Friday, December 1, 2017


I have to eat crow here. So many of the people who followed our journey are now friends on facebook so I completely forgot that there may be people waiting for updates on our blog.  We completed our adoption of "Ava and Nigel" last November, renaming them Elizaveta Aneva and Lincoln Nikola.  We still call Elizaveta "Ava", but Lincoln's has fully adopted his American name :) When we brought them home just a few days before Christmas last year they both weighed about 17 pounds (Ava was 8.5 YEARS old, and Lincoln had just turned 4 Years old). 

AVA in a nutshell
Ava struggled with an especially low heart rate, a body covered in hair, and extremely cold extremities.  We had to put 3 or 4 layers of socks on in an attempt to keep her body temperature up.  Her body was in full on starvation mode and was doing its best just to keep her alive.  She had a gtube placed the week after Christmas and ended up being flown to a Children's Hospital 250 miles away in order to monitor her for refeeding syndrome.  (If you aren't familiar with it, it happens when someone is starving to death and then starts receiving nutrition. The body doesn't know what to do with all of the nutrition and can start to shut can be life threatening and is taken very seriously)  Almost a year later she is a healthy 40 pounds!
Her right leg had been so unbendable we feared that it was a true contracture and she would never be able to bend it.  Upon coming home, she was having muscle spasms constantly, it was nearly impossible to keep her comfortable and she spent a lot of time screaming or crying from pain. We've been working with a rehab doctor from Children's Colorado as well as getting regular therapy and her knee bends perfectly now (with the help of some good muscle relaxers.)  She is also MUCH happier. We did discover that her hips were completely dislocated which was a BIG cause of her pain and spasms as well.  She basically had been holding her right leg so tightly to avoid the pain that movement caused the hip.  In October of this year she had bilateral hip surgery to correct both hips.  Fortunately they were able to correct the left side with some major bone reconstruction on both the hip and the socket, but the right side was unsalvageable and the surgeon had to completely cut off the top of the femur and the hip.  She has been in a full spica cast for the last 6 weeks, but she is so much more comfortable that we are beginning to see more consistent smiles from her. 
Finally, we did discover that she is completely blind.  There is nothing "wrong" with her eyes themselves, but the part of her brain that that controls vision has been affected by her cerebral palsy so she is unable to fully receive signals. We're all learning how to interact with her in new ways and finding what senses she wants to interact with. She is such a sweet, quiet little girl. We are so grateful we were able to bring her into our family.

In the apartment in Bulgaria on pick up trip
(We also had to have all of her teeth surgically removed
11 Year old "Yana" holding her 8 year old sister
First family picture! Christmas Eve 2016

Ava now!
Big smile!! 
She's such a princess... and look how long her hair is!! 

Lincoln/ "Nigel" in a nutshell

 Lincoln had some definite autism flags.  I was super worried about how he was going to handle being outside of his room, much less the orphanage, then the country.  In March we found that he had a huge blood clot near his brain and spent a few weeks in Children's hospital followed by months of blood thinner injections. While in the hospital, an NG tube was placed and he quickly learned that he didn't need to drink from a bottle or eat from a spoon to be satisfied.  After years of being force-fed boiling hot to super cold food with less than 3 minutes to eat a 12 ounce meal he was D O N E! He has such huge issues revolving around food and eating that the hospital determined it would be best to place a long term feeding tube while we work on teaching him healthy eating habits. It will be a LOONG process, but he's much happier and healthier with this plan.
Because of the size of the blood clot, we were told it would probably never go away completely, but our goal was to keep it from growing.  In August we had it rechecked and were relieved to find that it was COMPLETELY gone.   A HUGE answer to prayer! 
He's starting to walk, but HAS to be holding onto someone's hands or the wall.  Learning to crawl, he's discovered he can move while pushing his feeding pole all over the house.  He's giggly and cuddly and LOVES to play with daddy.  While we have dealt with some sensory issues, he has transitioned really well and tolerates being around new people better than we could have hoped.

At therapy, working on standing.
Just a happy little guy!
One of the few good pictures I've been able to get with him.
He's super camera shy

Snuggling with daddy

My little newsy!

Okay, I know this isn't the best update or the best written, but I wanted to get it up before I completely forgot.  To each of you who has prayed and followed our family, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS.  Life is harder and busier than I imagined possible, but we trust that we are on the path God called us to and knowing we have been able to make a difference in these little lives is unbelievably humbling. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Just keep swimming

  It is not an easy 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 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.