...Just a Reminder...This story builds FROM THE BOTTOM UP...so if you're joining late, be sure to catch up by reading from the beginning...Thanks.

In case you're interested, we invite you to read Kyle's Story and Dylan's Story

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year !!! Here comes 2011 !!!!

Hi there, C here,

As 2010 winds itself down, and tonight marches toward tomorrow and we welcome 2011, we want to wish all of you and your families a very Happy New Year.

Looking back over the last year, we have so much to be thankful for.  We have been so fortunate to have been entrusted with a new little life.  Our little Ashley has already been through so much in her life.  Along with the boys, she inspires us to be better parents, and have reinforced for us the lessons of perspective and perseverance.

At one point in this, our third adoption process, we had been asking ourselves: "Can we do this."
Now, thanks to what we've been able to overcome as a family, we have never felt more certain that: "We can do this."

This afternoon, I was looking through some old photos and videos on my phone and I came across:
* A video of the Guangzhou hospital room - single wooden chair and all - where Ashley spent (2) difficult nights.
* Photos of the signs on the outside of the hospital which I emailed to Aunt Rita so she could show her clueless cab driver - she was trying to bring the boys to the hospital and relieve Lisa and me for the night.
* A video of the pediatric ward of the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong where we spent (2) more nights, sleeping on the windowsill!
Plenty more photos and video nuggets to remind us of Ashley's adoption journey - the lows and the highs, too.

Anyway...It's 10:45 on NewYear's Eve, I'm sitting at Grandma & Poppa's dining room table pecking out this post.  I hear Ashley's little voice in the family room watching TV because she's still AWAKE!  She's talking to Mom, Poppa and Grandma as if it's the middle of the afternoon.  I just tried to wind her down myself, but failed - uncharacteristically, I might add!. (I spent about 40 minutes with her in the bedroom, I even had her lying face down on my chest.  This usually works every time...not tonight.)  Maybe she just wants to make sure for herself that 2010 finally does leave!!!

Tomorrow is HER BIRTHDAY after all!!

Just for the record, Mom just took Ashley upstairs to try to help her get to sleep.  She is exhausted beyond words, but for some reason, fighting sleep with all her screaming might!  Here is what I just saw as she headed upstairs:

This look is worth at least 1,000 words!

Despite tonight's challenges, 2010 has enriched our lives beyond description. Recently, Ashley's foster mother sent us a long letter that touched all of us.  In it, she revealed to us all of the details of Ashley's story.  For those of you unfamiliar with Chinese adoptions, a child's backstory many times goes forever untold.  The harsh reality of the abandonment, the cold objectivity of the baby's finding, and the details of the child's first few days & weeks and placement in an SWI (Social Welfare Institute) are usually neatly tucked into, at most 3 paragraphs, in the baby's Medical Report.

Special needs children's stories are usually more detailed, but typically only in an clinical sense.  The stories have more of the blanks filled in, but often times, not many more, when it comes to the human side of the story.

Thanks to the meticulous care and nurturing that she personally showered onto Ashley, the raw "fight" (no better word for it...) that her foster mother put up to assure her very survival, and the time and attention that she obviously devoted to recording the story, Ashley's story is as complete as we could ever hope for.  Her history is well recorded, thoughtfully told, and richly charged with all the emotion,  and love of the first 21 months of her young life.

It's an intensely personal journal of Ashley's and her foster family's challenges, joys, struggles and victories along the way to our meeting in Wuhan on October 11, 2010.  We realize what a gift we have been given to be able to have been told this story.  In fact, we have been in contact with Ashley's foster family over the past 2-3 months, trading letters, emails and photos.  We will likely have even more details revealed to us over time.  All of which will surely enrich the life of our daughter, when she's ready.

If the baby monitor is not malfunctioning, it seems like Mom has succeeded where I did not - the silence is deafening (except for the occasional sounds of Ashley's tummy getting smaller - I'll leave that to your imagination !!)

Back to Grand Rapids...Time check:  11:25 PM.
(Yes, it took me "that long" to type the last few paragraphs - I should have paid more attention in Father Brown's - may God rest his soul - Junior year typing class at HGP!!)

The past few days here have been full of activities!
The Wedder cousins visited yesterday afternoon for Poppa Wedder's annual tradition of Cookie Decorating.  Mom made the sugar cookies and the kids decorated!

Last night we went out to the mall and the Boys & Ashley had fun in the play area.  Today we also ventured out to (in the rain, if you can believe it - it's 50+ degrees here!) go shopping again, and visit another play area.  Ashley is downright fearless (not always a good thing) when it comes to keeping up with K & D.  We had a little incident today!

She vaulted headfirst down the far side of a "mushroom", but couldn't pull her head up quickly enough...she wasn't hurt - much!!  It turns out that her hair bow got caught in the melee and gave her a little scratch on the side of her nose! (If you scroll back up, you can see it on the photo above!).  The good news: no tears, no (not much) blood, and only a small scratch, which will hopefully heal quickly, as evidence.  Mom wasn't pleased - but she got over it - she'll need to the way Ashley tries to keep up with da Boyeez!!

And tonight, we visited the local minor league baseball park (home of the West Michigan Whitecaps) where every year they set up a drive-through light display in the vast parking lot.  Tons of lights and signs of the season.  (Does it matter that we had to wake everyone up from their naps when we got there? It's about a 30 minute ride by car.)  Regardless, everyone perked up when we slid into Starbucks to pick up some Hot Chox and Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Wait a minute...maybe THAT's why Ashley couldn't fall asleep!!!
Who knows - at least she's out now!

Here are some photos to end with:

Signing off now...Thanks for checking in.

Happy New Year.

Talk to you soon...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Update from Grand Rapids, MI

Hi there, C here...again,

Much to report, where to start...?

Ashley has been remarkably accepting and trusting with her new Grandparents and with Uncle Mark's family, considering she's only just met them.  She learned the "fist bump" shortly after getting home to the states...courtesy of the boys!  Now it's "fist bumps" for all!!!  (She's even softened up with Poppa Wedder, letting him bump her after a few days of circumspection!)

She has really gotten very clear with her "Mommy", to Lisa's delight.  It's as clear as anything she says and she sounds like she's been saying it for years.  She's nailed almost all of her major body parts as well, including "Teef".  She has gotten more adventurous with her attempts and seems to now understand what we mean when we want her to repeat something we say.

The boys are getting the absolute most out of the IronMan toys that Santa delivered on Saturday morning.  Between the vehicles, the action figures, and the DS Games, there is no escaping him.

Although thee has been no new snow since we arrived (very unusual), the boys have been enjoying what little is left (maybe 3-4 inches) in Grandma's backyard.  Last night they were building "Snow Volcanoes", as Dylan explained - almost certainly inspired by the new Dora the Explorer DVD video!

And late this afternoon, we took a ride over to Reed's Lake near the high school.  In the summers, the lake is a fun place to go to walk and play - there is a new walking path around the perimeter and there are lots of small boats and jet skis to watch.  But today, it was frozen solid (according to the ice fishermen we talked to, the ice was about 5-6" thick).  And there were two large areas that had been cleared for skating and hockey.  So we fooled around on the lake making snowballs, watching the hockey players and skaters and checking out the fishermen.  It was a really nice winter scene.

Here are a few photos:

Mama & Da Boyz

Mama & Ashley (Cool hat!)

Dad & Ashley (Self Portrait taken by Dad)

Ashley preparing to pelt the boys with a snowball!

But they were ready for her!!

I don't know how this will post, but we took a Panorama shot...

Also, this afternoon, we went to the movies to see Yogi Bear!  The boys really enjoyed it and Ashley endured about 2/3's of the show before fading into a nap!!

Tonight, we went to a local mall to let Mom & G'ma do some post-Christmas bargain hunting.  The boys were well behaved for Dad as they took turns pushing Ashley's stroller around the mall.  (Thank God for the "Timer" feature on my iPhone - there would have been major problems if Dylan got 10 seconds more of stroller time than Kyle! For the record, each got precisely 5 minutes on a rotating basis!  It was funny to see them stop in their tracks when the phone alarm sounded - neither one wanted to ruin a good thing.  Dad was pleased as well!!!!)

Before we left, we stopped by the play area (lots of stuff to climb on and a couple of small slides). Ashley really had a blast, and she followed the boys around - pointing at the things that they were climbing on so she could do it too!

We hope all is well at home in Philadelphia after the big Blizzard!  Aunt Rita has reported that our new frogs are doing well, and Murphy is fine at Pop-Pop's.  The frogs were a gift from Aunt Rita - the boys named one Shaggy and the other Scooby, although I have a hard time telling them apart!

Well, gotta get some sleep - more soon...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pictures Now..Stories Later

Here are some photos from our Christmas Adventures...
Ashley & Aunt Rita enjoying a pretzel!

Oh look...Ashley & Pop-Pop Rita enjoying a (soft) pretzel!

Ashley and her cute little Raggedy Ann Dress!

Kyle and his R/C Submarine (he can race Dylan - Santa brought 2!)!

Dylan and his IronMan "Rolling Battle Headquarters" !!

K & D both got Leap Tag Readers

Dylan & his "Mack" (L. McQ) Car Carrier

Ashley showing off her new "Computer"!

Dad & Ashley enjoying a well-deserved nap.

Cousins Paityn, Luke (and "Rat #1) and Ashley

Kyle putting on his game face to actually touch the Rat!!

Dylan & Uncle Mark

Kyle & Uncle Mark

A Wedder Cousin Sandwich - Poor Logan...all that "Turkey" on Top!!

Ashley & her cousin Logan

More soon...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas ... from Grand Rapids, MI

Hi there, C Here,

It's been a few days (ok...weeks) since our last update.  Life has gotten very busy with the Christmas Holidays upon us.  But we will hopefully be able to catch everyone up over the next few days...and post a lot of photos!

First of all, we want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!!  We hope that Santa was as generous to you as he was to us.  We're in Grand Rapids for Christmas, as we have been every Christmas for as long as I can remember.  We are visiting Grandma and Poppa Wedder and Uncle Mark, Aunt Avery and cousins Paityn, Logan and Luke.

The trip went really well - and by that I mean it was uneventful.  We left after work on Thursday, spent the night just northwest of Pittsburgh, and finished the trip on Friday - we were here in GR by 4 PM or so.  Very little traffic, very few troopers, and perfect driving weather most of the time.  We are VERY FORTUNATE that we have three great long distance travelers in the kids.  Only for a short period of time on Thursday night, did we have any sort of isssue - Ashley was very tired and not very comfortable (she is likely cutting some new teeth).  But we made it into Cranberry, PA just fine and she went right off to sleep at the hotel.

The Kids enjoyed Christmas Morning here at the Wedders after enjoying an early Lockhead Christmas a couple of weeks ago at our house.  That's when we had everyone over for a big day of gift opening and family fun, followed by a great turkey dinner, compliments of Grandmom Lockhead.

Here in GR, we went to visit UM & AA this afternoon and enjoyed a dinner of the best prime rib I've had since I don't even know... Then we exchanged gifts under UM's tree - everyone seemed to really enjoy catching up. we didn't get a chance to visit over the summer, like we did last year, so it's been a while since the cousins saw each other.

And of course, Ashley made her debut...and what a performance!
She was right at home with everyone, especially her new favorite cousin Paityn.  She had a great meal of mac & cheese, prime rib (surprise!), apple slices, and a few pieces of chocolate mints. She was going full tilt from the moment we got there until we left.  We made it home and she pretty much crashed as soon as she hit her pillow!  The boys were close behind and the hose is now quiet.

We have much to be thankful for this Christmas.  And much of it is captured here in this journal.
Lisa and I feel so very lucky to have been blessed with our children and we truly enjoy every minute of every day.  Time melts away if you're not paying attention...

To wit...Christmas Eve marks the 4 YEAR anniversary of our oldest son Kyle joining our family.  He came to us in Nanchang, China as an unforgettable Christmas gift.  I remember many special moments from that trip as if it happened last week.  Lisa and I joke about how difficult the transition was on Kyle for the first few days. Now to look at him...what a difference this time had made.  It's funny how the special moments of Dylan's also seem to have a "wasn't that just the other day" sort of feeling.

Ashley continues to thrive with the Boys as her guiding lights. She has become very attached to both Mom and me and she shares special relationships with Kyle & Dylan.  She has done very well adapting to her new schedule and her new little friends and teachers at Goddard School.  Her "condition" continues to stabilize and she seems much more comfortable...more on this later.
Also we hope to post a bunch more photos of the past few weeks.

Thanks for following...there is more to come...
See you soon, I am going to bed now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

Sorry, it's been a few weeks since our last posting.  It's just been really crazy at the Lockhead house these days, especially with the holidays. 

Do you notice anything about the above picture?  Like it's missing our newest? !  We were all excited, everyone waited in line for a 1/2 hour to see the "Big Guy"...Ashley rushes up to him, gets about 2 feet away and looks at us like "there's NO way that you should even think about my sitting up there!"  After several back bends and ear drum shattering screams, we settled on a picture without Ashley.  She seemed much happier that way.  I guess there's always next year!

We are leaving for MI in a few hours, so I'll sign off here.  One of Charlie's holiday vacation activities will be updating the blog and bringing everything current.  Wish us luck on a very long drive with Ashley who definitely does not travel as well (quietly) as her two brothers.  When she is not yelling for the snack food bag, yelling words of some sort out at Charlie, she is getting frustrated by being so bored watching the world go by.  Hopefully, we won't have to make too many unexpected stops.

We wish everyone a very wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

From Kissing Child to the Tasmanian Devil and Back

Well, we all started the Lockhead Family morning at 4:30 a.m. today so Ashley and I could be at CHOP by 6:15 a.m. for her scope and biopsy.  All children sported their Santa PJs, matching socks and sneakers as they boarded the CHOP Bus, driven by Daddy, down to CHOP.  Let's just say that there weren't too many people on the road at that time, although the CHOP waiting room was already filled.  It's nice to be the first procedure of the morning, but deadly to try and wake up at that hour and be sensible. 

Ashley was fairly calm as she dressed in her "sporty" space bear hospital PJs and socks; however, she was not too pleased about having her blood pressure, temperature and heart rate checked.  The nurse tried to take her blood pressure no less than 5 times to no avail.  Finally, we all said "she's alive and well and those screams tell you that she has just the right blood pressure today!" before the nurse decided that they could just re-do it once she was asleep.

Then came the two vials of sleep meds, which she also wanted no part of, so while I held her down as she was back-flipping, the nurse managed to squirt them both in.  However, those medicines must have also been love potions, as Ashley decided that she would become very happy and be the "kissing baby!"  She kept kissing me again and again, which is a bit unusual for her.  Then off she merrily went to the Operating Room.

She had a quick anal scope and biopsy today to determine what her "inside" really looked like vs. just x-rays and the barium enema test.  The Dr. said that her original stitches were still intact from her first operation, but that he'll have to wait a few days for the Hirschsprungs biopsy result.  He also helped to empty her colon, once again, so that all is well for a few days.  Luckily, the procedure was less than 1 hr.

I was then called back to the Recovery Area, where Ashley was screaming at the top of her lungs as the nurse turns to me and says "that's Ashley, can you hear her?!", while another nurse tried to hold her.  As I entered the room, I managed to dump my entire coffee in the room (so typical of our hospital adventures!)  as the nurse was trying to hand me Ashley who was turning every which way.  Then the Tansmanian Devil really showed itself, as Ashley proceeded to punch, kick, scratch and slap me, at me, and/or the bed  (it was a bit funny to watch as she was trying to pick a fight with the bed pillow).  That lasted about 20 minutes as the nurse grew more fearful, while I was laughing saying "oh, this is the behavior that we witnessed in China, she'll be fine in a few minutes. Just let me basically full body hold her down as I take some more battle scars!" That baby is one strong child - she can bench-press with the Eagles any day.  After almost flipping out of her bed no less than 10 times, she finally settled once a popsicle appeared and all was well again and she was ready to get out of there.  Because Charlie had to drop off Dylan & Kyle at school this morning, he arrived to see only a fairly sane baby ready to sit on his lap!!

I guess that she must be feeling great now that she is home, as she has proceeded to go on her junk food binge again polishing off Sun Chips, regular Chips, Cheetos, apples and some Mac & Cheese.  She even decided to decorate some of her hair with food, just as a special touch.

She should be ready to join her Goddard friends again tomorrow.  So far, so good at school (at least from what we see and hear). She seems to like "singing and dancing." She was very wound up last night post school asking me for the "bump" that Daddy taught her and screaming "hi baby" at the top of her lungs.  It's a long day for her, so usually she is in bed around 7, which is nice.

The boys are busy trying to be good for Santa who seems to call Daddy's phone a few times during the week.  They both have their Christmas lists ready to go.  We hope to make a visit to the King of Prussia to see Santa later this week.  Both are looking forward to seeing the "Yogi Bear" movie when it comes out, as they think that the movie looks very funny (although I am not quite sure!)

Charlie is busy writing an article for the CHOP International Adoption Team about our wonderful medical experiences in a foreign country!  We still laugh (most of the time) about some of the very comical things that happened to us on that trip; most that we never anticipated.

I'll leave you with a few photos from this morning with Ashley sporting some very fashionable duds!