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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Update

I've had several people ask me for an update on the kiddos!  So long overdue and here you go!

 Eli Came home in October of 2012.  He had a few words in Lithuanian but not many and was not potty trained.  He is closing in on three years home and oh has made such amazing progress.  He speaks in sentences and is VERY good about asking for what he wants and needs.  He has grown much taller and loves to play with his siblings.  Unfortunately, he struggles still with attachment and making good choices. When children don't form an early bond to a parent, it can damage their brains and make it hard for them to connect in the future.  We are working on this with him every day, and pray that one day he can just accept our love without trying to push us away with behaviors.  We made the decision to home school him last year and continued with that this year.  He is not ready to be away from us for hours everyday.  We feel it is important for him to be more firmly attached to us first.  He is doing very well academically at home, learning his letters, numbers, sight words and many other exciting things!!!!












Jocelyn came home in February of 2014.  She weighed 25 pounds and was 36 inches tall.  She was scared of everything.  She would not sit facing an adult and would fight to put her back on our chests and hold our hands down on her lap.  We can only surmise she was afraid we would hurt her, and this way she could ensure she knew where our hands were at all times.  She still does not like anyone to walk or be behind her and will turn until she can see what you are doing.  She would scoot on her bottom but was unable to bear any weight on her legs.  She bit often, when she was feeling overwhelmed or scared.  She spent most of her day rocking herself or banging her head on the floor.  She would pat her hands on things when she was bored.  These are unfortunately all really common behaviors in kiddos who have been left in cribs and have no stimulation.  She would silent cry when something was upsetting her, with tears falling and her mouth open but no sound.  It was (and still is) the saddest sight to me.  How in the world was she taught not to cry out loud?  It breaks my heart to even think of it. She also struggled greatly with feeding, she would take a bite and then whip her head to the side and bring her hands up defensively.  In short, she was a tiny, scared little girl who had no reason to believe we wouldn't hurt her.


We have spent the last 18 months teaching Jocelyn that we will always be gentle with her.  We do not force her to eat, and if she turns her head we vocalize, "okay Jo, you tell me when you are ready".  Trying to let her know that she can control what and how she eats.  Some days feeding took a REALLY long time, and that was okay.  She needed to know that we would never force her or hurt her.  She is bearing weight on her legs beautifully and using a walker at school and church to get around.  However, she sees no point in using one at home when she can scoot on her bottom and chase her siblings just fine thank you very much ;)  We are working on it.  She was recently fitted for a wheelchair.  Although she is making GREAT progress, the truth is that she was stuck in a crib for 7 years and is closing in on 9 years old and still not an independent walker.  A wheelchair will give her a measure of independence for longer distances in the future, instead of having to have someone push her around she is learning how to control the wheelchair herself.  She says "mama" often, and each and every time she does my heart just melts.  She loves being loved.  She will wind her hands around my face and just stare at me so intently before she smiles and hugs me.  Knowing love and giving love were new experiences for her but she has grabbed hold and never looked back.  She gained 9 pounds and 5 inches in 18 months, a very respectable gain!  Jojo goes to a special school for children who have disabilities, and her staff is so loving and great with her.  She takes walks down the hallway to visit friends and they are teaching her to use an electronic talker to communicate her wants and needs.  In short, she is amazing.  We are so grateful everyday we "added" her to our adoption of Lanie.  I can't imagine our lives without her, and i shudder to think of her still stuck behind those crib bars.








Lanie was 3 when we brought her home at the same time as Jo.  She had major heart surgery in Bulgaria around age one.  She would also bang her head on the wall all day long for stimulation.  She, unlike Jojo, was EAGER to eat and be fed!!!  She has gained 10 pounds and only one inch in 18 months, and is being followed by an endocrinologist for this and several other issues.  She was unable to bear any weight on her legs and also was not crawling or scooting around at all.  When she came home we could place her on the floor and walk away and she would always be in the same exact spot when we came back.  She would shake her hand in front of her face for hours, lost in her own world and perfectly content to stay there.  She has been more like the turtle in this race, slowly moving forward at her own little pace.  She is starting to bear weight on her legs and is being introduced to using a walker.  She can stand if you prop her on the wall although she prefers not to.  She has recently learned how to scoot on her butt and i NEVER find her in the same place anymore!  She prefers to scoot into the big girls room and steal things off the floor to shake.  Hey, it's a start anyway.  She still bangs her head if she wakes up in the middle of the night, but not so much during the day.  She had open heart surgery again in May of this year, and came out of it very well and has made a lot of progress since then.  Attachment has been really slow with her, and i had resigned myself to the fact that we might be at a standstill with her.  After surgery i think she realized that hey this mom person was here the whole time, and she started to show more signs of attachment. She will eagerly reach for Jared and i now, and LOVES to be smooched right on her chubby little cheek.  She will grab my hair and bring me close for silly games!!!  So excited to see her turn this new and exciting little corner towards enjoying having a family.  She was recently diagnosed with Autism, as well as her Down Syndrome.  This was not a surprise to us, as soon as i picked her up in Bulgaria i thought she might be autistic (i used to work at a behavior clinic for children who had Autism so very familiar with it).  We love our little "squishy" fishy and the children fight over who gets to hold and play with her! She is firmly in the "baby" position of the family!
















Family is more than blood.  It's our motto around here.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Life Sentence

Another teeny child was listed today.  She is starving to death.  Literally.  She isn't unique unfortunately, but oh my goodness.  My breath caught.


She is 5.  Weighs 11 pounds.  In a place where children notoriously come out teeny and starved.   Her crime? She has Down Syndrome.  So she has a life sentence.  She WILL die in this place if no one comes forward for her.  I can't even stand it.  

Think she is tiny simply because of her medical condition?  Here is a picture of another little one, who was in the same place, in the same condition.  


Pre and Post adoption.  It doesn't even look like the same child.  How many more children must serve out life sentences alone and starving in this place?  Can we rally for this child?  She needs a family  She needs a grant.  She needs help.  

Oh, that sweet baby above who was set free and thriving now?  Her AWESOME parents saw another child just like their sweet princess and are leaping once again to rescue from the sentence. To break the chains. To free her for life.  


Please, can we as a community rally?  Find a family for Heavenleigh, and help the Horton family bring sweet Hope home?  Can we help them break free and be able to come home and know the love of a family?  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Life giving

I'm sure you've all seen or heard of the videos on Planned Parenthood going around the Internet these days.  My Facebook page is filled with pro-life vs. pro-choice arguments, memes for both sides, and lots of ugliness spewing out all over the place.

It's not a secret that we are firmly Pro-life in this household.  As i think about what that means, i am struck by the thought that pro-LIFE means an entire life.  Not just birth.  I see SO many people discussing the issues who think they are pro-life, but in reality they are pro-birth.  Meaning, they want the child to be born of course, and then they pat themselves on the back for another child "saved" and move on.  But oh my goodness.  When those parents need help with that child, be it through food programs, work programs or the like, i see screaming to cut funding.  I see children who are sitting in foster care or orphanages for years and years and years.  B/c once they were born they no longer "mattered" to the pro-birth crowd.

Don't get me wrong, it's great to be pro-birth.  But can we be real here?  Those kids don't just pop out ready to support themselves.  One way or another, be it adoption, or social services for birth parents, or solid foster care options with GREAT services included, the children need to be supported.

I see foster parents becoming so disillusioned with the system.  With the children who are not be considered.  The push for reunification regardless of whether or not it is in the best interest of the child.  I see birth parents struggling to make ends meet, or struggling to get services for their children, or struggling for education for their children.  Struggling.

I see (and have been) adoptive parents who are screaming for help getting their children home from orphanages.  It's really expensive to adopt.  Adoptive parents are told it was their "choice" to adopt and that no one should have to give money to them.  While that is true of course, i struggle when the same people who are SHOUTING for children to not be aborted, are the same ones who tell me my fundraising is annoying, or "those" kids i post depress them.

What has happened to us as a society?  Do we give no value to life anymore?  It makes no sense to me to fight for a baby to be born and then refuse to give help once that first breath is taken.  I can post a complaint about something on facebook and get a bunch of comments and likes.  But when i post about a child that needs a family, or a fundraiser?  Often i get crickets.

Just a rant i guess, just hoping maybe someone will read and think, maybe i should be prolife, and not just probirth.  Just a different perspective from a mama with soon to be 5 kiddos who would have had a serious chance of being aborted if their birth mothers had lived in this country.  Thank God they were born elsewhere.  Even having to wait years for us to come, means they have a chance.  A chance to grow and learn and be loved.

Lets come together and be LIFE givers, not just Birth givers.  Let's be LIFE encourager's, instead of BIRTH encourager's.  Let's be Pro-life, and not just Pro-birth.  Join us ;)  Support adoption.  Support the foster care system.  Become a big brother/big sister.  Vote for funding systems for underprivileged children and adults.  Hold a fundraiser for an adoptive family.  Donate to an adoptive family.  Call and adoptive or foster family and offer to bring dinner, or do their laundry, or bring them chocolate ;) .  Call an inner city school and see if they need volunteers. Support mental health funding.  Become an advocate for a child in foster care.  Volunteer at a woman's shelter.   Do SOMETHING.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Begging

My best friend is visiting her soon to be son this week. I've been anxiously waiting and waiting, just as excited for her as when Jared went to visit our boys. She had pictures and a medical report stating he was very underweight, and i think we were all holding out hope that they were old pictures and he would be in better shape when she actually got there.  Unfortunately, he is not in better shape.  He doesn't even weigh 10 pounds at age six most likely.

We cannot share current pictures, but his older pics i can.  Believe me when i say he does not look better now.  If anything he is smaller.  I know my friend is simply heartbroken.  I am heartbroken for them.

The only thing we can do for him is pray for him to hang on, to hold out for them to come back, and to donate so that if they are able to speed up his adoption process (legally of course) then money will not hold them back.

If you have $5 or more can you drop it in their pot?  I can't do anything else for them in their heartbreak, so maybe i can take this burden off of them.  Please help.  Please.  I'm begging.  I have nothing left to sell or do, just simply begging to help save him.  Remember this isn't a newborn.  This is a 6 year old.  http://reecesrainbow.org/81896/sponsormorse-2



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Still i forget

18 months home and sometimes i forget.  I forget i didn't give birth to her.  I forget she hasn't always been here. She fills my arms and my heart and i simply forget.  Until she does something that shatters my heart for her again.

Lanie is still sleeping in a crib in our room, b/c of her recent heart surgery and we want to keep an eye on her.  She was going to sleep tonight and i was reading in bed mostly tuning her out.  I heard her breathing even out and she started to snore a bit and it made me smile to myself.  She choked and woke up and i heard her bouncing.  I tuned it out at first but the noise continued and i looked over to make sure she was okay.

She was sitting straight up, bouncing herself.  To soothe herself.  B/c no one ever did.  So she sits and bounces and falls asleep and wakes herself up falling.  B/c she didn't have a mama or a papa to do it for her when she was a baby.  B/c even 18 months of loving her with our whole hearts isn't enough to undo the damage laying in a crib does.  She doesn't even look for us to soothe her in the night most of the time, b/c she simply doesn't remember it's an option.  She soothes herself, b/c that's all she knew when she was alone for so long.

And that shatters me.  Sometimes i think i will never find all the pieces of my heart that raising wounded children has given me.  I gather them close and hope it's enough for them.  I try not to die a little inside each time these things catch me off guard.  I long for the day she cries every single time she is upset or bored or chokes in the middle of the night.  For her to know that we are here and we will make it better.  One day maybe.  I can hope anyway.

I've often said, i don't mourn her diagnosis, b/c she wouldn't be here in this house most likely without it.  But the time spent alone, waiting to be chosen, to be seen, it eats at me. Burns me up and breaks me when i see her soothing herself, or see Jo so fearful to try new things, b/c she was left for so long with nothing new at all, or see Eli still struggle with attachment and try to push us away when he is feeling unsure of something.

 It's why we are doing this thing again.  Bringing more children into the home.  Children who are broken and lost.  Children who may never feel whole again.  B/c they were left for so very long.  There's a song we listen to on the radio a lot that says

 "Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and Ill bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together"

And i think. maybe it's true.  Maybe we can just be broken together. Maybe we can heal each others hearts.  Maybe it's enough.  I might not ever be able to fill in those holes for my children.  Maybe i'm not meant to.  Maybe i'm just supposed to be here, for them, with them.  Loving them as best i know how.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Whatever may come

Jo peed in the potty today.  They've been working on it at school and i decided just to try with her.  She had been sitting for a while and i held my hands up to see if she wanted me to pick her up and she refused and then a minute later peed and then grinned and held her hands up.  It was amazing.  Seriously.  I was typing to tell a friend about it and almost typed God is good.  And he is.  But you know what?  He wouldn't be any less good if she never peed in the potty.  If she never walks or talks or pees in the potty again it won't make him any less good.  It won't make her any less amazing, just the way she is.

I was talking with a friend today about realistic expectations for our kids.  I see differences in the way Jared and i look at our children with disabilities than i see in parents who have bio kiddos with disabilities.  We didn't have an unexpected diagnosis, and i wonder if that makes a difference?  We knew upfront that Jocelyn was very delayed, and we were cool with it.  I think it's a hard thing to have expectations and hopes for our children, i know i certainly did with all of my pregnancies.  We had hopes and dreams for them, still do of course.  I think having those dreams and then having to find a different set of dreams for your child would be one of the hardest things ever to do.  I don't pretend to understand how it feels b/c we have never been in those shoes.  We don't mourn our children's diagnosis's, b/c realistically if they didn't have them they most likely wouldn't be in our house right now.  Anyway, i think we are pretty realistic about the kiddo's in our home who have disabilities.  One will be able to live fairly independently and two will not.  One will be able to hold a job and two most likely will not.

And you know what?  That's totally ok!  I see so many stories in the news about this child with Down syndrome (or other disability) who was prom queen or has his own store or did amazing things and that is GREAT.  But not every kid with a disability is going to go to prom or college or move out or even learn how to use the bathroom.  And that is OK TOO.  I absolutely understand why the media and even families want to promote and see these stories.  But i would love to see stories of kids who one day decided to make eye contact for a second.  And how it filled her mama's heart with such joy.  Stories of how one day he decided  not to rage, and there was peace for a moment.  Stories of children who do their best to escape the house, or tear things up, or rock all day.  Who never speak.  Who never walk.  Who never leave the house.  B/c those children are amazing too.

They fill our hearts with the same love and joy and yes sorrow that our other children do.  Secret time?  Sometimes they fill our hearts even more than our typical kids when they finally meet our eyes.  B/c things don't always come easy to them. Most days it's not easy for them.  I do sometimes look at my children and wonder what will you be?  But i don't despair for them.  I want to see what they will be, who they will be.  Whatever may come, we are ok with it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

choices

Lanie had her open heart surgery on the 13th of may.  She did really well during and after surgery.  She ended up getting some fluid on her heart and lungs and we had to stay a couple of extra days but all is well and she is home now.

BUT.  Something pretty amazing happened when we were in the hospital.  She started crying when i would turn out the lights and go lay down at night.  If i got up and sat by her bed she would stop crying.  She has struggled with attachment, Jared and i feel fairly confident that she may have something else going on besides Down Syndrome.  Eye contact is hard for her and truthfully most days she is content to sit on the floor and stim with various toys.  We continue to work with her of course, but have also accepted that her attachment and progress will look different than our other kiddos. That is fine with us, just a different road to take.  For her to cry for me (Jared is undoubtedly her favorite round these parts) was simply amazing.

She was afraid and found comfort in me.  It sounds like such a simple thing.  Something i certainly took for granted before i had internationally adopted kids.  Watching Eli cry on the floor and refuse to be comforted was hard when he first got home, but helped prepare me for Jocelyn's flat out angry refusals to be comforted when she was upset.  Lanie has never really cared one way or another if we comfort her or not.  She will lay passively in our arms if we try and soothe her, or she will soothe herself if we don't.  I admit to feeling super tired one night and sort of laughing that this was the moment she would decide she wanted another person to soothe her, but seriously, what an amazing blessing to get to be the one who does life with this child.  I get to hold her and soothe her and grow with her.

She also decided that she really loves Hillsong kids songs, thanks to a super amazing friend who stayed with us for three weeks during vacation and surgery.  This is also AMAZING friends.  She stops fussing and listens and smiles when we turn on the music.  She fusses when the commercials come on.  She is making a CHOICE to listen to a specific set of songs, and shows displeasure when the songs go off.  I just feel like she is growing all the sudden, and i'm crazy excited to see where she will go next.

Side note:  Jared leaves to go to Bulgaria VERY soon to meet our new boys!!!  The excitement is high in this house!!!!