Monday, June 28, 2010

Adoption: A Journey of Faith

2 What are your thoughts?
I am reposting today, because I was reading through a post I wrote last October in our adoption blog. Adoption is indeed a Journey of Faith. It has been hard, it has been frustrating, it has been emotional (an understatement) but it has been good!

Our lives would be a lot easier without Nina. We would be more comfortable, and have more freedom as a family. But was it worth it? Absolutely!

God has stepped in, and He has provided. It is a journey that has changed us.

So here is my post from last October, "Adoption: A Journey of Faith"

God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.” Francis Chan

I recently came across this quote, as I read it, the tears started to flow, this is where we are at, this is our life.

Andy and I have really been battling discouragement the last couple of weeks. Adoption is an emotional roller coaster. We find ourselves in a situation where we will be in trouble if God does not come through, and while we wait, it is hard not to start questioning the outcome.

I sat across the desk from our County Assessor dealing with adoption documents and couldn't stop crying. Not only was it embarrassing, but it made me look inside and realize I had to deal with all the feelings inside of me. It was later that day that I first read the quote from Francis Chan. God was sending me a message.

When we decided to commit to adopt Nina, we knew from the beginning that this would be a journey of Faith. The eyes of the world might look at us and think that we are crazy. The sacrifices are many, and the timing might seem wrong. But this is what Faith means, this is what stepping out in obedience looks like. We will not question, but we will obey.

I would lie if I said that we don’t have questions, because we do.

“Can we really do this financially?”

“Am I willing to be gone from my girls for seven weeks?”

“Will it be a lonely Christmas with only Nina and myself?”

“Will Andy be okay playing “single parent” for a month?”

“Will our girls cope okay when we are both gone?”

“Will Nina fit into our family?”

“Will Ellie feel resentful having two sisters with Special Needs?”

“How will I handle being on my own in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language for so long.”

“Are we alone in this?”

Please know, many of these thoughts are not from God, we know that, but when emotions are raw, it is easy to entertain those thoughts and take comments or conversations negatively, even though they never were. It is more of a reflection of our lack of trust as we are so close to the goal, and so much in this process is out of our hands. As a matter of fact, it is because we are so close that our emotions run high as all the knots and bolts seem to still be scattered around us and we are not sure where they fit yet.

We knew from the beginning that there would be sacrifices, and we accepted them. We took our cue from Jesus and His sacrifice for us. He adopted us into His family, we are His beloved children and there was no price or time constrictions that would stop Him from getting us. And so we will do the same, trusting that He will provide.

Where God leads, He provides, and so we trust. This is our journey of Faith.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Swimsuits are Like Haircuts

5 What are your thoughts?
It doesn't matter what they look like in the picture, they will not look the same on you!

Yes, today, for the first time this summer I took Ellie to the public pool, which means I had to wear a swimsuit. Not my favorite thing to do. I mean, what woman...let me try again, what MOM likes to wear a swimsuit?

And when you have small children, it is not just modesty you have to worry about, but you have to stand in front of a mirror and bend, squat, and lean in unnatural ways to ensure that no body part or hidden area will peek out to say hi. Because let's face it, when you have small children you do end up bending, squatting, and leaning in unusual ways. Either chasing a kid, saving them from going under water, or having them hold on to you for dear life!

So after today and the wide array of styles, I was left longing for the swimsuits of old times. Those beautiful little dresses that were appropriate and covered everything that needed to be covered.
I mean, why not?

And how, how did we go from little dresses to something that covers even less than underwear?

Maybe I am on to something, maybe I should start a new swimsuit company that targets moms. Then we can all wear cute little dresses that compliment our body and will for sure cover all the stretch marks and lose skin that quite frankly need to be covered.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Botox Time!

8 What are your thoughts?
Nina now has 4 round band-aids on her legs where she received her Botox injections. She seems pretty proud of them, just like any kid, and makes sure to point them out.

The entire experience was so smooth. The doctor was there with an intern and he went through the procedure again. This is what we know: Botox is just a temporary fix, and you take full advantage of loosened muscles to do stretches and break into the AFO's. He said in 3 to 6 months, the effects will start to wear off and we will have to do it all over again.

This time Nina got some shots on her calf muscles next time it will be her hips.

I had explained to Nina what was going to happen. I did not want her to be surprised by 4 injections to her legs. She was nervous, as I told her it would probably hurt a little bit, but that it would help her to walk.

As the doctor explained this to Nina again, she got sad and was about to cry. Then she looked up at him and with the sweetest little voice said... "But then Nina can dance?"

Talk about a sweet moment! A little girl who dreams of dancing with her sisters.

So the doctor says, "Yeah sure, maybe someday."

What? What kind of answer is that? How can he miss this?

"Did you hear what she said?" I asked. "This is a sweet moment and you cannot miss it." I continued. "This is a little girl who was an orphan not too long ago, who was neglected and now thrives in a family. Her world is full of potential and possibility and here she is sharing with you the dream she has to someday dance with her sisters. Isn't this sweet?"

I then looked back to the other doctor. "Isn't this sweet?"

We are all guilty of allowing special moments to become routine. So much so that we miss them. However, I was not going to let the moment pass without these two men realizing that this was much more than just a Botox injection. And they did, they both smiled and really thought about Nina's words, about the meaning behind the question and the dreams of this little girl who cannot even stand without help.

"Yes, it is really sweet." The doctor agreed, smiled, and somehow saw Nina for Nina, not just one more patient.

Nina cried a little bit, but once we were done she was happy!

So now we are stretching a lot more and hoping to feel the effects of the Botox soon!

On a different note, while Nina was telling Andy what happened, she said something like, "And they did not tie Nina down, mommy holds Nina, and then mommy carry Nina and kiss her, and no tying!" Makes you wonder all that took place, doesn't it?

Some might say that she is lucky to have us, that we are a blessing to her. However, we are lucky to have her. And I cannot wait for the day when our Nina stands in the middle of the room and dances, because on that day, we will be lucky to have her, and to witness a dream come true! What a day that will be!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cerebral Palsy and Botox

7 What are your thoughts?
Cerebral Palsy is still new to us. I feel like when Nichole was 5 months old I knew a lot about Down syndrome, but now that Nina has been with us for 5 months I still feel pretty lost in my knowledge of Cerebral Palsy.

Apart from adoption, the biggest hurdle for us has been her mobility issues. The first time we saw a physical therapist we were told they expected her to be doing worse since Nina had never seen a therapist before, while at the same time, our therapist had never worked with a child that was as hard and tight as Nina. Sometimes trying to stretch her is like trying to bend a block of wood by just pushing on it.

Even now, after 5 months, stretching her requires a lot of strength. There are times I cannot even flex her feet with my hands. I place her foot on my shoulder and lean into her so I can get her foot to flex.

Nina's Cerebral Palsy is called diplegia (the first picture in the diagram below.) And while her arms and hands are somewhat affected, she has full use of them and this rarely affect her movement. The times where her arms and hands are affected are when Nina is scared, nervous, or angry. During these "episodes" all her body is affected and as I have described it before, she turns into a wooden board and has no balance or control of her body. At these times she aquires a "curled" position. However, this seems to be more of a behavioral issue or a coping mechanism.
(If I am not using the correct terminology here, please correct me! As I said, I am just learning about CP.)

We have a great walker and we have great AFO's (leg braces.) The problem is that no matter how often we stretch, her legs and feet are still very tight and curled. Her AFO's work for a while, but after a period of time, her feet will shift and regardless of the many straps, the heels are up and we have to take the AFO's off in order to reposition her feet. Something that requires time as it takes a while to be able to stretch her feet to a 90 degree angle and we both can only do it so many times a day. As you can see, her heels are really "up there."

In light of this, we are going to try Botox. Botox has been used successfully in individuals with Cerebral Palsy when injected in the affected areas.

Cerebral palsy is a result of brain injury. What Botox does, is "numb" the nerves that signal the brain to contract. Because of the injury, the brain is not able to signal back telling the legs to relax. Once the nerves are "numb" there is no signaling to the brain. Does that makes sense? If it does not, then welcome to my understanding of this! I told you, I am just learning!

Needless to say, we are hoping that the Botox injections will help Nina. We have explained to her that it might hurt a little but it will help her heels touch the ground. "Like Ellie and Nichole?" she asked.

But Nina is a smart little girl, she asked one more thing, "Nina walk?"

We hope so, we hope that this will be a step forward towards achieving some independent mobility. We are well aware that walking independently might be a few years down the road, but we also know that she is capable of moving around with her walker, and eventually maybe just by using crutches.

Nina wants to walk like her sisters. Personally, I cannot wait to see all three of them dance together, all three girls with their unique abilities.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crafty Caterpillars

0 What are your thoughts?
Once again, Ellie, Nina and I got crafty!

(If you wonder what Nichole does during these time, she is either watching her Barbie show while singing and dancing, or she is watching a Signing Time show, occasionally running to me to yell the word and do the sign.)

We used paint, styrofoam balls, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, glue, googly eyes, and tiny pom poms.

We cut a couple of balls in half, and then used toothpicks to secure the balls that we were painting.

Once they were all done, we had to let them dry. I did help Nina quite a bit, and Ellie only when she would ask me to get the bottom of the balls.

Once the balls were dry we cut pipe cleaners in half. We folded one of the pieces in half and rolled the top to make the antenna, then we just jabbed it on top of one of the balls. We then put on the googly eyes and used our glue to paste the pom pom nose. This was hard for Nina, but she almost got the eyes all on her own just with a little guidance. Do remember, crafts are so new to her, before we had her, I don't think she had even held a crayon before! Now she is using paintbrushes!

We used the toothpicks to connect the balls. We broke the toothpicks so only a little piece was left to each ball. I did that for both girls as I was afraid that they would poke their fingers with the sharp ends of the toothpicks.
Then we inserted the other small pieces of pipe cleaners to make the legs.

And voila! The caterpillars were ready to crawl on our awesome green carpet!
And as a final picture, here is Ellie, showing the watch she made with play-doh.

Happy crafting everyone!

The Best Dad

1 What are your thoughts?
If you ask Ellie who she is going to marry she will tell you she will marry her daddy. He is her prince charming. Actually, all three of my girls adore their daddy, he is their favorite! Yes, sometimes I do feel a little jealous, but, the truth is he is more patient, and a lot stronger! He can swing them, throw them up in the air, and twirl them better than mom!

He is loving and caring. Everyday, he tells his girls that he loves them, and every day he tells them that they are beautiful.

He is the best daddy in the world! He is involved in their lives and he considers these years precious! I am so lucky he chose me! He is the best partner and my best friend.

All four girls in his house absolutely adore him!

He is an extraordinary man, and an extraordinary daddy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father to a Son With Special Needs

0 What are your thoughts?
Tomorrow, there will be many fathers of children with special needs that will be celebrated. Many of these men used to be ordinary fathers, but because of their children, they have become extraordinary men.

God has used these children in their lives in powerful ways. Although the world has labeled many of their children as less than perfect, worthless, or limited, these men have embraced the path they now travel and they have been transformed. And when God changes these father's lives, others take notice.

Their children have not limited them, their children have made them stronger, more like Christ.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A "first" Father's Day for now-adoptive dad

3 What are your thoughts?
This is the title for our local newspaper article. I wish I had a link so you could go and read the story, but there is not. So instead, I scanned the article. All you have to do is click on the picture and it should take you to another screen with a larger image.

Happy Father's Day to all adoptive dads out there!

Photos by Sara Stewart

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Speech Progress

6 What are your thoughts?
Nichole is 2 years and 8 months old. Compared to her typical peers, Nichole's speech is delayed. She is not able to communicate well and we are going through a tough time where Nichole gets very frustrated when we don't understand her or she cannot tell us what is in her mind. I would be very frustrated too.

From all the therapy we do, speech therapy is by far the most important one in our list of priorities. I don't mind if she is not great with her handwriting, or if she jumps a little different. However, I really want her to be able to communicate clearly with others. Her speech will determine how other people perceive her, we know this, and so we work hard!

Yesterday I realized for the first time that we were making some progress as we had a short exchange driving back from PT and OT therapy.

Nichole: MOOOOOOM!
Me: Yes Nichole
Nichole: Chipssss
Me: Okay. Ellie, can you hand Nichole her chips please?
Ellie gave Nichole her bag of chips.
Me: Nichole, what do you say?
Nichole: Tenk you

I smiled. We had just had a conversation, a successful one!

So I want to show you some of Nichole's progress. Today as we practiced our fine motor skills, she was on a roll and not being shy of the camera.

Warning: The content of the following videos (just like the one from the previous post) will make you "awwww," smile, and want to squeeze her!

First you will see Nichole talking. She repeats some words after me or signs them. She also has some words that I "translate" for her. When Andy walked in, she was very interested to show him her piggy bank abilities.

In this following video, we were going through the Signing Time! flashcards. You will see her in action. If you listen closely, she tries to say the words as well as sign them. She really does fantastic with her signs, and I keep going until she wants to stop. She communicates greatly through signs and has started to put two signs together.

So if you missed it, make sure you check out the post from earlier today, just click here!

Fine Motor Skills Fun Play

2 What are your thoughts?
The great thing about practicing fine motor skills with Nichole, or with any child, is that a lot of the fun things kids like to do, require fine motor skills. Coloring, playing dolls, brushing hair, dressing the baby, or playing with your piggy bank. These are all great opportunities for children to learn how to use their little hands.

Children with Down syndrome tend to have a harder time with their fine motor skills, so we try to chose toys, games, and activities that encourage Nichole's hands to work. It also helps that Ellie loves these activities and Nina and Nichole will do anything their big sister is doing. They adore Ellie!

All three of my girls love to play with money and put it in a piggy bank. Actually, Ellie likes to count "her money" while Nina and Nichole think it is great fun to just put it in the piggy.

Today we took turns, and Nichole was showing off for us. She was so proud of herself she actually let me take her picture! Lately she does not like her picture taken, or she won't smile for the camera.

(Please ignore the dirty face, we had just had some lunch)

Her super awesome pincer grasp!
And here she is in action.
Warning: Watching this video will make you smile.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Special Friends

5 What are your thoughts?
Today, Nina's best friend got to meet her daddy and mommy. Nina and Oksana were not blood related, but they were the closest thing they had to family. They had each other.

Both little girls with Cerebral palsy, crossed eyes, and dimples.

Before we traveled to get Nina, we had asked our facilitator if Nina had developed any sibling-like relationships at the orphanage. Right away they sent us Oksana's picture and information. But Oksana is older than Ellie, and as we prayed, we did not feel peace bringing another child home that would be older than our oldest. It would not have been fair for Ellie.

At the orphanage I got to see Oksana many times when I visited Nina. A couple of times she would come and play with Nina and I. During one visit, I held Oksana for a long time. She desperately wanted a mommy and daddy. Someone that would call her their own.

Oksana made her way into my heart and I determined to do whatever I had to do in order to find her a family. I asked our translator to find out more about Oksana. They informed her that since she was already four years old, that they were going to transfer her to an institution soon. I asked them to wait, and I made them a promise, "I will find her a family." They agreed.

In the next week, after posting about her on my blog, there were several families that contacted me to ask about Oksana. But one family in particular was ready to move forward. As soon as I told Erin that they wanted to transfer Oksana to an institution, she knew God had answered their prayer, and that they would move forward with the adoption and commit to her.

What a joy to call my translator and say to her, "I found a family for Oksana! Please call the orphanage and let them know the Loraines are coming!"

Oksana will always have a special place in our hearts. She is Nina's best friend, she was her sister. So we rejoice with Oksana, and smile because this is the day when the orphan was lost, and the daughter was found! What a beautiful, heart filled day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crazy Curls

3 What are your thoughts?
I know, I might be biased, but my sweet Nichole has to be the cutest little girl sporting crazy curls. I don't even try to do her hair because she looks so cute!

When Nichole was first born and we were learning about Down syndrome I read somewhere that her hair would be straight and fine. I was sad thinking maybe we would not be able to do ponytails or beautiful long hair. It seems trivial, but as a new mom, it becomes one more thing to grieve. Now I look at her wild hair and think, show your curls babe, show those curls!

Oh, and yes, Nichole is wearing a Christmas dress...and so are her sisters. Christmas dresses in June. All three of them love wearing dresses, and we don't have enough! So we had to resort to ANY dress available.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh Gosh???

0 What are your thoughts?
Ellie and Nina played in the living room while I was in the kitchen making dinner...

"Oh Gosh! I sure missed you!" I heard Ellie say to Nina.

Oh Gosh? I sure missed you? Where did that come from?

"Ellie, " I asked, "Where did you hear that phrase?"

"At the restaurant mom, everyone says it at the restaurant."

And so it is friends, the phrases one learns when going out to eat!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Crafting Away!

1 What are your thoughts?
At our house, we craft and craft. It doesn't matter if it rains or shines!

Ellie is a creative little girl. She is a very talented artist and I try to keep up with her. Yes, I do love it, and it gives me excuses to try new things too. I can be in Hobby Lobby for hours and walk out with 4 or 5 easy craft ideas or projects for Ellie and I.

Although Nina can not keep up with Ellie, she tries, I help, and she can sit and concentrate for a long time.

Nichole is not ready for crafting with her sisters. She needs one on one time and things to do fast! If we are coloring, she will participate, but once we get glue, scissors, or paints out, she is done! She will paint just to humor me, but she is definitely not artistic. On the other hand, she can watch Signing Time videos all day...well I suppose they say children with Down syndrome are very visual, and in her case, it is true!

To start with, we got some glittery pipe cleaners out. Ellie wanted to make a flower but decided it would be too hard and instead she would make her own creations. Somewhere between the creations hanging from her chair and her necklace, she did manage to make a flower. Specifically, a tulip.
Last Friday as I roamed Hobby Lobby, I discovered water color crayons! These are amazing! Ellie gave them a try and she absolutely loved it. It is just like coloring and painting all in one!
Ellie colored her paper, a beautiful ocean, sun, birds, boat, and rainbow. Then, we dipped a brush in water and ran it over the colors. Quickly, the water "dissolves" the crayon and turns it to watercolors!
It takes some skill to keep the colors separated and for them not to bleed into each other. Ellie did pretty well, and tried to keep the edges dry for a sharper look.
We also discovered that for every new color she was working on, we needed clean water and to rinse the brush. Next time, we will have several Dixie cups with clear water ready for this!
So happy crafting everyone, it sure is fun!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Practice Fine Motor Skills Through Play!

3 What are your thoughts?
Now that the weather is nice, we try to come up with ways of being outside without actually being outside. Thankfully, the girls are happy being out in the porch, and so am I!

Nichole has really been interested in pouring, mixing, and scooping. She is not very good at it yet, and makes a big mess. She gets to do that in the bath tub, but I wanted to do something else besides water.

Today, as part of our fun time together, we took the play kitchen and table to the porch and opened up a bag of beans and a bag of lentils. I put them in two bowls, brought in different spoons, bowls and cups, and let the girls have fun with it!

They had a blast! And although they made a big mess, the clean up was not so bad. Ellie helped me and even suggested the best way to clean up.

Nichole did great, and I think the more we do it the better she will get. Right now, a scoop from the big bowl resulted in only one bean or two lentils in the little bowl, the rest was on the table and the floor. Towards the end I realized she was getting frustrated as she was using her hand and trying to dump it all on the table. I finally convinced her to dump it in a pan, but that only lasted so long.

So we will keep working on scooping and dumping. And I am thinking that maybe a sand box would be a fun toy for the summer!

Grandparents are a Blessing!

0 What are your thoughts?
Last week Andy's parents came to visit us for five days. They had not met Nina yet and we were all so excited to see them. Ellie was counting down the hours until grandma and grandpa Stumbo would show up at our door!

While they were here, Andy and his dad got to work! Our basement was a disaster. And this time, I promise I am not exaggerating! Cleaning and organizing the basement was a project that weigh heavy on us. In a way, the outside was a little reflection of how we have felt on the inside. So having it clean not only took care of the basement, but it gave us more energy to buckle up and keep moving forward!

The basement then extended to the garage and shed. And let me tell you, it looks awesome! If it wasn't for a bat in the basement that we cannot find, I would even consider making it our craft room. Ha!

Ronda helps so much in the house. I can say that she did all the cooking and cleaning while she was here. I don't know how she does it, she is amazing! And she made us some cookies that I have to say are the best! And my girls all agree!

And not to mention how fun it is for our girls to be with their grandparents playing and cuddling. It sure makes me wish we lived closer to Andy's parents or my mom and sisters.

Grandparents sure are a blessing!

Crafty Butterflies!

0 What are your thoughts?
Having three little curious girls means that we have to have some structure to our days. it does not matter for as long as there is a plan. We tried homeschooling, but it is hard when I have 2 little girls that really need undivided one on one attention, and the one that can do it on her own is done before the others saying, "What is next?"

This has called for some creativity from my part, and our homeschooling times will be a little different. It is basically called craft time! And Ellie is one gifted little artist.

last week, Ellie and Nina made some butterflies! Nina needed help drawing the butterfly and cutting it. Ellie can do it all on her own. Nina needed some guidance to glue and help with the antennae, while Ellie could do it again all on her own. I think it made it easy that Nichole was not interested in the craft, but rather in watching a Barbie movie. I am sure her decision made the craft time a lot easier for the rest of us! And, grandma Stumbo was helping Nina too!
The beautiful butterfly creations!
Ellie made the purple butterfly and Nina the yellow one.
What an easy but fun craft!
We used foam for the body. I traced Nina's butterfly with pencil and Ellie copied the design. Then Ellie cut hers while I cut Nina's. Next, we made a hole using a hole punch. We then laced the pipe cleaner and twisted it a couple of times. Then we twisted the pipe cleaner around a pencil.
We then chose our pom poms for the body and glued them on.
We glued some sequence to decorate the body and Ellie also used some glitter stickers.
When the pom poms were almost dry, we added the googly eyes and Ellie decided to add a nose, which meant that Nina needed one too!



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