Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year Ago We Arrived Home from Ukraine

0 What are your thoughts?
A year ago, Nina and I arrived home from Ukraine. The journey was long, and we had been stranded in the Ukrainian airport for 2 days. Stranded in Frankfurt for one day. We were tired, exhausted, and I was an emotional wreck.

The flight from Chicago to Minnesota was short, as soon as you take off it feels like you are landing. Nina had finally fallen asleep in my arms, and I held her close to me.

The pilot announced, "We will be landing int he Minneapolis International Airport in about 15 minutes."

They came slow, but they came with force. Tears began spilling, and soon I was crying out loud, sobbing, shaking uncontrollably. The plane was small, and as my sobs became louder, the plane became quite. I could hear myself sobbing, the lady across the isle glancing at me wondering if she should come over and offer a friendly word. There was no thought of embarrassment. I was finally coming home! It was a long and hard journey. We were finally coming home!

A man waited for us at the gate with a wheelchair for Nina. I propped her down, still sleeping, wrapped in my coat. "please get me out of here as quickly as you can" I pleaded with the airport man. He did, and I was thankful. As soon as the door opened to the baggage claim section (where you finally exit security) I began frantically searching for Andy. As soon as I spotted him, holding Nichole, and Ellie by his side, I began running. Yes, I was the crazy woman, flailing my arms like a crazy octopus. Some hands pushing people out of my way, the others ready to embrace my family. "Andy!" Ellie came running first, and I hugged her tight. Then I fell into Andy's arms and I lost it once again.

I have no idea what the man pushing Nina was thinking, but he was there when I turned to look.







A year has gone by, and what a difference a year makes!
Here are some links of our long journey home:
The Journey Home: Kiev Airport
The Journey Home: Frankfurt, Chicago, and Minnesota
The Journey Home: Reunited 


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poor Visibility and Driving Conditions (Mess on I-94)

2 What are your thoughts?
You know that it might be a hard travel when you hear "Poor visibility and driving conditions. Drive carefully" But really, would you be expecting this?

The 2 pictures above were taken at 10:07 am on I-94 this morning. North Dakota, coming from Bismarck to Fargo. They might seem like the same to you, but they are not. Really, after all day driving through this, they seem are different. In the second picture, the road was "clearing up" a little. Yeah sure, laugh. Yeah, right now, laugh at the minor difference in the picture. I am laughing too. No, really, I am! Because I agree, there is no much clearing up going on, but boy did we love it when the road looked like the second picture for a few seconds. Yeah, you read that right, seconds.

At 10:09 am, we were back on as you can see.
 This following picture was taken at 10:20 am. Now that was a good road! Oh and it lasted...well, a few more seconds! Yeah! Sure you can cheer! You can say, "I am so glad that Andy and Ellen did not have to travel in that treacherous weather all morning/afternoon, and they got  a little break for a somewhat clear road for...well..." let me finish that sentence for you, it was a few longer seconds. Yeah seconds. But do notice, I said longer seconds. It was longer, I promise.

(Sure, you can see ahead that we are about to hit the "brick" or snow once again)

For the next couple of pictures taken at 1:11 pm, please keep in mind that I did not "accidentally" post blank pictures. No really, there is a road in there. No really, I promise. You don't think so? Really, take a closer look. Click on the pictures and enlarge if you need to, but that is a road, it is I-94.

Oh but don't worry, it cleared up afterwards.
Now, this picture makes the road look "nice" compared to the previous ones, doesn't it? Except...wait a second... yeah, that is right, it looked better compared to the previous pictures, but really, is this any better?
 Just a minute later, and still look at that mess.
I-94 was closed due to weather and visibility of up to "zero." Oh really? We thought it was about a "one."
Okay sure, we were on the road, what were we thinking? Just trying to get back home, and there was no pulling over, now that would have been dangerous. With no visibility, the last thing you want to do is be at the side of the road where nobody can see you until they hit you.

We were not going to push it anymore, our plan was to stay in Fargo and stay for the day. When we were only 10 miles away from Fargo (we estimated it would have taken us about 45 minutes to an hour because of how slow we had to go) we were detoured. Turns out there was a bad accident just ahead of us where they estimate over 100 cars were involved. Oh I know, I am given to exaggeration, I know. However, this is no exaggeration. When you are driving 15 miles an hour (sometimes less, sometimes a whooping 25 on the good stretches) when you have limited visibility, and I forgot to mention the road is pure ice, well, one time you see snow, the next there is a car and when you  brake you slide, you hit the car ahead of you. And then since not one person can see more than 10 feet ahead, well...the cars pile up...quickly. And we barley missed being sent away, I bet there were only about 15 cars ahead of us that made it to the detour as well.

The detour...it was BAD. And God saved us from what could have been a bad accident as we slid off the road. I do call it a miracle as we slid into the on-coming traffic lane, avoiding a collision in front of us of about 4 or 5 cars, and we slid back into our lane following a large semi with lots of lights (which made it easier to see) It was like God was playing cars and he just gently moved our car away from harm.
This last picture is of Fargo. The town actually, no more I-94. yeah, it looks bad too. And the ice was accumulating on the windshield like crazy. At every stop light, people would get out of the car and scrape the wipers or windshields. It was really that bad.

And if the pictures were not enough fun, I will delight you even more, here is a little video so you can "see" what we could (or could not) see. And for an added bonus, a Veggie Tales song in the background.

video

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Have a Merry Christmas

5 What are your thoughts?
From our family to yours...Merry Christmas!

This year, all 5 of us will be together for Christmas! And this will be Nina's first Christmas! We are so excited for her, as she will be able to get it. She understands presents, and she understands family. Ask her about Christmas and she will point and herself and tell you all about it, "Nina's grandmas and Nina's grandpas, and Nina's aunties and uncles, and Nina's cousins." 

We tried, we really tried to have a nice family picture, and our friend even brought candy to entice the girls. But, there is only so much success you can have with a 3, 4 and 5 year olds. Especially if one refuses to be in the picture, while the others struggle to get real smiles.

 From the mommy and daddy...Merry Christmas!
 From the big sister...Merry Christmas!
 From the little rascal...Merry Christmas! (And this is the face we ALWAYS get now a days when she sees the camera and she is getting her picture taken)
 From the Ukrainian princess...Merry Christmas!
 The rascal wished for pictures to be over.
 And the big girls smile and say goodbye.
I am not sure if I will be able to post as we will be enjoying time with family. But I wanted to share these pictures.

May you have a wonderful Christmas, and take time to think about the wonderful miracle of God, becoming man. Coming to us as a baby, helpless, needy. How helpless we are without Him, and how much we need Him.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Year Ago Nina Left Her First Home

1 What are your thoughts?
A year ago, I walked through the doors of Nina's orphanage, knowing that I would not see that place for a long time. Knowing that Nina would be leaving the only home she had ever known.

One of the workers broke down after lovingly dressing Nina. She quickly exited the room as tears fell down her face. Nina was unaware of what was about to happen. She had no concept of having a mother, and she did not understand what it would mean for me to take her away.
I thanked all the workers for taking care of Nina for three and a half years. I thanked them for what they do for these children. 
We took a picture outside of Nina's home. She was scared, she was nervous. So was I.


The translator and facilitator were with us. Smiling with us, excited to be a part of this day. They too wanted to be remembered on the day that one of the children they helped would be going home to her mama. I am so thankful for all their hard work.

The day was long. Our first night together was a nightmare. She was scared, and she did not understand my funny way of speaking. She cried that night for almost 3 hours. She cried every night.

It has been a year. I would do it again, I would do it all over again. The crying, the screaming, the rejection. All over again. She is my daughter. We have come a long way in our relationship, and we still have a long way to go. But she no longer cries at night, she is no longer scared. She has a family, she has a home.

Here is the post from a year ago.

I leave you with a short video from our first nght. She had had a bath and I had been teaching her how to play with her baby doll (she had no idea what to do with it at first!)


video


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dreams

1 What are your thoughts?
Remember when you were little and you asked yourself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" The dreams were endless possibilities. I wanted to be a ballerina, a mommy, a chemist, a veterinarian, a lawyer, a psychologist, someone who worked with children with Down syndrome, and a writer.

Little glimpses of those dreams have come true, others will surely never happen.

I was a ballerina until I was 17 years old. Now I teach a dance class for the girls in our homeschooling group. Nothing fancy, but lots of fun. Maybe some day I will get to teach an adaptive class for little girls of all abilities. Right now, there are a few in our class.

I am a mommy!

I have a degree in psychology and counseling.

I have a child with Down syndrome. It was the desire to work with kids with Down syndrome that made me consider psychology. You can read about that on my blog at Everyday Health.

And I still want to be a writer. Well, I suppose I am a writer, or this blog would not be here! Sometimes you just need to share those dreams for people to keep you accountable. I have ventured into actually trying to get some things published. While rejection is hard (the last post, "A Hope and a Future" was a rejected article) it is exciting when someone says "yes." So I venture here and try my hand at writing.

When I grow up, I want to be a writer. What do you want to be?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Hope and a Future

4 What are your thoughts?
I sat up in bed and took a deep breath. The air cold and stale from the scent of vanilla air freshener mixed with the cigarette smoke that oozed from the walls of the black and white one-room apartment. The dark brown curtains tried to conceal the light, yet the morning sun had managed to send a few gray rays to sneak around the folds of the heavy curtain.


A little girl pulled on my sleeve and made the sign “eat,” followed by a string of Ukrainian words. Then in English, she managed to say, “Banana.” It amazed me how for Nina the thought of food was enough to brighten her day, while all I could think of was that it had been six weeks since I had been home, and today would be an especially hard day. It was Christmas.

I carried Nina across the room and set her on the black leather couch that functioned as the living room. I pulled a black coffee table close to her, hence turning the living room into the dining room. Thankfully, there was a DVD player and I had brought some DVDs from home. I played “Signing Time!” for Nina often. She loved the music and I hoped that more signs would stick with her besides the sign for “eat” so that we could improve our communication.

While Nina watched the show, I proceeded to get breakfast ready for her: chamomile tea, dry cheerios and a banana. I set all three items on the small black table and she smiled. I knew we would do this again at least two more times that day. It was always the same, the only things I could get her to eat were bananas and dry cheerios. At least she was willing to drink different flavors of tea.

Once she was settled I turned on my computer ready to check my e-mail messages, it helped me to feel connected to my home. Nevertheless, there were few messages that morning. I realized I was angry that everyone else was happy enjoying their families, while I was stuck half way across the ocean. I settled to find Christmas music on-line and searched for Amy Grant’s rendition of “I Will Be Home for Christmas.” I wanted to sing along, especially the line, “I will be home for Christmas, but only in my dreams.”

After my little outburst of bitterness, I decided I needed to lighten up my mood and find a little Christmas cheer. I plugged in our tiny Christmas tree that was no taller than my forearm. The cleaning lady had brought it for us just two days before. I found a Christmas playlist on-line, and I cranked up the volume.

I sang and danced in the middle of the room while Nina watched intently. Then I scooped her up in my arms, weighing less than my two year old, yet twice her age. We danced and twirled to the music. It was a great ball to which we could wear our pajamas. The lights of the Christmas tree giving the perfect colorful glow to the small room.

However, Nina had lived most of her life with little attention, and after just a few songs, she was done with me, done celebrating Christmas. I set her on the white and black checkered floor and she crawled to the corner where she had a few toys. I knew she would be in her own world until she was ready to eat again.

I sulked the rest of the morning. I was engrossed in my own pity party and the little girl playing at my feet was oblivious as to how I felt. I began questioning if it was worth it. The adoption journey had me emotionally drained and it seemed as if Nina couldn’t have cared less about me. Moreover, back home, I had a husband who missed me and two little girls that cried for their mommy and could not wait to see her again. Every day being away from home was getting harder.

As I caressed my wounded thoughts, I looked over and watched Nina play with a box of crayons. She was dumping them out and then putting them neatly back in the box. For a second she looked back at me, made eye contact and smiled while waving the box. Then she continued with her activity, absorbed in her world. Yet, she had given me a glimpse and acknowledged me, if only for a second.

As simple as that moment was, it was the moment where my Christmas miracle happened. My eyes were opened to the beauty of the scene that took place before my eyes. I was not simply looking at a once orphan girl; I was looking at my child.

The journey of adoption had pushed us against a race of time trying to get our documents ready to get Nina. We had until her fourth birthday to rescue her, all because she had Cerebral Palsy. We knew that in her country she would die if we did not bring her home before that dreaded age where children with special needs are taken from their orphanages and sent to mental institutions. These are places where there is no hope and no future. The possibility of adoption is gone and most children die within a year after being tied down to cribs with little food and no medical intervention.

On that Christmas morning, I had chosen to be depressed wishing for what I did not have. Thankfully, I was reminded of what a wonderful day it was and how much I had to celebrate. I had a new daughter.

The little girl sitting by my feet would never have to go to an institution. She would never again know hunger or abuse. Nina had a family, with a mommy and daddy and two sisters. Her disability would not stop her, but rather she would be able to overcome her limitations with a family standing strong behind her, cheering her on. She would go to school, learn to read and write. There was so much in store for her and her life was full of potential. Nina had a hope and a future.

There were many sacrifices we had to make in order to rescue her and bring her home. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

“Nina” I called. She stopped playing and looked at me again. “Merry Christmas sweetheart” I said.

She didn’t understand what I was saying, so I did the best I could do at the time to show her love. I poured her a cup of more chamomile tea… with an extra spoonful of sugar.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How She Walks

6 What are your thoughts?
When it comes to mobility, Nina is doing pretty well. Her main form of movement is crawling, and she is able to climb almost anywhere. She occasionally uses her walker, but still she does not want to cruise holding on to furniture or try to balance on her own. When we ask her if she wants to walk on her own someday, most of the time she responds, "No, I can crawl."

She seems to have little motivation to try. However, we try to push her to do it as much as we can. She is doing fantastic holding on to one hand. And the thing is, she can walk! If she only realized that she is not balancing or "using" our hand to walk. But as soon as she feels us trying to move our hand, she is done.

Cerebral Palsy can be hard to understand, not only for us, but for her too.

So here is a little video of Nina walking. Her left side is much stronger and her right leg drags a little more. However, she can walk! If she only believed it and was willing to try! Like the PT said, it will be a while for her to walk unassisted. This goes beyond her physical capabilities and has a lot more to do with her emotional capabilities. She is just not ready to let go yet.

video

Friday, December 3, 2010

A New Name

3 What are your thoughts?
 A year ago today, a little orphan girl unknown to the world, received a new name. A name that would change her life, her future. Her new name meant that she had a family, that she belonged. It was the day that she became a Stumbo... our daughter.

In the car, as we drove away from the court house  towards the orphanage, our facilitator said, "Congratulations! This must have been easy compared to having your biological children, no pain involved." Maybe no physical pain, but the journey had been hard, and it was not over yet. Andy would be leaving in 2 days, and I had no idea that 4 more weeks would pass before returning home.

We arrived at the orphanage where Andy said good bye to Nina. He tried to hug her, give her a kiss. But Nina wanted nothing to do with him. After all the visits we had had, she still would not allow Andy to hold her. The pictures we were able to capture were the short moments when he was able to hold her for the camera.

Meanwhile, we had 2 little girls, eagerly waiting at home for their daddy to return, embrace them, and pour out his love.




The journey has not been easy, it has been hard. Really hard.

When we added a new Stumbo to our family, little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. Sure we had read all about adoption, and we knew it would be hard. We were pushed, stretched, and tried. We even questioned if it had been a mistake.

It has been a year since Nina joined our family.

God called us to step in faith into the unknown and to trust Him. We did. Nina has changed much after a year... but so have we.

A year ago she knew no love from a father, she was afraid of a man that wanted desperately to love her, but now she calls his name. The little girl that was scared to touch him, now rests her head on his shoulder and whispers, "I love you daddy."

A year ago God began to refine us more and more. He opened up our hearts and began working in the deep, selfish, and forgotten places in our hearts. He has taught us much about compassion, mercy, and forgiveness.

"Search me oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

It has not been easy. But it has been good. Really good. It has been life changing. It has been worth it. Worth every tear, every heartache. Worth every smile, every discovery, and simply being able to call her our own. Our daughter, Nina Stumbo.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Depraved Indifference

2 What are your thoughts?
This is why we adopted. The journey has not been easy, but it is worth it. Even through the hardships, we would do it again.

Take a moment and watch. I pray that your heart will be moved.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Great Parents, Lousy Lovers

3 What are your thoughts?
I confess, sometimes when being a great parent, I become a lousy lover.

When Andy and I did our premarital counseling, we were advised to do marriage counseling or a marriage retreat once a year. Although we have not gotten to it every year, we have been able to do both options a couple of times. Marriage takes work, it takes time, and it takes making it a priority. I am passionate about marriage. It is not just that I love my husband, but I really do believe that the greatest blessing we can give our children is the blessing of our marriage. My parents are divorced, and although my mom is now married to a wonderful man, that blessing was not there when I was growing up (and my parents were great parents).

Our girls know that mommy and daddy love each other, and they go out on dates. They know the two of us need time alone, and they know that our family is not all about them. All of these have not come naturally, but we have learned these tools, especially through Counseling. It is easy to forget and let the kids take over. So we try hard to come back to what makes our marriage strong.

Andy and I recently found this book, "Great Parents, Lousy Lovers"  by Dr. Gary Smalley. I had to share the table of contents.

1. Generation Observation
you might be a great parent, lousy lover if you grew up in the '80s, rolled up your pants, puffed your bangs, drove a Camaro, or have more than 2 Bryan Adams songs memorized.

2. Princess and Queen
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you feel like a cook, maid, or shuttle, and you run your home like a hotel.

3. Preparing for Change
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you consider an appetizer the free applesauce that comes with the kid's meal.

4. The Kid-centered Home
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if one or more of your children sleep in your bed more than you do.

5. Choosing between Life & Wife
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have ever responded to a friend's engagement announcement by saying, "Are you sure you want to go through with this? Think it through long and hard."

6. How to Add More Time in Your Day
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if your idea of a date night is watching the kids play on the playground at Chick-fil-A.

7. Building Margin
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you are consistently late to events and activities because you are coming from other kids events and activities.

8. Four Spiritual Journeys
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have adult children living at home and they refuse to give up their Star Wars bedsheets.

9. Your Spiritual Journey
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if your only alone time with God is to calm you down and to keep you from "going off" on someone small.

10. Your Spouse's Spiritual Journey
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you think that you don't even need a spouse to have a great marriage.

11. Your Child's Spiritual Life
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if it is more important to you to have your child in the accelerated reading program or on the honor roll, rather than to create a home where mom and Dad thoroughly enjoy each other.

12. Your Marriage Journey
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if before you leave the house, you ask your husband, "Do you need to go potty before we leave?"

13. Dream Big
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have ever been tempted to look for greener grass on the other side. Keep in mind, where the grass is greener, there is a septic leak.

14. Play Hard
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have told your family that they are going on a family vacation and that you demanded that they have a good time.

15. Laugh More
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if the majority of laughter in your home comes from a pop star with a split personality or a sponge that lives under the sea.

16. Touch Often
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have ever had a kiss interrupted by  a kid screaming, "Mom, can you help me wipe?"

17. Great Lovers
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you have sex less than 4 times a month and they area ll quickies.

18. Sex after Kids
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if your "Tonight's the night" is regularly met with "Let's shoot for tomorrow night."

19. Great Men, Great Women
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you've ever wondered why your spouse wasn't just like you.

20. Great Churches, Great Marriages
You might be a great parent, lousy lover if you choose a church based only on its kickin' kids program.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ellie's Journal, a Homeschool Craft

0 What are your thoughts?
Ellie and I try to be creative as we do our homeschooling adventure. It seems like there is a lot of Language Arts and Math, and crafts sometimes take the backseat (although she would gladly just do art).

Yesterday we went to a store with the intention to do some "paint your own pottery." Ellie was really excited about the idea, but as soon as we got there she decided she did not like any of the choices available to her. So I asked if there were any other crafts we could do, and it turns out that there are quite a few options available, which means we have found a fun place to go at least once a month.

Ellie loves notebooks and journals. so she was really excited at the prospect of making her own journal. She got to choose the paper, ribbon, and stickers. I would say she did a pretty good job!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Day We Met Her

4 What are your thoughts?
A year ago today, we got to meet Nina for the first time.

Nina's tired orphanage house greeted us with it's salmon colored walls and tall wooden door. As we walked through inside, we were immediately escorted to right into the doctor's office. Andy and I sat on the newspaper print couch, listening to our translator, worker and doctors speak to each other in Russian. A few minutes later a spunky little girl with Down syndrome walked into the room, ready to own the world and visit her daddy. A worker walked inside the room holding a little girl awkwardly on her hip, grabbed the little girl with Down syndrome and took her to the room across the hall where her daddy was waiting for her. The worker came back and was speaking to the doctor, laughing. I could tell she was saying that the little girl had been confused and in her excitement had gotten away and ran into the wrong room. Then I noticed the little girl the woman was carrying. She was scared, she was shy, she was holding on tight to the worker. Her head was misshapen, and her haircut was bad. Her eyes looked so lost. Then I felt the "thump" of realization. That little girl was Nina. That was the little girl we had been dreaming of.

Our first meeting with her was a lot to process. Although I did blog about it back then, we were still processing our doubts, concerns, and feelings. The little girl we met that day seemed to have many significant challenges.

So here it is, that small clip of the first day we met Nina.
video

A year, a year has gone by since that day in the stale doctor's room at the orphanage. Nina has changed, she is not the same little girl. The last 2 days we have tried to get a video of her, and right now she has decided she does not like her videos taken, so this is the best we could do.

In this video you can see she is doing pretty well with her pretzel legs (when she is not wearing her braces) and she knew we were taking the video because it has been a year since we met her. She is so aware of that! She even brings up the orphanage and I admit, I did not know how to respond to her question!
video
And this was tonight, when the other 2 sisters were watching a video. Except Nichole joined us after a while and was about to steal the camera.
video

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Year Ago Today

4 What are your thoughts?
A year ago today, in the crisp and cold morning hours, my mom dropped Andy and I off at the Minneapolis International Airport. As we said goodbye, the emotional reality of the process wrapped itself around us and hugged us tight along with my mother.

We were leaving our two little girls behind. Andy for 3 weeks, and possibly up to 7 weeks for myself. We had worked so hard getting all the documents ready, we felt exhausted from that race. Four weeks before, we had sat in our living room wondering where the remaining $13,000 to cover our adoption would come from. But God sent the money, and we were about to fly across the ocean to rescue an orphan little girl.

The day before, as some dear friends had come to help us pack and pray for us, we had felt an overwhelming sense of being covered in prayer and showered in love. Walking through the airport, God's peace continued to move us.

A year ago, we did not know that the emotional roller coaster of adoption had just begun. We did not know that being in-country would be one of the most testing and trying times of our lives. That we would cry more and wrestle with feelings of abandonment.

A year ago, we did not know that God's grace, mercy, and compassion would visit us in such intimate ways.

I look back, it is all so real, almost tangible. It happened, we traveled, we were on our way to Ukraine. A year ago today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh Sweet Holidays!

1 What are your thoughts?
Yes, it is official. We have Christmas music playing and our tree is up! Isn't it too early, you may ask? No, it is not too early, not when almost a year ago Andy and I hugged our girls goodbye and we left to go to Ukraine. Andy got to come back after three weeks. We had been promised that we would be back home before Christmas (now we know better about promises in the adoption journey!) and he got the girls to set up the Christmas tree. However, Nina and I did not walk into our home until January 3rd of this year. Thanksgiving had come and gone, we knew that, but so had Christmas.

As we were setting the tree I realized that simply openinng the boxes and seeing my girls decorate the tree was a healing experience. Our time in Ukraine is still painful to think about. We took an emotional journey like no other we have ever expereinced. But this year, we are home!

We are ready for Thanksgiving, and we are having Christmas for a long time! So let's blare the music, let's sing our songs, because "It's the most wonderful time, of the year!"









Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Many Orphans, Many Christians

0 What are your thoughts?
I want to share my friend McKenna's words with you. I share them because I think there is much truth in her statement, after all, we are called by God to care for orphans. We can do this either by making them our own, or by providing for them.

Notice that on the right column there is a Reece's Rainbow Christmas Ornament. If you click on it, you can see the many children on the Angel Tree waiting for families. Is one of them your child? Or can you help one of them help their forever family?

"Thinking about the 147 million orphans. I think most Christians would be surprised by God's answer if they started praying about how they are supposed to show love to the orphans. Is everyone called to adopt? Nope...but don't you think it should be the minority of Christians who are not called to adopt those who live without families??"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday

1 What are your thoughts?
It is late at night. I sit in our family room typing away, Andy watching football. Upstairs, three little girls are sleeping. Two of them have always known the safety of our home and the abundance of our love. One of them, however, was a once-orphan little girl. She was abandoned at birth, and because of her Cerebral palsy, she would have been discarded by her society. Maybe not because they did not care, but because the overwhelming number of orphans make those with special needs more vulnerable and easier to dispose of.

The little girl sleeping upstairs will never be tied to a crib again. She will not be dragged by her ear again, with painful open sores where the skin was broken from being pulled. She will never lie in bed hungry again, wondering if tomorrow she would have food to eat.

There are many orphans waiting, hoping, wishing for someone to come and make them their own. They wonder, am I worthy to be loved? They cry themselves to sleep, will I ever be held? They cry alone, does anybody care about my tears?

The road to adoption is hard, it is costly, but it is not impossible. The once orphan-girl, my daughter, has learned to laugh, has learned to celebrate life, and is learning to love.

Right now, there is something you can do. You can visit Reece's Rainbow and give towards the adoption of an orphan with special needs. You can actually have a part in saving someones life. Do not let today go by without taking time to look at the faces of these children, to acknowledge that they exist, that they are suffering, and that they need someone to stretch out their hand and help.

What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: To take care of widows and orphans in their suffering and to keep oneself corrupted from the world.
James 1:27 (good news translation)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thriving Families: Our Adoption Story

3 What are your thoughts?
Have you read Focus on the Family "Thriving Families" magazine? Well, you better take a look this time! It is November, adoption awareness month, and our story is one of the stories featured.

Just click here, vist their site, and read our story!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nina Update: Ten Months Home

5 What are your thoughts?
It is amazing to think that Nina has been with us for 10 months already as we are still learning so much about her.
At this time, a year ago, we had a travel date and were only days away from meeting Nina.

A week ago, I took Nina to a Cerebral palsy clinic at Mayo. The day was very long, however, I learned much about Nina and how Cerebral Palsy affects her.

Physical Therapy: The physical therapist was incredible. She listened to me, my concerns, my observations, and was encouraging. I get so frustrated with Cerebral Palsy, I get so frustrated with Nina's mobility that it was nice to have someone listen to me and explain things clearly.

The therapist watched me stretch Nina and showed me new ways to stretch her. She stretched Nina to get a feel for her and see how "tight" she is. Once we got her in a walker, the therapist noticed right away that her hamstrings are in pretty bad shape (meaning, the tightness is raging against her). The gait trainer (pink walker) that we have is so big and heavy that realistically we have used it very little. Nina needs a walker that will work with our family and with her, so we found what works well for Nina, and since it is Mayo, they had it in their pharmacy, and we got to bring it home!


This is what we now know: it will take a long time for Nina to walk independently. She is not just going to "get it" one day, get up and walk. Nina has 3 1/2 years to work against and her tightness is unusually high. However, the progress she has made since she has been home with us is incredible. This means that she will be able to walk independently some day, but we will have a few years of hard work and intervention to make this possible.

While this might sound discouraging to some, this was so good for me to hear. My experience with Nichole is what drives me when working with Nina. Not only do I get frustrated, I end up expecting too much from her, things that she physically is really not able to do.

Our goal: You can see in the picture above, where Nina is not wearing her braces, that her heels are still as "high" as they were before we got her, even after the botox. The difference is that now we can keep her braces on, and our next goal is that Nina's heels will touch the floor when she is wearing her braces.

Orthopedic Surgeons: These guys do some crazy measurements! They checked Nina's tightness closely and examined her legs in different positions (legs bent, legs stretched, how much would they give in, how much would they tighten, etc)

This is what we now know: For a child with Nina's type of Cerebral Palsy, Nina would fall into a more "involved" case. How he explained it to me, was that for children in similar conditions as Nina, she is "worse" than them. She has some bone malformations due to...spending her life in a crib? Never being stretched? Wong posture that was never corrected? lack of stimulation? It could be so many things! Right now, this is not causing any problems, but it is possible that this might need to be corrected if at some point this interferes with her independent mobility.

Because of Nina's "worse" condition she will need surgery. They do not like to do surgery with children until they are older, so they do not have to redo it as the child grows. This surgery is sometimes called "traditional Lengthening."

I brought up PERCS, a different type of surgery. It is a possibility for Nina, but this particular doctor prefers not to do this surgery in children with Nina's condition. However, I know of many people who were very pleased with the results.

We then discussed Nina having a rhyzotomy. This is a neurosurgical procedure which goes into the spinal cord and severs the nerves that cause problems. Nina is a strong candidate for this surgery, as it is mainly her legs that are affected by Cerebral Palsy. Although her arms and hands are affected as well, she has full use of them. In six months, Nina will have a "gait analysis" done where the orthopedic surgeons, as well as the neurosurgical team will be present and discuss what is the best option for Nina. We are waiting six months to give Nina more time to stretch out on her own and see how much more progress she has made.

Occupational Therapist: Incredible therapist! She was teaching me how to do therapy with Nina (and Nichole when I asked!) She was just so good! She knew exactly what to do with Nina and wow! Looks like Nina has some visual perceptual processing issues, and that will be a separate post because this is getting long!

Botox: Nina got botox on her hamstrings, and we can see a little difference in her walk. Her legs are not fully extended, but her steps are better, and her heels almost touch the ground with her braces on.

This is it in a nutshell. Internet is back (thank you stud of a husband!) and November is Adoption Awareness Month. So you will hear much about Nina, orphans, and what you can do to make a difference!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Down Syndrome Awareness: Can People With Down Syndrome Have Babies?: Answering Your Questions

1 What are your thoughts?
With an extra chromosome, can people with Down syndrome have babies? Will those babies also have an extra chromosome?

Great question! In the past, it was believed that males with Down syndrome were unable to have babies. Basically they believed them to be infertile. But let's be realistic, people with Down syndrome have only been "allowed" to date an marry as of recently. I say "allowed" because somehow we took away their right to love and be loved in claims that their intellectual IQ made them unfit to marry, yet, what they know to do best is love.

Now a days, individuals with Down syndrome are dating and getting married. Some of them are even having babies. However, the choice of having babies continues to be controversial, and a hard choice to make, as it usually involves family beyond the couple. Many couples choose not to become parents because they are unsure they are able to parent a child without help.

But the questions is, can they have babies? And will their babies have Down syndrome too?

In order to understand what happens when sperm and egg of people with Down syndrome unite, we need to look at the basics of cell reproduction.

There are two ways in which cells reproduce: meiosis and mitosis.

Mitosis: This is how all cells (except sperm and egg) reproduce themselves.
"A process of asexual reproduction in which the cell divides in two producing a replica, with an equal number of chromosomes in haploid cell."

Meiosis: This is how sperm and cell reproduce.
"A type of cellular reproduction in which the number of chromosomes are reduced by half through the separation of homologous chromosomes in a diploid cell."

We all have 46 chromosomes, therefore, egg and sperm have 23 chromosomes each. When they unite, you get 46 all together (23+23=46)

People with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes (an extra 21st). Now picture the 47 chromosomes reduced, or divided in half. You get one "half" with 23 chromosomes (or a typical cell) and one with 24 (with the extra 21st chromosome)

The grid bellow, shows you what the chances are for two people with Down syndrome to have babies (assuming that both individuals are fertile and able to procreate).

As you can see, for 2 people with Down syndrome having babies, the chances are as follows:
-25% chance their child will be typical (no Down syndrome)
-50% chance their baby will have Down syndrome
-25% chance there will be no viable pregnancy

Although Down syndrome awareness month is done, if you have any more questions...ask away!

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