Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

Browsing Posts tagged school

Yes, We Are Still Alive

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Leeza Dean

Wow, keeping up with blogs hasn’t been my strength lately! Leeza did make it home from the hospital just fine and spent the next 3 weeks hidden here at the house while she healed. It was important that she didn’t catch anything during that time because if her surgical site became infected it could turn into meningitis. We made it through that time fine and her back is almost completely healed now. She missed a month of school, but did school here with the rest of us to keep her in her routine. Since the surgery her core strength has improved and she’s able to use her crutches much more often. The hope is that some day she’ll be able to use them as her primary mode of transportation, but for now we’re just letting her get stronger and continuing to remind her that she can’t use them as weapons when someone upsets her. She has gained some sensation in her lower body, which has changed some of her bathroom routines. She still doesn’t feel pain in most parts of her lower abdomen or legs, but she can feel pressure. It’s taken her some time to figure out that pressure isn’t pain and she’s stopped yelling every time she feels something unusual. She has gone through another growth spurt after the surgery and it’s been wonderful to NOT see her regress as her nerves are pulled around her body. We met with Dr. M yesterday and he said this growth spurt is not allowing her internal stitches to hold together tightly, which is keeping a very small part of her back open enough to leak some spinal fluid. It’s a very small area and it should heal right up when she stops growing so we’ll keep it covered until then. In the meantime we get to see lots of Xrays of her and it’s funny to see that insanely long shunt tube wrapping all over her abdomen.

After surgery we also experienced a shift in her demeanor. It’s hard to explain, but more days than not she’s starting to act more like part of our family. Even friends have noticed that she’s responding to direction with a look of respect instead of defiance. She’s seeking out approval and hugs from me and is slowly starting to accept the structure I set for each day. And after being home for over year she can now participate in holidays and traditions because she understands at least a little of what they are about. Our hope has been that this will be the year when we get to really start to see who Leeza is and it’s starting to look like God is answering the beginnings of that prayer.

All Growed Up

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Leeza - Apple Doll

Leeza and her apple doll.

Despite Grace and Leeza’s best efforts to convince me they are ‘all growed up’ and can do what they want, they are in fact still just 3 and 5. However, Leeza’s brain HAS been growing, which has been cause for much celebration around here. Over the past 2 weeks we’ve had 2 more MRIs done and the fluid on the outside of her brain is almost completely gone. The growth is obviously changing how her brain functions because she is suddenly able to remember most of her colors, shapes and even how to write most of her name…ok, so you have to be looking for it, but WE can tell she’s writing her name. It also means we’re finally back to a place where it’s safe to try to move forward with the spinal surgery. She is scheduled to have her spine detethered October 28th. Basically, the doctor will remove all the nerves that have become attached to the bony part of her spine. This won’t really improve anything, but it will stop further deterioration of her nerves every time she goes through a growth spurt, which lately seems to be every few weeks. We would really appreciate prayers over the next month as we try to get her to this surgery. She has to remain healthy and this has become increasingly difficult because she got MRSA a few weeks ago and is now a carrier. We’re doing everything in our power to prevent another outbreak, but in the end no amount of sanitizing or washing or medicine or bleach baths can keep her well. We’re just going to have to pray that if God wants her to have this surgery at this time that He will protect her.

While we’ve seen progress physically, emotionally she’s taken a few steps backward. Watching her regress is a lot like sleep training an infant who then refuses  to sleep at night anymore…we know what she’s capable of, but she won’t/can’t do it anymore. The fear of abandonment has resurfaced and, with it, the screaming fits. All I have to do is walk out of the room she’s in and it can lead to a major tantrum. Her self control and feelings of security had been doing so much better this summer, but now are returning to what we saw from her last winter. We’ve also noticed that as she and I were beginning to bond she began to sabotage our time together. None of it was a conscious choice, but it’s still incredibly effective. As I learn more about how kids respond to early neglect part of me gets frustrated and doesn’t believe all the psycho babble and that something that happened when she was 1 month old could affect her this way 5 years later, but it’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t react to things the way other kids do and then I have to admit that I don’t understand it, but I do have to learn how to help her get through it. Watching these steps backward makes me realize that all those hopes of a quick recovery, that every adoptive parent has, are misplaced. This will be a long road and it’s hard for me not knowing what that journey will look like at all. And once again I’m convicted that I’m supposed to be faithful and trust God with this journey. So I ask for prayers in this area as well…that we would be able to walk through these next few months of surgery and recovery and not get bogged down in the details, but be able to see how God loved and provided for us.

A Blessed Mess of a Year

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This time last year Philip and I had just arrived in Ukraine to start our adoption process. A year ago Thursday we met Leeza for the first time. As I’ve been reading over some of the blog posts from last year it’s reminded me what an insane year we’ve had. In some ways it’s been our best…we’ve seen God move in ways we’ve never experience and got to be a part of something He orchestrated. In some ways it’s been our worst…at many times our lives felt upside down and I’ve been faithless and furious at God for straddling us with more than we can bear. Our pastor has been doing a serious of sermons on the Exodus and I can so clearly see how I’ve been exactly like the Israelites this year, deciding to ‘test the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” As our pastor went through the story and compared it to other verses that showed that the Lord allowed them to go through difficult times to test their faith I could see how He’d done the same thing with us this year. And I could see how so many times I’d failed. He was faithful to do the impossible and keep Leeza alive and bring her home before she was transferred, but then I had a child who spoke no English, who screamed anytime I put her to bed or walked more than 2 feet from her and had bathroom issues so bad we couldn’t leave the house for weeks at a time and couldn’t keep her clothes or shoes on because her only mode of mobility was scooting on the floor. He was faithful to bless her with an amazing ability to learn our language, to learn to start trusting us and doctors who knew how to start healing her body and finding equipment to help her walk. Instead of realizing the provision, I’ll admit, I was consumed with doctor’s appointments that just wouldn’t stop, medications that caused more problems than they solved, fighting a stubborn streak in this little girl that turned any instruction from me into a hysterical fit and getting frustrated that she couldn’t remember anything because of the problems she was having in her brain. As we’re nearing the end of this round of tests…doctor’s appointments are fewer and sometimes we even get a week without one, medications are working pretty well right now, her self control is improving and her brain is growing…God has been good to show me how faithLESS I’ve been and how faithFUL He’s been. Over the past few weeks He’s repeatedly put this lesson before me, probably because He knows I’m slow to learn or even recognize a lesson is even happening. It’s not that I didn’t know I was wrong, I just had no idea what to do about it. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to be enough. I didn’t have enough patience to take all 4 kids to all her appointments, to deal with attitudes and defiance, to keep up with all the extra care she and other kids have required as they go through different stages. I failed daily and felt defeated. As I approached a friend recently about this she gently reminded me why we had chosen to go through this year. It wasn’t to fix Leeza or prove what great parents we were or show how much patience we could muster up…it was to fight for her soul. She wasn’t being raised to know Jesus and we had stepped out in faith to bring her home and give her every opportunity to know the Savior we know.

When that really sunk in I realized just how off-track I had gotten. I had replaced that goal with one that was never going to bring me or our family anything but frustration and exhaustion. It was incredibly humbling, but also freeing because it reminded me that I WASN’T ever going to do this alone. I was going to have to go back to relying on Jesus and His strength and to truly trusting that not only was He going to heal our family, but that He was going to give me the strength and love to raise our children in a manner that glorifies Him. I’m hesitant to say I won’t backslide because I have so many times this year, but for now I can feel His power allowing me to make the right choices. For now I can clearly see the desert of the last year and that it was put there for good reasons…to grow our faith and prepare us for whatever is next. And without the lies before me that I’ve been believing I can start to see the blessings again. I will likely (ok, definitely) spend much time down on my knees asking for grace to get through whatever has happened that day and asking to be reminded that this is a battle for 4 little souls to know their Savior. And today I will rejoice that I have an (almost) 5 year old daughter who speaks English, walks, loves her siblings, feels safe, has learned to recognize the letter ‘L’ (!), is going to school, has an amazing laugh, is beginning to learn who Jesus is and who I am learning to love as my own.

Gettin’ Better!

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We headed over to the U today for an MRI to see what Leeza’s brain had been up to these past 7 weeks and got some good news! The fluid that we’ve been trying to get rid of around her brain has shrunk quite a bit so her body is finally kicking into gear and adjusting to the pressure change the shunt created. We had hoped to hear that Dr. M would either relieve the extra fluid at this point or be happy enough with how her brain looked to schedule the spinal surgery, but the down side of her body doing it’s job is that now he wants to wait a little longer to see if it will finish on its own. We left (not being able to see him today) with the thought that we had to wait 6 more weeks to recheck and were probably looking at surgery in December or January. I got a call later in the day, after he’d had a chance to review the scans, and he wanted to see her in closer to 3 weeks and is hoping to get her on the list for surgery in October instead…much better news for us!

Leeza also started alternative Kindergarten a couple weeks ago and is doing pretty well. She’s keeping her teacher and principal on their toes, but they’ve been great to keep trying new approaches when we realize something isn’t working. Getting her (and the rest of the class) from room to room in the school in a timely manner has been challenging because she can’t walk anywhere near as fast as anyone else. Getting the whole class in the elevator has provided some interesting stories, including one where Leeza and another child ended up being almost left in a closing elevator (no telling where she would have ended up!). Her trouble focusing and sitting still have become pretty obvious in the classroom, but we’re working with her teacher to practice some skills at home . Overall, it’s been a great experience for her so far and we’ve been so thankful for the wonderful teacher God provided for her.

Thankful for Sunshine

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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.