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.

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!
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.

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!



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