Friday, February 26, 2010

Did You Say Lent?

4 What are your thoughts?

Last year a couple of friends silently challenged me to observe Lent. I say silently, because it was not their words but their actions that made me stop and think about the ways that I celebrate the resurrection of my Savior.

I am not Catholic, so I never gave Lent much thought, but when I saw what the Lenten season did in my friends hearts and lives, I could not ignore it. I asked myself, “Do I live my life in ways that are pleasing to God? Could I use Lent to be a time where I focus on my relationship with Christ and really look at what has come between me and God?”

As an “Evangelical” I would have told you, “You do not need Lent to do those things!” And it is true, but how often do I really do that? And why not take a time of year to really focus on that? We do it for Christmas and we shout “Jesus is the reason for the Season!” We even celebrate Easter at a set time of the year. So why not take Lent to be a purposeful time to seek the Lord with all my heart and look into what is inside. Why not get rid of all the “clutter” of life?

So Andy and I decided that we would keep Lent this year. There are some things that we are giving up and some things that we hope to do.

We are done with pop (goodbye sweet cherry cokes!) No eating after 8:00 pm (our waistlines will be thankful for that one!) We want to read more, and write more, and go to bed early. We want to make time for prayer and journaling.

There is one thing that I have known for a while, but have done nothing about. It is in fact an addiction that I know must people would laugh at and brush off as no big deal. Well, at least I did. This is my addiction to the internet, facebook, on-line forums, blogs I follow, and e-mails. Yes, I know, crazy huh? But it is what it is. So, I decided that I will only be on-line one hour a day.

Funny, I thought one hour would be plenty of time, but doing this has showed me how much of my time is wasted on a screen and on-line relationships, all along, sacrificing my family, and my “people” relationships. Let me tell you, one hour goes by fast! I am realizing how much of my day is spent somewhere that is not “here,” somewhere that is not “present.” And the reality of my addiction stares me in the face. I dream about being on my computer, I find myself going through the day thinking, “I need to check my e-mail” or “I should check my sister’s fcaebook page and see if she posted anything about her graduation,” or “I should check on-line and see if Jerry Spinelli has a new book.” You get it, you might even shake your head in agreement because you know exactly what I am talking about.

This is good for me, it opens so much space and time just to be, and to do the things I need to do. Another thing we are doing (just Andy and I) is no TV. There are 2 shows that we watch (Lost and 24) but we will be watching them on-line so we are not tempted to leave the TV on. And we are also going through withdrawals.

But there are things that I am able to do now. Things like laundry, playing, reading, writing. The things that I always want to do but am “too busy” to get done. Well, I think I am discovering that much of my time is busy and taken up by a screen.

So I am wondering, maybe after 40 days this will be a boundary that I will keep, something that will continue. I am open to a life change that is good for me and my family, and so far, after only a few days, it is!

And for those of you wondering, this blog post was written not during my on-line time, but true free time and saved for a later time when I would actually be on-line and logging in to blogger J

Saturday, February 20, 2010

iPOD touch fundraiser giveaway

1 What are your thoughts?
Zhora needs a family! My friend Lisa has been working hard to find a family for this sweet boy and she is determined to raise money so that this will not be an issue for a family considering adoption. Zhora already has $2106 in his grant!

For every $10 donated your name is entered once, and if you give $25, your name will be entered 3 times!

My friend Renee is hosting this give away, so hop on over to her blog by clicking here and help us spread the word! We can all have a small part in finding this sweet boy a family of his own!

A few things about Zhora. He is not bald, they shaved his head! My friend Lisa also has some other pictures of him and I am told there is even a video of him. So if anyone is interested in adopting this little boy, let me know, or visit Reece's Rainbow!

And, it is my birthday today, so what a better way to say happy birthday than to donate $10 and a chance to win an ipod touch!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Heart Breaks for Orphans

2 What are your thoughts?

I wrote this when I was in Ukraine and our adoption blog was private. I want to share this again, as some of you celebrate Lent, maybe you can keep the orphans in your prayers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Let me start by saying that Nina's orphanage is a good one. From what we have been told, it is one of the best orphanages here in Ukraine. The doctor at their orphanage is wonderful, she really cares about the children, and the workers are also all very caring. At least in the small ways they can and know.

Nina's house (this orphanage is made up of several houses) is getting remodeled. So as I walked inside, neither the doctor's office nor the room where we visited before were available. As a matter of fact, as I walked in I wondered where in the world I would visit her. So I walked straight to her room, as far as I could tell, it was the only one with children. My guess is that the other kids have been moved temporarily to the other houses.

I walked in, and all the children in Nina's groupa were playing in the big playpen. Some of the kids saw me and tried to get my attention. A little girl with CP saw me and started to cry, reaching out to me and calling me "mama." Talk about heart wrenching.

The workers found themselves in a predicament, so what was their solution? They brought a little table and a chair with a stool for me. I realized then, they were going to have me visit with Nina right there, in that room, and please ignore the other children because any attention I give them makes them very agitated.

When I visit Nina I bring toys for her in a bag, along with candy and snacks. Nina knows this, and of course wants to play. Imagine doing this in front of the other children. Do you see my dilema? I can't give her candy and not the other kids! I can't give her a snack and not them! The little girl, Oskana, kept crying for me, or for a mama, and even though it was Russian I underestood what she was saying, "I want a mama! I want a mama!" And I know the workers were telling her to stop, that I was Nina's mama. So she cried some more, "I want a mama too!"

I wanted to scoop her up, to give her a big hug. And how I wished I could have found her a mama, and tell her, "See! Here is your mama!" I decided maybe it would be a good idea to blow bubbles for all the kids. Oskana stopped crying and loved the bubbles. So did the other kids, and Nina. I realized Nina was confused, why was I not playing with her? And I really did not want this to become a question in her heart, "Is she here for me or for them?" Her little face was really confused. Not jealous, not throwing a fit, but I could tell she did not understand. Bubbles were great, but with the children so spread out it was taking me a while to go around the room and get enough bubbles for all of them.

A little girl rocked and rocked herself. Okay, I just don't know how to describe this, she violently rocked herself against the playpen. She was hitting it hard. The workers kept asking her to stop. Obviously having me there was causing her some distress. Rock, rock, rock. She wouldn't stop.

I had to leave the room, me being there was too much for these children. These children who desperately want a mama. They do not understand "She is Nina's mama." All they know, is that I am someone's mama, and why in the world won't I get them and pick them up.

I called the translator and asked her to tell one of the workers that I wanted to take Nina for a walk. They tried to explain to me it would not work, because she can't walk. I know! I will carry her! So they agreed, they were hesitant, but they agreed.

Oh if you had seen Nina's face as they were getting her ready! She knew, she knew! And she was as excited as can be! They got me a stroller, and so we went outside. There were the other children out there, walking, they came over to say hi to Nina. These were the kids form Kellsey's groupa (Frank and Renees little girl). My first thought was of Kellsey, home with her brothers and sisters. In a loving home, with a future before her. My heart broke for the sweet faces in front of me. Will they ever have that?

I then took Nina out of the stroller, it was impossible to maneuver in the uneven ground. I decided she could point and tell me where she wanted to go. So we did. As we walked around, as she smiled at me, as she tried to be away from the other children it hit me: her world is so limited, not only because she is an orphan, but because of her CP. Her world is limited to the places she can go, and those places are all found in one room, ONE room. Nobody is there to open her world. Nobody ever has stood before a road to be her legs, to walk up and down, to explore trails. Nobody ever has, and in this place, nobody ever will. In that moment I was her legs, so what did I do? I took off running, with Nina on my hip, we ran! We ran as fast as I could and for as long as I could. Joy, there was pure joy in my daughter's face! In that moment, she could run!

I need to get in good shape. I could only do that for so long. I need to do it for her, at times, I will have to be her legs.

She motioned she wanted to get down, she took my hands and looked up at me. I got it. Now she wanted to try, she wanted to run. So we took off! We ran! I basically carried her, but I could feel her little legs trying to move. It was pure bliss! A worker shook her head at us. She wore disapproval on her face from the moment we had stepped outside, Nina just does not get to go out. But not today, today, disapproval would be tossed away, and a child would feel the cold wind on her face and run! Run with her mama!

It was cold, Nina was ready to go inside.

All the kids were crying, all except Marshall, a little boy with Down syndrome who played quietly on his own. He is a sweet little angel. Actually, all kids play on their own. Even though they are together, they do not play with each other.

Oksana was being made to lay down while a boy threw himself on the ground repeatedly, banging his head hard each time. Finally a worker took him out of the playpen and sat him on a chair. The one little girl rocked herself against the bars of her house, her jail.

Nina wanted nothing to do with the workers. She only wanted me, and her favorite worker was not there today. Finally she went to them, I believe they told her she needed to eat, and I could tell she was hungry.

I left, as quickly as I could. I couldn't stand watching those children, wasting away behind the wooden bars of the playpen. They are so little, so young, so innocent! Who will hold them? Who will love them? Who will be their mama and their papa? Who will give up a brand new car, or a vacation so that one of these will have a family of their own, a hope, and a future?

I cannot save them all, I cannot take them all. But I can save one, my daughter, Nina.

I changed my mind, as soon as we apply for her tax code I am getting her out of there, hopefully next Tuesday, I can do the rest of the paperwork with her on my hip even if it means hours of waiting, and an tired and crabby child.

We will walk out, with me as her legs, and we are not going back. She will come to a family, to a papa, a mama, and 2 sisters. To an extended family that will adore her, to a church family that will embrace her, to a hope and a future.

Most of all, she will know about the One who loves her. The One who called us to get her out of that place. She will know about Jesus.

People Magazine

0 What are your thoughts?
If you get a chance, why don't you pick up a copy of People Magazine. Andrea Roberts, the founder of Reece's Rainbow is featured this week in their section "Heroes Among Us."

I can't help but think of all the people that will stumble upon this article and learn about all the orphans with special needs that need families. Maybe some people will feel moved to adopt, while others might feel moved to give.

So when you go to the grocery store, why don't you get a copy? And just so that you know, Tiger Woods wife Elin is on the cover.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Effect Down Syndrome has on Siblings

2 What are your thoughts?
When Nichole was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome I wondered what would become of Ellie having a sister with Trisomy 21. As a matter of fact, this was one of my biggest fears. But instead of telling you about our experience of 2 years I want to share with you what a sibling has to say about this.

My friend Adrienne shared what her daughter Regan wrote so parents can see the effect that our children have on their siblings. Regan (who is 16) applied to a fine arts summer program and had to do an essay based on a quote from Oliver Wendell Homes...on that one moment that changed you.... here is her essay:

"When I was 14 it finally hit me. Even though I have always been around individuals with special needs, their effect on my life wasn’t apparent until that moment. That’s when everything changed. I wanted to give back to them, love them unconditionally and teach them.

What brought me to this revelation is the fact that I have a younger brother who was born with Down syndrome. Not only does he have Down syndrome but he also has Autism and a lot of vision impairments like Cataracts and Glaucoma. The day my brother was born, life changed for me. I didn’t really understand when I was five how my brother was going to make an impression on my life in so many ways, but he did. He taught me the right way to treat others both with and without special needs. Because of him, I am a better person. Russell taught me the idea of loving everyone, unconditionally.

That is how my brother has impacted my life and inspired me. I grew in such a way that my desire is to work with children with special needs. I want to be a positive impact in their lives, because I have seen over the years, they don’t always have that. To be given the opportunity to impact children and their lives would be an honor. Even if it was just one child, I’d be the happiest person in the world. I feel I have gained a lot and have so much to give because of my brother. I am Russell’s voice, and anyone else who needs one. I didn’t realize it until I got older, but I had already been doing this throughout my life. Even now, when I’m in school, I try to show my peers through my actions to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve. I’m a friend to everyone who needs one. Russell doesn’t speak and barely communicates, and lives with so many hurdles, yet he taught me all I need to know about treating others and being happy. I would feel like I let him down if I didn’t teach others the same things he taught me, because I have the resources he doesn’t on his own.

Having Russell in my life has helped me to be the best person I can be. His infectious giggle reminds me of how his birth changed the direction my life was headed in. Without him, teaching might not have been in my future. Without my brother being a part of my family I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to advocate for others. Russell is my daily inspiration to continue to be that person who helps others. I will try my hardest every day and will keep trying until I die to make Russell proud by the lessons and ideas he has taught me through the years. “Thank you Russell for coming into my life and changing my life forever.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Physical Therapy, Walkers, and AFO's

2 What are your thoughts?
Today Nina got to go to Physical Therapy for the first time. Wow! Let me say it again, slowly...W.O.W!

My appreciation of Physical Therapy has taken on a new dimension after today. You see, when we began to take Nichole to physical Therapy (at 3 months old) I did not realize how much we were doing. Yes, I am the type of mother that will learn as much as I can, and do all that I can to help my children. I got the book "Gross Motor Skills in Children With Down Syndrome" and did many of the exercises suggested. I worked with Nichole and somehow "knew" what to do. The truth is, there is very little you have to do with an infant, so slowly, Nichole and I learned together.

Nina, however, is a different story. Yes, I have the book "Teaching Motor Skills to Children With Cerebral Palsy" and I have read it and looked at it many times. But when you have missed 3 1/2 years of learning along with your child it is not that easy! I try, but this time around, Nina and I really need help!

Our Therapist is just an awesome lady, and she is so good at what she does! She showed me some stretches to do with Nina and now I know she is not going to break! I was afraid of doing something that could...break her? Hurt her? I don't know, all I know is that I am learning and trying to figure out the body of a 3 1/2 year old with Cerebral Palsy.

She also said Nina will need AFO's (Ankle-Foot Orthosis) I was expecting to hear this because she really needs them! These AFO's will help Nina to keep her knees, legs, ankles, and feet aligned in in the proper posture. See, when Nina stands, she stands with her knees bent and on her toes. You can see from the picture that having these on will help her to stand correctly (or so we hope!)

And Nina will also get a walker that will look a lot like this one, except in hot pink! This way we can get her moving and on her feet! I knew that our future with Nina would require special equipment, and today, this became more of a reality. I am excited, so excited, yet, this is new territory for us, and I choose to see the fun of a hot pink walker! What is sweet is that if Nina progresses, this walker becomes a reverse walker.
So we have started. This is the beginning of a journey for Nina, a journey that she would have never been able to take had she stayed in Ukraine. It is exciting and it is intimidating, but thankfully, we have so many friends, family, and professionals that will help us and encourage us and Nina along the way.

Proudly, proudly we will wear the AFO's and ride the walker. And if someone stares, we will wave and smile because we have much to smile about!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Words are powerful. Words hurt.

3 What are your thoughts?

Retard. Retarded. These are the words that have caused much controversy over the last weeks. The buzz started with Rahm, Palin, and Rush. Some have said we have pushed the limit in what is “politically correct.” But is it? Is it wrong or offensive to use the r-word? Is it really a damaging word?

I want to tell you about our family, and I will share with you some personal and raw parts of our journey. I hope after you read this, that you will understand the power of words, and that some words, even when not intended to be harmful, can slowly destroy.

When my daughter Nichole was born, her diagnosis of Down syndrome hung over me like a heavy, wet, blanket. It clung to me. It robbed me from any feelings of love and I wondered if there was a way out. My motherly instinct was nowhere to be found. I went through the motions of holding and nursing (pumping actually) because I had to, not because I wanted to. I cried. I cried several times a day. There was fear in the unknown; there were questions about the future, about our family and my oldest daughter.

Down syndrome. I knew many things about Down syndrome, and I knew of one word that would be used to describe my daughter. It was the R-word. Retarded.

I knew that someday, someone at her school might say to her, “Hey you retard!” With many laughs to follow such a comment. Or we might hear someone explaining her behaviors to another by saying, “She is retarded.”

There was something I knew about the word retard or retarded. It is a word used to describe something or someone that is stupid, ridiculous, or inadequate. It is a word used to make fun of others, to point out their flaws, or to put them down. It is a word used to destroy, to tear down. Was this really a word that would describe my daughter?

Thankfully, it did not take long for me to discover that my daughter was not what the word "retarded" means. My daughter was and is beautiful. She is not stupid, she is not ridiculous, and she is not inadequate. She has taught me more in her lifetime than I had learned in mine. She has been the greatest teacher I have had. She has inspired me more than anyone else I know. She has changed my life, the lives of our family, and of those that have gotten to know her.

My daughter has the ability to touch hearts and change lives. A quality that cannot be said of all people. She has shown me more love, joy, kindness, gentleness than I had ever known before. Indeed, her life has great meaning, great value, and she has so much more to offer.

And yet, the word “retard” continues to hang over us. Why? Because it is a word that continues to be used in a derogatory way. It hurts. It hurts our family. We fight this word, every day, every single day. We fight this word because everywhere we go, her characteristic features of Down syndrome set her apart. The stereotype that the word “retard” has perpetuated is engrained in our society, and so we fight against it, because she is so much more. She is full of potential, love, and joy.

There are obvious ways in which the r-word is offensive. But when it damages us the most is when it is said in ignorance. The facebook status or the teasing of a friend. It is not meant to be offensive, it is not meant to hurt. But even if it is not said with ill intent, it does. It hurts, it destroys.

My daughter is not stupid, ridiculous or inadequate. A word that has been used to mock people with intellectual disabilities makes othesr like my daughter wake up and face a world that has deemed her unworthy and incapable. Incapable because of a word. A word that is not who she is. She is capable, she has gifts, she has talents.

So next time you hear the R-word, next time if you think you might be about to say the R-word. Please stop and think. Think about my daughter, think about others that like her stand strong against the tide of a word that has labeled them in such a negative way, yet they have so much potential. As her family we stand with her, we stand strong, we fight.

Will you stand with us?

You can take the pledge to end the r-word by clicking here. (if you do, will you leave me a comment and tell me you made the pledge?)

I wrote this post a year ago when we were getting the MR waiver for Nichole, thankfully, it has been changed and is now called the ID waiver. Click here to read it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adoption: Falling In Love

3 What are your thoughts?

Our dear friends, the McLelands, adopted a baby girl not even a year ago. Bill said to us shortly after they had gotten her home, “I didn’t know if it would be possible to love an adopted child as much as your biological children, but we love this baby girl, it makes no difference how she came into our family, we love her just the same.”

“You love them just the same.”

“I bet she fits perfectly in your family.”

“It must feel like she has always been a part of your family.”

Often, when I hear statements like these I think about McLelands, knowing they can wholeheartedly agree. But when those statements are said to me, I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I know the right thing to say is “yes.” It makes me wonder if adopting an infant is different from adopting an older child because I am still in the process of getting there, I have yet to arrive.

I love Nina. There is no doubt about it, but I cannot say that my love for her is the same as it is for Ellie and Nichole. When the girls fight, my first instinct is to side with Ellie and Nichole, or to comfort them first. I find myself being less patient with Nina, or feeling annoyed when she wants to join in if I try to have one-on-one time with one of the other girls. At times, it even feels like I am babysitting some else’s child.

The truth is, adopting an older child for us was not love at first sight, but rather, a journey of falling in love.

For almost 4 years, we lived without Nina, and she lived without us. We have come together, all of us, with our past. We have different languages, different cultures, different rules. We are just getting to know each other. At times I am sure she is confused, and she does not understand what is happening in her new world. At times I am confused and I do not understand why she acts a certain way. Our communication is broken in many ways as we try to understand each other. Nina is learning what it is like to have a mommy and a daddy and sisters. She is just discovering that we really are her promise of forever; we will never walk away from her, never. She is learning to trust.

Adoption is a journey of falling in love, for all of us. A journey with highs and lows as we walk along the path. And we are falling in love.

Nina smiles, she gives us hugs, she signs “I love you,” and says “I lou wu” She makes silly faces and thrives in our praises.

Nina is a precious little girl. She is sweet and charming. She has brought so much joy into our lives and she has shown us much about God’s heart as Heavenly Father. Our family needed Nina, in more ways that we will ever understand.

And we are, we are falling in love, madly in love with this little girl.

Adoption: Andy's Annual Report 2009

2 What are your thoughts?

After my last post, Andy asked, "Did you ever read my annual report?"
You would think that I had read my husband's annual report, but I had not. After I read it, it was quite clear why he had asked me that question, so I thought I would share with you too.

So here it is, Pastor Andy Stumbo's 2009 Annual Report (well, part of it!)

Nina and the Ukraine

Before we went to the Ukraine, I said many times that I couldn’t believe how much I already loved Nina. I felt like my love was similar to the love that God had for me even before I knew him. But once we met her, I realized that I was more in love with an idea of Nina than with who Nina actually is. At our first meeting, she seemed emotionally distant from us, very shy, and developmentally very far behind. We left that visit with deflated dreams. I was in love with an idea that had Nina wanting us as parents and fitting perfectly in our family. I was in love with the idea of adoption because we were saving this girl’s life. I had a picture of who this girl was and how the process would go, and I loved that, but I didn’t know her and realized that I didn’t love her like I thought I did.

Meeting her and realizing that she was not the same as my dream robbed me of any feelings of love. The process did not go like I had imagined it and she was not clinging to us as her parents. As you can imagine, I was discouraged that my feelings of love were not there. Pictures made it look like we were deeply connected, but in my heart I knew that was not true.

But, we continued to meet with her, and play with her, and enjoy her, and slowly but surely, I began falling in love with this beautiful three year old girl. Even though our first impressions of her were mainly false, it was necessary that we moved from a dream world into a reality of more accurate expectations. And what we have found is that living in the reality of the situation is so much better than our dream world could ever be.

I have also said many times that this adoption process has made God’s adoption of us more meaningful to me. This journey of falling in love with Nina is also true of our relationship with Jesus. Often times we have a picture of who this God is and we fall in love with our idea of God. As life happens, though, we find our picture of God distorted and we find ourselves disoriented. This brings us to a choice of letting go of our inaccurate concept of God or of being frustrated that he is different than we thought. In many ways, we need to be deflated from our false ideas of God so that we can fall in love with the true God as he really is. This is not a fun or easy process but can be confusing and painful. As we continue to spend time with him and allow who he is shape our understanding of him, then we can fall in love with the true God. I pray that this year you are able to fall deeper in love with God as he really is because I’m convinced that the reality is better than any false ideas we have about God. I would love to be able to help you in any way that I can.

This journey of adopting Nina was the most difficult thing that Ellen and I have gone through. It was tumultuous to say the least. I have a new respect for single parents trying to raise kids, work full time, balance the pressures and pain of life, and still find time to serve in the church or community. I have realized that most people’s lives are filled with pain that everyone else is unaware of. The reality is life is often really hard and full of pain. We are thankful, though, that similar to labor, our journey ends positively with much joy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Adoption: When You Meet The Child You Have Been Dreaming About

5 What are your thoughts?

The anticipation was overwhelming. I thought the moment I finally laid eyes on Nina would be one of those moments that you never forget, one of those moments that are etched in your heart forever and become one of the most joyous and sweet memories of my life. I wondered if I would cry that first time and if she would feel the same bond I already felt. Would she be able to sense all the love I had for her?

Although we were able to move through the adoption process quickly, the waiting seemed too long, and our desire for Nina to be a part of our family grew stronger and stronger as the days went by. My love for her was so intense that it pushed me to get things done and to be relentless when it came to the paperwork nightmare. I cried many tears in frustration but I would do whatever I had to do to get my daughter home and out of the orphanage.

Someone said to me along this process, “You love them just the same as if they were your own.” When I heard that statement, I could not have agreed more.

The day we walked into the orphanage for the first time my stomach was in knots. I did not know what to expect but we were so excited to see our beautiful girl.

Workers came in and out of the room we were sitting at. It took me a while to realize that the little girl that one of the workers held in her arms was Nina. I had seen them walk in the room and had even made eye contact with her, but I did not recognize her. All I saw was an orphan with a misshapen head and lost eyes.

“That’s Nina” I said to Andy

“I know” he replied

We both saw her, we both stared, we both held our breaths. We did not have to say it, because both of us were shocked at her appearance and demeanor. She looked different than the pictures we had seen.

Reality stepped in, it sat next to me, and it held my hand.

The worker sat next to us with Nina in her arms. Andy and I tried to interact with her, but she seemed so lost. They told us she was nervous and that she was acting shy. They assured us that she was smart and outgoing. But regardless of what they said, what we saw was much different. We saw a girl with vacant eyes and what appeared to be a great cognitive delay. Her behavior made me question if she had autism as well. The most interaction we got with her was when I showed her my camera, and she offered a lost smile. (You can watch that video here)

Back in our apartment in Kyiv, Reality accompanied us. Andy and I questioned if we were making the right choice. The child that we had met seemed to have many special needs that would require work and attention. Was it fair to Ellie and Nichole? How would they be impacted by having such a low functioning sister?

Most of all, Reality explained to us that we never had loved Nina at all. What we had come to love so strongly was the “idea” of who Nina was. The Nina we had created in our hearts and minds had pushed us to come this far. Without her, we wouldn’t be there. But that Nina had to go, because the real Nina waited for us.

Fear then knocked on the door. We cracked the door open a little and asked questions, because Fear was right, we knew so little about Nina, and so little about the future. We had no idea what life would be like with Nina in our family, and we had no way to predict how she would affect her sister’s lives. But before Fear could come into our apartment we were reminded of this: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.”

We thanked Fear for coming, for making us think, and we closed the door.

God had been in the adoption process all along. He had showed us His love and mercy in ways we had never seen or experienced before. The ways He had chosen to show Himself to us were a clear indication that this was what He wanted us to do. We were scared, and we often thought of Fear, but we had a promise. The promise that God would walk with us every step of the way.

Over the next weeks we would have to get to know this little orphan girl, one that would soon become our daughter. We had to learn to love the real Nina, the one who so desperately needed us, the one that we had come to save.


(To read Andy's thoughts on this click here)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

You Wanted Pictures

6 What are your thoughts?
I have not done very well at taking pictures lately because our camera's card is full. I have not taken the time to download pictures in my computer so we can take even more! But here are some pictures. We have now come to refer to the girls as "the sisters."

Nina's Speech Therapist

5 What are your thoughts?
Nina's speech is amazing! Every day she surprises us with the things she is able to say. From two word sentences, to common phrases like "it's okay" to full sentences. Yesterday she said, "I want to take a bath." Yes, she said it that clear and with perfect grammatical structure. Those speech bursts are rare, but they are happening!

We do not take any of the credit, but rather, I want to show you Nina working with her English teacher who is also her speech therapist.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Life is a Story

2 What are your thoughts?
As we left the Mayo clinic parking lot three days ago, we saw an older couple heading towards the elevators. The woman followed her husband on a motorized chair while he searched for the best "path" for her to take.

"I wonder what their story is" Andy said, "How did she end up in that chair? Was it hard for her to accept that she needed it? Is it hard for her husband to take care of her? There are so many stories in this place, and we live life without realizing what other people go through."

I looked at them as we drove away. What was their story? Hospitals are places where people bring their stories, stories of heartbreak, of fear, of sickness, and pain. Andy had mentioned that our society lacked compassion, because most people prefer not to go to hospitals for this very reason. Yet, what a wonderful place to love and care. No wonder he noticed the older couple.

And here we were, with a story too. A story about a once orphan girl. Nina lived with neglect and abuse for 3 1/2 years. The journey to bring her home was emotional, long, and felt so lonely. But that is not the end of her story, but only the beginning. Her story now is covered with celebration, with joy, and with hope. The hope of a future and a family that will be with her. The promise of a mother and father that will hold her up and embrace her. As we discover the intricacies of her body in our medical visits, I can let that be overwhelming, but her story shouts to me "I am found! I have hope!"

We all have a story, and we all go through storms in life. Some are hard and some are devastating. Through it all, God walks with us, weather we feel him present or not, He is there, not promising He will take it away, or make it better, but promising to walk with us. But there is also joy and celebration, cheer and hope! What is your story?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Answering Some Questions

0 What are your thoughts?
1. Will you be updating both blogs anymore, or just the main Home one?
Mostly I will update our main Home blog. I will continue to post on the adoption blog as we deal with adoption related issues. When I update the adoption blog, I will have a link on our Home blog so you know to check for it.

2. Does Nina continue to use the walker?
As much as she can. She does very well, unfortunately, our house is not handicapped accessible which limits her mobility with a walker. We are only able to use it as "therapy." We are talking about either needing an addition to our home to open space, or looking for a different house.

3. Is your adoption covered, or are you still trying to cover the expenses?
Where God leads He provides, not even a penny is left to pay back. All the praise belongs to God, He is faithful!

4. When did you actually arrive in Minnesota?
We arrived "home" on December 31st. We started the new year fresh, as a family.

5. What are Nina's fears and behaviors she has displayed that were of concern?
I have gotten several e-mails with questions similar to this. We all have our own stories,from who we are, and where we came from to who we have become. Nina has her own story, the story of an orphan with special needs. This story comes with heartache and abuse. I do not feel it is right for me to tell her story in such a public venue as a blog. It is Nina's story and it will be up to her to someday write about it, or for her to give me permission to do so. I have chosen to do so to honor my daughter and treat her with dignity and respect, something she did not have for 3 1/2 years. This does not mean you cannot ask questions, but it does mean that I will be cautious in the blogging world.

6. Would you ever adopt from Ukraine again?
Yes! Absolutely! What I saw at the orphanage is reason enough for me to go back and save another child. I would NOT go back during holidays or winter though :) And this time we would know what to expect a little better.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nina gets to see lots of Doctors

5 What are your thoughts?
The last 2 days we have spent hours in Mayo Clinic as doctors look at our daughter and try to discover the surprises of a little girl who's medical record was a single piece of paper with virtually no information. The last 3 1/2 years are a medical mystery that we will try to uncover.

Our first appointment was with a general Pediatrician. He was sweet and very gentle. Andy and I had come with a list of questions or small concerns that landed us to see several "ologists." We now have and MRI, swallow study, dermatologist appointment, an echo, and a rehabilitation doctor to see (we promised we would see our very own eye doctor.) That is a lot of appointments in the next month! Nina also had a huge amount of blood drawn, so much, that they could not take it all in one day for safety reasons, so they divided it in the 2 days and Nina had a really hard time. This blood test will check for everything from what vaccines she has had, to what things she has been exposed to.

Today we had an X-ray for Nina's hand and we saw the neurologist. As we talked about Nina's future and we asked if he thought she would ever walk his comment was, "I don't see a reason why she would not walk on her own." And you can imagine how encouraging it is to hear that!

There were some concerns we had regarding Nina when we would visit her at the orphanage based on her fears and behaviors she displayed. Some of those concerns became even more real once I had Nina with me. As we met with the doctor, before we brought up some of those concerns, the pediatrician noticed immediately.

The reality of life in an orphanage is very sad. Actually, it is heartbreaking. If you have ever felt a tug in your heart regarding adoption, let's talk. You will really be saving the life of a child!



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