it was too superficial, they got a line in, drew the blood, and then started IV fluids. (They were not able to put the saline on a pump because her veins were so tiny they feared the vein would "blow" from the rate/pressure, so they slowly just dripped the saline, which took 90 minutes instead of the 30 it would have with the pump...but in the end this superficial vein that I suggested allowed the saline to run in.) About 30 minutes into the saline drip, we received word that the blood had clotted before the lab could run the bloodwork. The line that was bringing the saline in ended up not being able to be flushed, and would not allow blood out. This resulted in the countless (between 20 and 25) "pokes" or "sticks" with needles attempting to get another line it. TWO MORE TIMES THE BLOOD THEY GOT OUT CLOTTED BEFORE THE LAB COULD RUN THE TEST.  Sarah was hysterical. She was easily held down/ restrained for at least 3 of the 7 hours we were in that room as they attempted the blooddraws. It was about 2 in the morning when it seemed there were very few options left. They could not get the tiny amount of blood they needed to run the bloodwork. During this time also, 2 residents examined Sarah, and felt they could rule out hernia and GI issues. That was reassuring. They were unable to see into her eardrums due to wax buildup. (Aaron had this same issue with earwax when he came to us. We had to use Debrox drops and have them irrigated.). One resident was able to clear enough of the wax in one ear to see enough of the eardrum to rule out an infection in that one. He tried to get the wax out of her left ear, but after a few moments, said he was not going to keep trying, and said he felt confident there was no ear infection, because she did not have a fever. (Note: This was the biggest error of the night. A little persistence on his part would have gotten a diagnosis. Attempts at blooddraws could have been halted and we would have gone home with antibiotics.)  Later I also realized I had mentioned she was very, very upset anytime we change her diaper, and specifically clean her. Not typical for a 2 year old. I wondered about as UTI. They never got a urine sample. In our final hour there, a wonderful nurse came in. He asked if he could try to access a vein using a "butterfly" needle. I am familiar with these and couldn't believe I had not asked about them earlier. He had another male nurse come in and hold Sarah down, along with two others who had been with us most of the night. He worked so hard to find veins that might work. In the end he used THE VEIN that I had pointed out when we first arrived that I knew China had drawn blood from for her TB test as part of her medical exam just a week before. After a few tries, he got it in. He drew the blood and they literally RAN the blood tube down to the lab with prayers from everyone that it could be processed before clotting.
Words cannot describe how hysterical Sarah was through all of this. She is an ABSOLUTE FIGHTER for sure. They could not believe how STRONG she was. This tiny, 24 pound peanut, had so much strength, that even wrapped tightly in a blanket restraint, she had to be held down by 2-4 people every time. It was at least 4 1/2 hours of screaming and fighting by her. No one could believe she did not just collapse from exhaustion.
When the results came back, her white blood cell count was elevated, which likely meant infection. However, they felt they could not find the source of it, and SO THEY SENT HER HOME. We got home at 5 am. 11 1/2 hours after we left. 
And so it seemed we were back on China time! I gave her "breakfast" and she devoured a hard boiled egg, banana, and cheerios. Knowing she was in pain and would be in pain (and bruised) from all the pokes and restraints, I gave her Tylenol. I gave her a bath, and put her to bed at 6 am. All hopes of getting her on US time anytime soon were abandoned!
I took a shower and made breakfast for the boys. And then Saturday began. Our pediatrican and I spoke and he directed me to go to the pediatrician's office where we saw the on call pediatrician. He was wonderful. Sarah is so fearful now of all things medical. What happened at that ER was absolutely traumatic - for any child - especially one who is just barely learning to trust her parents, and who knows nothing about her surroundings and can't speak or understand English.  In any case, he quickly cleaned out the wax from her left ear and that revealed a huge ear infection. THAT was the source of the elevated white blood cells/infection, and her pain. SO SIMPLE. If ONLY that resident had taken the necessary 2 minutes to get the wax out, we would have KNOWN what was wrong and gone home with the antibiotic.
With two doses in her of antibiotic and Tylenol, Sarah is back to her happy, smiling self. But she is still very fearful of people and places beside our home. 
We are looking forward to many, many wonderful experiences as a family, and hopefully no more trips to the ER!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Flag Flies...For Sarah

Today, on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013, the flag will fly over the United States Capitol to welcome our country’s newest U.S. Citizen, Sarah Alexa Walsh Ho.
The moment our plane touches down on U.S. soil on the runway at JFK airport, Sarah becomes a U.S. citizen!

A special thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders's staff for arranging this for us. The flag will be flown in Sarah’s honor, over the U.S. Capitol today, and then in a few weeks we will receive that flag along with a certificate. What a special keepsake for Sarah! (We arranged this same thing when Aaron arrived in the U.S.)

We will be leaving the Tokyo Aiport at 4 pm on the 14th in China, and after a 13 hour plane ride, due to a 13 hour time difference, (between Japan and the U.S.)  we will arrive in NYC at 4 pm on the 14th

We are staying overnight at a hotel near JFK and then will take a 9 am flight home tomorrow morning, arriving at Burlington International Airport at 10:15 am (and we’ll still be feeling like it is 10:15 PM!).

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Final Day in Guangzhou

Final morning!

So happy!

Wanting to give kisses!

Today is a bittersweet day for us. Rupert and I of course miss our home, Donovan and Aaron, etc. and feel ready to head home. (Well, not feeling ready for those long flights with a 2 year old, but ready to go home.)

For Sarah, today is the last day she will experience the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of her homeland…She will be leaving all she has ever know behind, and embarking on the next part of her journey…to her new home. She will face tremendous unknowns, but she will do so with us, parents who love her dearly.

We have had such an incredible time here in Guangzhou. (Even though I have complained about the heat!) It has been the start of getting to know Sarah. And she is amazing and so joyful!
When we left in 2010 with Aaron, I knew we would be coming back one day, for one more child. This time I know, as we prepare to leave, this is it…the next time we are in Guangzhou will likely be when the kids are in middle school and high school, and it will be to tour Hong Kong, Shenzhen City, and Guangzhou – a very different kind of trip… 

Tomorrow morning we will be up before the sun.
Please think good thoughts for us.  The first flight is 5 hours. We hope Sarah will eat and play on that flight. Then we have a 2 hour layover, which will go very quickly. She’ll have a chance to move around. During that time we need to try to arrange a swap in seats, as we are not all seated together.  And then, we have the 13 hour flight. Worst case scenario – we will never see any of these people again! 

Oh What a Difference a Week Makes!

Oh what a difference a week makes...a week full of love, 1:1 attention, and tons of fun. The photo of Sarah from one week ago seems almost unrecognizable already (although WE certainly REMEMBER what it was like last Monday). She loves her Mama fiercely, loves to play with Daddy, and the little girl who would not let go of Mama in the pool on Thursday, was JUMPING into my arms from the side of the pool today. She is very serious and shy out in public, but with one or both of us, she is silly, funny, and carefree. I cannot believe how much she has changed and opened up to us in just one week. I am excited for what the future holds for her and for our family!

What a difference one week of love makes! I hardly recognize this scared little girl. She still has moments of fear, quietness, but the majority of time she is a happy, laughing, dancing, carefree little girl.

Sarah kept wanting Mama to dunk her (Sarah's) head under water. Her laugh is contagious.

Just after she had jumped into Mama's arms from the edge of the pool!

Her laughs, her smiles, and giggles are contagious. She is PURE JOY! The three photos below were all taken after giving Mama and Daddy kisses. She loves to kiss us!