Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

The Weirdest Goody Bag

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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.

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4 Weeks

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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. :)

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Blessed

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Little by Little

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We’re making progress slowly. In the daily grind it’s easy to lose sight of that, but when I realize that Leeza has only been home about 3 weeks I can see that it’s getting better. The number of times she wakes up at night screaming is decreasing and it’s turned more into being mad that she has to stay in bed than fear. She still hates nap time, but is becoming resigned to the fact that she’s going to have a quiet time every day with the rest of us. It still surprises me that she reacts so violently to ‘spat’ (nap/bedtime) and I can’t help but wonder if she somehow thought she wouldn’t have to sleep anymore when she came home. Sorry, sweetie!

The clinginess and lost look on her face is easing some as she is learning the routine here and she’s even started looking at an occasional book or watching a minute or two of TV when the other kids get to watch Curious George. Even though there were a few toys around the orphanage the kids didn’t play with them much and I noticed they were usually kept out of reach in her room anyway. She likes the idea of toys and is interested in them when a new one is introduced, but has no clue what to actually DO with one. The same with crayons or markers. Josiah and I have been trying to work with her on how to play with toys each day and hopefully it will start to make some sense soon. We’re continuing to work through the concept of possessions. She spends huge parts of the day scooting around the house asking who each item belongs to. Trying to fold laundry with her can be exhausting because she keeps grabbing each piece of clothing (even if it’s already folded) so she can guess whose it is. Again, she likes the idea of having her own possessions, but doesn’t yet know how to take pride in taking care of something that is hers.

But in the midst of all this I’m seeing change. During school time she’s trying to be engaged and even learned how to cut with scissors this week (and did really well!). She’s trying new foods and has decided that cheese and chocolate are not disgusting and she LOVES squash. She watches over Kasia and helps her when she falls or drops something. She’s learning to take turns and how to say ‘thank you.’ And the biggest change yet….as I’ve been writing this she crawled into bed during nap time and fell sleep for the first time ever! :)

PS Totally unrelated, but these are a couple questions that I’ve gotten several times lately.

“So, what did they send her home with? Does she have a wheelchair?” No chair, no equipment, no clothes. The kids leave in the clothes that you bring and any equipment they had stays for other children.

“Is the adoption process all over?” Yes and no. She was officially adopted and is legally a Dean. However, we are choosing to re-adopt in the US so she will have a SS# and US passport. It doesn’t really change anything except that it could save her a lot of headaches if she ever chooses to leave the country when she grows up. She will be a legal citizen of both countries.

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Praise and a Funny

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The Praise: I’m a little slow getting this up here, but I wanted to share that Gage (remember the little boy we posted about while we were in Leeza’s orphanage?) has a family committed to him! Very much like Leeza, he gives everyone around him the feeling that there’s tons going on in that little head and it’s exciting to know he’ll now have a family to help him express it. Lord willing, he will never have to see an institution because they are working as fast as they can to get to him. You can check out their blog at http://fromthetrenchesofadoption.blogspot.com.

The Funny: Our regular storytime librarian was gone this week and her replacement was doing his best to keep his young crowds’ attention. With the oldest child being 5 and the youngest 10 months, he had his work cut out for him! Leeza has never sat through an entire book, probably because she has no idea what we’re saying, but for some reason he really had her attention and she was right up in front listening to him. He continued to read as one little boy rearranged all the carpet squares, Grace talked loudly, Kasia fussed a little in the back, and Josiah refused to come anywhere near him. Towards the end of the book Leeza shot her hand in the air like she had a question and you could see his face light up that one of the kids was really interested in what he was reading. He sweetly asked her what her question was….and she sweetly stared back at him because she had no idea what he was saying. I’m pretty sure I burst his bubble when I had to announce that she didn’t speak any English.

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On the Floor

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The book of Russian phrases I ordered a couple weeks ago finally arrived this week so Josiah, Leeza and I listened to a bit of it after nap today. As Josiah and I were trying to repeat the phrases Leeza literally fell on the ground laughing at us. We are apparently very bad at Russian! What amazes me is that she doesn’t seem concerned that she has to spend the rest of her life with people who can’t even say ‘good morning’ correctly. She was excited that we could say a few new words and I was relieved to finally have another little glimpse into who she is.

Later in the day I saw her quietly trying to read the booklet that came with the packet. She has no idea how to read and is almost never quiet, so I knew something was up. With a quick sideways glance to make sure I was watching her she started pointing to the words, like I had been earlier, and slowly read out loud, ‘Leeza spat nyet’ which means ‘Leeza doesn’t nap.’ I guess she thought if she could convince me that the book said she shouldn’t nap then I’d stop enforcing nap time each day!

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Something Closer to Normal

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We’ve been getting a lot of, ‘So, how are you doing?’ lately and the only way I know to honestly answer that is to say we’re inching towards something that looks closer to normal. I seriously doubt any family can add a new member and instantly find their new groove so I’m pretty sure what we’re going through now is normal. Grace and Leeza are still working out the pecking order around here, while Josiah keeps patiently teaching Leeza how to play with their toys without breaking them. Kasia doesn’t seem to notice much difference except that someone keep trying to ‘help’ by taking away her bottle. I’m perfecting the dance required to cook with both Kasia and Leeza underfoot in the kitchen and Philip gets to be SuperDad each evening as he wrestles with all the kids and gives me a few minutes to take a breath. Life is a little chaotic right now, but we knew it would be.

Life is also full of plenty of firsts….first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, first game of hide and seek, first time she didn’t try to eat all of her dinner before we finished praying, first time she slept through the night without waking up crying, first pillow fight, first English phrase (All done!) and first time her baby sister got a fist-full of her hair and tried to keep it. I’ve continued to practice getting out of the house with all 4 by myself and have done a pretty good job, if I can say so myself. We tried our first trip into a real store today and I thought we were doing so well until I realized that to get all of them in the door I had to put Leeza in the stroller, which meant that we couldn’t use a shopping cart IN the store. We ended up in the Dollar Store with Leeza in a stroller, Kasia in my arms and Josiah and Grace loose. Leeza was fascinated with everything (and kept trying to climb out of the stroller) and Grace has always been kept contained in the cart when I shop so she was thrilled with her new freedom. Thankfully we didn’t need too much and I learned not to do that too often! :)

We know quite a few people reading this are in the process of adopting and some things that don’t often seem to come up before you adopt are the general timelines for bonding. For those not in the ‘adoption crowd’ right now, bonding is a big deal because our kids have been cared for by a large number of people for a long time and they have a hard time learning what parents are. Many adopted kids, Leeza included, tend to be overly friendly to strangers or acquaintances because they haven’t learned what a family is (or how it works) and that there’s a difference between Mom and Dad and anyone else. We certainly are NOT experts on this and are learning as we go, but a few guidelines we’ve found from different sources say to expect to have to sleep in your childs’ room with them for about 2 weeks after they get home. Leeza has needed this as she wakes up scared at night, although it is getting better. Even at nap time while she’s playing in her room I have to remain in eye contact or she gets panicked. This even happens when I go into the pantry and she momentarily can’t see me…she’s been in the pantry and knows there’s only one door to it, but she still gets panicked. I don’t know how long this part will last, but I’m hoping it will ease in a month or so. We’ve been told to not even think of leaving her with anyone else (even in a Sunday school room) for at least 6 months. All of her care for that period should be coming only from Philip and me so she can learn to bond with us (and us with her). We’ve also heard not to think of leaving her anywhere overnight for at least a year. We try to limit our time out of the house to 2-3 hours and we’ve only ventured out to a few places so far. We normally keep a pretty strict schedule with our kids, but it’s even more necessary right now as she learns how to function in our family. All of this means that she is with us 24 hours a day and, quite frankly, it can be exhausting. I’ll be the first to admit that psychology stuff frequently leaves a bad taste in my mouth because much of it sounds so silly, but in this case it appears to be necessary for Leeza to feel secure in our house and with us. Our prayer is that as we stick to it she’ll slowly come to understand what family is and that she’s part of one.

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Mountains

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Can you say tired? I did lay her back on the bed before I laid down. This is jet-lag to a "T".

Today marks one week that Leeza and Philip have been home. Their arrival was a bit of a mountain-top experience for our family. It’s WONDERFUL to all be together finally and to see her playing with the other kids is an answer to so many prayers. As I look in the rearview mirror in the car I feel like I’m driving around a preschool, but it’s a good feeling. A tired feeling, but a good feeling.

But you don’t get to stay on the mountain top for long. Reality started setting in Monday as we had to begin teaching her our routine and working through all the odd (to us) behaviors. Since she was put in the orphanage she’s never been around anything that could hurt her. She doesn’t understand not touching the oven because it’s hot or the scissors because they will cut her. She doesn’t understand that you can’t hang off a stool and not fall on your head or lean over a flight of stairs and not tumble down. She says our names about a thousand times a day and we’re not sure what that’s about…maybe just checking to make sure we’re still there or maybe just because she finally has a Mama and Papa to call. She doesn’t understand when Philip has to leave the house so when he had to go back to work today she was NOT happy about it and has asked for him at least once an hour so far. It does no good to tell her he’s at work because she has no idea what that is. She noticed his car was missing and keeps asking if he’s taking a nap somewhere.

Leeza and Josiah helping Kimmie make some banana-pumpkin bread.

She has odd eating behaviors…not the hoarding like we expected, but she’ll chew things up and then want to give them to us. When we refuse to take them she’ll try chewing them again and spit it back out again. She’s fascinated by the mop and vacuum cleaner. Trying to clean the floors today reminded me of having a cat in the house. She just scooted in front of each of them the whole time trying to touch them and play with their cords. When I feel like my patience is just about gone I have to remind myself that she’s only been here a week and she’s doing the best she can to find patterns in what must seem like chaos to her. And just when I feel like I really can’t deal with much more she’ll want a big hug and kiss or she’ll get excited about something little like being able to help us clean up after dinner. As I write this we’re in nap time, which has proven to be a pretty stressful time for her, but I just sneaked a peek at her and Josiah is teaching her how to dress like a superhero (he put a bandanna around her shoulders) and patiently showing her how to play with his train set.

Leeza enjoys holding the bottle for Kasia to eat. Kasia can do it herself, but she never seems to complain about the help.

We’ve also had quite a few questions about the doctor’s visit yesterday. We were blessed to be able to get her in to one of the best neurosurgeons in the country and he gave us a synopsis of how much she can feel and how much function her legs have. He read the bloodwork results and let us know her kidney function is ok (we’ll still meet with the urologist next month, but not for an emergency situation) and let us know her spinal cord is not in any immediate danger. We are to protect her lower back where her spinal cord sticks out a little (obviously) and, as he put it, answer the phone and come to the appointments they set up for us. She has a lot of medical appointments ahead of her and knowing that they are now responsible for coordinating all of it is a major relief since we have no idea what we’re doing. Sometime in December she will go in for a full day MRI session so we can see what’s going on in her brain and spine and within the next 6-9 months he said she’ll end up with major back surgery. The surgery won’t do anything to improve the function she has, but will prevent any further damage to her spinal cord as she grows. We have a lot to learn about what he’ll be doing, but in a nutshell he’ll be detaching the spinal cord from the spinal column (bone) at the bottom of her back so that as she grows her cord isn’t being stretched out and damaged. Right now that sounds very scary and just hearing it knocked me right off that mountain top and my brain starts coming up with all the reasons why this is just going to be impossible. And then I remember how much God has already gotten us through. It was just 8 months ago that we first saw Leeza’s picture and bringing her home seemed impossible. Now she’s playing in the next room with Josiah and I know I can trust that God will get us over this next mountain as well.

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Learning

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One week ago today Leeza was still in the orphanage…today she was in church, swaying to the music and holding her hands in the air like Mr. John who was leading worship this morning. I’ve cried grateful tears the first Sunday we’ve brought each of our kids to church and today was no different.

It’ll be a while before we find our new normal, but we’re already making some progress. Last night Leeza still woke up in the middle of the night screaming, but she FELL BACK TO SLEEP!! That is major progress! Philip and I were able to take shifts sleeping on the floor beside her and she was able to drift back to sleep each time she woke. I’ve been taking her over to the clock when it’s time to get to show her the ‘7’ so she can learn when it’s ok to get up. I can’t tell if she’s learning that number or if she just knows she can get up when I walk to the clock, but today she smiled and I could tell she understood. We tried laying on the floor by her bed for nap too and it’s the first day she hasn’t screamed through the whole thing. She even stayed in bed so we were able to get a little rest as well.

We’re learning what she likes to eat (eggs, bread, bananas, yogurt and milk) and what she doesn’t (chocolate chips, meat, cheese, fresh vegetables). We’ve noticed that anything that requires much chewing is confusing and when we thought about what she used to eat that made sense. Her diet consisted of cookies dipped in tea, oatmeal, soup and bread. We’re learning the quirks of clothing a child with SB…shirts with small head holes are horrible, pants that don’t fit her waist well fall down when she scoots around, thin tights can’t handle the beating she gives them and some shoes simply won’t fit on her little feet. We’re learning to find humor in having to put a child back in bed literally a hundred times before she stays and having her correct our clumsy Russian. I’m learning that despite her age, she’s a great deal like having another 10-month old in the house because she wants to get into EVERYTHING (but she can get into so much more than Kasia)! There’s a lot of growth going on right now and most of it is fun to watch. She’s fascinated with the kitchen and what I’m doing in there and loves taking baths with her siblings. Going somewhere in the car is fun and so far she’s enjoyed everywhere we’ve gone except the doctor’s office (can’t really blame her there).

We even tried Sunday school and church this morning and she did fantastic! She so badly wanted to style one little girls’ beautiful white-blond hair and likes another girls’ jacket so much she wouldn’t stop petting it (we have to work on the ‘personal space thing’), but the other kids were so kind and all wanted to sit beside her. She had no idea what we were all saying, but she did all the hand motions with her teacher and followed along during snack and craft time (I stayed with her and will be a helper in her class this year). She and Josiah sat quietly during most of the sermon with Philip and we left a little early to avoid the crowd at the end, which had scared her between Sunday school and the service. As we get ready to start our first full week with her home we’re encouraged that she’s adapting so well and that our other kids are working so hard to show her love and patience. It should be an interesting week and we’re certainly appreciative of all your continued prayers!

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Animal Crackers for Breakfast

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The whole family finally together

I’ll post something while Leeza gets used to the fact that she has to take naps here too…it was apparently an unexpected surprise and she’s yelling ‘I don’t want it!’ in Russian at the top of her lungs. Considering how much in her life has changed in the past couple days  it’s amazing that this is the first full blown fit she’s had since being here.

Philip and Leeza started out their journey home with a quick flight from Kiev to Munich and, I’m told, she loved everything about the ride except take off and landing. Then they hopped on the 9 hour flight from Munich to Chicago. You might remember a prayer request I had a few days ago that they would be upgraded to Economy Plus to have a more comfortable flight and I understand I had a few scoffers. However, when Philip went to get their boarding passes he realized he and Leeza weren’t seated together so they had to be moved to, you guessed it, Economy Plus. They even got bulkhead seating so Philip could stretch his legs out! Thanks,God! She ended up sleeping a little bit and it sounds like it was a pretty uneventful flight home. As they were landing on American soil I got a phone call from a dear friend who had managed to get Leeza’s medical records translated for us (thank you , thank you, thank you!) so they were ready for her appointment next week and then it really seemed to hit Josiah and me that we only had a few hours until they were going to be here! The house was as clean as it gets with 3 little kids in it, they were all dressed and we were just sort of running around in circles with excitement until it was time to leave. Thankfully we got there just a little bit early because so did they! Another dear friend was there to take pictures of the kids all meeting each other for the first time. Leeza was excited to see all of us, but especially Josiah, or ‘Jew-Jewa’ as she calls him. We came home and let her explore the house a bit, bounce on the couch and play with some toys before putting everyone to bed.

We thought we were going to get off easy when she’d settled down by 10pm, but then she woke back up at midnight. As I sat beside her I could hear her stomach growling so I asked if she wanted a snack and some water and she got excited. When I came back she had her pajamas partially unzipped and I thought she might be hot so I asked if she wanted them off (they sleep in their underwear in the orphanage when it’s warm). It wasn’t until she started insisting that I find her day clothes that I did the math and realized it was time for her to get up in Ukraine and her body was wide awake, despite almost no sleep, and she thought we were starting the day! The kids there ate cookies and tea for breakfast every day so when I brought in animal crackers and water she must have just thought these crazy Americans eat their breakfast in the dark, in their beds! She was confused and wouldn’t let me leave the room the rest of the night, but she did stay in bed and try to sleep. If it wasn’t for a bad cough that woke her up every time she might have drifted off. We spent the night with me trying to sleep a little as she held my hand and styled my hair. Here’s to hoping she’s really tired tonight and we all get some sleep!

Other than sleep times she’s been doing really well. She loved playing on the fort and jumping in a pile of leaves. She took a bath with the girls and at least tried a bite of pancakes for breakfast. She LOVES milk and refuses to even touch a chocolate chip. I’m not sure she knows what cheese is and wouldn’t try it at lunch. She’s in heaven with all the hair bows the girls have and has brushed her hair (and anyone elses’ who will sit still) with every brush in the house already.  I think we have a budding hairstylist on our hands. She has no concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ so we have a lot of work to do on sharing and being respectful of someone else’s things and space…and sippy cup. She is fitting in so well already and has given us the biggest smiles and loudest laughs we’ve ever heard from her while she played with the kids this morning. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re just enjoying today for right now.

PS Apparently nap time will take more than one day to go smoothly. Philip and I are betting we’ve got at least 2 more days of screaming before she accepts it. We feel like Super Nanny…we’ve already put her back in bed more times than I can count. :)  (Note: Day two nap time went about as well, although she did fall asleep with about 5 minutes left.)

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