Monday, August 19, 2013

A Day of Words with Gabriella

Gabriella has loved being a big sister to her "besta friend" Amaris. 

I decided to follow the girls around and write down some of their phrases. These are some of the things that Gabriella is saying right now:

  • "Fow-fer" (I want a GIANT "flower" on my head, not a bow!)

  • "What's that smock?" (Where's my smock so I can eat?)

  • "More wader" (I want more water please)

  • "Uh-mare-jay" (Her pronounciation of "Amaris")

  • "Me besta-friend" (Speaking of Amaris, and sometimes of our mama's helper nanny: Andi)

  • "No Belle eat me food!" (She is telling the dog not to eat her food)

  • "Me eat it first, Belle second!" (I ate my hummus first, the dog ate it second... don't freak out mama... no germs!) ... 5/7/13

  • "Baba, me sleep a dream Baba. Is your back owee?" (This is the first time Gabriella has spoken about having a dream... she dreamed about Baba having a bad back - which he has never had, nor did he, but it was exciting to hear that she is dreaming and that she can now express that)... 5/17/13

  • "Me more?" or "No, me more?" (I want more... can I have some?)

  • "What's that?" (She asks this question a lot)

  • "Me look!" or "Me see?"

  • "Me like it!" (Generally this is in reference to food... which he talks about ALL day, asking what her next meal is and when)

  • "Baba me true loves kiss!" (Baba is my true loves kiss, Mama is Amaris' true loves kiss... this phrase comes from one of our favorite movies: Enchanted)

  • "No bite me sitter!" (Amaris, don't bite me!")

  • "Me yes to like it!" (I like whatever it is... ie. milkshake)

  • "Mama, good driving!" 

  • "Close eyes! Close eyes! Close eyes! Look! Me!" (In absolute squealing delight she yells... generally to Mama or Baba something that she really is excited to show us)

  • "Mama, delish! Mama, thank you me make me milkshake Mama!" (Mama, this is delish (we sometimes say this instead of delicious)... Thank you for making me my milkshake Mama!)... 7/3/13

  • "Look, me all by myself!" (She was reading a math pattern: blue, blue, red)... 7/3/13

Our Little Love Bugs!

Here is a snapshot of our littlest Love Bugs!

These photos were taken July 6, 2013. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gabriella's Stem Cell Surgery... FIFTH month post-op findings

Gabriella had stem cell surgery on 12/12/12... 

Her original and complete post was posted 3/31/2013... read that on her blog for complete details and a photo. 

But, what has happened since... this post includes the 1st, 3rd and 5th month findings:

What has happened POST stem cells for Gabriella the FIRST MONTH:
·        Gabriella (and her newly adopted sister of 6 months- age 2 yrs. 11 mo.) both began speaking in sentences 2 weeks post stem cells.
·        Gabriella’s reading has increased in speed and accuracy. She is reading phonetically.
·        Gabriella can actually now read THREE books in the time it took her to read one.
·        Gabriella took 10 consecutive steps on week 4 post stem cells, walked up the stairs yesterday holding the rail with one hand… one step at a time (not alternating feet).  Today  (1/11/13), she walked up the stairs with one hand and alternating her feet.
·        She is migrating more around the home… crossing hallway walls and corners to get to the bathroom or her room.
·        She has greater balance… she stands and talks to me much more often and for longer periods of time, even removing clothing such as a jacket or shirt.
·        Today her physical therapist at school said the following:  “I can see she’s been practicing her outlining – it’s getting more steady.” (uh…. no, she’s not practicing much at home)
·        Her recent “fits” that began in November  are now subsiding.
·        She has GAINED WEIGHT… Holy cow… this is huge… she weighed 25 pounds as a 3 ½ year old coming home from China and COULD NOT GAIN WEIGHT for an entire YEAR. The second year and a half home, she gained 12 pounds. SHE HAS GAINED 3 POUNDS POST STEM CELLS… in ONE MONTH!
·        And, my favorite… she is no longer repeating herself like she did. She NOW might ask me 5 times in a day “What’s for dinner?” 

What has happened POST stem cells for Gabriella THREE MONTHS later:
·        Gabriella can now read the same Bob books that took her about 15 minutes to read, pre stem cells, in two to four minutes.  
·        She continues to want to read several books in one setting, a minimum of three books each sitting.
·        She is able to read these books now without having to sound out the same words on the same page. Once she knows a word, she generally knows it for the rest of the book. She has at least 10 words in her reading knowledge that she can now see and say rather than actually sound out and read.
·        She is beginning to ask questions… “Why?” is her new favorite question.
·        She can stand AND DANCE in place… even for minutes.
·        When her sister whacks her, she is often able to tell me how, why and where.
·        She is now able to speak with pronouns: he, she , you, me
·        She is negotiating more productively with her newly turned 3-year old sister… there are fewer fights and fits.

What has happened POST stem cells for Gabriella FIVE MONTHS later:
·        Since we started homeschooling the second week of February 2013, I have had her read almost all of the directions to all of her homework pages. She does anywhere between 6 to 12 pages in a day… Most of the time she does about 10.
·        At times, I still find her guessing a word or two… but, she can sound out the words, with short vowels and long vowels (silent “e” and 2 vowel words). She is also learning about the letter “y” and the sounds it can make in different words such as “my”, “many”, etc. She can read words with “ing” and use them in a sentence as well…”walking”.
·        Her sentences are becoming much clearer, and while I still don’t always know what she is saying, my girlfriend mentioned the other day that she can actually understand Gabriella for the first time. It was exciting to hear that from someone outside our home.
·        Gabriella is beginning to write more than just her name now. Her homework includes writing numbers, letters, words, and now sentences. In fact, the first week of May, her very first job was to write a sentence using the words that she was learning: “cat, sat, and mat.” She told me the sentence, wrote it, spelling each word by herself correctly, though I helped her with “the” because she had a brain blank at the moment… “The cat sat on the mat.” She read the sentence afterwards. And, she remembered the sentence for the rest of the day and shared that with everyone she could. She was so proud of herself. It took her 15 minutes to write it. It is still a very slow, tedious process. But, she is doing something that doctors believed she would never do. On Mother’s Day (today), she wrote “Mama” all by herself… sounding it out.
·        When she is communicating with me, I have her repeat sentences in proper English (don’t mention this to her speech teacher though… she wants Gabriella to speak sentences like: I want color” instead of “I want to color.”)
·        Her balance is developing… just how much, I still don’t know. But on 5/5/13, while in Sunday School at church, I videoed her while they sang. She stood for 5 minutes and 27 seconds before being distracted. I had called over one of the leaders and asked if they could sing one more song. While I was talking to the leader, Gabriella sat down. Ugh.  She did get right back up, within 2 seconds, and stood some more… a LOT MORE! In fact, when she finally sat down the second time, the running time was 20 minutes and 27 seconds. Which means, she stood for 15 minutes… exactly DOUBLE what she stood the day after her stem cell surgery on 12/12/12 when she stood 7 ½ minutes. The only other day I have timed her standing.
·        One thing I have noticed is that she is starting to repeat herself again when she wants to talk but has nothing to say. This was one of those things I prayed would stop. I am hoping as our next little ones join our family through adoption in 2013, that she will learn how to communicate and play pretend play without repeating herself or using “baby cries”.
·        She is zooming through the Bob Books, a reading curriculum… but, we probably only sit down to read them 2 times a week. I feel horrible about that… because she wants to read… but, she also likes to do worksheets. She loves worksheets. And, now they are getting challenging enough that I actually have to sit with her for most pages… rather than clean the kitchen or iron clothes.
·        I started her on some emergent books. I really do not like this idea… but, I will see what happens. It’s the kind of book that made me pull her out of public school. “I see a horse.” “I see a cow.” She loves them though.
·        She is just beginning to add objects with numbers (ie. 2 cars with the number 2 = 4 trucks and the number 4). She is also adding 2 cars plus 3 cars = how many cars?
·        She is walking in the upstairs hallway with a plastic grocery cart with really no weight in it. She would have never been able to do this before stem cells. This makes me nervous. I did give her, her helmet to put on… but I prefer to stick my head in the sand like an ostrich… pretending she is not really doing it… then, my nervousness subsides. I fear she will fall and hit her head. Sometimes she walks too fast for mama, but she walks with joy and confidence.
·        Her ability to “cruise” along the walls has become more stable and she moves from wall to wall or hall to hall and through doors with greater ease.
·        She can also “catch” herself if she falls forward… something that didn’t seem like would happen for years.

As I am watching Gabriella, I would like to see the following…
·        Her confidence blossom.
·        Fewer looks for constant affirmation or permission to speak or do something with another person or teacher. If someone asks her to do something (anything)… including Baba, she always looks to me to see if she should answer them or perform for them.
·        That she reads to others.
·        Fewer “fits”.
·        Take more than one independent step as she crosses hallways.
·        More dramatic play with her sister, with real words that match the play.
·        Less repeating.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Our New Meals... Heading Vegan!

In the last couple years, our family, which was once 4, and grew to 8 within 2 years, hasn't consumed much meat. I'm not totally sure why. 

When the college kids were in high school last year, I would buy a 2 breast pack of organic or free-range chicken from Trader Joes and cook it up 2-3 times a week, and almost without question (even with 5 adults in the home and one teenager), we always seemed to have leftover chicken. It's like God multiplied our chicken without asking Him too. While the meals were yummy, the only time it was ravenously consumed was when I would cook Teriyaki chicken on the grill. 

Since the college kiddos don't have a say anymore, we are trying to eliminate meat, gluten, and dairy. We still will eat organic or free-range chicken and organic beef, but it's usually only a couple times a month or if we end up eating out.  

Before trying to go vegan, we didn't eat chips, potatoes, french fries, bread, or any other worthless "food"... but, there are times I just don't know what else to eat. So, this is a work in progress. 

In going "vegan", I gained 8 pounds in 2 months. It is supposed to be the other way around... right? But, we also found a new favorite recipe... which isn't vegan... Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. A few pounds may have come just from that recipe alone. 

We are currently "Flexitarian" Starbucks vegans... we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but will occasionally eat meat and products from animals, and will probably always drink Starbucks!

So, what DO we eat? 
I tried to take a few photos these last couple months. 

Here are a few breakfasts:

These are Gluten Free (GF) Cinnamon Roll Pancakes... one with and one without the homemade cream cheese frosting... just so you could see it. 

Amaris will eat 1-2 of these, Gabriella will eat at least 3, and I don't even bother with this size for anyone else. Everyone else eats 2-3 the size of a dinner plate... 

Before this recipe, the girls and I didn't eat pancakes and I HATED them. It's a much different story now. 

My husband asks early in the week if he can go to the grocery store to get cream cheese. He went to the grocery store TWICE this particular week... and, he even bought EXTRA cream cheese as well. That my friends, is a great recipe... though, not vegan.

To test out the powers of this pancake, I quietly opened the door of the sleeping teenager and started cooking. Before the second set got onto the griddle, he was already walking down looking for them. Bet you want this recipe... huh? Look for it's own post soon. 

This is GF oatmeal with 
added slivered honey roasted almonds, organic apple, and topped with a cinnamon mixture from our Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. 
It is paired with organic applesauce and homemade granola. 

Homemade almond meal muffins with almond butter.  

Gabriella, my 6 year old, home from China for 2 1/2 years, asked: "Mama, what's that?"
I got to tell her it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 
Actually it is almond butter and marionberry jam 
on some magnificent GF bread from Costco.

These are some of our lunches and dinners: 

This was our very first vegan meal... 
baked cauliflower, quinoa with veggies, and 
veggie salad with avocado on top. It was yummy. 

This was probably the most "labor of love" meal... 
shredding all those carrots..
It was worth it, but I literally need to buy a new peeler. 
It was overworked. I haven't found a peeler that can do this again, 
but everyone is waiting to eat this again. 

Included this photo because it was the first time 
I had ever seen them play with their food. 
Usually they are so busy guarding their food from the dog... 
but the dog really isn't that excited about salad. 
So, they got to mix up their lunch a bit. 

 This is a quinoa and kale with pepita seeds and a 
homemade Italian dressing.   


This homemade yellow sauce is DELICIOUS... it is Buddha sauce.
Just looking at this makes me want to run to the kitchen 
and start cooking. 

First chips for the girls... they had to ask what they were. 
Made me smile... guess I am doing a pretty good job 
keeping junk food away from them. 

 This is a kale and broccoli salad mixed with dried cranberries and topped with a homemade Italian dressing. 
The brown rice is mixed with black beans and GF soy sauce. 

Homemade cashew butter 

This salad has red and yellow peppers, dill and carrot... 
with the option to top it with a slice of turkey bacon. 
The brown rice has black beans, red and yellow peppers and celery. 
The homemade almond meal and chocolate chip muffins are 
simply irresistible. 

Yummy banana and chocolate chip GF oatmeal cookies. 
First potatoes.

This is a rice noodle gently boiled in vegetable broth with carrot. Cucumbers added afterward. Plus, some homemade granola!

 This is a kale based salad with mandarin oranges, apple, sliced almonds and a homemade Asian dressing.   
On the left are some sliced brussel sprouts lightly steamed and topped with cashew butter. 

 This is red quinoa with broccoli and cashew butter. 
Pesto sauce has been mixed with black and garbanzo beans. 

 This dinner includes quinoa, garbanzo beans, broccoli, carrots, and celery and is topped off with homemade Buddha sauce.  

 This is a quinoa and kale salad with Buddha sauce.  

This is a GF pizza made with Costco's pesto sauce,
mushrooms, kale, garbanzo beans, red and yellow peppers, 
and fresh pineapple. 

Okay... totally cheated... this is Chipotles salad with chicken. 
If the girls ask for meat, or to go somewhere, 
I generally try to oblige. 

This is their first time for snap pea chips. They loved them!

Thai dinner: beef salad and veggie rice with egg. 

 This is a potato lentil chip from Trader Joes. 

This was our first time with lentils. They were delicious. 
The sweet potatoes were baked with olive oil and salt and pepper. 
I should have bought 3 bags of sweet potatoes. Even the teenager wanted more. 

I decided to cook the three packages of chicken 
that had been in the freezer for the last 3 months... 
This was a PHENOMENAL recipe with 
the best peanut sauce I have ever tasted.... 
and I LOVE peanut sauce and always try it wherever we go... 
the recipe was from The Costco Connection
April 2013 magazine. 
Everyone thought we had just gone to the restaurant 
and paid double. 

Thai marinated grilled chicken skewers with peanut coconut sauce

This is a broccoli slaw with black rice, avocado and cashew butter. 

This is quinoa mixed with red quinoa, 
a homemade hoisin sauce and carrots 
with avocado on the side. 

This is our vegan homemade macaroni and cheese... 
we have the VERY BEST Macaroni and Cheese 
recipe in the world... 
however, it doesn't look or taste the same with 
GF noodles, coconut milk and non-dairy "cheese".
Hope I can figure out some tastier substitutes. 
This meal was served with a broccoli and kale salad and some 
homemade kale chips, pictured on the right. 

Quinoa with lentils, broccoli and kale. 

This was a better homemade macaroni and cheese made
later in the month with a different noodle and non-dairy milk. 

This is some GF bread with non-dairy cheese 
grilled with a super yummy lentil soup.