Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

Browsing Posts in The Process



This is going to be short because I’m tired, but just wanted to let everyone know Leeza made it through surgery just fine. Her shunt looks good so far and the doctor said he didn’t find any surprises today (always good when you’re talking about a brain!). She is in ICU for a day to make sure she’s responding alright and is not so happy that her hands are all taped up to prevent her from ripping out her IV and monitors. She’s also not going to be happy when she sees what they did to her hair. Dr. Menezes heard that she was concerned about them shaving her head so he tried to be conservative and left some curls around the front of her face…everyone else will be able to see the big bald spot, but she probably won’t! She did great through the whole thing and is resting pretty well right now. All in all, it’s been a good day full of lots of blessings from God. My favorite part was watching her heart rate in the recovery room as Philip told her he loved her. Each time he said it her rate would increase. We all know it’s important to tell our kids we love them, but to see her responding to it on the monitor was cool.

Can I Applesauce?


Leeza celebrated her first Christmas and New Year’s at home and was, I’m afraid, pretty confused. However, with all the  cake, family and presents involved it didn’t seem to bother her one bit and she had a great time! She understood that we kept telling her it was Jesus’ birthday, but since ‘baby Jesus’ is a small toy in the nativity set to her I can see where that would be a bit hard to understand. She kept giving us a ‘my parents are so confused’ look and telling us it was HER birthday. Despite not really knowing what was going on she had a blast wearing her new tu-tu, pink satin gloves, playing with Cooties, eating fun treats and enjoying her Daddy being home so much. She got to spend her first real holiday with family and has spent the last several days wondering where they all went and telling us her Nanny and Sadie are ‘silly hooses’ (silly gooses).

She’s been home about 2.5 months now and while it has not been as smooth a transition as I’d hoped for, we’re starting to see some real progress. In the midst of all of her medical issues and her still trying to figure out our family it’s easy to lose sight of how far we’ve all come. She now goes to bed and nap as easily as any of the other kids, eats most of what I feed her, can be left in a room alone without panicking, will sit fairly still during reading time, will play games with the other kids and is learning to be obedient. She’s starting to try to write her name and is beginning to focus enough during school time that she’s learning her shapes and how to recognize a pattern. Her English is continuing to grow, which is great, but it’s the odd phrases she comes up with that we enjoy the most. My favorites right now are ‘I like-a snizzle’ (I like snow) and ‘Can I applesauce?’ She is fascinated with the word applesauce and obviously thinks it means something else because she adamantly tells me that jar of yellow stuff in the fridge is NOT applesauce.

We got a new date surgery date for January 24th and are in the process of making sure she will be infection-free so it’s not postponed again. I am now on a first name basis with the PA in Urology at the University and talk to her more than my own husband some days. With a lot of work, medication and prayer she should do her pre-op on the 21st, have surgery the 24th and spend the next 5 days in the hospital as her shunt is adjusted and the pressure in her brain is monitored. One of us has to stay with her around the clock during this time so we would really appreciate prayer as we try to figure out child care for the other 3 kids for the week.

A Dean…Again


Leeza is officially a Dean…again. We went to court today to petition for a US birth certificate which transfers all her paperwork to America and we can stop trying to keep up with all the different court decrees and translations from Ukraine. Trying to fill out the paperwork was challenging because it had places for the birth mom info and adoptive mom info, which seems straight forward except that on all paperwork I’m already listed as her mom (since she was already adopted in Ukraine). I messed up the form pretty good, but they still granted our petition and we got pictures with the judge and I think we’re finally done with court work!

Also good news, we got her SS# recently so we also were able to get our handicapped parking placard!! It may seems like a lame thing to get excited about, but with 4 kids (2 who can’t walk) and tons of snow this is a HUGE help. It really is fun getting to park right up front. :)

On the medical front, we’re still trouble shooting her GI care and trying a slightly different program to see if it works better. We now get to wake her up late at night to cath her one more time and while that’s not really much fun, it IS funny that she can sleep through it. That simply amazes me. Her prosthetics should be here in the coming weeks and we’ll get to see how she does with those and we’re still waiting to hear when the shunt surgery will be rescheduled. We’ve been told to expect sometime in January.

In our downtime we’ve been getting ready for Christmas with books, Advent calendars, cookies, music, Bible stories, wrapping presents and keeping Kasia out of the wrapped presents. Leeza has just figured out that some of the bags have her name on them and she’s intrigued. If she knew there was stuff for her in them I don’t think we could keep her out of them. Sometimes her lack of understanding is helpful. :)

Blue Feet


We had Leeza’s ortho appointment today and were greeted by Dr. Dietz with, ‘Hello…you’re going to get to know me very well over the next 10 years.’ Apparently a growing child will have a LOT of ortho appointments. Today he just checked her out and sent us over to get her fitted for some prosthetics to help stabilize her feet/ankles and prevent her feet from becoming more misshapen. There’s nothing we can do about her hips being out of joint. Years ago they used to try surgery and different therapies and they learned it caused more harm than good so Leeza will remain very flexible. :) He said sometimes he can just look at a child and definitely tell whether or not they’ll be able to walk eventually, but he had to admit that he just didn’t know what to think about Leeza. For now we’ll wait until the prosthetics come in (in 2-4 weeks) and see how she does with them. After she’s comfortable with them we can start some PT/OT with her.

We also learned this week that her surgery for the shunt will be moved to some time in January because she has a UTI. The rate of infection after a shunt surgery is very high anyway and Dr. M refused to touch her if there might already by an ongoing infection.  We would appreciate prayers for keeping her UTI-free for long enough to have the surgery. Because of her cathing and some other issues this is going to be a real challenge. Thankfully the infections don’t bother her and her biggest concern right now is that her feet are dyed blue from the ink that was used to mark the castes for her prosthetics.

Here We Go


We had Leeza’s MRI session today and found our her hydrocephalus that ‘didn’t require surgery’ (according to doc’s from her country) DOES require surgery and fairly quickly. The fluid in her brain has caused the cavities in her brain to become incredibly large, which in turn has misshapen her skull (which we knew) and not left much room for her brain to grow. Had this been corrected early on the needed shunt would not have been too big of a deal, but because it’s gone on this long she will require a special shunt that can be adjusted as the pressure in her brain changes. A regular shunt would allow the pressure to change quickly which would cause brain damage. So, we go with the programmable shunt and a week-long hospital stay later this month. All this has to be done before we can schedule the back surgery, which will be sometime early next year.

All of this includes risks, but oddly enough I don’t think either of us is really conerned about it right now (and Leeza has no idea what we’re saying so she’s fine with it all!). Without the surgeries she faces certain brain damage and a shortened life. And it’s all totally out of our control. But God knew she would need this. He put us within 45 minutes of the only pediatric neurosurgeon in the state and one of the best in the country. He covered 100% of her adoption expenses (through His church) so that we aren’t totally scared of the medical bills we know are coming. He scheuduled this first surgery during the time that Philip’s whole company gives them a week off each year and when family might be more able to come help. And he brought her home in time for so much damage to be prevented. In fact, with this shunt we have a very good likelihood of seeing substantial improvements in cognitive abilities. While it’s certainly not what we had planned for our Christmas break, it is what God had planned. So, here we go!

Quick timeline of what’s coming soon:

1. Orthopedic evaluation next Friday

2. Court date to readopt Leeza in the US, Dec. 23rd

3. Shunt surgery,  Dec. 27th

4. Back surgery 3-6 months after shunt



Just a funny…

We had friends over the other day and the mom was trying to teach Leeza how to say her youngest childs’ name. Our friend told Leeza, “Skazsha Lydia” (skazsha means ‘say’). Leeza just looked at her and said, ‘Skazsha applesauce.’ I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized Leeza was trying to teach her English. I guess she’s had enough of us telling her what to say! :)

The Strong Willed Child


Although Grace flirts with being strong willed, we think we might have adopted our truly strong willed child. Leeza is continuing to adjust to life here (and us to life with her) and we’re learning more about her personality as she acts more ‘normal.’ She loves to help and will do so whether you like it or not! She has learned to love coloring and painting and has even been caught looking at some books on her own (she still doesn’t sit still to read one). She likes to be in the kitchen and loves to dress and redress…and redress…and redress herself all day long. She loves music. And she loves to push the limits we have set. At this point it’s difficult to tell whether she is going through this stage or this is just part of her. We’ve noticed she seems to be going through many of the developmental stages she should have had by this point. She’s gone through putting everything in her mouth, constantly taking her socks off, trying to take her diaper off all the time, wanting to be held all the time, eating everything or nothing (depends on the week), etc. What gets confusing is that she’ll be going through several different stages all at once and we never know how old to treat her. I don’t know how long it will take her to balance out a bit, but until then she’s keeping us on our toes. We’ve made HUGE progress on sleeping and it’s been almost a week since she’s kept us up at night and she seems resigned to the fact that we’re going to make her go back each time. Now we’re focusing on getting her to stop touching everything (everything!) and getting her to call Philip ‘Daddy’ instead of ‘Papa’ (who in our family is actually Philip’s father).

She and Kasia had their first Thanksgiving last week and both seemed to enjoy it. Neither had any idea what we were celebrating, but neither complained about having cranberry sauce and pies! My mom sent the kids stuff to make turkeys out of rice crispy treats and various candies and we wondered how we were going to explain to Leeza that she was supposed to be trying to make a turkey, when I doubt she’s ever seen one. Hers ended up looking more like an alien, but she was very proud of it and it still tasted great. As we prepare for Christmas we’re hoping we can explain this holiday a little better!

Thankful for Sunshine


Busy. We’ve been very busy. Not so much with lots of things to do, but every day takes a lot of energy just to do our normal tasks. We’re getting better at our new routine, but until our crowd is a little older (and a few are out of diapers) life is just going to be a bit hectic. Despite the busyness, life is good. We are learning about Pilgrims in school, learning new songs in Sunday school (Leeza only knows 2 words, but she sings them VERY loudly), learning how to use the potty, how to stay in bed until 7am, how to put on our own shoes and coats and how to chew with our mouths closed. Kasia is trying very hard to learn to walk and Josiah is surprising me daily with the new words he can read and write. Grace is my little helper in the kitchen and Leeza is learning new words every day. She can now almost sing the whole ABCs and can count to 9 in English. We’re having a few English sentences pop up every once in a while and she surprised us all when she blurted out ‘thankful for sunshine’ in the car the other day when it peeked out for a few minutes on a rather dreary day.

Just to keep things interesting, we took all 4 kids to the attorney’s office this morning to sign papers for Leeza’s readoption here in the states. She is already legally adopted, but we’re going through this so that she will be a US citizen instead of just a legal immigrant. We’ve learned that the paperwork is the same as if we had adopted her from the US, so it’s full of stuff asking the judge for permission to adopt her and change her name and let her live with us…all of which has, obviously, already happened. We will need a home visit from a social worker and possibly a judge so that they will ‘grant’ all this for us. Our court date is set for December 23rd so it looks like our Christmas gift will be having all 4 kids be Americans. :)

We get a lot of questions about medical stuff, so here’s what we have coming up…our MRI session will be Dec. 10th, we’ll be meeting with a spina bifida specialist March 3rd and sometime between those two we’ll probably meet with Orthopedics, PT and OT. After the visit on the 10th we may have a better idea of when her back surgery will happen.

The Weirdest Goody Bag


After 7 hours, 2 tests, a doctor’s visit and a teaching session we are home from the hospital. Leeza was not a big fan of the tests (can’t really blame her), but she did great. The staff in pediatric urology was amazing and went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable. They even sent Leeza home with her first Barbie doll for being such a brave patient.

We got new toys too in the weirdest ‘goody bag’ I’ve ever received. We are now the proud owners of a catheterization kit. We learned that Leeza does not have any kidney damage from reflux (a major answer to prayer!), but in order to prevent it from eventually happening and to protect her bladder from further damage she needs to be cathed several times a day. They gave us a crash course in how to cath her, which was amazingly easy at the hospital, but not so easy at home in poor lighting with 3 other kids all crowding around wanting to see what’s going on. With 4 kids 4 and under there is no privacy in our house. :) We came home with a lot more knowledge about how to help her body work for her and we’re just so grateful that once again God seems to have protected her from harm. We have no reason to believe the orphanage ever cathed her so the fact that her body looks as healthy as it does and she hasn’t been overwhelmed by infections is pretty amazing. We’re getting used to hearing doctors say, ‘Well, I don’t know why this hasn’t hurt her but she’s ok.” I’m not sure what God has planned for this little girl, but His hand is certainly on her.

4 Weeks


Just a quick request for prayer tomorrow as we head to the University for a day of testing. Leeza will go through a full urology work-up and then meet with a specialist at the end of the day to go over the results. At least one of the tests really doesn’t sound too fun and I’m hoping it goes smoothly.

On a happier note, we got our first ‘I love you’s from her this week. It sounds more like ‘I blue you’ coming out of her mouth. She had her first chocolate milk and drank it so fast she almost choked herself. A few toys are starting to catch her attention, although I’ve noticed she’s only attracted to those designed for about 2 year olds. She’s trying so hard to learn how to hold a pencil and it’s amazing me how quickly her fine motor skills are developing. And speaking of developing, she’s gone up an entire clothes size in just 4 weeks! She’s going to keep us on our toes. :)