Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Today, we had an unexpected blessing. Eleven days ago, Lily had the second of two surgeries for her BAHA sound processing system and for a last surgical attempt to get a prosthetic ear that works for her. We saw her surgeon this morning for her post-op check and he gave the go ahead for her to get the BAHA fitted today. We went to the audiologist's room and the BAHA was immediately put on Lily's head, allowing her to hear from both sides of her head. Up until now, the only time she's ever been able to do that is during a bone-conduction hearing test. Below, the audiologist is running a few hearing tests through the BAHA to adjust it for Lily's needs and preferences. She thinks things are kind of loud now, but the audiologist assured her that she would get used to it - that her brain needs to learn how to hear on that side. They said the hearing part of her brain will actually re-structure itself over the next few weeks to adjust to the change.
Afterwards, we were given instructions on how to use it and care for it at home. On the way home, we listened as she talked to her aunt and cousin on the phone; hearing her say "I can hear things I've never heard before!" brought tears to my eyes. We take so much for granted!

This is a picture of what the BAHA actually looks like on her head.

It's very, very tiny and will completely hide beneath her hair. The other two posts that you see will be used for a prosthetic ear.
Another cool thing is that the BAHA comes with a special "Share the experience" plastic post. We connect her BAHA to this post, plug our ears, hold the post to our head, and we can hear through it just like she can! It's meant to help the parents be able to trouble-shoot any problems, but it also gave her a chance to share her experience with her family.

Friday, August 20, 2010


These past 2 1/2 weeksweeks we have had an exchange student staying with us. Each summer a group of about 60 students comes from a Japanese University to take classes in ESL and American Culture. They all live in host families.

This year, we were lucky enough to have Tianyu stay with us! She is actually Chinese, but lives in Japan with her family. She can speak 3 languages!

We started e-mailing each other near the end of June and I immediately knew she was someone special. We have done a lot, shared a lot, and laughed A LOT these past weeks together, and the thought that she will soon need to return home is making all of us very sad. Please enjoy these few "snapshots" of her stay with us.
Waiting for the student to arrive:
Meeting a real horse for the very first time:
Playing croquet at my dad's 70th birthday party:
The Rainforest Cafe:
Meeting SpongeBob and Patrick (very important day!!)
Visiting a Native American museum:
She told us she wanted to do some work, so DH taught her how to mow the grass! Unfortunately, we all discovered she has an allergy to grass....
After months of preperation and traveling half way around the world to live with strangers for 3 weeks, she gets her program diploma at graduation last night.
Celebrating at Dairy Queen after the Graduation Ceremony.

We are all really, really going to miss her. She has fit into our family like she belongs here and it is going to be hard to say good-bye on Monday. We are trying hard to remember the saying by Dr. Suess, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Tianyu- THANK YOU for coming! We've had such a good time with you and hope this is just the start of a lifelong friendship!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cooper's been "tutored"

Cooper went to the vet today to have his "little boy dog" surgery. All went well and he is happy to be home, but is feeling rather sorry for himself.

He has been given his "cone of shame" to prevent licking and doesn't really like it much at all. Thankfully, Mango has a great deal of empathy for him and decided to join him. I'm sure it helps him feel better. (He looks at her rather funny anyways!)

Another funny story from the day...the vet gave Cooper a certificate of bravery. I handed it to Monkey when we got home and told him the vet said we should put it on the refridgerator. When DH got home about an hour or so later, we told him he had to see the certificate, but when he went to look, it was no where to be found. We finally asked Monkey where he put it, and he walks over to the fridge, opens it and pulls the certificate off one of the shelves! Never a dull moment here!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 6: The National Museum of American History and the National Archives

After eating breakfast at our hotel, we once again boarded the Metro for the trip into Washington D.C. The train was more crowded this morning, but where else can you sit next to a senator's aide or someone who works at the Pentagon, and come up out of the subway to views like this?
We were the very first family through the doors at the National Museum of American History that morning. It's one of the many Smithsonian Museums and there's far more to see and look at in there than you could ever hope to see in the few hours that we had, but we gave it our best shot!

We saw Dorothy's ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog (who is much smaller than he appears), Fonzie's coat, Archie Bunker's chair, and many, many exhibits on the American presidents, transportation, science, and wars.

Monkey sees how he measures up to one of the greatest American presidents...

Lily gets ready to give Ronald Reagan's speech with the famous line, "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down that wall".

And of course, no American History museum would be complete if it didn't have some reference to the Star Wars movies that are such a part of our culture.

In the early afternoon, we made our way over to the National Archives. It started to rain lightly on our walk over there and continued to rain as we stood in line. There's security at the entrance to just about every building, so nothing moves very quickly. Once inside, we were again lined up and eventually allowed into the Rotunda where the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on exhibit. The Declaration is getting very faded and thin, and as we stood there looking at it, I asked each of my kids to take a "brain picture" (the only kind allowed in there) to remember it with, as it may not last long enough to be seen by their children or grandchildren. However, the part of this building that impressed our younger set the most was the Declaration that was engraved in the doors of the elevator!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 4 & 5: Driving, Arlington, the Memorials, the White House and the Holocaust Museum

On Saturday (May 15th), we spent most of the day in the van, driving from Ohio to our hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. We were in a total of 5 states that day: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virgina and Virginia. Maryland won the award for being the prettiest state and we discovered that the Appalachian Mountains really are just hills compared to the Rockies!

Sunday morning, we took the Metro and started our day at Arlington Cemetary. It was such a beautiful day out and the cemetary is both wonderful and somber at the the same time. There is no real way to go past all of those graves and fully take it in.
I wasn't really sure if the kids would enjoy it much, but they all seemed too. Watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was one of everyone's favorite memories on the trip. The soldier walks 21 steps, stops, faces the graves for 21 seconds, and then turns and walks back 21 steps. The graves are guarded 24/7, rain or shine, and the ceremony takes place even when no one is there to watch it. The picture below shows the new guard coming on duty and having a full army inspection by his sargeant before assuming his assigned duty.
We also visited the Kennedy graves, and the memorials for the Challenger, Columbia, and for those who lost their lives attempting to free the Iranian hostages.
After leaving Arlington, we had lunch outside near the Lincoln Memorial, and then began what we called the "Memorial Loop".
Our first stop was the Korean War Memorial. It is not quite as well known as some of the others, but ended up being our favorite and perhaps the most moving. Nineteen, slightly larger than life, soldiers are crossing a field on patrol. The ground is made to look like it would have in Korea. Their faces are so real, and each one is completely different.

On one side of these soldiers is a beautiful reflecting wall with images of those who died in the war etched in. They are of many different sizes, and there is no real order to the etchings, but somehow that made it only more touching. At night, when the wall is lit up, the 19 soldiers reflect onto this wall, giving an appearence of 38. It represents the 38th parallel, which was the line between North and South Korea. From there, it was just a short walk over to visit Abraham Lincoln. Our younger set was quite impressed by this memorial, and Monkey even knew it was the one on the penny! We all agreed that the memorial building itself was much larger than we expected, but Abe was smaller than expected.

We then walked over to the Vietnam Memorial. It is a bit staggering if you let yourself take a moment to ponder just how many names are etched into this wall.
By this point, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we hopped back on our trolley and headed out to see the White House. The guide told us that if we ever got tired of paying the high prices in Washington D.C, we could get free room and board on the city if we simply tried climbing one of these fences.

We did some of our first shopping at a little street kiosk just down the road from here. Monkey purchased yet another stuffed monkey. Even with all we had seen that day, he declared his new monkey his favorite thing of the day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 3: The Creation Museum Part 2

The following morning we headed back for a few more hours at the Creation Museum. There were a few shows we hadn't gotten to see the day before, and we all wanted to walk through the main part of the museum one more time.

Here, Random takes on a dinosaur eating it's prey.
Methuselah ended up being one of our favorite animitronics in the museum. We aren't sure why, other than the fact the boys thought he sounded like Yoda and they found that hilarious.
It was a gorgeous day! We took the time to walk through their beautiful botanical gardens. Ponds, waterfalls, and lots of green and sunshine - it doesn't get much better than that after days of rain before leaving home!

The T-Rex topiary.

A visit to their petting zoo rounded out our day. We got to pet a zonkey (zebra/donkey cross) a zorse (zebra/horse cross), camels, goats, sheep, ducks, and a few other things as well. Monkey was VERY determined to pet one of the very cute Malaysian chickens (who knew chickens could be cute?) and finally managed to corner one long enough to give it a few pats.
We all left the Creation Museum feeling like if that was all we did for our vacation that we would've been happy. Everyone loved it and it was definitely one of the big highlights of our trip.
Pictures and stories can't do it justice....You have to go see it for yourself!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 2: The Creation Museum

On Thursday, we drove the remaining 5-6 hours to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We arrived in time to spend a couple of hours there and even got to meet Ken Ham, the founder of the museum and Answers in Genesis!

The museum is beautifully done and really has something for everyone. This picture is of Adam naming all of the animals. Notice the penguin that was in the Garden of Eden!
Monkey had to have his picture taken by the monkey.
Here is their depiction of Noah as the ark is being built. They have a 1/100 scale section of what the ark is believed to have looked like. The size is truly incredible and this was one of our favorite rooms!

Update and Vacation 2010 - Day 1

I have been a terrible blogger!
Lily's surgery in March went well, but was not entirely successful. They had hoped to be able to "clean up" and thin out the skin around her top ear post implant, but were not able to do so. The bones in her skull have not grown evenly, so the post now tips forward and is too near her jaw joint. There was simply nothing more they could do to prevent infections in that area, so we have had the top post portion removed (the part in the bone is not removable). She will have surgery again in August for the Stage 2 part of her BAHA and they will open her reserve implant then for a final try at getting her a prosthetic ear that works. Her surgeon told us that this will be the first time a reserve post has ever needed to be used.

May 12th, the day after getting surgery scheduled, we left on vacation. We were rather proud of our packing job!
We didn't make it any farther than the Wisconsin border before Monkey had to buy a new stuffed friend!

We traveled several hours and spent our first night in Hoffman Estates, IL.

The days quotes from the backseat crowd: "Is this Washington D.C.?" (asked as we pulled into a Subway minutes from home), "Another cheese shop?", "He's in my space, Mom.", the theme song from Pinky and the Brain, "We are now emerging from behind the Cheddar Curtain", "Why do we have to pay to use these roads?", and of course, "Are we there yet?"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lily's Big Week

This is a big week for our Lily.

On Monday, she turned 12 years old. We celebrated with a lunch out with friends on Sunday, lunch out with relatives on Monday, and with gifts and cupcakes Monday evening.
Tuesday morning we headed off for haircuts.
Lily will be having surgery on Friday. They will be doing a revision of her ear-post area so she can eventually wear her prosthetic ear again, and they will be placing a fourth post farther back on her head for a BAHA hearing aid. She is excited about this as it will allow her to hear on both sides of her head. She will need a second surgery in 4 months to finish this procedure.
To place the BAHA post, the doctor will need to shave a small part of her head, slightly above and behind where her ear would be. To make this easier for him (and because he's guy and not a beautician), we talked with Lily about getting her hair shortened before the procedure.
She chose to go much shorter than she would've needed to and to donate her hair. It was a very unselfish thing to do and I'm very proud of her.
Her beautiful thick, black hair will be sent to Locks of Love and used to make a wig for a child who needs one.
Here she is after getting her new style! Doesn't she look great?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mango Turns Nine!!!

Nine years ago today, my daughter was one day old. I did not know her then. She was born into a place very different than the one she now lives in. There were hardships that brought her out of that place and into another, but I do know that she was always precious, always loved, and always wanted.
I only have to look at her now to know she was a beautiful baby. I imagine that she was a content, calm, and happy infant, and that she smiled early and easily, because that's how she is today. Her amazing ability to love others tells me that someone lovingly cared for her then.
And today I find myself feeling grateful. Grateful for all of the people who loved and cared for her before I even knew her name. She is who she is today because of what each of her families, and each of her caretakers have given her...and who she is today is one very amazing girl. She's funny, kind, responsible, compassionate, unselfish, loving, patient, and just enjoyable. I couldn't love her more than I do and it's a privilege to be her mom!