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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Just keep swimming


  It is not an easy fight...to fight for lives that you love yet have no contact with.  In about 9 days we will have court and, God willing,  two children will become legally "ours."   Children, who never knew the comforting arms of a mother or father, who never had siblings come lovingly hug and play with them, who never knew the sights/sounds/smells of FAMILY, will suddenly have one! Sort of. We aren't sure when we will be able to pick them up, usually between 4-6 weeks after court, however the holidays fall right in the middle of that and that makes our timeline even more unpredictable than normal.

 We spent one day last week setting out and packing outfits, choosing "gotcha day" outfits and imagining what sizes will best suit our 8 year old and 4 year old kids (based on height we settled on sizes 2T for both of them :) )

  Now...We wait. 

  This part of the process never gets easier...you start to get excited and then nervous. You wonder what they will be like? What will life be like for your entire family? Are you prepared enough ?(umm... I already know the answer to this is "no" because it's impossible to prepare for the unknown) 
Will the new kids be able to handle the transition?  etc...and the what if's start to overwhelm you.  You are ready to just get started!

  So, we are trying to focus on some fun things while we wait - like baking Fall cookies and Christmas shopping!   I was so fortunate to get the entire day with my 6 year old yesterday to just enjoy HER.  I remember how important one on one time is with each of my children both for them and for me :)   Speaking of which, I need to finish reviewing my 11 year old's report with her before school tomorrow and give my 4 year old a bath, so I guess I'm ending this here for now :) Thank you for listening! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Great Adoption Exhaustion



  I say "Great" as in massive.  About a year and a half ago my husband and I realized our family wasn't complete and that we were being called to adopt again.  It took a while to find out who we were supposed to adopt, but we started the process early knowing that we would likely be adopting a child in severe condition and that we would want to move quickly.  We found our little girl the middle of October after having our homestudy almost completed... a little girl who was seven YEARS old and weighed the same as an average 6 MONTH old. We were relieved to know that since this was our second adoption and we were already ahead of the game that we would likely be able to get to her quickly.... That was NOT the case, for whatever reason there was delay after delay but by the end of April I was finally able to go meet this little beauty.

I thought I was prepared.  I had adopted a little boy who weighed close to what she did only he was 3 years old...not SEVEN.  He was tiny and malnourished and my heart broke when I saw him the first time.  I expected her to be the same.  She wasn't. She has survived another four years longer in an institution.  Lance had cried the whole time on my first trip to meet him, and he continues to have bouts of crying to this day (although they are more "I'm mad at you" cries now ;) ) I expected Ava to do the same thing...only she didn't. She didn't make hardly any noise the whole week. Once when I put her down in her bed to measure her she cried because she didn't want to be put back in her "cell"..ahem I mean bed.   Unfortunately I realized that this is the difference a few crucial years makes in a child who is so neglected. She gave up. She quit caring. She quit trying.  She doesn't smile nor does she cry because she knows it won't change the reality of the last now EIGHT years of her life.  I was grossly unprepared for a silent child.

Ava turned 8 this year and still weighs the same as a 6 month old. Her long body is pale and gaunt while her hands are the size of a baby but without the typical fat stores. Mostly baby teeth are rotted and gray or black, many completely broken off.  Trying to swallow, she struggles to get enough calories in her to sustain her tiny frame. At 8,  she wears a size 2T with elastic sewn tight to keep them from falling off of her. I find myself wondering HOW?

While visiting Ava, I met another little boy, who I could not ignore.  By the end of the week I knew I could not leave him behind.  We worked as quickly as possible to get paperwork submitted in order to get him added to our adoption....more delays. By the end of July I was able to return to have an official visit with him.

He is beautiful.  With soft blonde curls and big blue eyes, he melted me. I spent the first day just holding him on my lap. His face turned toward my shoulder, he wrapped his arms and legs around mine and didn't move or make a sound for hours.  By the end of the day I saw a glimpse that told met this little boy, who is amazingly shy, is unrecognizable when in his comfort zone. Smiling and Giggling in his crib, he grabbed my phone, played, and took "selfies."  I realized he is undeniably unused to being in a room with other people, noises, and lights.  "Take it slow with this one" I caution myself as the week progresses.  Slowly he begins to open up to me more, allowing me to hold him in the big room surrounded by people without being completely plastered against me. I am hopeful that he can overcome his anxiety around people and new situations with some consistent help.

I returned to the good ol USA (can we talk about customs returning to the US? Seriously 2 hours?!)
I digress. Knowing that Ava's condition is not improving and that it takes 2 days for every one spent in an institution to undo the damage I am in a hurry to get both kids home.  I know that life will become harder once they are home, there will be countless doctor and therapy appointments, hours will be spent changing diapers and trying to feed kids who are used to starving and don't know how to eat.  The relative quiet of our home may quickly be filled with crying and shouting as two children fight their fear, confusion, and lack of control.  Life will not be easy for a long time...correction EVER.  Yet, I am in a hurry to bring them home? Yes.  I know that as difficult as it is to adopt children who have been hurt, neglected, abused, and starved it was not something they ever had a choice in.  Our lives in the USA are so easy compared to the lives of children dying too young at the hand of an unjust world.

So here we go...It's November and we finally have a court date (a month later than many families who were submitted after us) and it's NOVEMBER 15, 2016.  These two precious lives will become legally ours on November 15.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sooo much more to add...and our exciting news!

I firstly have to apologize for grossly neglecting this blog. We've had a LOT of changes in the past few months and I'll be the first to admit that I've stepped away more and more from social media to focus on our adoption and the kids we already have at home.  With that said let me get you all caught up!

I was able to travel to meet Ava the end of April.  I traveled by myself as I did on the first trip when I met Lance and Elliott. This was a bit of a different experience for me. I had a different translator and since I am with a different in country agency things just are run differently.  I was on my own more so than I had been previously and the atmosphere was...different.  First impression of Ava's city...it is a beautiful sea side city that is a bit touristy, the hotel is right around the corner from Ava's orphanage so we walked to and from her orphanage twice a day.

What did I think of the orphanage?
It is actually a really nice place.  It looks like it has recently been renovated and has many modern conveniences (including a high tech surveillance system) Ava is in a group "apartment" which is basically two bedrooms separated by a large living/dining space.  There is a couch, coffee table, tv, a small ball pit, and a dining table.  This orphanage is a different environment than either Lance or Elliott's in that I was able to visit with her in her group, surrounded by the nannies and some of the other children.

What kind of care do the children receive?
Some of the children spend all day in the main room and have lots of attention and interaction with the staff.  Others, spent the days either in high chairs or cribs depending on their abilities.  Ava is fed with a bottle and while initially she seemed to drink pretty well, I quickly realized that she just can't keep up with the foods and textures to be able to safely take in the calories she needs.  At almost 8 years old her teeth are completely rotted out and the little bits that are left are black.

What about Ava?!
Aside from the feeding/teeth issues, she is absolutely tiny...breakable.  She is much longer than I had guessed, but she only weighs about 17 pounds which makes her just skin and bones.  I suspect she is blind as her eyes are generally glossy and she doesn't seem to look or focus on anything. She is quiet...almost silent actually. She doesn't really respond to any kind of stimulation other than occasionally a sound.  She didn't appear to be in pain or care if I moved or adjusted her to break up the pattern caused by her cerebral palsy. The only time I got a response from her was when I went to lay her down after a few days of holding her and giving her attention, she cried out briefly which gave me hope that she cares what happens to her and she was obviously enjoying being loved on.  At the end of the day I'm just not sure what her personality will show once she starts getting proper nutrition and care.

What does our timeline look like from here?
WELL....that's where this story gets a little interesting.  Remember how I mentioned that I was able to see the other kids in her group?  There was one little boy who spent most of his time in his crib in his bedroom, however I saw him every day when they brought him in to feed him. From the first moment I saw him, he had my heart.  I recognized him right away as one of the little boys I've seen listed before and I couldn't help but watch him. While he has cerebral palsy like Lance and Ava, his is a low tone form.  He is 3 years old and is able to eat well from a spoon, and sits up with some support. He is absolutely precious and smiled back at me when I smiled at him.  On the final day of my visit I asked if I could hold him and he curled into my arms and laid his head on my shoulder. I was absolutely IN LOVE. I called my husband as soon as I got back to my hotel and asked him if there was a possibility to add him if we could adopt him. <3  Which...leads me to our timeline question.  We ARE adding "Nigel" (that's not his real name so don't start calling him that ;) ) to our adoption which has added a few more months to our process and a few thousand dollars as well. We already have the verbal referral for him and are waiting on the official written referral.  Basically the "powers that be" are going to require me to go back to officially visit him before we can move on to the next stage of the process. At this point it's looking like the kiddos won't be home until the end of the year :(

OK! So, there's a lot going on in our family right now, but that's the most exciting stuff for now. I'll work on posting the rest in the next few weeks, but to tide ya over here's a few pics of my first trip to meet Ava (Unfortunately I'm not allowed to actually share pictures of her until she's officially ours.)

Changing of the Guard

The Bird lady

Fish Spa? (Yes, there are little tiny fish that "eat" your feet :O )

Ava's little 8 year old fingers.

The Black Sea

The Orthodox cathedral "Alexander Nevski"


And finally...Here's the little one that we're adding to bring home with Ava:

We have a matching grant to help us pay the fees to get this guy added! If you are looking for a way to help out and want to make a tax deductible donation you can do so here:
http://reecesrainbow.org/101637/sponsorschmitt-2