Thursday, 11 December 2014

Medical Update: Jadon

During the past week, Jadon has had more than his fair share of doctor visits.  Last Thursday I took him to the pediatrician because he had a five day history of cold and flu symptoms.  Some of his other siblings were experiencing the same symptoms so we knew he had picked up a flu virus. He had been choking on his mucus throughout the night so we were sleeping with one eye open and giving him steamy bathroom humidity treatments, running a cool humidifier in the room and spraying nasal mist up his nose to try to loosen the sludge.  The doc gave him an antibiotic and an oral prednisone prescription assuming he now had a pneumonia.

Unfortunately, Thursday night was not much better.  In fact, his secretions were not really an issue but he kept dropping his body temperature and having cold sweats.  His forehead was constantly coated with a bead of cold water and no matter how much we attempted to warm him his temp was very low.  I knew this was not a good thing so in the morning my mother-in-law joined me in the trek down to the Hospital for Sick Children.  As I expected, after triage, we were quickly whisked into a room and Jadon was put on a monitor.  His oxygen saturation dropped to 63% so the nurse put him on a little flow-by oxygen.  He was listless and lethargic much of the time.

Very shortly after our ER arrival a doctor arrived to assess him.  He had a chest x-ray, blood work, ECGs, ventolin treatments, and multiple doctor visits.  He was taken on and off oxygen but in the end the ER staff wanted it left on.  His saturations were dropping frequently to the high 60s and once into the low 50s.  At first the physicians thought he had a respiratory infection but they then decided that, yes, he had a flu, but it was his heart that was causing the low oxygen.  He was having TET spells due to the flu stressing his heart.  This is something that is not uncommon to babies with unrepaired Tetrology of Fallot.  He was admitted to the cardiac floor for observation then discharged in the morning after his oxygen levels and energy level normal returned to near normal.  Although I wasn't thrilled about having to be at Sick kids in the first place, there was an upside to it all.  The ER docs arranged for a cardiology work up Wed. Dec 10th (yesterday).  I had already had an appt booked with a local pediatric cardiologist, but the team felt if he were already linked up with Sick kids, things might move along quicker. They were also keen on having all of his tests on file in the event of a subsequent ER visit.

Tuesday we headed to our regular pediatrician for a weigh in, and check-up as well as a vaccination program start.  Unfortunately Dr. B. did not feel Jadon was well enough to start his vaccinations. (He has no vaccinations as the orphanage doctor said he wasn't well enough to get them) His weight was back to nearly where we started :(.  But, he was better clinically than the week before.  Likely his weight dropped due to his illness.  Dr. B was able to access the results of all the bloodwork and swabs and he told me Jadon tested positive for RSV.  This is a respiratory virus that is particularly tough on kids under 2 years of age.  It sends many babies into hospital every year.  I was almost relieved he had it because it was the one respiratory condition I was afraid of him getting.  I did not think he would fight it well at all.  So far he is doing not too badly.  I had figured on a week in hospital if he got RSV.   Hopefully he will get fully over it soon.

Now, that brings us to yesterday...Wednesday.  The morning started out with 45 min cardiac ECHO. (ultrasound of the heart and its surrounding structures)  Jadon was a trooper.  Since he will not lay on a stretcher without me, I laid on it with him laying on top of me.  He lay so still during the test that he actually fell asleep.  That's right. No sedation.  Just a lot of friends and family praying :)  After that was completed we headed for an ECG.  Immediately after that, we were called in for a oxygen saturation check and medical history session by our cardiologist's nurse.  I was in the midst of telling her Jadon's medical history when I noticed she kept readjusting his sat probe.  It was reading in the mid to high 70s.  I quickly informed her this was baseline and she shut the machine off. In the course of conversation I told her he had RSV and that I was trying to keep him away from all the other cardiac babies.  She agreed it was a good idea and took me to a room to wait for the doctor.  "It will be a bit of a wait as the doctor is seeing another patient, but this way you will not have to sit in the waiting room with all the others," she said.

I was led to a small dietician's consult room to wait as the examining rooms were all in use.  I fed Jadon, played with him, played with him some more,  and slowly started to get very tired.  I had not had time to grab breakfast and it was 12:45pm at this point.  My lone source of sustenance, apple juice, was not cutting it anymore.  I dug around in the diaper bag and found a Mars bar.  I felt like a little rebel chomping down on a chocolate bar in the dietician's consult room.  The room had posters of the Canada food guide, articles about healthy cholesterol and plant sterols, and a pictorial of what a healthy plate of food looks like.  It may have been the only time a chocolate bar has or ever will be eaten for lunch in that room...hee hee :)

We waited well over an hour for the physician.  At which point Jadon became sleepy and dozed off in my arms.  Finally, the cardiologist's fellow showed up, asked some questions, then told me the results of the ECHO.  He said they can see the tetrology of fallot, the shunt is working well, and the pulmonary artery is a decent size.  Say what?  I was told he had a really small, underdeveloped pulmonary artery.  The fellow explained to me that sometimes with increased blood flow the artery will grow. It appears that is what has happened!  This is very good news!  I was also told that he is not "shunt dependant".  In plain English this means:  If he develops a clot on the shunt he will go very blue, but he will not likely die if he is brought to the hospital urgently.  His body will use other vessels to get to the lungs.  This was music to my ears!

Once the attending doctor came in, he introduced himself and said he will be Jadon's Sick Kids doctor from now on.  He explained Jadon's heart condition in detail, and said they would be presenting his case to the cardiovascular surgical team at either next week's meeting or the first one in January.  Once that has happened, we will be called in to meet the surgical team in the preceding weeks.  He also offered to arrange consults for the other needed specialties: ENT, Gen surgery, and genetics.  ENT for his ear, Gen surg for his swallowing/feeding issues, and genetics to rule out a chromosomal issue.  Hopefully things get arranged soon.  I  hate don't enjoy waiting. I was told that since Jadon is reasonably healthy and his shunt is functioning well to expect his surgery in 3-6 months.

While typing this blog post, my cell just rang.  It was Sick Kids.  The cardiology fellow was on the line... he called to say the list of patients was too long for Monday's meeting, and that Jadon would be presented at the first meeting in January.  After that, I would receive a call.  He then said, "Are you ok with that?"
"Yes."  ...what else could I say?
I was a bit deflated but I also realize that nothing will be done during the two weeks following next Monday's meeting anyway.  Christmas holidays are coming.  Even the pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons need a vacation. 

Just don't be gone too long...Jadon needs you.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Not your typical diet...

When most people think of the D-word they think of a conscious effort to eat healthier and in turn drop a few pounds.  Jadon is not in need of that.  He needs to gain weight.  Just as losing is hard for most of us, gaining seems equally hard for him.

Jadon is small. Like, less than the 3rd percentile.  We feel it would be great for him to be a little bigger before he undergoes cardiac surgery so we are trying to fatten him up a bit. 

Part of the problem is he is unable to swallow anything with chunks.  He chokes on anything that is not the consistency of pureed pumpkin soup.  No lumps whatsoever.  We are guessing this is related to his esophageal atresia that was fixed at two days old.  It is possible that he may need his esophagus dilated or stented.  Hopefully this will be addressed sooner than later.  But in reality, I am guessing it will take a number of months before there is anything done to address this issue.

So... we have resorted to trying to feed him as often as we can during his waking hours.  If we give him a lot at a time, he vomits.  So we continue with frequent, small portions, of infant cereals, yogurt and baby food jars made for babies that are the 4-6 months old.  At this point, we do not blend up our own food as our economy job blender does not puree small quantities to a fine enough consistency. 

Yesterday, Steph came home pleased.  He had found some high fat yogurt.  6% fat!  Maybe this will help!

Another thing that we think might help with weight gain is the good, old, Canadian winter!  In Vietnam, Jadon would sweat profusely with each feeding of his warm bottle.  The temperatures outdoors were humid and often above 30C.   Indoors, the temp was around 25C.   When we kept the indoor temp lower, the room felt chilly :)  In Canada, winter has arrived early.  Snow is scattered along the grass like a loosely woven blanket.  The house is heated, but only to temps around 21C.  This big drop in temp allows Jadon to drink his bottle without his hair and back completely soaking in sweat.  It was as if every bottle was a work-out while we were in Vietnam.  Now, Jadon has a few beads of perspiration on his forehead occasionally, but rarely soaks his hair or clothing with feedings.
Maybe, just maybe his weight will start to increase.

I might be just hopeful, but as I look at this pic taken on night one with Jadon, I think maybe he has gotten a teeny bit fuller in the cheeks.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Finally Home! My wife is AWESOME!

Home at last!  We landed shortly after 9:00, were picked up at the airport by our good friends Yu and Carolyn Chen and got home around 11:00.  It was great to walk in the door with all of us here together!  Mom had prepared a nice snack, as well as picked up fruits and milk, and had baked muffins and prepared a Shepherd's pie for supper tomorrow.  Very little for us to do in the food prep area which is great!

We chatted and hung around for a bit then all the kids went to bed eventually.   Of course, the last one to do so was Jadon.  He is not so sure about things and is trying to figure things out.  He didn't like the winter coat nor the car seat... but being in Canada he will have to put up with them for a long long time!  Once Jadon was looking a little tired Sara was able to lie down with him.  They are sleeping soundly now... hopefully for a long time!

Have I ever mentioned how amazing Jadon's mother is?  How remarkable a woman my wife is?  In an adoption, the primary goal is typically to help create bonding and attachment to the primary caregiver, which in many cases is the mother.  This helps to quickly create a 'safe spot' for the newest, overwhelmed member of the family.  We did the same.  Sara did the majority of the hands-on care giving while I did more of the support work (like prepare and then wash the bottles that Sara would feed to Jadon).  While this is really nice for Sara because she is the one that Jadon opens his arms to the most, and the one the he wants to be held by, and the one he smiles his best for etc... it can also be very tiring.  Because often, she is the ONLY one that he wants, specifically when he is not feeling great - sick or tired.

The last few days have been exhausting for Sara.  Saturday evening we went to the hospital and Jadon was admitted.  The two of them stayed there from then until Monday morning around 8:15 when we picked them up on the way to the airport.  I have been fighting this crazy long fever/cough that first Logan and then Rykauna got.  In between fever spells with enough Advil, I feel fine to do some things.  However, we did not want Jadon to get whatever bug this is so.... we have even more limited my direct dealings with him, and even my bottle preparing, feeding etc... were stopped.  I couldn't go to the hospital to stay and help Sara out with Jadon.  Logan went in for about 6 hours to help out as much as he could.  Overnight, it was mommy, mommy and more mommy.  On our two flights today, a total of about 17 hours flying time, Sara had Jadon for the majority of that time.  While the rest of us were sleeping or chilling, she was comforting, entertaining, feeding.  It really bugged me to see Sara working so hard when I was just across the aisle really not able to do very much.  But Sara was an absolute trooper.  No complaints(ok maybe a couple little ones), a smile on her face (with occasional tears), Sara went through this all.  She got likely about 5 or 6 total sleep hours over the last 3 days.

I am so proud of her.  I am blessed to have her as my wife.  Rykauna, Logan, Hudson and Li Lin are blessed to have her as a mother.  And now Jadon will also come to know how blessed he is to also call her mom!

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;  her husband also, and he praises her:

Proverbs 31:10, 28  

Sunday, 16 November 2014

On our way!

Just a short post to get you all know that Jadon just got discharged.   He is fit for travel.   Who knows about the rest of us!  We are heading to the airport in about 10 and hopefully all goes well.   We will be landing in Toronto about 8:45 pm Toronto time.   Thanks so much for all your prayers.   Please continue.   On the home stretch now!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Update on Jadon

I just got back from the hospital.  Jadon spent an ok night but the good news is this morning he coughed up a piece of meat which was what had become caught in his throat.  The bad news is that he developed a fever.  It turns out the he once again has bronchitis!  So, the plan is to keep him in the hospital until tomorrow morning and the kids and I will stop by on the way to the airport to pick Sara and Jadon up.  Talk about last minute!  The doctor would like to keep Jadon hydrated and will give him IV antibiotics to combat his bronchitis.  She wants to make him as healthy as possible for the flight.

Meanwhile, I am fighting the fever that Logan at the beginning of the trip, and Rykauna more recently were fighting.  Because of this I can't stay at the hospital with Sara.  Logan is there right now for a few hours to help Sara with Jadon and to keep her company.  I will take a couple hours sleep to try and get rid of this fever and then we need to get all packed up.

This trip has been quite the challenge in a variety of ways.  Please continue to pray that all would work out and that we will not have any more hiccups before we get our little guy home!

Please Pray Again... Another Night in the Hospital

This post was supposed to be about the fusion between East and West that you find so many places throughout Vietnam... the food, the architecture etc...  however, Jadon is once again in the hospital.

We figured that with three visits to the Family Medical Practice, one overnight there, as well as a cardiologist consult at Tam Duc Hospital (where Jadon had his heart surgery done) was enough of a insight into the medical care in Vietnam.  However, apparently not.  Today at lunch, Jadon aspirated some food.  Due to his esophageal atresia, though repaired, this is a fairly common occurrence.  However today, he didn't seem to be able to clear out his lungs properly, and his breathing was rattly for the rest of the afternoon.  When he wouldn't take more than a couple ounces of his milk bottle, and immediately spit up when we fed him his baby food and cereal, we thought we should bring him in.  Sara and I went with Jadon to FV Hospital, a French Private hospital.  The doctor was concerned that he could not/would not eat and drink.  This is a concern for most children, but with Jadon's small size and his heart shunt - the pediatrician is concerned that if he does not have enough fluid, his blood will thicken and cause issues with his shunt.

So, she has admitted Jadon overnight for observation.  The plan is to have him fast overnight but give him IV fluids to keep him hydrated.  Then attempt to get him to drink tomorrow afternoon and hope all goes well.  When something like this happens, we don't know whether to laugh or cry... so we have done some of both!  We would really appreciate prayers that all would be settled so that we can make our flight on Monday.  We can't wait to be home with Jadon and all the kids!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Passports and Lunch with Emmy

Today (Thursday) Rykauna and Hudson are still sick.  Hudson thankfully seems to be getting better.... Rykauna is still running a temp and has developed a nasty cough.  Since today was the day we had prearranged to pick up Jadon's passports and meet Emmy for lunch it goes without saying that some of the family had to stay at the condo.  Since Jadon was really fussy in the morning, and Logan did not really feel like traipsing around doing the passport business, it was decided that just Li Lin and I  would go.  She of course, loved having mom all to herself.

We went first to the Canadian consulate and picked up Jadon's temporary Canadian passport. Next, we cabbed it over to the Vietnamese passport office and waited for Loan to meet us there so we could pick up his Vietnamese passport.  Once that was done, all of our official duties and paperwork were completed.

I headed out to meet Emmy my co-worker for lunch.  Nothing like meeting a co-worker for lunch halfway across the world!  Emmy was here in Vietnam for a family wedding and travel so it was nice to get together.  I had the BEST beef noodle soup I have eaten since here in Vietnam.  Emmy is the "foodie" in our department at work so I knew the restaurant she chose would not disappoint.  It was a nice little break from the constant low-level chaos we have been going through!

Today (Friday) we sort of lay low.  Rykauna is still going through the stages of her fever/cough and we are hoping tomorrow is a better day.  Hudson was up and about and though not his normal perky self, he did eat more and talk more, which are both indicators that he is well on his road to recovery.  He even joined Steph, Logan and Li Lin for a short swim before supper.  We then went shopping to pick up a few things for Jadon... feels weird buying formula and baby food for a 26 month old, but that is what we do!  He is eating a better variety of food and we are trying to decrease his formula intake so he will eat more of other foods but that will be a gradual process.

Just the weekend left in Vietnam, and then we fly home on Monday.  The trip has not gone exactly as planned, what with the illnesses and we haven't seen as much as we would have liked, but the important thing is, Jadon is in our arms and we are bringing him home.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ho Chi Minh City...home of the haves and the have nots

We have noticed in our short time here that there is very little middle class here.  There is the wealthy and the very poor.  This is true in many countries but the proximity of their coexistence is startling here.  On our way to our first "home" in Vietnam we could see beautiful gated private villas right next to tin shanties.  Literally adjacent to one another.

Beautiful light in the living room

At our new place here in District 7 we are staying at a new condominium tower with modern decor, a gymnasium, pool, small convenience store, 24/7 security and some condo units that are two stories high.  Out our patio living room window we can see squalor that is just behind our building.  There are people living in a rusted old barge just feet from the condo.  We can also see several other thatched huts within view of our balcony.  The view out the back windows gives us a bird's eye view of the life of the people that live along waterways.  At the beginning and end of the day we see a few people standing in dug out canoes paddling their way to the shore presumably to go to work.  It is very sad to see such poverty right next to modern luxury. 

This picture as well as the next two were taken from out balcony.  Notice the "home" on the old barge

HCMC in the background
We have seen BMW dealerships here and motorbikes that look like they were used in the 60's.  We see street vendors trying to shine shoes to make a buck while at the same time there are many malls and stores that are really expensive.   It is hard to explain the way of life here in Saigon because it is not as uniform as we are used to in North America.  What is uniform though are the ever-present face masks.  From the rich in their Burberry shirts and Louis Vuitton bags, to the poor in their worn out attire, many people wear face masks while riding the city transit, walking the streets, and most especially, while riding a motorbike.   Motorbike fashion has its own fibe as well.  Nearly everyone wears helmets...some are really funky.  Some of the women wear long "skirt type" material pieces over their clothes to keep themselves clean.  We are also amazed how many people can fit on a bike.  We have seen a family of four on a bike.  Dad driving, small kid in the middle (sometimes sleeping) and mom in the back holding a young baby.  Some of these moms must have killer abdominal muscles...holding on to a baby while maintaining balance on the back of a bike looks like a difficult task.  On one occasion we witnessed a mom holding a young infant while driving the bike herself and weaving through the crazy HCMC traffic.
These women are wearing gloves and masks that are much bigger than most

Minion mask on this guy

Taking the dog for a ride

Happy 15th Birthday Rykauna!

Rykauna's 15th birthday will be memorable.  In the afternoon as the four oldest and I headed out for a swim, she said "I've never swam outdoors on my birthday before!"  Given her birthday is in November and we are typically home in Canada, that makes sense!

We are truly blessed to have now, FIVE wonderful kids.  Rykauna is our first born.  She started our journey as official 'Parents' 15 years ago.  We both still remember that first cry, that first smile, those first (of many) words, those first steps.  Rykauna has grown into a wonderful young lady, who has a zest for life and adventure, who is understanding and considerate of the less fortunate and is driven to succeed in a variety of areas.  We are very proud of her.

The actual day did not completely go as planned (what has this trip? :-) ). Tuesday was moving day.  We packed up our stuff in the morning and left Riverside Apartments (which had been our home for the last 17 days) and took a cab to the South part of Ho Chi Minh City into District 7.  We have rented a beautiful 3-bedroom condo here.  We just wanted to see a different aspect of the city.  Once we got here and got a little tour of the place, Jadon had a nap and Sara stayed with him while the rest of us swam. 

Once Jadon woke up we decided to go out for dinner and celebrate Rykauna's birthday.  We went to a very high end mall called Crescent Mall.  It reminded us of the upscale mall we went to in Shanghai only there was nearly no customers there.

 Rykauna told us on the way there that she was feeling a little chilly...her first time being cold in Vietnam.  She also decided on Western food...Pizza Hut...which was a surprise to us all as she usually wants to try something interesting and exotic.  By the time we got home with her chosen cake, an Oreo cheescecake, she was not wanting to eat any of it but was feeling awful and had chills all over.  Sure enough, she was running a temp and just wanted to sleep.  She then started complaining of sinus and nasal congestion.

While at the restaurant, Hudson started feeling off as well, and did not eat his supper.  For those of you who know our hearty eater, Hudson, it was a sure sign he was not well.  He later woke up in the night vomitting and has been experiencing GI symptoms.  So yes, we have two sick kids... each with totally different bugs.    Jadon slept reasonably well during the night but was awake from about 4am onwards.  It has been quite the trip!  Please pray they heal quickly and that no one else, especially Jadon gets sick.

Monday, 10 November 2014

More Vietnames Culture

The last few days have been fairly comfortable due in large part to better sleeps by Jadon, which of course translate to better sleeps for Sara and I!  One of the ways to create bonding in a new adoptive relationship is to co-sleep.  And so, when we first adopted Li Lin, she slept with us for the first several months.  She then graduated to a mattress on the floor of our bed, and eventually to her own bed in her own room.  From the first, the co-sleeping worked very well with Li Lin.  Even in her sleep she would reach out to touch us and make sure that we were still there in bed with her.
The co-sleeping has not worked so well with Jadon.  Used to being alone in a crib, he rolls around and tosses and turns continually.  He kicks his feet.  He moans and groans and whimpers.  We were needing to basically stay awake to make sure he did not roll off the bed.

A couple days ago we caved and got a playpen delivered to our apartment.  After his evening bottle, Jadon was placed in his playpen, with Mozart playing off youtube in the background.  He still tossed and turned and grunted and groaned, but since we knew he was not going anywhere, we were able to get a better sleep, which we both enjoyed!

Saturday was a lazy day around Riverside.  We ran out to a local market to pick up a few things but that was about it.  Sunday, we went to church again.  Jadon again accommodated us by sleeping through the sermon (yes, dad did stay awake!)  Here is a large wall text of John 3:16 in Vietnamese.
We then headed out for lunch and ended up at a really nice Japanese restaurant.  The portions were huge and really tasty.  Sara and Rykauna went back to Ben Thanh market to pick up a couple of things while I came home with the youngest four.
kids enjoying their fare
the meal Sara and I had... delicious
 Monday took us into town on two occasions.  One of the things we had been wanting to do since we got here was go to the A O Show being put on in the Saigon Opera House.  The building itself is quite majestic.
picture of Li Lin taking pictures...
The Show is a combination music/dance/acrobat show depicting scenes from Vietnamese life.  On Sunday we ordered tickets and put them on hold and we had to go in to pay for them before noon or risk losing them.  Sara, Jadon, the two girls and I went downtown late in the morning to pay for and pick up the tickets.  Unfortunately, we found out that children under 5 were not allowed in, so Sara was not able to watch the performance.  As part of the ticket deal, we got coupons for free drinks at a little nearby bistro, so we headed up there for a snack before coming home. 
two lovely ladies!

view from the bistro - on the second floor
Rykauna enjoying her mango smoothie!
When we got home Jadon went for a nap and the four oldest and I headed out for the last of our swims in the pool at Riverside.  We will miss this place!  We are moving to a new apartment in a new district tomorrow.

Once Jadon woke up we went for an early supper to the local pho place - we all ate for $11, and then the four oldest and I took the boat into the city to go to the A O Show.  Of course, we were not allowed to take pictures but the show (about 1 hour in length) was very interesting and creative.  

The kids near a display outside, waiting to get in
the older two brothers
The cast posing with my two daughters!  Li Lin is more interested in them than in the cameras!
There was basically no talking, just lots of movements with props set to music/sound.  Really neat, sometimes humourous, sometimes emotional, always well done.  The Vietnamese people and culture are really wonderful!  We are learning a lot about these friendly, polite and hard-working people.  In a lot of ways, they are like Canadians, but without the cold!


When a child is adopted from an orphanage, the key focus of the parents is bonding.  For birth children, bonding occurs naturally through feedings, changing, bathing, cuddling etc...  As the child is touched and spoken too and sees their parents, a natural bond forms.  These early and primary bonds with parents are critical to all future relationships the child will have.

A child in an orphanage is not as blessed.  There are many challenges that arise.  Some children are hardly ever held.  They are left in their cribs for long periods of time.  They are given a bottle while lying in their crib and they feed themselves.  These children form no bonds and are seemingly detached from all that is around them.  It takes loving and caring parents to recreate the early childhood snuggling, feeding, bathing processes to help form those bonds that never were formed in the past.

For others in an orphanage, the problem is not so much forming no bonds, but rather forming too many bonds indiscriminately.  Because of multiple caregivers, because of volunteers that come in and hold sick babies, because of time spent in the hospital due to illnesses and/or surgery, a child gets used to being cared for, held by and loved by many different people.  While we may at first think that this is a great thing, it also can lead to problems.  These children have formed many bonds and many of them have been broken as volunteers leave, caregivers change, the child gets better and leaves the hospital and the nurses caring for them there.  They may decide that it is not worth the effort of making new bonds with their parents and their forever families, because they figure that these too, may go away.  Another challenge is that they may struggle with identifying their parents as their primary bonds.  To recognize that their parents are there to hold, hug, care for, comfort, provide for, protect,now and forever. 

Jadon falls more in the later category.  Because of his poor heart, multiple pneumonias, and surgery, he got a lot of attention.  He loved the attention and thrived on it.  However, we noticed that when he first joined our family, he would go to whoever opened his arms to him.  That included mom and dad, and siblings, but also any random stranger around.  I'll get attention wherever I can and whenever I can because I don't know when this will end!  We have been intentional in working on creating primary bonds with mom and dad.  When he falls or bumps himself and hurts, we make sure that it is one of us two who comfort him.  We are the only two that feed him and change him.  In the pool, he is either in my arms or Sara's.  By doing this we reinforce the notion that we are your parents and that we are here for you.  We were encouraged today as we had supper at a restaurant just outside the compound where we are living.  The Vietnamese people that we have met are lovely and warm people.  The first time we ate at this restaurant sometime last week, one of the workers put out her arms to Jadon to pick him up so that we could eat in peace.  Jadon willingly lifted his arms to go to her.  Today, the same lady offered to do the same thing and Jadon just looked at her and snuggled a bit deeper into Sara's arms!  This is good!  This evening I was out with the oldest four children and Jadon stayed home with Sara.  When we got home there was a big smile on his face as he recognized us coming back.  This is good!  This is what it will take, bit by bit and step by step to help Jadon in his emotional and social repair and growth which really, are ultimately a bigger challenge than his physical needs.

As we come home within the next week, we will be seeing many friends and family that have been praying for us.  Many of you we know, are very excited to see Jadon.  You will want to hold him, cuddle him, poke and prod him.  Please remember that we will be exclusive.  We are not trying to hold him away from people, but rather, we are trying to help him form those so important primary bonds so that ALL his relationships in the future will be better and stronger.  Remember that as we come back home and to our circle of friends and family, that to Jadon, EVERYONE will be new.  EVERY experience will be new.  We will have to slowly expose him and introduce him to those we care about and love.  Please do not reach out to pick him up.  Take your cues from us.  Allow him, in his time, to reach out to you.  He is still learning to reach out to us, his parents, and to his siblings.  We know that it can seem like a long process, but really, in a lifetime, what is a few weeks, or even a few months?
Hudson and Jadon, matching and loving!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Orphanage behaviours

Children who spend time in an orphanage are delayed but also often show 'orphanage' behaviour such as banging their head, repetitive movements, self-hurt etc...  Jadon is no exception, though his have been fairly mild.  When he first joined our family, whenever he would smile, he would shyly turn his head away and lift his forearm across his eyes, sort of hiding behind it.  When he was frustrated or bored, he would slap himself on the head with his hands.  When stressed, he would scratch either his hands or his feet quite hard.  The skin on his hands and feet were covered with scratches as a result.  He has also been fairly aggressive towards Li Lin (I guess he figures she is closest to his size).

Since he has been with us, we have seen a marked decrease.  He no longer hides behind his arm when he smiles.  Instead, if he sees something funny (which to him is quite a lot), he laughs out loud and often looks to one of us as a 'confirmation'.  He rarely now hits himself in the head.  He still does scratch himself when stressed out, but as he is accustomed to more and more situations, he is less and less stressed and so that is also decreasing.

We are not sure about his night behaviours though.  Last night was the worst one yet.  Jadon slept very fitfully for most of the night, with constant rolling around, his leg thumping the mattress rhythmically.  He whimpers/cries out in his sleep a lot.  He does not necessarily settle when picked up and comforted.  We are trying to figure out the causes.  It could be he is overstimulated during the day and has a hard time settling down.  It could be he is not used to sleeping with others.  We have tried to give him more space by having one of us (the lucky one who gets to sleep more during the night :-) ) sleep on the couch.  This has not helped.  Today, we asked the management here to bring in a crib as this is what he is used to sleeping in.  They delivered a play pen and just a little while ago, after his bottle, we set him in sleeping.  So far he is still squirming around and whimpering some, but at least we won't have to worry about him falling off the bed so we will be able to sleep a bit better.

These little ones have such a tough start to life.  They lose their birth families, usually before they ever get to know them.  Then they are cared for in an orphanage.  Some are very rough places, others much better; however, despite the best care and intents possible, no orphanage can provide the care, love and consistency that a child needs to develop and thrive.  We are so thankful for the care that Jadon did receive, and for the love that he was clearly shown.  However, we are hopeful that he will continue to flourish with the love of his forever family.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Extending Summer - water park!

Today we took advantage of another wonderful sunshiny day in the low 30 degrees Celsius to go to the Dam Sen Water Park here in Ho Chi Minh City.  There are several in and around the city and Logan found this one early in the week and he and the other kids have been asking to go.  We had a wonderful time.  It is basically across the city so it took about 35 minutes by cab to get there this morning (nearly an hour coming back in rush hour).  It was a good choice by the kids!

When we got there, there were literally hundreds of school aged children eating lunch at tables in a large common area.  By the time we came down to head to the water area, they were done their lunch, the common area was basically empty, and the kids were mostly in the splash area.  It was crazy busy!  They all left around 1:00, at which point the splash area became almost a private pool party area for Li Lin (and sometimes Hudson)!  We're guessing it was a large school field trip.

This water park had a zip-line where you drop into the water, a wave pool, regular pool, hot tub, large splash area/wading pool for the younger ones with a dozen small slides, a lazy river, and about 15 or so various large water slides.  It was a blast!  The grounds were well kept with lots of trees to provide shade.  We all played around for a while, then had lunch.  Sara then took Jadon to an outdoor lounge area (only for foreigners... handy but feels kind of awkward to be treated that way) to try to get him to nap.  No luck.  The rest of us splashed around for a while longer then we headed home, cooled and refreshed.
[disclaimer, we did not bring our cameras so these picture are from google images to give a small impression of the water park]
View from the top of the Kamikazee slide
Kids splash area
Exit area for many of the slides
We have been taking taxis a LOT here in Vietnam.  Luckily, they are relatively inexpensive.  To go to the nearest grocery store or market, we pay about 30,000 dong, which works out to about $1.50.  The rides downtown are around 150,000 dong ($7.00).  The most expensive ride we had was today, about 250,000 dong ($12.00) to drive across town.  There are many different taxi companies; however, we have been warned by several sources to only use one of the official companies.  Mailinh actually has a bit of a base here at Riverside so we always take them on our way out.  The other cab company with a good reputation is VinaSun.  Apparently many other cabs try to fleece riders and overcharge.  According to a traveler's handbook we have, VinaTaxi is the third reputable company to travel with.  We have walked right by other cabs to go flag down a Mailinh or VinaSun.

On the way home today from the waterpark, we were in a VinaSun taxi.  I'm not sure where this comes from, but suddenly our driver turns up some music.  It is in Vietnamese, but we hear them singing in the chorus "Vina, Vina, VinaSun is number one!".  Shocked, we listen to the next few songs, all of which seem to be a combo pop song/VinaSun advertisement!  Eventually our driver noticed our surprise and our chuckles, laughed along with us and changed the channel!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Why do I have to eat baby food!?!

Sitting here at Riverside Apartments in Vietnam, it's hard not to feel a little spoiled!  We wake up to sunshine pretty much everyday.  somewhere around 10:00 the cleaning lady shows up.  She makes our beds with fresh sheets every morning, cleans the bathrooms, vacuums and washes the floors, and even washes our dishes if we have not (embarrassingly) gotten around to doing them.  This has become a bone of contention with our kids - we want them to at least maintain a semblance of doing chores, so one of the older three is assigned to do the dishes after each meal.  They figure hey, someone else will do them, why should we?  Anyways, the kids are getting better at:
1.  doing the dishes, and
2. doing all things without grumbling or arguing (Philippians 2:14)

Jadon, while an absolute sweetheart, is also proving to be quite high maintenance.  Sara and I were expecting a toddler.  While we were aware of the likelihood of some delays due to his time in the orphanage, and also due to his poor heart condition, I don't think we had fully processed what that would work out to be for this little guy who is nearly 26 months old.  In many ways he is at the stage of a 1 year old.  As far as eating and sleeping goes, he is closer to a 6 month old!  First off, he takes bottles at 6pm, 8pm, midnight and 5 am.  If those go smoothly, it's still a lot of getting up during prime sleeping hours!  Also, he seems to get colicky when he drinks his bottles during the night.  This leads to lots of tossing and turning, waking up, crying and lack of sleep for Jadon and parents!  We went out today and bought one of the self-venting bottles (they have a little curve in them) with hopes that this will decrease the colic issue.
Cuddling with big sister Rykauna
On the other hand, while he is very much like a 1 year old, he is developing amazingly quickly.  We both had read that love does amazing things for these little resilient orphans and that once they join their forever family, many develop so quickly that they soon catch up (or nearly so) developmentally to others their own age.  We figure he is currently developing over 1 week a day  He has gained strength, his skin is smoother, he is babbling lots, he waves bye and smiles at us in recognition.  He is constantly imitating his older siblings, wants to get involved in what they do, and last but certainly no least, wants to eat what they do!  Now for a typical 2 year old, this would be the norm.  However, for the most part, Jadon's diet has consisted of formula, congee (thick rice porridge) and a bit of yoghurt.  There is lots to change.  The further complication is his esophageal atresia that he was born with.  His esophagus and trachea were joined at birth.  This was corrected within a few days, but there can be long term effects from this.  One of the more common ones is, due to nerve damage in the surgery area, the child's gag reflex is quite weakened.  Another is an increased risk of aspiration (fluids/food going into the lungs).  For this reason, we are hesitant to try him out on new foods.  He on the other hand has decided that baby food, congee and even bottles aren't really on his favourite list anymore.
We tricked Jadon into eating baby food by getting Li Lin to eat some first!  Of course, now he wanted some!
Late this morning we took a cab to An Phu Market which is really a grocery store with a few other stores in the same building.  There are also several shops and restaurants along the road.  We bought the new bottles for Jadon (we tried it out at bed time about 1.5 hours ago... so far so good!) as well as books for the kids to read (tablet replacement therapy) when they are in the apartment.  We had a great lunch (under $20 for the family).
Little 'foam' burgers Yummi brand.  Rykauna and Logan said these reminded them of the Shekel Shop days in Sunday School, but these burgers were much bigger - on steroids!
Before heading home, Sara and the two older kids ran into a bakery (interesting note: the French effect of coffees, baguettes, pastries and bakeries are still evident here in Vietnam) and bought some tarts for a snack this afternoon.
Apricot, Lime Meringue, Caramel Walnut, and White Chocolate - this was the winner!
Rykauna enjoyed taking pictures of the tarts ALMOST as much as she did eating them!
Once again we enjoyed our customary swim.  This time Jadon joined us and he enjoyed constantly splashing the water once again.
We have had rain most of the last 3 or 4 afternoons, but usually can swim through it.
For supper we bought Banh Mi, (a sub of sorts on fresh French baguettes) which are a very traditional Vietnamese food.  The family ate for $15 and we have leftovers!  Hard to force yourself to cook when we can eat so well for such good prices! 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Touring Vietnam

After last week's stressful surprises and rollercoaster of emotions, this week has been going quite well.  It reminds me of our experience with Li Lin some two and a half years ago.  Gotcha Day was Monday, official adoption day was Tuesday.  The rest of the week through to Friday, we stayed in Wuhan, which was the capital city of Hubei province, in which Li Lin was born.  That week was very emotional and very stressful.  Li Lin did some serious grieving.  We stayed in our hotel room for large parts of that week trying to console this little girl and get to bond with her a little bit.  On Friday evening we flew to Beijing to complete the rest of the paperwork.  While there, we had the opportunity to tour around and see much of the area.  By this time, Li Lin had at least resigned herself to the idea that she was stuck with these people and should make the most of it.

The experience here has been similar.  Last Tuesday was Gotcha Day.   Official adoption day was Wednesday.  That week was chaotic with the medical scare, the newly revealed information that his surgery was palliative and not the complete fix, the finding out that he should be taking medicines (some for his heart) despite originally having been told that he had none.  We were focused on dealing with that and all the required paperwork.  Jadon was also struggling through the last remains of either a cold or bronchitis.  This week, we have have the opportunity to visit some of the tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
One thing we see around often are people sleeping on their motorbikes/scooters!
Jadon wearing Logan's RayBans
Yesterday we headed out to the Museum of History.  We got there around 12:00 noon just to find out that it was closed over lunch hour until 1:30.
Imposing stone mural on the outside of the museum, depicting the Viet people repelling Mongol invaders
Military men at the entrance of the Museum
We then went next door to the Saigon Zoo and wandered around for about 1 hour.  The plan was to wander, but we had a self-appointed tour guide join our family and insisted on leading us around the zoo and announcing all of the animals.  Her English was quite good.  However our casual family stroll was not quite as relaxed as we would have liked.
Li Lin beside one of the trains that give rides around the zoo
Rykauna holding Li Lin beside a statue of a giraffe 'climbing' a tree?
Li Lin and Hudson with our self-imposed tour guide
Logan enjoyed pushing little bro Jadon around
Imposing towering palm trees
Interesting plant growth over our heads
The weather was quite hot and Jadon got bitten by a couple of bugs and he swelled a fair amount (thought the swelling went down quickly).  We left the zoo and had lunch at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe... sort of a Starbucks type spot but with meal offerings as well.  By now the Museum was open and we walked through.  It was interesting to see the history of the Vietnamese people.  It seems that they have always been trying to repel invaders to maintain their independence.
The general from the North who united Vietnam.  Saigon was renamed in his honour
Impressive sculpture with massive elephant tusks
The Museum had a beautiful courtyard
Jadon was full of smiles with mommy
Loves snuggling in with Mommy
'Enjoys'? and sandwich kiss with mommy and daddy
Four of the five kiddos
After the visit we headed back home for our customary dip in the pool.  After cooking a pasta supper here at home, Sara, Logan, Hudson and I managed to play a game of Scrabble on Logan's tablet while Rykauna was doing some homework and Li Lin and Jadon played around.