Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Long overdue update

I am taking advantage of a sick day to try to get a quick update finally done :-)  I wish I had a lot of time to write about everything that has been going on...but alas blog time is just not something I have a lot of.  I went back and read my last update "Life is never boring and God is always good" and much of our lives are still the same.  The doctor appointments have finally slowed down, allowing us to really get into homeschooling and working more with the boys at home (which honestly they respond to better anyway).

I won't lie, this has been a very rough few months for all of us, the honeymoon is certainly over, but like I said in my last update God is still so good.  Some days it is down right uuuugly, but we didn't expect it to be easy to undo years of neglect and trauma.  We didn't expect it to be easy on any of us.  It was a huge leap of faith to adopt all of our children and it's that faith and His promises that get us through the ugly of it all.  It was starting to get really bad and my mom suggested I read "1000 Gifts" and I am so grateful I did.  Counting the things I am grateful for has really helped change my attitude...and sadly, it needed some changin'.  I only mention all this because some days I felt like I was the only mom in the world that was struggling, going to bed crying because I felt so defeated, like such a failure, and so very exhausted.  Or that we were the only family having some serious adoption related issues and feeling lost all the time.  I just wonder if there is a mom reading this blog that feels alone too and needs to know that she is not alone and needs to hear that even though she feel lost in failure, she is a good mom.  We needed to get back to and remember why we adopted in the first place and it made a huge difference for us, so I write all this in case maybe you need to hear it too.

It has not all been a struggle, there has been a lot of good too.  Really even the struggles are good because they teach us the hard lessons and bring us closer together.  I wish I could go into detail about all the things we have done and all the growth we have seen in the boys, but I will have to keep it to short sentences.  But I hope you enjoy the pictures :-)

Before Daniel had surgery (which I mention below) he was really getting so much stronger.  I am so proud of Daniel that after months of working on it every day he was able to balance on his hands and knees without my support!

We had a very fun filled day at the pumpkin patch!

We took Daniel and Bohdan on their first camping trip.  They absolutely loved it!  It was such a nice little get away for all of us.

I think Daniel liked the roasted marshmallows most of all.

And you have never seen a kid more excited then Bohdan collecting pine cones.  

Kai and Ethan caught their first fish.  It was only bites for Emma, Bohdan, and Daniel but they had a great time.

The Balloon Fiesta is always fun.  Waking up early, bundling up and heading to the balloon park, eating breakfast burritos as the sun comes up, and watching hundreds of balloons go up.  The nice thing is that we can get right next to the balloons as they inflate.  Daniel thought the loud burners were hilarious.  He would wait for them to go off and then crack up.  Bohdan was fascinated by the balloons.  He still talks about how fun it was.
We celebrated Ethan's birthday at Peter Piper Pizza.  

Daniel had his surgery to lengthen the tendons in his inner thighs.  They cut the tendons and the hope is that as the tendons heal and grow back they will grow back longer as we keep his legs apart in a brace.  He has been in the brace since his surgery.  We have not had an x-ray yet so we are not sure it has helped keep his hips from dislocating.  But we have noticed a big difference.  Anytime Daniel gets excited or tries to do something with his legs his muscle instantly tighten, causing his legs to 'scissor' or cross.  This makes everything very difficult for him and as you can imagine makes changing his diapers very hard.  Now after surgery, his legs scissor only rarely.  For the most part they are parallel and when he is relaxed he can keep them apart.

The procedure itself was quick and he had very little pain.  We are praying the procedure will have been enough to re-align his hips so they do not have to go back in and break the bone and reshape it.  We are also praying that when he is able to bear weight on his legs he will be able to take steps easier without his legs crossing.  We are very grateful for the surgery, the only down side has been that all the strength he built before is pretty much gone.  Because he has been in the brace and healing, he has not been able to do much more than lay or sit.  We have a follow up early next month so hopefully he will be released to bear weight on his legs again.

Bohdan continues to amaze us with his English.  We are seeing slow but steady growth in development.  We are seeing more of the effects of the neglect, trauma, and institutionalization his past has caused.  It's heartbreaking...terribly heartbreaking.  He even told us he never wants to go back to Ukraine.  He is amazingly resilient though.  New concepts are hard for him to learn and it takes a lot of one on one time to homeschool him but he tries very hard.  Because learning does not come easily or naturally for him it is always so exciting when he masters a new concept!  The beautiful thing is that he loves hearing about and singing about God.  He struggles with a lot of things but every week he nails his scripture memory verse.  Coincidence????

We missed Bohdan losing his first tooth, but he lost his first tooth since being with us.

There have been more trips to the zoo...

And the Aquarium...

And Bohdan and Daniel saw their first movie in the theater.

I wonder if Daniel likes homeschool????
We are using My Father's World Kindergarten Curriculum.  I was worried that it would be too advanced for Ethan and Kai since they are only 4 but it's a good fit for them.  Because it is unit based, learning one letter a week really helps Bohdan learn English.  Some of the concepts are too advanced for Emma and Daniel but I have them sit in and participate in what they can.  For Daniel we have made some "toys" for him to help teach things like colors, sorting, shape, size, staking, etc...

Last week we learned I for Insect and we watched ants build tunnels everyday in our live ant hill.  Some days I wonder who has more fun, me or the kids?

Daniel got some AFOs.
And finally, we went down to the lake to see family for Thanksgiving.  As we reflected on and gave thanks for God's great blessings in our lives it was extra sweet to watch Daniel and Bohdan celebrate their first Thanksgiving.

We are especially thankful that we get to watch their lives change and grow.  To most of you who supported their adoption in any way, I wish you could see the changes in them 'in real life', it's truly amazing.  I am sorry you have to settle for watching it in pictures and blogs, but I hope you enjoy knowing that you played a big part in their lives!  And I apologize for taking so long to post.  I pray all of you are enjoying this Christmas season!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A plea for a family meeting their daughter soon

Is this not the most precious little girl????

This is Maya and some very dear friends of ours are proud to call her daughter.

While praying for us and Daniel during our adoption process, our friends asked of God what they could do for the orphan.  They are no strangers to adoption so I don't think it surprised anyone when they announced they were adopting Maya.  It was no surprise either that they would adopt a child with Down's Syndrome.  Of course that is something they would do, it's right in line with their character.

Without having the money to pay for the adoption, they prayed in faith that God would somehow provide the money needed to fund the adoption.  And He has been so faithful to provide just what they need, just when they need it.  But as they get closer to leaving to meet Maya for the first time (in just weeks) they are still in need of the $5,000.00 to cover this first trip.  Plus what they will need after the first trip.

God always comes through with money just when they need it, but what if we as the body of Christ could relieve them of any worry and free them up to concentrate on their daughter? Will you join me in rallying around this family in prayer and financial support as they busily prepare to meet their daughter?  You all blessed us beyond measure and I would love for the Warrens to feel that love and support as they step out in faith and follow God.

Here is a link to their sponsor page on Reece's Rainbow if you would be willing to make a donation.

You can also follow their journey here on their blog.

Please Father, I pray that this family would be absolutely blown away by the generosity and the love of Your church!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Come and see what the Lord has done

I love October!  The fall weather, the leaves changing color, the pumpkin patch, Thanksgiving and Christmas items on full display at Hobby Lobby :-)

October is a very special month for us.  This month Tyler and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.  We also celebrate the birth of our miracle baby Ethan who was not expected to make it to term and now here he is turning 4 years old.  And today we celebrate EMMA DAY!  One year ago today we met the little wonder that has filled our lives with unimaginable joy!

I thought in honor of EMMA DAY I would share her adoption video.  We make these for all our kids and since I am sharing Emma's I though I would add the other ones too.  So if anyone still reads this blog...and if any of you have a lot of free time today, I invite you to pull up a comfy chair and come and see what the Lord has done...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jesus Storybook Bibles for Orphans

I have a wonderful and faithful friend who ministers to Orphans in Ukra*ne. She also opens up her home to host adoptive families while they are over there adopting for free. I saw this on her blog and because I could not have said it better myself, I am coping her whole post here. We literally just finished reading the Jesus Storybook Bible with our kids. It was given to us by a good friend and we were so grateful for it, it really is an amazing children's bible. I hope you all don't mind me sharing another ministry with you, but when I find a great opportunity to help orphans I just cannot keep it to myself. Here is what Karen shared:

"I'm excited to share with you a great opportunity to give in a very practical way!

Last Christmas, through Orphan's Promise we had the joy of distributing the The Jesus Storybook Bible among orphans in the Kherson region. This is a delightful children's Bible, that I highly recommend checking out in English if you have small children at home. I have a copy in Russian and I just love the way that the author weaves the promise of Jesus throughout the Old Testament and into the New. Many are saying it is one of the best children's Bibles out there....and I think I agree!

Well thanks to In Lumine Media the book is now in the Russian language, and several partner organizations here in Ukraine are teaming up to do a wide-spread distribution to Ukrainian orphans, so that every orphan in every orphanage will have their very own copy of the Bible!

For just $3 you can provide an orphan in Ukraine with a Children's Bible! (Sounds a bit like an informercial I realize :) ...but seriously-- the book retails at $16 in the USA- however the costs are being off-set here to make this affordable.  So that even a child can give!

The plan for now is to raise enough funds so that at Easter we can have a wide-scale distribution through local churches and ministries.  So would you consider in donating to a very worthy cause?  You can visit this site to find out more information and to download printable material, like the poster above, so that your whole church can get involved!

Orphan Sunday is coming up on November 4th-- so this would be a great cause to support in your churches or small groups!"

Feel free to share with others...

Friday, September 21, 2012

With a little help from my friends

I am writing this quickly because my friends at TEAMworks need your help. There is a team of Therapists getting ready to head over to Ukra*ne who need funding help. The group will be working in an orphanage, local hospital orphan ward, and NICU and setting up a mobile clinic for families attempting to raise their children with special needs.

TEAMworks has dedicated their time, resources, and training to help educate people on how to care for kids with special needs. They are making tremendous progress through continued trips and building relationships. Because of their continued efforts, they have even been allowed into the 'laying rooms' (remember the kind of room Daniel came from) to show the caretakers how to properly feed, position, stretch, and work with the kids and to show them there is hope for these kids.

I am telling you, it is because of missionaries like these that maybe...just maybe...the tide will start turning over there and kids with special needs will be looked at not as a curse or burden, but as having worth. They are changing hearts and at a time!

They have a private donor who agreed to match all donations up to $3,000. The money matching will end on Saturday at noon. They have only a short time to make their matching grant and become fully funded before they leave. Can you help?

You can use this link to donate: Pure Charity

Here you can read more about TEAMworks.

Even if you are unable to donate could you please join me in praying for their upcoming trip. Specifically for health and safety, favor with the orphanage, hospital and families, wisdom as they work, and that hearts would continue to soften for these children.

Thank you friends!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life is never boring and God is always good

I received a comment from Judee to one of my posts asking questions.  I LOVE that!  My brain only works half the time these days and I never go back and read my previous posts, so if there is something I mentioned and then forgot to follow up on please ask me.  I'd be happy to answer any questions (maybe not in a timely manner, but eventually).

Judee asked: 1) You mentioned previously that one of the first three children experienced a regression after the boys came home. How is that child doing now?

Answer: Great!  This particular child has, from day one, really struggled with attachment/bonding and we have had to work intensely to over come that.  Bringing new children home can set you right back at the beginning.  But we work hard to show how much we love them and things are back to normal now.  Thanks for asking!

2) Daniel is TALKING??!!! You haven't mentioned speech therapy, so how did you bring that miracle about?

Answer: Don't be too fooled.  His speech/signing is very inconsistent.  He so rarely does it that when he does I head straight for my phone to video it.  So what you see on video is just about how often he does it.  In fact the video where he signed 'more' is the last time I was able to get him to do it.  He is mimicking more then in the beginning, but still inconsistent and he really does not use language purposefully...yet!  No speech therapy yet, we just work with him at home :-)

Thanks for the questions!

Daniel continues to be simply amazing!  His smile and gentle nature still capture our hearts.  We are so grateful that God gave us the courage to adopt him.

Although we have reached somewhat of a plateau in his development he is still learning new things and doing old things with more ease.

We had him evaluated and basically, across the board, Daniel's development is equivalent to that of a 9-month-old baby.  We also had MRIs done on both boys.  Even in the hospital they are still such smiley and joyous kids.

We knew we would see some damage in Daniel's brain but I don't think we or our Pediatrician expected what we saw:


If you have seen an image of a healthy brain you can see how much damage there is here.  The white and very light gray is brain.  The black and dark areas are fluid.  For the most part where you see dark areas, you should see brain.  Basically everywhere you see dark areas is where Daniel suffered so much damage that he is missing that part of his brain.  He is missing a significant amount of brain tissue.  Looking at that, it really is amazing that he is even doing any of what he is doing.  We see the Neurologist tomorrow and maybe he will have some insight, but the Pediatrician told us "don't limit what he can do, but looking at this I would not expect him to talk or walk any time in the next few years."  Having these images really doesn't change anything, we keep on with teaching him and giving him every opportunity to learn and grow.  But it does give us a good dose of reality that the way he is just might be the way he always will be.  We have had to seriously discuss making our van and house accessible and figuring out how we are going to bathe and lift and get him around when he gets too heavy to carry.  I know many of you will want to comment telling us not to limit his ability, or not to sell him short or something of the sort, please don't do that.  Sometimes those comments sound condescending.  Please know that we are doing everything humanly possible for Daniel, and we have no limits on what we think he can achieve, but we also have to be realistic.  And the reality right now is that he has made huge gains but we have reached a plateau.  There are things we work on all day every day that he simply cannot understand or do no matter how we try to help him or motivate him.

Please do not get me wrong, it is such a joy to be Daniel's parents, but I don't want to mislead anyone considering adopting a child with great needs.  It's a lot of work, a lot of lifting and moving, a lot of stretching and therapy which requires a significant amount of time and patience, a lot of feeding and changing dirty diapers, etc...just picture taking care of a 40 pound 9-month-old infant.  It's stressful, frustrating, and exhausting but it is also beautiful, encouraging, and rewarding.  Caring for Daniel has led to some of the greatest spiritual growth we have ever experienced.  It has allowed us the opportunity to learn servanthood and selflessness (lessons Tyler and I desperately needed to learn).  We have been so encouraged by God's grace towards us as we learn to live the scriptures.  There is truly unspeakable joy in doing the Lord's work.  And my goodness, one smile from our boy makes everything worth it!!!  And no matter how many hours and days we have to work with him on even the simplest task, once he accomplishes it and we see that look on his face like 'look mom, I did it,' well there simply is nothing greater!  Our sweet Daniel, how we might have missed so much without you, thank you for being our son and making life so rich and so full of joy!  We love you to the moon and back!

Bohdan is doing simply amazing as well.  I am so struck by how quickly children can learn English.  It has only been about 3 months since we got the boys and for the last 2 weeks he has been using only English.  It's incredible when the other kids use more Russian words than Bohdan does!  They still speak to him using Russian words and he responds in English, it's so cute to watch.  You know we are a very language confused house when our son whose first language was Mandarin, learned English, has a good working knowledge of basic ASL, and speaks to his Ukrainian brothers in short Russian phrases.  Cracks me up!  But in all seriousness, we are sad to see his Russian fade.  And it is hard to see him 'in between langauages' with no real way to express/explain more complex thoughts and reasons.  I know he will get there, and we work diligently on it, but right now it's hard.  But Bohdan takes it all in stride.  His joyful spirit is a thing of wonder, I tell you!  He just keeps smiling and loving and learning.

I am still so amazed at how well he has adjusted and how happy, kind, and loving he is.  With adopting older children we really expected some of those concerning attachment and behaviour issues.  We see so many families struggle with them.  We have not experienced them hardly at all!  We praise God that He really answered all the prayers to prepare Bohdan's heart and mind for all the changes and adjustments he would have to make.  If I had to describe him, he is pure joy.  He has this contagious excitement over even the smallest things.  And I can hardly type this without crying...he thanks us for everything!  "Mommy, thank you for taking me to the zoo," "Mommy thank you for school today,"  "Daddy, thank you for letting me play outside."  Pure joy and pure love!

His MRI confirmed Cerebral Palsy but our Pediatrician showed us his scan and told us that to the untrained eye no one would ever notice any irregularity in his scan.  This is very encouraging that quite possibly his delays are due to the institutionalization and not inability.  We are teaching him here at home at a kindergarten level and it's a perfect level for him.  He is picking up things quickly, I have no doubt that he will catch up.  The only changes we have to make for him have to do with his vision.  He is scheduled for another vision test in two weeks which should give us a clearer picture of what is going on.  However, his eyes have become more stable, something the Special Needs Pediatric Ophthalmologist said would not happen.  He needs a little bigger print, but really has no problem identifying letters and pictures in books.  His writing is coming along too so he is certainly learning to adapt.  We continue to learn about ways to help him with vision.  We are working on a lot of Occupational Therapy type things like teaching him to really observe his surroundings and be aware through sight and touch of the things in his environment.  He is so much more aware of curbs and things he used to trip over and run into.

Bohdan is also finally receiving Physical Therapy.  But really all I think he has needed is just opportunity.  He is improving so much just having freedom to learn, experience, explore, run, climb, throw, swing, and play.  Bohdan, you bring so much laughter into our lives, your contagious joy is such a delight!  We are honored to call you son!  We love you to the moon and back!

In other news...

Our schedule is still packed with doctor's appointments and therapies.  Every week I keep thinking 'next week or next month this will slow down right?'  When you have 4 kids with special needs I am learning that this is just life.  I am slowly accepting our 'new normal'.  Honestly though I am happy that after having to fight so many battles just to get Bohdan and Daniel seen that things are finally moving along smoothly.  I have pages and pages of notes recording how much I have had to call and beg and plead and fight for everything from an appointment with the special needs Pediatrician to getting him a wheelchair, it had been ridiculously hard.  Tyler finally had enough of people giving me the run around that he took over and whoever he talked to got the message because now we have an insurance case manager and we get weekly calls from the children's hospital's social worker checking to make sure we are getting what we need.  Thanks rock!

When we are not home schooling or rushing to appointments we try to squeeze as much fun as we can in for the kids.  Especially for Daniel and Bohdan we love simply letting them have fun!  Watching them as they experience all these new things for the first time is so much fun!  Adoption has given us such a window into our adoption into God's family.  I see my kids grow and learn and experience new things and my mind thinks about how God watches us learn and grow through sanctification.  When we finally 'get' a lesson He is trying to teach us or when we experience joy and delight in His world.  Or when we are completely at the end of ourselves with how to teach/parent these kids and have to lean completely on Him...adoption has certainly provided us with the greatest spiritual growth!

Anyway, here are some (okay, a lot) of pictures...

Another baseball game...and finally a family picture!

We had so much fun at Joshua and Hailey's birthday party, thank you Rachel!

We simply could not miss the robotic dinosaurs on exhibit at the Natural History Museum

Another trip to the great thing about homeschooling is visiting the zoo during the first few weeks most kids are back in school.  We practically had the place all to ourselves :-)

Hubby treated us to a special trip to the amusement park to get wet, ride lots of rides, and eat tons of junk food!

The State Fair was so much fun!

Daniel is going to have surgery some time on October.  His muscles are so tight they are pulling his hip joints out of socket.  To keep his hips from dislocating the surgeon will clip his tendons to lengthen them.  If that does not work they will have to fracture or break the bone to reshape it.  Please join us in prayer for God's healing.

Our prayer for Bohdan is certainly healing for his eyes, but also for his continued development and growth in the knowledge of the Lord.

Poor Ethan gets left out of our blog posts.  Our prayer for Ethan is always Proverbs 2:1-11 "My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LordAnd find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you,"

Kai has Spina Bifida and he had to have a repair surgery done when we brought him home from China.  His spinal cord was tethered also so they un-tethered it.  The Neurosurgeon told us that because of the anatomy he did not think his cord would ever tether again (something that happens frequently in people with SB).  Well it looks like it might be tethered again, which is not good two years after his surgery.  His left foot is becoming 'tight' again and he is falling quite a bit and his Pediatrician said it is concerning enough to see the Neurosurgeon again in November.  Please join us in praying for God's healing.

Emma is the girl that refuses to grow.  We feed that girl so much and pack extra calories and nutrients in her meals like we do Daniel's but she has only grown 1 inch and gained 1 pound since we brought her home from China.  The doctors are starting to wonder if it is a genetic disorder and want her to have some genetic testing if she does not grow in the next 6 months.  I just don't know how we can get her growing.  We continue to work hard on getting her caught up developmentally too.  Please join us in praying for her growth, both in stature and developmentally.

So hopefully we have you all caught up on everyone.  We are ever grateful to God for our crazy, busy, exciting lives.  I hope you don't mind me thanking you all again for your love for the boys and our family!  I know I say it a lot but we never forget all the prayers and donations that were made to bring the boys home and how you carried us all through this journey.  Thank you...again!