We are her family!

We have had some real miracles happen in the last few weeks! We want to tell you about how wonderful God is and we will!

But oh my goodness………This weekend we are SUPER BUSY with our first fundraiser, a HUGE yard sale. It feel a bit odd to ask people for their old stuff but let me tell you people have been so generous with their donations for our sale and it is humbling. PLEASE check back here soon so we can share how God worked in our lives and our journey to get our daughter.

If you can donate to help us bring her home I would be forever grateful.
OUR TAX DEDUCTIBLE LINK WILL BE UP SOON.

 

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Favorite Christmas Song

The band Downhere sings How Many Kings. It has been hands down my favorite spiritual Christmas song. So many times in this world we are enticed, lead, pressured into believing that our God is not that great. We are told that our God is at fault for wars and other actions by mankind. We are encouraged to think he is more of a generalized great power, ambiguous and fuzzy and certainly does not know me or my problems. I love this song because it rejects this message. There are many, many philosophies, gods, and an endless array of things to worship. But I would ask,

“How many Kings stepped down for their thrones?”

“How many Lords have abandoned their homes?”

“How many graves have become released for me?”

“How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that’s been torn all apart?”

“How many Fathers gave up their sons for me?”

“ONLY ONE DID THAT FOR ME, ALL FOR ME”

Recently this song was on the radio. I was singing it, badly, to Andrew as I fed him dinner. He likes my voice no matter how bad, yet another reason I love him. Well, I got to the part “How many Fathers gave up their sons for me?” That message HIT ME. It hit me with new understanding and in a totally new way and so I totally lost it, blubbering mess. My mind immediately went to Andrew’s and Elijah’s birth fathers. Although they both chose to leave their sons in the care of their government, its just not as simple as that. I often think of them. I often wish I could tell them just how much I love their sons, how glad I am to raise them and that they are mine.

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Christmas

I feel like I blinked and Christmas is over. This Christmas was very different for us. Despite doubling the number of children it was actually much more simple time for us. I don’t know how other families do it but I had to cut back on our activities we try to acomplish. We also severly cut back on the number of gifts we gave and got. I heard about an idea for gift giving that sounded great to me.

The Challenge, only 4 gifts….after all a freind said, thats one more than Jesus got and that was good enough for him. So thats exactly what I told my kids.

4 Gifts: Something you WANT, Something you NEED, Something you READ, Something you WEAR – I asked the kids to give me a list with at least five things in each category. That way it was still a suprise. I was scared what their reaction would be. We could have lost a sofa in the wrapping paper from previous years gift giving. EVERY year, my husband can atest, I NEVER felt like I did ‘enough’. I had bought in the the lie, the commericals – ‘I am not a good parent if I don’t blow the socks off my children’. Everything you see on TV reinforces this. This is a LIE and I thank God that I am no longer weighed down by it. My children did not mind. Of course they are human and want more stuff like the rest of us. BUT, they were like, ‘um ok no problem’ In addition to the 4 gifts, if money permitted, I planned to get a family game or two and it turned out that I did. They also had their stockings and gifts from relatives; Grandm’as and Grandpa’s – SO PLEASE, THEY WERE FINE.

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THE BOYS FIRST CHRISTMAS! It truly was their first Christmas. I can tell you they never recieved a gift at Christmas before. In fact, in Ukraine they don’t celebrate Christmas the way we do or even on the same day. This year it is on Jan 8th.  It is not a big holiday there. I have asked around and read different articles on this and it seems the consensus has to do with Communism and which calender is used. Easter however is a really big deal. I can tell you this for sure becasue we were stuck in Ukraine for 2 extra weeks due to the government shutting down (2 weeks!) for Easter. The boys were ours, we had passed court and the 10-day wait but could not be issued papers to leave.

Last July for Andrew’s birthday he wasn’t too thrilled at having to open a gift. He sort of hated having all of us stare at him and sing happy birthday. Then he hated eating his cupcakes. At the time he had NEVER had sweets. They were forbidden in the orphanage. The sweetest thing he had ever eaten was bananas, which was a delicacy and a treat. It took him 6 months of being home for him to eat a cookie. You may be thinking this is a great thing but I just felt it was my duty as an American to get him to like sweets.

So, I was nervous for Christmas. I would have grieved me if he didn’t like opening presents as it would have just been a reminder of everything he has missed. That did not happen, they both loved opening gifts and ripping paper. Andrew enjoyed it so much that he wanted to ‘help’ his sisters with their gifts too. Elijah’s favorite part was the paper, he playing in it about an hour. I am seriously considering keeping the trash bag full of paper around for their amusement.

A Christmas Eve video by Elijah:


Christmas was wonderful. It was full of joy. Last year I clearly remember feeling like my son (we were going for one at the time) would never get here. Now I have two truly perfect sons. They made Christmas so much more meaningful.

 

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FALL IN A NUT SHELL

We are experiencing many firsts! It is both fun AND stressful. This fall we attempted our first family photo shoot with the help of our sweet friend Tracy.

We had a visit from Erik’s parents. They are really awesome to make the drive (3+ hours depending on traffic one way) and the return trip all in one day!

I threw together our costumes from (mostly) stuff we had around the house for our annual church ‘Trunk or Treat’.

Elijah also had his MIC-KEY surgery. While they were in there they looked in his ears and did an ABR hearing test. His ear canals are SO VERY small that they literally cannot put tubes in. Luckily they could see in his ears with the help of a microscopic ottoscope thingy. They cleared out fluid and lots of build up and wax. The result is that he has a mild hearing loss. Previous to removing wax build up and fluid his hearing loss was around 60 DB which is a severe status. So going forward his hearing level will fluctuate since they cannot put tubes in. I can totally tell when he has fluid in his ears because he will be totally silent, not say a thing. In recent weeks he has been very very vocal and it is adorable. The surgery was so smooth, thank God. I have never seen a baby wake up from anesthesia smiling! The nurses were astounded, as was I.

Lastly, we received a fabulous care package from Gilli-Anne our fabulous friend/missionary from down under. We stayed with her while in Ukraine. She sent each of us a hand-picked made-in-Austraila gift. The favorite of the of whole lot was the book ‘The Bum Thief’ and yes it is about someone who steals a whole towns butts – Hilarious.

I’m learning (a hard lesson, that is on-going) that I just can’t do everything I have done before, at least not now. I also can’t do everything by myself. Everyone must pitch in and help where they can. This means that we didn’t visit the pumpkin patch or even carve pumpkins this year. We made it through fall, and the beginning of cold and flu season so that’s a huge blessing and win!

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How we deal with Medications

We have a lot of medications to deal with. They often change as well so it is very confusing to keep track of. This is an explanation of how we do it and what has worked for us.

Click Here: Link For Medical Form

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Andrew & Elijah – Before & After

I have been waiting to share these photos. Who doesn’t love a good before & after photo?! Well, it is even better when it is a child, once abandoned with no hope to live past the age of 5 or 6 who now has a family that adores him. The boys have made such great progress. They have far to travel yet but the ride has been one of the most fullfilling I can ever imagine. The photo’s below are of Andrew, 1 week home. Look at his hands. His muscle tone was so low that his fingers didn’t stretch out and his whole body was floppy. I thought he had an ‘outie’ belly button when he came home but it turns out he was just that skinny. That along with his muscle tone made it appear that he had an outie.  Now his belly button is almost complelty an ‘innie’. He weighed about 17 lbs when he got home and was wearing 12 month old clothes. Now, he weights 28 lbs and wears 2T-3T clothes. When andrew came home he was afraid to touch his food and feed himself. And when encouraged to feed himself he would frantically shove as much food as could in his mouth until he would choke. He now can sit in front of a bowl of yogurt and feed himself with a spoon! Understand, in the orphanage they do not like the kids to feed themselves because they don’t want to deal with the mess of cleaning them up. There are usually 2 caregivers for 16-20 children. They don’t have time to teach the kids how to feed themselves. They put the kids in a table/high chair contraption that restrains their arms down so that they cannot move their arms and thus not touch the food. Andrew knew 4 Russian words that I could make out. He would say ‘over there’, monster, yes and mother. Can you imagine that one of the first words a child learns is monster? There are reports, from older children, that the nannies motivate the children by telling them that monsters will get them if they move in their beds, don’t lay down, etc. Andrew now knows over 40 signs! He can communicate all his basic needs. Tell us if he is happy, sad or mad. This is just the tip of the ice burg, I know he will continue to learn, grow and become who God wants him to be!

This photo was taken after one week home. Andrew weighed about 17 lbs. He is 3 years old.

This photo was taken after one week home. Andrew weighed about 17 lbs. He is 3 years old.

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Andrew, at the orphanage on one of our walks during our visting time. This was how he looked most of the time we visited.

Andrew, at the orphanage on one of our walks during our visting time. This was how he looked most of the time we visited.

Andrew, had an allergic reaction to some medication they gave him.

Andrew, had an allergic reaction to some medication they gave him.

No more zombie kid! He is energetic, adores his family, loves to play, eat and communicate his needs.

No more zombie kid! He is energetic, adores his family, loves to play, eat and communicate his needs.

Andrew, Home 4 months! Look at that chub!

Andrew, Home 4 months! Look at that chub!

Andrew, Home 4 months. His skin is clear and his face has filled out.

Andrew, Home 4 months. His skin is clear and his face has filled out.

Elijah, Sweet Baby! Thats what I say to him constantly. He truly is the sweetest baby I have ever known. While most kids with Down Syndrome and other special needs do not live very long in an adult mental institution Elijah had even shorter time to live. He had a massive hole in his heart since birth. Doctors here told us that 1, they don’t know how he survived and 2, He would not have survived 6 more months. The doctor who operated on him told us that ‘That was the most massive hole I have ever seen in a babies heart, It was truly massive’ Time and time again this little boy, my sweet baby, has survived when he should not have. He has defied the odds at every turn. He now weighs 18 lbs and is nearly 18 months old. His pediatrician has told us we can slow down on the food now!

The first time we met Elijah:

At the orphanage. Elijah was wearing 3 month old clothes and weighed 10 lbs. He is 1 year old in this picture.

At the orphanage. Elijah was wearing 3 month old clothes and weighed 10 lbs. He is 1 year old in this picture.

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Elijah, after 10 days home in the hospital with RSV. Weighing 11 lbs.

Elijah, after 10 days home in the hospital with RSV. Weighing 11 lbs.

Yes this IS Elijah! This is the same boy. Here he is 16 months old weighing 16 lbs.

Yes this IS Elijah! This is the same boy. Here he is 16 months old weighing 16 lbs.

Yes, it is still Elijah!

Yes, it is still Elijah!

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I am not special

I am going to open this post by contradicting myself. I am special. I am special because I am a daughter of God. But I do not think I am special because I adopted two boys with down syndrome. I know that statement is hard for some people to understand or agree with.  I believe in adoption. I believe in adoption like I believe that God, the Father adopted us as His children. He loves us no less than His begotten Son, Jesus Christ. That was inconceivable to me until I adopted. I don’t love my boys ‘like they are mine’ no, they ARE mine. They own my heart.

I am so sad right now because I miss my boys something awful. We brought them home on May 23rd. Seven days later Elijah was admitted to the hospital for RSV and spent two weeks there. Then 5 weeks ago he had open heart surgery and has been in the Hospital ever since. He has had multiple complications along the way and in total 3 surgeries. His most recent a G-tube surgery from which he also had complications. Every time I think he is close to coming home something happens. He has now been in the hospital more than he has been home. They told us he might come home this Sunday….we will see.

Andrew then had open heart surgery last week. He was seeming to heal nicely and recover well. It was supposed to be a pretty direct heart repair. He was having an ECHO in preparation to come home when they discovered that both of his valves were leaking one of them pretty badly. They are going to discuss his case on Friday, an additional surgery or a wait and see approach.

I am not special. I am not wonder woman or super mom. I am not rolling in money. I have a very modest 1200 square foot house with 4 kids, a dog and 3 chickens in an old, broke-down railroad town. Life is very, very hard right now. Yes, I chose this life. I chose to adopt a child with down syndrome but that does not mean that I am immune to the stress and worry that comes with a kid who has extra medical needs. But to me, this was never a reason not to adopt. These boys are totally worth it. They are now loved beyone measure.

‘Courage is not the absence of fear, no,

just the determination that something else is more important’

………………….

A photo recap of our last 5 weeks

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Elijah, the day after surgery. When I saw him the first time I experienced something unique for me…I was speechless.

Elijah, the day after open heart surgery.

Elijah, the day after open heart surgery.

Sleeping peacfully sweet baby

Sleeping peacfully sweet baby

I love this boys eyes

I love this boys eyes

First time I could hold him after open heart surgery

First time I could hold him after open heart surgery

Day of G-tube surgery

Day of G-tube surgery

Day of G-tube surgery, working on that thumb.

Day of G-tube surgery, working on that thumb.

Andrew, The day of open heart surgery

Andrew, The day of open heart surgery

Andrew, PICU Dr. checking his stats

Andrew, PICU Dr. checking his stats

Sweet boy sleeping peacfully, 2 days after open heart surgery.

Sweet boy sleeping peacfully, 2 days after open heart surgery.

Andrew & Faith after his wagon ride. He loved seeing his sisters

Andrew & Faith after his wagon ride. He loved seeing his sisters

Andrew and his tunes

Andrew and his tunes

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Chosen!

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We left for Ukraine on April 6th, 2013 with a three day notice!

We had court on April 25th, 2013 and the boys became ours and Elijah turned one!

We came home on May 23rd, 2013!

     Obviously a lot of experiences happened before, in between and after those sentences. We kept family informed of everything that happened, step-by-step through a private Face Book group. I will blog about it slowly on here so check back often as I get back up and running. We have been so grateful for your kind words and prayers and donations that you offered for support. We have quite a journey ahead of us. This week one of our boys will have open heart surgery. Thing is, we don’t know which one! They both need it but Elijah’s situation is more urgent and as long as he is healthy come this Thursday he will have surgery. If he comes down with a cold or something then Andrew will take his place. Originally, we knew that Elijah would need surgery but we didn’t know or suspect until just before coming home that Andrew would need surgery also. We have a team of Dr.’s we love and a hosptial we love. We know that God lead and guide us this far and he will continue lead and guide us and the boys as our journey unfolds.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

 

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When are we leaving?

All our necessary paperwork has been submitted and we are leaving…..wait for it….soon. That is all we know…”soon”. It could be in 2 weeks it could be in 4 weeks. We just don’t know. We are getting so close and yet still so far away. Yesterday another family received there travel date to meet their child. They got all of a 1 week notice, thats it, one week! It sent me into mini panic attacks all day. My spiritual self says ‘don’t panic’ God’s got this. My worldly self says, ‘AHHHHHHHH’ I am about to go to another country, where I don’t speak the language, and try to navigate their laws, their customs and I really don’t have a clue and…

I DON’T HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE WITH DOWN SYNDROME!  

Expect for a few brief encounters:

Encounter #1 

The day after we committed to ‘John Mark’ and I walked into a restaurant, a chinese buffet. There were a TON of seats in the front of the restaurant. The hostess lead us to the back of the restaurant. I remember walking by all the dozens of empty tables thinking, ‘what is she doing’ Why are we…WOAH. Then I saw him. As she laid our menu’s on the table I was frozen. Like literally. I stood frozen looking at a little boy, about 3 with his family. He had down syndrome. I immediately started bawling. Seriously, I was out of control. My husband and daughter stared at me not knowing what in the world was happening. I felt like a huge idiot. I pray that family didn’t notice my reaction or think I was offended by them. I didn’t want to respond that way I just did. We had just made this huge decision, guided by The Spirit. I can’t explain it and maybe some would say I ridiculous but I don’t care. Something in my spirit is touched by people with down syndrome. I went to the bathroom and calmed myself down. My oldest daughter told my husband what was happening, she knew. She knows me. See, we have a crying gene that comes straight from my Granny and she’s got it too.

Encounter #2

I was at church after a youth night. I knew there were kids in our stake (stake: a mormon word meaning many different congregations who meet in the surrounding area) who have down syndrome. I had wanted to meet them but had not had the opportunity. Well I was on one side of the gym eating cookies with my daughter and talking with another woman. I saw Laura walk in. A spunky girl with bright red hair. We were clear across the gym from her. I saw her weave in an out of people, dodging here and there and making her way to ME! She walked up, put her hand on my shoulder and said, HI. Thats it. How sweet. I swear she was in tune with the will of the Lord. She had never met me and bypassed bunches of people she knew. I talked with her for a moment and then she walked away. About ten minutes later I saw her again, across the gym. She was dragging, literally dragging her mother across the room. She again came to me and put her Mom’s hand in mine. She wanted us to meet!

Encounter #2.1 

Just this last weekend I saw Laura again at a church youth dance. I danced with her and she serenaded me. The song was, Reflection. You know the one in the Disney movie Mulan. She sang every word perfectly. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. (Yes, progress)

So, as you can see I have like no experience. I want people to know I have almost ZERO idea what I am doing and that is OK.  I want people to know that this whole journey is following The Spirit and His plan for us, it’s totally AWESOME. I really think that children with down syndrome require all the same things our other children require, LOVE and lots of patience and willingness to learn and do whatever is required to help them reach their full potential.

I am starting to really dislike the word, ‘soon’. Like a 5 year old who is waiting for their birthday party.

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The Seven Percenters

The story of the Jesus and the leper has been on my mind. You know this story. The man with leperocy comes to Jesus, he asks to be healed of his disease. Jesus tells him to go wash in the river Jordan but this man refuses.  Christ’s solution was too simple, the man’s problem  too complicated to be fixed by such a seemingly simplistic solution. He thought, it is impossible.

The problems in our world are also complex ones. We know there are orphans and that they need help. But we think, what can *I* do? It seems there are no simple, quick fixes. But maybe, just maybe they are?

I recently learned that given the amount of orphans in this world that if just 7% of Christians adopted we could banish the word orphan. 7%, thats it! That is a tiny miniscule number! I testify that God has been through, in and leading our adoption. I have never felt closer to God than I have now, at this moment as we push forward and work to bring home our sons. I have come to believe that the work of providing for orphans and caring for the least of these might just be one of the most purest expressions of our faith and closest to our Fathers heart. We have been changed by this journey and I hope we never look back because it feels great! Without Jesus Christ  *I* could never do this. It is only through Christ, who strengthens me that we can have courage and Faith to move mountains. I am happy to be a 7%’er.

This video is a powerful testimony.

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