Friday, July 31, 2009

To see or not to see...

Today we took Eli to his first visit to the eye Doctor. His special needs were described as "Glaucoma and Post-Cataract Surgery". Our American Doctor, Dr. Lee, said that Eli was neither best case nor worst case. Looks like his original problem was having a cataract in both eyes --- possibly from birth or possibly from an infection. He has already had 2 surgeries in China. The first was to remove his LENS. This apparently is common for cataract patients under the age of 2. The second surgery was to remove fragments of his lens that didn't get taken out correctly the first time.

Eli could have developed the Glaucoma on his own OR another cause for this in children is actually 'cataract surgery'. Regardless of how it developed, he also has glaucoma in one eye.

The doctor was dissappointed that he was not given any help getting his eyes back into "focus" following his China surgeries and felt like that could have helped him considerably. Not having any such therapy has put us a "little behind the eight ball" so to speak.

Regardless, the first thing he wanted to do was get Eli into glasses. The perscription is fairly significant -- but getting his eyes back into focus is key. Since the lens of his eye has actually been removed, he'll be looking at glasses or contacts for the rest of his life most likely. We got him the cutest pair. He looks so smart! I can't wait to see his reaction to being able to see things better! He has obviously learned to compensate for his vision issues.

Glaucoma is the result of too much pressure in the eye -- and therefore -- damage occurs to the optic nerve. He was able to get a general reading on Eli and didn't feel it was that significant. He will do a more specific test for eye pressure in 2 months after Eli has had some time to adjust to the glasses. At that time, we'll know if we are looking at medication or surgery to manage the glaucoma. In the meantime, the glasses should improve his vision in a huge way.

We are praying this little boy sees a bright future!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Expecting vs Expectations

I had planned to continue to chronicle through all our China experiences, but life is moving along quickly, so maybe all you need to know is that we arrived (after a 26 hour itenerary) home safely.

Throughout this journey I have not been given to too much "expectation" concerning Eli or our adjustment once arriving home. I've had 4 newborns and know quite well what it's like to kick the bottom block out from under your family structure and need to rebuild a daily routine accomodating a new person and temperment. Maturity and perspective are surely working right now and I'm thankful for them. However, with Eli there were so many unknowns. I didn't know how big he actually was, how smart he'd be, how developmentally behind he'd be, how culturally behind he'd be, how jet lagged we'd be, if he'd love the kids or not, if he'd cry alot or not, if he'd like the dogs, if he'd have tenacity to deal with the running arounds of a busy family or if he'd meet new people with fear or laughter. Unknown was the biggest known. So...I just decided that until we'd at least met, having expectations would be hard to figure.

Adjusting in China and re-adjusting upon coming home are different things. Eli has not changed much since we first met him, but his environment has changed many neighbor yesterday said it can only be described as an alien abduction. I can only guess that's it is overwhelming for him. Everything in our home -- EVERYTHING -- is something he's never seen before -- much less going to the grocery store, zoo, neighbor's house, park, etc. He does seem to be tenacious -- and tired.

Right now, I can best describe myself as feeling like my head is "floating in a land of no expectations". It's kind of like having medicine head or vacation head -- but a little different. I'm not getting alot done except for resting, nor do I feel any pressure to get anything done (maturity and perspective). Our home looks as if we'd had a, clothing, dishes, laundry -- all outta place -- some don't even have a place yet. I've declared the "Beauty of the Lord" over my home -- and moved on. I can't be too bothered by the clutter. My jet lag is worse than I'd hoped and it looks like I'm probably still another week from fully adjusting my sleep (Eli has seemed to have had little problems in this area). The meals on the table each night are being mercifully provided by friends. In general, our world looks different and a month from now it will be different even more...JUST as we expected. Soon however, we will begin rebuilding the blocks of routine and function in the Ramsdell home, but for now, this is all the expecting I have the energy to muster up.....

1. REST - for us, Eli and the kids; I can't function correctly until I've "caught up" on sleep. So catching up becomes functioning correctly. Eli needs lots of sleep to allow for his brain to assimilate all the newness it'sbeing slammed with. Not forgetting that this is something we are doing as a family...Hosanna still has a cast on and is looking towards another surgery and PT, school starting soon, family still in town, etc. -- we all just need rest. Rest is going to take up our time. So, that's what I expect to accomplish in the next

2. COMMUNICATION - I'm hoping over the next month Eli can learn and begin to use some English phrases. Right now, he will respond correctly to "Sit Down" "Come Here" and "No". He seems to recognize his name. He ocassionally uses on his own "Bye Bye" and "Thank you" and repeats anything and everything we say including a hearty "Vote Republican". I'm hoping that this next month will bring the use of other identifying words like "Eat" "Potty" and "Mommy." A side note here, Eli will use the Chinese word for "Aunt" to address me from time to time. It is what he called his nanny. Eventually, we want him to realize that Nannies go -- but Mommies stay forever.

3. FAMILY CENTER - Right now, Eli feels like the center of everything -- just as if we'd had a newborn. He's been an orphan for more than 2 years. He's needy. To the kids, he's like a new puppy. I imagine a day where Eli isn't so much the center attractation in the Ramsdell family...a day where the family gets back to business as usual...when Eli is truly A PART of the FAMILY. For this, we also permit time to take it's course.

So...that's it really. My short list of big (or not so much) expectations for the next.......well......while. We've grant ourselves grace and time to accomplish the good work God has planned and I'll let ya know how it goes!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gotcha Day

Our "Gotcha Day" experience certainly ranked very high on my list of "Things I've Never Done Before". I have physically birthed four children, and make no mistake about it, birthing Eli was harder.

There were 6 adopting families in our Travel Group including us. To say we were blessed and honored to travel with them would have been an understatement. We truly enjoyed being with them including the sweet children they recieved...Lucy, Ellianna, Mia, Jake and Ahn...3 girls and 3 boys.

On our fourth day in China, we flew from Beijing to Zhengzhou, the capital city in the province where Eli's orphanage was located. Our hotel room at the Crown Plaza was very nice -- and a much needed refreshment from the chaos of downtown Beijing. That evening a hotel employee showed up at our door with a crib. When they wheeled it into the room Billy says, "Why do we need that?" It hadn't registered yet.

First thing the very next morning, July 13th, we were all bused to the registration building to "get our babies". The plan was simple. All 6 families would wait in the conference room -- and the babies would be brought in one by one and handed to the right family. They would call out the child's Chinese name -- and you had better know your child's Chinese name! All the while, we'd be video tapped for a Chinese news show.

Before we made it to the conference room, I realized I left Eli's gift on the bus -- so Billy ran back downstairs to get it while me and a couple other moms decided to visit the ladiesroom. When we returned about 5 minutes later, one of the moms babies had already been brought in and was in the arms of his father. She gasped...and cried. It was a great moment. Layered on top of this, Billy walks in the room holding Eli's hand. They had met in the elevator coming back from picking up the gift on the bus! He says the nanny recognized him from his pic and ran up to him with Eli saying, "This your papa!" He had certainly never met one of his children in this way before. Eli was calm for about 10 minutes -- and then the waterworks started flowing. Infact, shortly thereafter, there were 6 crying babies in the room!

Eli cried for about 30 straight minutes, we asked a couple of questions of his nanny, and walked back to the bus. "Congratulations! You have your child," our guide says. We made friends over a cup of Cheerios.

The rest of the day, we slept and got to know one another...just a little. Eli has a mommy and a was a profound experience that's difficult to process all at once and certainly hard to put into words.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's a brand new day...

So...what do you do when you arrive home after being gone for 16 days...around the world...on a profound adventure? I cleaned the nobs on my stove, washed my hair and gave Hosanna a pedicure -- slowly paying attention to things I'd neglected and beginning to reconnect to a life that now looks so different with a 2 year old! It's a brand new day.

China was many things. It was most definately an internet communication nightmare! The government was blocking facebook, blogspot and a variety of other important social networks! Sheesh! I will therefore slowly process my thoughts and download by blogging about our time there and uploading pics.....soon.....really.....if I can get over the get lag!

In the meantime, and thanks to so many people, Eli is doing great.....a little shocked I think to discover once returning home that he wasn't an only child. He has a forever family. Here we go again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

For the sake of my children

Since we were both out of bed by three am, we dressed and went down to the breakfast buffet. It was really good....fried rice, noodles, pastry....Panda Express stuff. Daddy even tried a milk steamed bisquit. It doesn't sound brave, but it looked raw so you would have been very surprised. We met our travel group (all of whom we really like) and headed to tour the city. We seen Tian'am Square, the Forbidden City, a Silk Shop and rode a rickshaw through the Hou'ton. I probably spelled all those words wrong, but I'm very tired! It was very hot (like Florida), but smelly. There are so many people here that you are always surrounded by more people than are at Disney World! You'd hate it. The funniest thing was our dinner. It was "local" -- loud, live animals running around, dirty, crowded, squatty pottys -- your basic funny nightmare. Dad volunteered to get his dinner first. It looked fine enough -- noodles and veggies -- then they dumped a bowl of black, sticky, gunky stuff on top. You should have seen dads face! It was hysterical. We'd love a Red Robin hamburger right about now.

For My Children's Sake....

Thursday, after surving a 12 hour plane ride (with terrible food, and 4 movies), we met our Guide, Sindy, in the spectacular Beijing airport. The people here are really serious about not getting Swine Flu. They took each persons temperature 3 times before we finally got out of the airport! We were put on a very nice tour bus and taken to our Holiday Inn Downtown. The city looks surprisingly American, except it's very dirty, it smells and is soooooo crowded. The place looks foggy all the time, but it's really SMOG. We were soooo tired this first night we fell asleep by 7pm (and then were wide awake 2:30am). Dad walked through the streets some trying to find a way to get his cell phone working, but no one spoke English.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Maybe I've gone crazy...

I have no time to be "blogging" but know if I don't jot down my thoughts, I won't remember them. My "expectation" for this day was that I'd have all the bags packed...YESTERDAY. Last night we'd have a nice family dinner out and today we spend time doing "fun" things with our children. Not so much. I wasn't packed. We had a dinner out...but were all tired and grouchy. Today, we made a quick doughnut run and have been working hard at getting everything together ever since. My neighbor came over to check on me. She occassionally knocks on my door, unannounced, and asks to see how I'm doing. This is a very southern thing -- even though she claims to be a yankee. Billy regularly tells people that I need someone popping in and checking on me...and it's true. I like it.

I said to my neighbor, "Colleen, I can't believe how stressed I am. I'm going to leave my house in a wreck and my kids are getting on my last nerve!" She says very sweetly, "Oh, that is a gift from God to you." I say, "How?" She says, "Well, Shanna, three days ago you were crying about how you couldn't leave your four children -- and now -- you're ready to dump them at your in-laws and hit the road!". Deep wisdom.

It's hard to believe how many people have helped us up to this point. It takes an army to raise a Ramsdell. ;)


Crawling to the Finish Line...

Today is our last day home packing. We just got back from a doughnut run in our PJ's. We will head to the airport at 4:30am. Certainly, we feel as if we are crawling to the finish line. To once again quote my friend Jamie (who is in Ethiopia right now adopting), "People think adoption is about teddy bears and hearts. Mostly, it's about blood, guts and glory." Certainly it's not for the faint of heart...maybe the hardest thing we've ever done.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Sometimes you happen upon a spontaneous, life-giving idea. About 11pm tonight, Billy swooped up Hosanna (doned in PJ's and cast) and Benjamin and took them to see the mid-night showing of Transformers. For a brief moment, my son hollared with excitement. Hosanna hobbled to the car with the biggest smile (and a little concern) on her face. We all needed that.

As luck might have it, the movie was sold out between here and Denver until a 2:15am showing at the drive-in. We believe in being transformed, so we'll perserve.

I don't know "karate", but I do know "crazy" and I ain't afraid to use it....

Last night, at eleven pm, my 3 children were watching the old, old version of King Kong when we got the call that Elizabeth's flight had landed an hour early. Fortunately, her anxious-to-get-his-daughter-back daddy was already at the airport. She brought back tons of candy and we all enjoyed the reunion (and chocolate). She's been resting and hasn't had much time to download to us about her trip, but we are planning a special dinner tonight and look forward to the stories.

Hosanna is recovering, physically. Her toes are swollen and she truly grieves over the loss of her mobility and summer plans. Tears are frequent...anger too. My bright ideas of signing up for an art class or getting a manicure haven't seemed to help. I'm going to suggest she "blog". I am limited to stepping back and allowing grief to take it's course...praying that God would speak to her and comfort her as she embraces a new, allbeit temporary, reality. I prefer situations I can fix.

We are busy getting paperwork together, some of which I'm having a difficult time putting my hands on. We have more passport photos to take, meds for Eli to pick up, meals to get in the freezer, 7 people to pack, phone calls to make, a house on the market to situate, dogs and a fourth of July BBQ to host. I lost my drivers lisc today. Basically, the scariest environment imaginable. Adoption is hard, hard work. Period. Actually, I would say good families are hard work in general. I quoted a friend a line from the movie Shanghi Noon the other day. It describes our life well at the moment. "I may not know KARATE but I do know CRAZY and I ain't afraid to use it!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A day in the life....

Ok, it's almost midnight and three of my children are watching the old, old version of King Kong. My husband is 1/2 way home from Denver with Elizabeth, who touched down an hour early from Germany. I can't wait to see her (and she better have me some chocolate!).

Hosanna is recovering well from surgery, physically. She is experiencing grief from the loss of her mobility and her "summer" which she "wants more than anything" she said tonight. It is very difficult for me to think of leaving her in only 6 days. This summer has been a lesson, an experience really, not only of "going to get" and holding close -- but of letting my children go just a bit.