7QT

1.  What once was a dungeon like room with a couple different colors of dark blue paint across the walls (don’t ask) is now a pleasantly bright yet neutral green.  Ben’s room is complete!  At least the painting part anyways, and he has moved back in there, so we’re doing well over here.

2.  I out-stubborned Paul yesterday.  After a 48 hour liquid strike, because I refuse to give him a bottle, he drank from an adaptive cup.  He could do this all along, mind you.  He does it for his OT at preschool and his ST, too.  But he wouldn’t for me, little stinker.  But last night, he broke down and gave in.  It was a messy 10 minutes or so, but he drank about 12 oz of milk and juice.  One step closer to saying “bye bye bottle!”

3. Yesterday I was awakened by the sweetest sound- Ben chanting the Our Father over and over again in his room.  Shortly thereafter he was yelling “Mommy and Daddy, I have to go potty!”  But the first part was real sweet.

4. St Francis DeSales really has some gems.  How I wish I could be like this!  I’ll work on it.

peace

5. Paul loves hide and seek!  It is so funny!  He will always hide with Ryan when Ryan and Ben play.  And when he finds Ben, he always yells loudly, followed by a few “bah bah bah” which is his go to babble right now.  He seems to understand the concept of hide and seek better than Ben in some ways, since every time Ben hides, he yells out where he is.

6.  Belly baby is doing well.  He had a quiet day or two, which made me wish he would give me some good kicks like usual, and then he didn’t disappoint.  The following day he kicked me to no end.  He knew what I needed. I think I’m like 27 weeks or so?  I’m losing track.

7. So many beautiful new children listed on Reece’s Rainbow.  Check out the “newly listed” section, pray for them, donate, and heck, adopt one!  Since the RR site is being slow right now, you can also find a lot of them here, on our facilitation team’s site: http://www.handofhelpinadoption.org/search/label/Children

Candor

A conversation recently came up among some of my friends who have adopted kiddos with special needs.  Many of us are able to have some form of communication with birth parents or older biological siblings of our children (h/t to Google translate!)  One of my friends wondered how candid we should be about the medical and developmental condition of our children.  It was something I hadn’t given much thought. I’m generally optimistic and look at the positives and the progress made whenever Paul’s birthmother, Galina, asks me how he is doing. I always have good things to report.  “Paul has gotten so much better at eating.” “Paul likes to play ball with his brother.”  “Paul is walking now and getting into mischief!”

The thing is, we have been in touch several times over the past 2.5 years, and nearly every time she asks what the doctors say about his development.  Does he lag behind other children his age?

In my head, I think I thought this was a no-brainer question.  He has Down Syndrome- yes, he is behind his peers.  Yes, he has to work 100x as hard to master the same skill as a typical 3 yr old, or even a typical 1 yr old in some cases.  But the truth is, Galina doesn’t know much about Down Syndrome.  I remember at first when she thought it was her fault that he had it.  She may think that he will grow out of it.  She doesn’t know it’s chromosomal; most people in Ukraine don’t.  Many doctors there are just as uneducated about it, which is why new mothers are often encouraged/pressured to put their child with Down Syndrome into the orphanages and never look back.

But back to her unrelenting question- How is his development?  It occurred to me that I ought to be more candid with her about how Paul is doing.  Don’t get me wrong- he’s progressing well and I am so proud of him!  I am naturally so positive to her about how he is doing because I’m generally very happy with what he’s accomplished.  At the same time, skills come slowly and with lots of labor.  He is still behind his peers, even his peers with Down Syndrome.  At 3.5, he communicates like a 1yr old, he struggles climbing stairs, he isn’t good at feeding himself, can’t drink from a straw and still drinks from a bottle, lacks many fine motor skills that kids much younger have mastered, doesn’t know how to play appropriately with many toys.  And Galina deserves to know all of this.  She should know because I don’t want her to think she “gave up” a child who “grew out” of Down Syndrome in a couple of years.  I don’t want her to feel regret, like she lost the only opportunity she had to raise her child for no reason.

Of course, I prefer to see children in their biological families.  I would have preferred that Paul not be in that orphanage for even a day.  But, he was there for 15 months, Galina made a choice, and every day she lives with it.  And I can tell she thinks about it, and about Paul.  Maybe it will give her some peace to know that, while Paul is healthy now and doing well, he still demands a lot of extra time, and therapy, and patience, and practice to continue to learn new things.  And honestly, a lot of his needs wouldn’t have been met in Ukraine.  It’s getting better, but it is nowhere near how we are in the United States.

I remember, years ago, being prepared by Catholic Social Services for domestic open adoption.  A big theme that was pushed was the need for candor- with your spouse, social worker, and yes, with birthparents.  For some reason, in my mind, I lost the idea of candor with a birthparent when adopting from another country.  I suppose I never thought I’d be in touch with Paul’s birthmom, so that’s part of it.  And I when I was in touch with her, I wanted her to feel confident that Paul was being well taken care of, since she wasn’t going to be able to visit with him, like the type of open adoption we originally planned for.  But it’s good for her to know his struggles too, for her own sake, since Paul was an unexpected pregnancy, but a very desired one.  It was only when he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome that it all fell apart.  I hope that having a bit more of the story, she will feel an increased peace and comfort with the decision she made 3.5 years ago.

7QT

1.  Starting on Thursday for a post on Friday.  Is this evidence that I am super woman?  Planning ahead, being thoughtful and prudent?  Or more likely, evidence that I know it’ll never happen if I wait until the day of because, well, life.

2. For your viewing pleasure.  Points if you know what you’re looking at.

Scan

3. Hint: the first pic is proof of gender, because hopefully it’s obvious that it’s not a profile.

4. I am in awe.  I simply cannot believe that I get to experience pregnancy again.  We are 24 weeks along now and baby boy is moving around quite a bit each day.  Feelings I honestly never thought I’d get to feel again.  Pregnancy, even with its woes, is nonetheless such a privilege.  Years of infertility have instilled in me an unrelenting wonder and gratefulness for the gift of life.  How is it that God has seen me fit to be blessed in this way, for a third time?  I am humbled.

5.  Maybe He sees the ways I am “not fit” and has given me this baby as, among other things of course, a way to challenge me and help me grow where I lack.  Because fear of loss is still a struggle, and trusting in God’s will is still hard.  And then I read this:

unnamed

Knock me over with a feather.

5.  So, after prayer and also in an attempt to be realistic, we have decided that it isn’t prudent for me to travel to Ukraine while pregnant for another adoption.  It’s not a matter of the children; I happily drown in children.  It’s the precariousness of this pregnancy, and the relatively grueling process in country, and the quality of medical care, and all the medical care I’ve been requiring.   Well, it’s just plain not smart to send me over there.  Someday, hopefully someday soon, we will again add to our family through adoption.

6.  I did try to break it off with Ukraine at the beginning of March.  Well, they didn’t entirely get the message.  They still say we would just have to come before May 19, so I guess technically, we still could adopt, even though they aren’t expecting us.  So.  Case not closed.

7.  Let’s do an advocacy themed take, shall we?  I am in love with these two boys.

cristoff

Cristoff.  Look at how beautiful he is.  Truly.  He is alert, and looking around.  But his photo is, at the same time, heartbreaking.  He is so thin, and those gloves on his hands?  They are probably to prevent him from either scratching his own flesh due to understimulation, or to prevent him from biting his hands for the same reason.  He is already 3.  Once he turns 4, he is at risk of being transferred to an adult mental institution where his chances of survival will decrease significantly.  Please pray for him.

And Joseph.  josephJoseph was being raised by his mother, but she passed away.  Can you imagine the confusion he must be experiencing in his mind and his heart?  His mother did something most mothers don’t do in Ukraine.  She kept her child with Down Syndrome in her home, and we can be assured that she was encouraged to put him in the orphanage and never look back.  That is the way of things there.  But she didn’t, and that was a beautiful choice.  But now after her passing, with no one to take care of him, he is institutionalized.  It must be so different than what he was used to, and so hard for him to comprehend.  He has great potential for attachment and functioning in a family because of his beginnings, but I imagine how depressed he must be now.  He is 5 years old.  Please share his sweet little face in hopes that he will one day be in a family again!

Thanks to http://thisaintthelyceum.org/ for hosting!

The one where I tell you all the things (SQT)

It should be really easy to come up with 7 Quick Takes today, since I haven’t blogged in such a long time (Nov 10), so let’s move chronologically and I’ll spill all the beans.  And there are a lot of beans.

1.  We’ll start with a biggie.  On November 15, Ryan and I mailed the last part of our dossier to Ukraine to adopt again!  We decided on October 15, and did the entire process in one month.  Our dossier was submitted to Ukraine on December 4.  We have not had any particular child in mind (unlike last time).  We just felt like we wanted to adopt again while our immigration approvals were still current and we trusted that God would lead us to the child He had in mind.

2.  Speaking of a child God had in mind…  I discovered I was pregnant, also around mid-November!  I wouldn’t expect you all to pick up on this, but this would be my third pregnancy during our third adoption process.  In nearly 10 years of marriage, open to conception the entire time, I have managed to conceive three times, each time while we were adopting.  Adoption people, it’s the new fertility care.

3.  I am officially a “high risk pregnancy.”  Isn’t that a fun label?  And I’m not going to lie, it has felt that way (not fun, high risk.)  Scary complications in the beginning, a couple of ER visits, medicines galore (11 injections a week, and others!), nearly constant nausea and feeling like I got hit by a bus (though that might just be normal pregnancy stuff.)  At 17 weeks I have had 4 ultrasounds and I don’t even know how many doctor visits/exams.  On the plus side, between me and Paul, we will meet our insurance out of pocket max early.  Get ready to pay, health insurance!

4.  Meanwhile… those diligent Ukrainians got busy with our paperwork and invited us to come to see them on January 29.  At the time I was in the throes of some complications.  We have delayed our appointment until sometime on or after March 5, so it will probably be on March 5.  We could use some prayers for guidance because previous miscarriage in Ukraine +  6 weeks of travel in Ukraine by myself during a high risk pregnancy = not my favorite situation.

5.  Backing up for a second.  My family came during a chaotic time in my life but were such an incredible blessing!  I was worried with how crumby I was feeling and all my pregnancy woes that houseguests were not the best idea, but in fact they were the best.  We had a fantastic time with my brother, his wife, and my nieces, as well as my mom.  So much fun playing games, spending time together, going on a sleigh ride, celebrating Christmas morning.  It was just a beautiful holiday!  Ben, nearly 2 months later, is still pretending to go to the airport to go pick up Riley and Livy, then continue on to Nanie’s house to play with trains.  Oh, he loves them all so much!

6.  THEN in January we went to Florida.  To me it was the equivalent of going to Cancun, and I displayed that enthusiasm in my packing.  Turns out the Gulf Coast is really not that warm in January and you can’t exactly go to the beach and swim when it’s 65 degrees out and the water is like 50 degrees, so all the swimsuits and coverups I packed were pretty useless.  But still, it wasn’t a Montana winter- it was sunny, and lovely, and we went fishing on the boat several times.  Just a great reprieve from our normal snowy days.  Though, to be fair, the last week or so here has been between 50 and 60 degrees, sunny, all the snow is melted, and I’ve been having the kids play outside in the backyard, so I really can’t complain!  I guess Montana likes to break the stereotypes.

7.  The boys are thriving in preschool.  Really.  I am so glad that by some miracle they both were enrolled this year.  Paul is seriously so bored at home now because preschool is so fun.  It’s somewhat problematic for me, but I know that ultimately it is good for him, and probably good for me though my nauseated body does not like it at this time.  And Ben is so social and fun, it is really good for him to be with other kids and playing new things, doing artwork, learning songs and skills.  I do spend a lot of time running around, but I like it and it’s a small sacrifice to make for them.  Plus I get a whopping 4 hours of time alone at home each week (well, more like 3.5, but I’ll take it.)

Linking up to SQT at  This Aint the Lyceum

It worked, but the work is not done.

Urgent news came in about a little boy, only 4 years old, who was in danger of being transferred to a horrible mental institution.  His sweet little face was shared all over facebook.  Even the post on this measly blog was shared over a thousand times and seen by over 10,000 people.  Others blogged and shared about Whitaker too.  People rallied for the little boy who faced a dire future.

And you know what?

It worked.

A family already in process to adopt a little boy with Down Syndrome, added Whitaker to their adoption.  This family also came home earlier this year with two other children.

Please pray and, if you can, make a little donation to help this beautiful family as they step out in faith to help these little ones.  Thank you to the Harlin family, for doing what so many had the desire to do, but perhaps weren’t able at this time.

The orphanage director has been notified, and they will keep Whitaker in their care until the Harlin’s arrive.  Pray their process goes quickly and smoothly.

As we breathe a sigh of relief for the little boy with the thick hair and the fair face, please don’t step away, feeling as if the job is all done.  Because for every “Whitaker” we know about, there are thousands of others, in his own country even, let alone all over the world, that need you.  They need you to share the way you did this past week.  They need your heart to be pierced.  They need you to be willing to go to that uncomfortable place where you consider, “Is God asking me to open my heart and my family for this child?”

I remember when God asked me to do that.  Ryan was downstairs in a meeting, and Ben was already asleep in bed.  I sat in our bedroom and prayed because I had felt God prompting me to do something for these children, specifically, a child with Down Syndrome.  But I didn’t know a thing about Down Syndrome.  I had hardly had any interaction with any children or even adults with special needs.  I sat on the bed and cried, and I asked God if this is truly what he was asking of me.  I wrestled with Him because this was not part of my own plan and it was not what I wanted.  No, I didn’t want this.  It wasn’t my dream from childhood, I hadn’t already had a child with a special need like so many of the other adoptive parents, I wasn’t a SN preschool teacher in my professional work.

I was just a woman who loved God and believed that all life had worth and value.

That was enough for God.

Despite my ignorance, my lack of patience, my laziness, my selfishness and my pride, God decided I was enough.

You are enough too.

And it has changed my whole perspective as a parent.  I am a better parent now than I was before.  Even though there are more appointments, more chaos, more messes on the floor, I am more calm and content because when I look at my family I know deep down how much we have compared to so many.  And I don’t mean material things like a home and warm clothes, though those are important.  I mean- my kids are loved and cared for unconditionally.  Paul is loved, and he, in turn, loves.  And that is life.  That’s why I changed this blog’s header from “Team Stout” to “to love and be loved” because since adopting that has been at the heart of our family.  It comes from a quote from Bl Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa):

We have been created for greater things…we have been created to love and to be loved.

Please, remember the orphan.  Whitaker is a real boy, but he also represents thousands of others, many of whom live locked away hardly ever to be seen.  Thousands of others who were created for love, out of love, but know nothing of love.  And we are the ones who can change that.

A Real Boy

I am in awe.  This has truly been beautiful to watch.

And I am wishing I had put more time into the original post!  Because wow.

Over 1000 shares and over 8000 views.  The face and story of this little boy is becoming known.  People are raising funds.  People are praying with the hope that a family will save him from a future of severe neglect and, likely, a very young death.

whitaker

Thank you, a million times, thank you.  And please, don’t let this stop with Whitaker; remember the orphan.  This is the face of a real boy, but it’s also a face that represents thousands of others, many of whom live locked away hardly ever to be seen.

IMG_0224

The hallway in Paul’s orphanage. This was taken in the middle of a nice bright day.

We are their only voice.  So please keep sharing and keep praying- for Whitaker, and for all orphans.