Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Goodness! It's been 2 months!

Well, it's been a very busy 2 months for us here in the Trischler household as I'm sure it has been in most households. These pictures are kind of in a random order, but I wanted to fill you in on what's been happening with us.

We spent Thanksgiving at Steve's parent's house this year, and we had a very lovely time. Everyone was there except our niece, Maggie, who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Andy, and their 2 boys - Mark (almost 19 months) and Joel (2 days).

Our December was filled with shopping and Christmas activities as we prepared for Christ's birth. We went to a Christmas party with my MOPS group, and the children got to visit with Santa. Santa was wonderful with all the children - more so than most. Derek really did some nice exploring of Santa's beard, hair, glasses, and hat (which fell off enough times that we left it off).
We also hosted a Polar Express pajama party. The movie is a huge favorite with our boys, and Katie thinks it's pretty cool, too. Everyone had a great time.
Two days before Christmas, the kids and I rang the Salvation Army bell in front of the JCPenney at Shoal Creek. I didn't know how the kids would do, but they did great! Alex loved holding the doors open for everyone, Derek liked standing by the kettle, and Katie liked ringing the bell, and in general, looking cute. People were very generous, most gave $3 - one for Derek, one for Alex, and one for Katie. At one point, a lady put a dollar in the kettle, and Katie wanted to put it in so she held her hand out to the lady for another dollar. Despite my insistance that that wasn't necessary, the woman pulled out another dollar for Katie to put in. Another lady said that she had decided to not give anymore this year, but she just couldn't say no to Katie. The mailman walked through and said that I "won." Katie was the cutest little elf he had seen. It was hilarious how much attention the kids were getting and how much money people were contributing, but that's the whole point, isn't it? To give back to those who don't have as much.
This is the picture we included in our Christmas cards this year.

A nice family picture.

Since Christmas, I took my kids and Maddy and Drew (niece and nephew) down to Branson for 4 days for Silver Dollar City, shopping, and family time. My parents joined us the next day, and we had a great time.
My birthday on the 3rd was uneventful except that we went to Chuck E. Cheese. Now, we didn't go FOR my birthday, simply ON my birthday. Alex had been working hard to earn 40 stickers for good behavior both at school and on the bus, and he wanted his reward to be Chuck E. Cheese, and that Saturday was simply a really good day to go. We all had a great time, and Derek surprised us at some of the rides he could do.
With the kids back in school, my life has been able to resume a schedule again, and I have enjoyed that. Steve turned 40 on the 10th, and we had a surprise birthday party for him at Hibachi (his favorite restaurant). He started to suspect something the last 2 days because everyone kept telling him what they were doing Saturday night, and a few things I did made him wonder. However, he kept talking himself out of it, because he had chosen the restaurant, the day, and the time - all part of the plan - make him THINK he's making the decisions! :-) Regardless, we all had a great time eating, drinking, and catching shrimp!
An update on Katie's name: You may remember that her certificate of Citizenship had the wrong spelling of her name, and we've been working for 4 months to get this replaced without paying a fee. Well, we got a letter in early December from the USCIS saying that they will replace the certificate and will waive the fee. Yea! So, I mailed all the necessary documents in mid-December, and we are still waiting for the replacement. I think it typically takes 3 weeks, and with the holidays thrown in there - who knows?! Once that arrives, then I can apply for her SSN. Whew! We also finished her 6 month post-placement report and sent that off to the agency. We will need to do a 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year as well, and then we will officially be all done with the adoption paperwork. Yea!!
Well, those are the highlights for the Trischler family. We are all doing well, Katie had a blast during her first Christmas, the boys got alot of what they wanted, we spent good times with family, Steve and I are both a year older, and we are all enjoying our lives. In addition, I have joined the Facebook revolution, so if you are also on fb, come find me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Alex is 6 years old, and he's already lost 6 teeth! Derek has only lost 5, and he's 8 years old. Alex lost his front 4 teeth on the bottom first, and then lost one on top not long ago. We were hoping he'd lose the other top front one (which was loose) in time for Christmas, and Monday morning when Alex got up, he showed me how loose it was. He wanted it pulled before school, and he didn't flinch as I pulled it out. He thinks it's great that there's a Christmas song that he can sing about his teeth!
Also, on a completely different subject, Alex learned how to tie his shoes yesterday. Yea! We've been working on it for awhile, and he finally put it all together yesterday while we were at the barn for Derek's therapeutic horseback riding.

As you can see, it's been an eventful week. However, we are still no closer to getting Katie's name corrected on her Certificate of Citizenship. It's still a "he said / she said," with no one claiming responsibility. We'll just keep plugging along!

Katie's First Day of Preschool

Katie started preschool at the Early Childhood Center on Monday. Alex went there for 2 years, and the assistant in his classroom his second year is Katie's teacher. Katie loves Mrs. James, and she loves going to school. Arranging transportation was a little interesting, but we found another mom who can carpool and everything is working out beautifully for her and for me. Anthony and Katie took to each other very quickly and they love having a friend to go to school with, even though they are not in the same class. We've talked about how tiny Katie is, and this picture may give you an idea: Anthony is only 5 months older than Katie.
After getting inside the school, Anthony went down his hall, and Katie and I went down hers. We had visited the school last Thursday so Katie could see her room and visit with Mrs. James, and she felt completely comfortable on Monday. She just strutted down the hallway wearing a backpack that she could fit inside of, and struck a pose when I asked her to stand against the wall outside her classroom. She waltzed in her room, gave Mrs. James hugs and kisses, and said, "Hi, guys!" to the other kids as she walked towards her cubby. It was like she had been there all year.
On Tuesday morning, we walked with Alex to his bus stop, and Katie wanted to wear her backpack to Alex's bus stop. Normally, Katie stands near me while we wait for the bus, but on Tuesday, she stood near the other kids. When the bus came, Katie didn't walk over to me like she usually does. Instead, she lined up with all the other kids to get on the bus. I guess she figured that after one day of preschool, she was ready to go to school with the big kids. She had a bit of a tantrum when she realized that she wasn't going to be able to ride the bus. At least I know she won't have any trauma when she starts riding the bus next year. She's already ready!
Katie did well both days of school so far, and I really think she's going to take off. She is such a sponge right now, and wants to know what everything is called, what all the letters are, what sounds the animals make, numbers, you name it. I am so excited to see the progress that she will make this year.

Trick or Treat

Katie thoroughly enjoyed her first Halloween! The Junior High had a Trick or Treat Village that we went to on Monday night, 10/27. Alex didn't go, due to the type of day he had at school that day, so Captain Hook and Tinkerbell went without Peter Pan. Katie was a little unsure of everything at first, but as soon as she saw she got candy, she started walking up to people, holding out her hand and saying, "candy." She quickly learned to say, "Trick or Treat," and to hold up her bucket. By the end, she was a pro, and she loved all the attention she was getting. Derek loved his Captain Hook costume (who wouldn't?), and he did a great job saying, "Trick or Treat," too. With his hook and his cane, there wasn't a third hand to hold his bucket, so he just used the hook to hold the bucket. It fell off a few times, but overall it worked really well.
On Friday, my MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group had a Halloween party for all the kids, so Katie got to wear her costume again and get even more candy. Yippee!
Alex didn't have school on Friday due to parent teacher conferences, so he got to go to the party, too. One of his buddies from his kindergarten class was at the party, too, so the two of them had a ball together!
After the MOPS party, I took Katie to Derek's school for his Halloween parade, while Steve took Alex to the golf course for 9 holes. Steve's work has gone to a more flexible schedule, so now Steve works an extra hour most days and gets every other Friday off. Halloween happened to be his Friday off. Alex did FANTASTIC on the golf course, following directions, and cleaning each and every one of Steve's golf balls at each hole. Hey, it kept him busy and out of mischief.
Derek did a great job at his Halloween parade, and Katie was a big help, too. One of Derek's classmates had to go home ill that day, so Katie walked around with us and filled up Frank's bag for him so he could have candy when he returned. I did let her choose 10 pieces for us to take home, though. It's hard to take pictures at Derek's events because I usually have to help him quite a bit, so you'll have to trust me when I say that he and Katie did great, and all the costumes were beautiful.
Finally, the big night arrived, and they were ready to go. We started last year going to the Liberty Square before dinner to Trick or Treat, and it was great for Derek. The neighborhood is tough for him, because of all the steps at the houses, and every house is different. Some steps are deep, some shallow, some tall, some short, some straight, some curved, and some combine two or more of these. Derek just gets tired of struggling up and down all the steps. At the Square, however, all the businesses have someone at the door handing out candy, and the shops are all very close together. Therefore, there are no steps, and we don't have to walk very far between shops. Derek does great, gets to successfully Trick or Treat, has a wonderful time, and doesn't get tired. It's a win all around.
Here they are getting ready to go to the Square, and Captain Hook has snagged Peter Pan's dagger. Tinkerbell is just looking cute!
By now, Katie had Trick or Treated 3 times, and she was an old pro. She loved it through and through.
When we got home from the Square, we ate bloody worms and bones (spaghetti and garlic bread), and then went out in the neighborhood. Derek lasted 5 houses before he was ready to go home, which is one more than last year's 4, so Steve went home with Derek while Alex, Katie, and I kept going. We went to countless houses, saw lots of friends, and I even saw a mom that I had gone to high school with, but hadn't seen in 18 years and had no idea we lived in the same neighborhood. Small world, huh?

All in all, the kids had a wonderful time, and so did we. We are loving every minute with our children, and while we are excited for what the future holds for them, we are treasuring each and every day. Kids grow up so quickly, so we are holding on to this time that they are in Neverland.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kathryn or Katherine?

Well, Katie has been home with us for a little over 2 months, and for a little under 2 months, we've been dealing with her name. We chose the spelling Kathryn for Katie's name for 2 reasons: we prefer the way it looks, and we have ancestors on both sides with that same spelling. When we were in Moscow in May, Andrei and Sergei needed to draft some documents for the court hearing with her new name, so Andrei had us write that down. He was very insistent that we spell it correctly the way we want it to be spelled so that there are no mistakes. We got the message after the first time he told us, and we wrote down her new name for him.

Between our second and third trips Andrei obtained the court decree, birth certificate, adoption certificate, etc. and the translators translated them into English for us, for the Embassy, and for Immigration. When we returned for our third and final trip, Andrei had all these documents and he was pretty much guarding them with his life until we went through the Embassy at the end of the week. I don't think he trusted us very much. When we finally were able to see the documents, we saw that every single one had her name spelled Katherine. While that is a beautiful spelling, it is not the one that we chose for our daughter. The problem is that even though there are several ways to spell that name in English, there is only one way to spell it in Russian. Russian is a phonetic alphabet so there is only one way to write each sound in a word. Therefore, going from English to Russian was quite simple, but going from Russian to English means the translator needs to make sure he/she chooses the correct spelling. There is a standard handbook that translators use, and apparently it has the spelling of Katherine. This wouldn't have been a problem if the error had been caught and new translations were completed. However, this did not occur, and by the time we even saw the documents it was too late. Andrei had already sent all the translators on vacation because except for us, there wasn't going to be any more work for them for 2-3 more weeks. There was no one to correct all these documents, so we had to submit them as they were to the Embassy and Immigration.

After we returned home, we contacted Olga at our agency and explained the problem to her. She redid the translations for the birth certificate, adoption certificate, and adoption decree with the correct spelling. Meanwhile, the Certificate of Citizenship arrived with, of course, the wrong spelling. We have to use this certificate to get Katie's social security number, so we're stuck until that gets corrected. I contacted our local USCIS office and inquired about what I need to do. If Immigration made an error, then they will replace the certificate for free. If Immigration did not make an error, then there is a fee of $380 to replace the certificate. They requested copies of the original documents to see how her name was spelled to determine if they are at fault. Three weeks later, USCIS informed me that all the documents had her name as Kathryn except for one: the adoption decree. According to USCIS, they have to go by the name as it appears in the adoption decree. Therefore, the error was not due to Immigration but rather due to the incorrect translation done by the agency. Consequently, we need to go to the courthouse, have her name legally changed from Katherine to Kathryn, and mail that document along with form N-565, the original Certificate of Citizenship, and a check for $380 to get a new certificate. Since we didn't do anything wrong, we don't want to pay the fee. We explained all this to our agency and asked for them to reimburse us for the fee. After a week of them researching this matter, our agency declared that the name for the Certificate of Citizenship should not come from the adoption decree but from the Visa application, which is filled out by the parents (and has the correct spelling) pursuant to statute blah, blah, blah. So the agency's stance is that Immigration was at fault and needs to replace the certificate for free. Frankly, I don't really care who was at fault, but I have to put on my detective hat and go sleuthing through this mess to figure it all out. Katie needs to have her name spelled correctly everywhere, she needs a social security number, and I need to keep $380 in my bank account.

So today I called USCIS, and after I pushed all the necessary numbers on the phone to get to a live person (shockingly, none of the automated options quite suited my situation), I spoke with Andrea. She gave me the email address to the adoption officer at our local USCIS office and advised me to explain the situation along with my name, date of birth, country of birth, first pet's name, and my 6th grade locker combination. I should hear a response in 2-3 business days.

Meanwhile, we had Katie screened at our school district last Wednesday, and she qualified for the Early Childhood Center. Yea! She was average for motor skills, but her language and concepts were low enough for her to get in. Her language delay is for obvious reasons, and the concepts skills are language based. For example, to demonstrate that she understands the concept of "under," she was told to "put the block under the house." Well, she has to know what put, block, under, and house all mean in order to complete the task. I was actually impressed with all she could do after only being in our country for 2 months. As I was filling out all the enrollment information, I saw that her social security number was required. My heart sank, because at the rate the process is going it'll be spring before she gets it, and I really want her to start as soon as possible. She is so ready for school right now. I called the school and explained the situation, and they said that it wouldn't be a problem, they won't keep her out, and I can just give them that number once I know it. Once again, yea!

So the saga continues as I wait to hear from the adoption officer at the USCIS office.

I know I'm doing a terrible job with posting pictures, but that's because I'm doing a terrible job with taking the pictures. I promise that I will take some pictures soon and I'll post them. However, at the rate I'm going, they're just going to be their Halloween pictures. As a teaser, let me just tell you that they are Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and Captain Hook, and you've never seen a cuter group from Neverland!

Friday, October 10, 2008

To See or Not To See?

Derek and I flew to Detroit, MI on Wednesday for a follow up appointment with his retinal specialist, Dr. Trese. We've been seeing him for almost 8 years, and he knows Derek's eyes better than anyone else in the world. Also, he is one of, if not the, best retinal specialist specializing in Retinopathy of Prematurity in the world. We have met people from Mexico, The Netherlands, and Italy who have flown to Detroit just to see him. The least I can do is fly from Kansas City. We use Angel Flight -- an organization where pilots donate their time, plane, and gas to fly people for medical appointments -- for these flights. The best part is that the pilot we always use is my dad. Everybody wins: Derek gets to his appointment, Derek gets to fly (which he LOVES), I don't have to pay for it, I get to catch up on my sleep on the plane (hee, hee), my dad can claim the gas expense as a deduction since it's a charitable contribution, and my dad has an excuse (as if he needed one) to be off in the wild blue yonder. Dad is also a certified flight instructor, and one of his students actually flew the plane this time with Dad in the right-hand seat.

We took off a little after 8:00 and landed at Detroit City Airport a little after 12:00. It was a 3-hour flight with a one-hour time change. The student made a great landing despite the heavy cloud coverage and rain in Detroit. We ate at the same Subway that we eat at every single time, and got to our 2:00 appointment with time to spare. Dr. Trese got a pretty good look at Derek's eyes, and everything seems to be unchanged. At this point, "no news is good news." We are just trying to keep Derek's eyes healthy and viable for future technologies. The worst thing that can happen now is for one or both of Derek's eyes to stop growing, shrink, and eventually die. If that happens, then there is no hope. As long as his eyes hang in there, there is hope. Right now, Derek's left eye (the good one) has a large area of attached retina, but it is very thin and avascular, and therefore doesn't work right. Derek's right eye is cloudy due to a swollen cornea that he's had for a few years. Therefore, Dr. Trese can't see all the way to the back of the eye to know if there is any attached retina. Often when the retina is detached, it will "float" up to the front of the eye. Dr. Trese can only see about the front 1/4 of Derek's right eye, but he doesn't see any retina in that part, so that's something. When we have done VEPs (Visually Evoked Potential) in the past, they show some brain activity in response to his right eye, so Dr. Trese believes that he at least has something attached back there. A VEP is where they attach electrodes to the back of Derek's head, right where his occipital lobe is. The occipital lobe is where vision is processed. Then they cover one eye, shine a strobe light, and record the brain activity for about 10 minutes. Then they repeat this with the other eye. Finally, they do this with both eyes open. This test cannot deliver a false positive or a false negative. If there is brain activity, then he saw something. The stronger the response, the greater the vision. We've done 3 of these in Derek's life, and each time Derek's eyes have seen something, with the left eye having a greater response. A corneal transplant would probably take care of the cloudiness, but since Derek is blind, he's not exactly a candidate. Per Dr. Trese, we're going to try some new drops for about a month, and if we see improvement, great. If not, we'll stop them.

Derek's next appointment will be in 6-8 months, and this one will be an exam under anesthesia (EUA). For this, we'll fly up on a Sunday, spend the night, and report to the hospital some time on Monday. While Derek is under anesthesia, they will get a really good look at his eyes and be able to check his pressures as well. Many kids with ROP develop glaucoma, so that's why it's so important to check his pressures periodically. So far, his pressures have always been perfect with the help of his current eye drops. The actual exam only takes about 15 minutes, but we're at the hospital for about 3-4 hours. Then we'll fly home that night. We fly commercial for Derek's EUAs, and since his insurance covers travel expenses it won't hurt our budget (yea!). For the last couple of years, Derek has had an EUA in October, and an office visit in April. Since Derek is getting older and more compliant in the office, we were able to do 2 office visits before doing another EUA. Small victory.

After our appointment was over, we drove back to the airport, and took off. We had a roller coaster moment as we were ascending, when the student pilot had to rely on his instruments rather than his vision (due to the clouds) to determine the plane's position in the air. After some time and instruction, the student leveled out the plane, and I was able to resume reading my book. Other than that, we had an uneventful flight home, and landed at about 8:00. It was a 12-hour day, but that's better than a 13-hour drive one way!

As for the future technologies, stem cells have been in the forefront of possibilities for Derek. Dr. Trese has one hand in the office and one hand in the research, so he knows exactly what's going on. Unfortunately, the stem cells are going to take some more research and won't be ready in the 2-5 years that Dr. Trese had thought. What's happening is that when the stem cells are injected in the retina, they are not integrating with the retinal cells to regenerate. Instead, the cells are dividing on top of themselves, creating a lump -- a benign tumor. They are experimenting with trying to "train" the cells (whatever that means), and that has shown better results, but still not what we want. Another possibility is the micro chip. This is implanted in the retina, and a processor is implanted in the brain. Between the two, they can send the visual message to the brain and the person can have some sight. The micro chip is only 60 pixels, but the image is not as grainy as you would think. Individuals are able to see contrasts, shadows, large objects, etc. If Derek is ever able to see enough to maneuver in his environment, we would be thrilled. Right now, the estimation for when the micro chip would be ready and on the market is 2 years. I won't hold my breath, but we'll see. Nonetheless, whenever the technology is there, Derek's left eye should be a candidate.

Please keep him in your prayers, and we'll see what the future holds for him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Weekend in Texas

We drove to Dallas / Ft. Worth last Thursday for my uncle's BBQ / family reunion. We weren't sure how Katie would do because the 4-hour drive to Branson got pretty tough at the end, and this was 9 1/2 hours! She did pretty well until just before 10:00, and then she fussed off and on until we arrived at midnight. I would love it if she could sleep in the car, but she only dozed off for about 30 minutes twice. Needless to say, she was pretty grumpy when we arrived, but she did alot better than we expected, so we were happy.
Due to people's schedules and preferences, we all got down there different ways. I drove with my mom, Maddy (my niece), Derek, and Katie. My dad flew down on Friday with Drew (my nephew) and Alex. Steve was at a conference in Orlando that week, so he just arranged for his flight to go to DFW instead of back to KC, and I picked him up from the airport around 5:30 on Friday. My brother and sister-in-law left after work on Friday and got in Saturday morning, and my oldest brother and his family already live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.
Friday morning, I took the kids to see my friend, Nanette, and her family in northern Ft. Worth. Spencer was in school, but the rest of us went to McDonalds for lunch. Nanette and I had a lovely visit while the kids played. Here's Derek, Maddy, Katie, and Serena.
Next, we drove north of Dallas to see my friend, Jennifer, and her family. I got to hold her new baby, Olivia, who was just born last Tuesday, and Derek loved holding George, her Guinea pig. Katie was "resting," and was not particularly happy about the arrangement.
After picking up Steve at the airport, we drove to my uncle's house, which is north of Fort Worth, for a family dinner. It is always wonderful seeing family again each year. I finally got reunited with Alex who had been with one or both of my parents for the previous 26 hours, Derek got lots of snuggles, and Katie did very well meeting all these new people. She clung to Maddy quite a bit, but she also allowed others to hold her, too. With all the time Katie and Maddy spent together, they developed a beautiful bond. As much as Katie thinks I hung the moon, she started preferring Maddy on this trip. I told Maddy that if she ever needs a self-esteem boost to just hang out with Katie for awhile! The way Katie looks at Maddy with such sheer adoration is so heart-warming.

Saturday morning, we went to see my friend, Arian, and her family just north of Ft. Worth. Alex and Logan are 2 peas in a pod, and had a great time together. Katie played with Emme's toys, and Derek entertained himself with a roaring dinosaur. It was a lovely visit. Here's Derek, Katie, Alex, Logan, and Emme.

Now that the whole family had arrived, we all had lunch together before getting a new family photo taken - there's 14 of us now. We spent the evening at Uncle Cecil's BBQ, and we all had a great time. Katie was no longer shy around all the new family, and just made herself at home with everybody. I didn't get a lot of pictures, but I know my cousins did. During the BBQ different people get up and sing. Derek sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Happy Birthday" to Nana, whose birthday is Thursday. Here's some video of "Happy Birthday." The picture isn't very good because it was dark, and the mike was going in and out a little bit, but you get the idea.

Alex played on a rock pile for hours with other little boys (surprise, surprise), and Katie made the rounds, dancing and playing with just about anybody.
Sunday morning we all met for brunch before driving home. All I can say is portable DVD players make traveling so much easier! We pulled in our garage at around 8:00, relieved it was a decent hour. It was a hectic trip with many late nights and very few naps, but the kids did great, and I was thrilled to be able to see 3 of my college friends.
On another note, we had Katie's pictures taken several days ago, and they're now available online. I thought you might like to see them. She was a little hesitant at first, but then she warmed up to the camera and had a good time. Just click on the link below, and enter KAREN TRISCHLER for the customer name. I hope you enjoy them.