A few Questions and Answers

I’ve been asked a few questions since we began the process of adopting two little girls from Eastern Europe. The first question I am usually asked, is:

“Why are you adopting from Easter Europe when there are so many kids here in the US that need families?”                                                                                           This question isn’t usually asked politely, but with a bit of disdain, and many times more than a little anger. First I will explain that we are a Christian family. Before you let THAT anger you, please don’t lump all Christians into one pot. There are many false Christians out in this world who claim they are Christians yet continue to live their lives in a way that does not bring glory to the lord. My Christian faith is one of following the teachings of Christ. Christ came here to teach us. He was compassionate, loving faithful and forgiving. There was no hate and no judgement. I do my best to live my life in that manner. I am not perfect, and I will never be perfect. But I do believe in treating others the way I want to be treated, and I try to do that daily. And there are days I fail miserably, but you will not find me on a soap box preaching hell fire and damnation. It is not who I am.

I have learned in the last few years of my life to listen to God calls me. Again, I fail miserably. But the one of the calls I managed to hear, was that there were children in this world that needed a family. I know you all think it’s crazy that at “our age” we would bring small children back into our home through adoption.  Our nest was almost empty and life after kids was about to begin. That wasn’t God’s plan for us. And when God calls, I DO try to answer the phone!

Ron and I prayed and felt this really was something we were supposed to do. But it wasn’t just a “supposed to” thing. We both love children a great deal and neither of us was really ready for the empty nest.  However, we both knew that if we were too old to adopt, we’d answered a wrong number. I sent two email out that night. One to an international adoption agency, and one to an agency here locally that helped with domestic adoptions.  I had a response from the international adoption agency in my inbox the next morning stating we were NOT too old to adopt from a country in Eastern Europe, and they would be happy to help us through the process.  A few days later I received a response to the agency that handles domestic adoptions and we were told we were too old to adopt and they couldn’t help us. That was a clear indication to us that the children God had chosen for us were not in the United States. We had no idea where they were, but we knew God was going to show us.  This is why we adopted from Eastern Europe. That is where God led us, and where my children were. Had they been in the US, we would have happily adopted from the US.

The other big question we get is “Why would you do this at “YOUR AGE?”                 I feel that question was answered above, but I will explain again. When God calls, you answer.  It truly is that simple for me. God didn’t call Moses into service until he was 80 years old. Sarah gave birth to Abraham’s son in her 90’s. I was 57 when God placed this on my heart and called us to adopt. Did we question Him? Of course! Through prayer and research, we understood this was His desire and we knew it was right. Every Christian is called to help widows and orphans. Not everyone is called to adopt, but we are ALL called to help and protect. Whether financially, or otherwise, it is what we are supposed to do. We knew we were being called to adopt, not just advocate and help financially.

“Why did you adopt a child with special needs? Why would you do that to yourself and your family?”  This is the question that always irritates me. Are only perfectly healthy children worthy of a family? If one of my biological children were born with spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, downs syndrome or any other special need, would I give them back and say “No thank you, I’ll wait for a healthy child?” No. I would love that child as much as my so called “perfect” children  and do everything I could so to make their lives positive, and rich! Every child deserves love and a family. I didn’t get to pick and choose what God placed in my womb, and I wasn’t going to argue with the choice God made of which child to bless me with through adoption. I tried. I had chosen two other little girls and we were in the process of being matched. Another family requested to be matched with them first, and we were denied because of that. I was heartbroken, grieved, and did a lot of crying, but it was clear,  those were not my children.

“What is Cara’s special need?” Cara has confirmed Cystic Fibrosis. When I was a child, this diagnosis was a death sentence. Most children with Cystic Fibrosis did not live long enough to make it to Kindergarten. It was a terribly frightening insidious pulmonary disease. As a child my heart broke whenever I heard of a child born with CF. Cara’s cystic fibrosis is not in her lungs. Her case is very rare, only affecting her intestines and pancreas. It is still very serious, and she will most likely develop diabetes at some point as her pancreas will not be able to produce enough insulin as she grows and the over production of mucus plugs her internal organs. She may need a liver transplant at some point, but both of these things most likely won’t happen until she is an adult. She takes digestive enzymes to help her digest her food properly, something she wasn’t doing in the orphanage, and large doses of the fat soluble vitamins as she has not been absorbing them. This all causes slow growth, which is why my 6 year old is the size of a 3 year old. Now that she is on the proper medication, we have great hope that she will eventually catch up.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I will answer them in another post.




Cara and Emma updates

An update on Emma: Our March 12th court date was postponed. The Supreme Court did not get our file back to admin court before the hearing date, so it was delayed until our file was returned. As of Friday, our file had made it back to admin court and we are now waiting for a new date. Currently, this is not holding anything back. The government is currently in turmoil; the Prime Minister resigned, forcing a temporary government to take office until they hold an election on May 12th. This could be good for us, but not so good for those waiting for signatures and court dates so they can bring their children home. The government is basically at a stand-still now until the elections. The reason this may be to our benefit, is with a new Prime Minister, comes a new Minister of Justice and new Deputy Minister, and a new International Adoption Council. The Deputy Minister and IAC are the two entities blocking our adoption of Emma. There is no guarantee a new DM and IAC will approve us, but we already know the old one won’t and our chances are better with a new set of eyes looking at everything. I am praying the new MOJ, Deputy MOJ, and IAC will have a heart for the children, and enough common sense to do what is best for them, instead of making up rules that ultimately hurt the ones they are supposed to be the most concerned with.

Cara has now been with us for six weeks.  In one sense it seems like forever, and in another, it doesn’t seem very long at all. I know I can’t imagine life without her now!

She had an appointment with the gastroenterologist about 10 days ago. He did a double-take when he walked in the room, met her, and then looked at her medical file and saw her age. He asked me, “Is this right? She is really 6 years old?” I confirmed her date of birth, and he could not quick shaking his head. When I explained that she had been diagnosed with digestive Cystic Fibrosis, he was very doubtful. He explained that digestive CF is VERY rare, and he suspected she might have another pancreatic disorder. He ordered blood tests, stool samples to test for vitamin deficiencies, and a repeat of the sweat test she was given in country when she was younger. The sweat test measures the amount of salt in her system. Children with CF, have a much higher salt content in their bodies. He asked if she tasted salty to me when I kissed her, and I told him it was not something I’d ever noticed. He then called and spoke with a pulmonary specialist, explaining that if there was anything “off” with her sweat test, he was going to refer us to the pulmonologist to check her lungs. They two doctors discussed they type of digestive enzyme they wanted her to take, and after receiving that prescription, we were off to the lab for the tests. We were very lucky to be able to get them all done that day. The sweat test is usually something that has to be scheduled, but the next person coming in had cancelled, so Cara was able to get it done right away. They drew her blood, and we took her to the cafeteria to eat so she could produce the remainder of the tests they needed. She was very cooperative! J Now we wait for the test results.

Two things I know already. She is deficient in the fat soluble vitamins. I know this because the pharmacy called to tell us the doctor had faxed in a prescription for those specific vitamins. I also know the enzymes are working! Prior to taking the new meds, her stools were mush, and full of oil, a result of not absorbing the fat soluble vitamins. They now have form and the oil is completely gone!  This is a huge improvement. This means she is now digesting more nutrients, and consequently eating less food.

Another bit of progress is that she has now become “picky” about what she eats, and she eats less. This shows she is now secure in knowing she has enough food available when she wants it, and she no longer has to worry about being hungry anymore. When I fix her a meal, she will always point to something and ask, “More, mama?” I tell her there is more after she eats what is on her plate. She used to test me and always ask for more, usually pushing it away after taking a bite or two. Now she will ask for more, I will tell her after she eats what she has, and she is satisfied knowing it is available. Rarely will she ask for more if she doesn’t want to eat more.

She still has very intense tantrums, and believe me, they make me weary. I have her on a tighter schedule now, making sure she gets a nap every day if possible. Sometimes doctor appointments interfere, but she doesn’t fall apart in the late afternoon as much if she gets a nap.

I spoke to the school district last week to get all the information needed to find out where she is developmentally, and get a team together to evaluate where she is and what services she will need besides help with English. Technically, she should be entering first grade in the fall, but I don’t see her being ready for that. She has had no schooling at all yet, and we are just working on the basics here at home; letters, numbers, colors and shapes. After speaking with the school psychologist, it looks as if we will get a team together after the first week in April to evaluate and get a learning plan together for her. I don’t want to hold her back too much, but I sure don’t want to push her into something she isn’t ready for. I would love to have her start Kindergarten in the fall if she is ready for it. But right now, I see a child the size of a 3 year old, who is globally delayed. She has undeveloped fine and gross motor skills and is cognitively about 3 ½ to 4 years old. She will most likely catch up at some point, but I hate to see her in special education classes if holding her back a year will help her excel instead of always lag behind. I hope and pray we will get some answers as soon as spring break is over.

Until then, we continue to work on colors, numbers and alphabet, painting for fine motor control, learning to push the pedals on a bike for gross motor skills, and just enjoying time together.

One month!

It is hard to believe that it has been a month since we picked Cara up at her orphanage. How does time fly by so quickly? I spend my days taking care of her, loving her, enjoying her, and poof, a month is gone!

According to the “experts” we are possibly coming close to exiting the “honeymoon” period of good behavior, and entering into a period of time where she will rage, cry, fight, and do everything she can to see if we will stop loving her. Part of this will be the grief she feels at leaving the orphanage. Good, bad or indifferent, this was the only home she knew, and the caregivers were also the only people she trusted to take care of her needs.  Then we walk into her life last October, and things get a little confusing and frightening. The little girl we met was very shy and reserved. She called us mama and daddy, because she was told that was our names. She had no concept of a mother and father, or family.  But there we were, strangers, who she was told were mama and daddy. We brought her pictures of her new home, pets, older brother and sister. All very exciting until she realized we would be taking her away from the only thing she knew.

During the four months between visit and and pick up day, I wrote to her every two weeks, doing everything I could possibly do to prepare her for the time we would come back to bring her home with us. Unfortunately, we did not get the support from the orphanage staff that we should have. The did nothing to try and prepare her for the day we would arrive, instead telling her how much they would miss her, and that she would eventually come back!

The day we picked her up, she cried and cried. I can only imagine how she felt, but have to imagine she felt like any child would feel. Kidnapped! We turned her entire world upside down and inside out. Does she have reason to grieve? Absolutely! Does she have reason to rage? Again, absolutely! She has suffered a great deal of loss and change since we picked her up, and I can imagine the lid is going to blow off at some point. Am I ready for it to happen? Absolutely NOT!  I watch this precious child laughing, playing, hugging, kissing, learning English, and having choices about what she eats and when, choosing her own clothes out of the closet, and picking out the shoes she wants to wear with it, and I see a well-adjusted, loving, happy little girl. Even when you know something may be coming, you are never truly prepared for it. All I can do is wait, and hold on tight when and if it happens!

As for this past month, we managed to get her see our family doctor after jumping through all the hoops necessary to get her on our medical insurance. They confirmed what we already knew… she is very tiny! Our 6 year old moppet doesn’t even hit the height and weight charts. Well, I’m lying a bit… she is in the zero percentile for height, and charts at .014 in weight. Yep, she’s a big one! The good news is that the last weight we had for her was 25 ½ pounds, and her height was 35.5 inches. This weight and height was taken about 6 months ago. She is now 32 pounds and 38.1 inches tall. That is HUGE! Prior to this, she had only grown half an inch and 1 pound in the prior 12 months. I know she’s had a huge growth spurt just since picking her up. Clothes that fit her on pick up day, no longer fit. She was between a size 2-3T when we picked her up, and now she is solidly into 3T’s and needs some shirts in 4’s to cover her tummy. That’s 7 lbs and close to 3 inches in growth! I suspect most of it has been in the past month. She has been able to eat as much as she wants of good healthy food, gets better digestive enzymes to help her digest more of what she eats, and daily vitamins. Because of the digestive issues, I give her more vitamins than recommended because she doesn’t digest many of the nutrients she eats. I was concerned about the volume of food she eats, but our doctor said to continue to let her eat as much as she wants. I have noticed she is satisfied with less food lately. She is either digesting more, or now realizes she can have as much food as she wants. She’s still a big eater, but not quite as big as she was when we picked her up. This is a good sign no matter what the reason is!

We now have referrals to see a gastroenterologist for her digestive issues, and an ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked. Since being home, we’ve noticed that both eyes seem to float. Both will cross, but never both at the same time. I don’t know how well she sees, or if she will need surgery or just glasses.

I also received the name of a good pediatric dentist. When we picked her up she was on antibiotics for an abscessed tooth. I can see a black spot on one of her back molars, so we will have to get that taken care of and get her teeth cleaned. Thankfully, she ate quality food at the orphanage, so there isn’t a lot of damage. And even though she is almost 6 ½, she still has all of her baby teeth, which means none of her permanent teeth have damage.  Obviously, we have a lot of appointments to make in the next month to make sure her health issues are taken care of.

Cara is learning to play. When we picked her up, she really didn’t know what to do with toys. She would carry her baby around, but didn’t know how to play mama and baby. She had 11 other children to play with at the orphanage, but they didn’t really play. When we were there in October, there were very few toys. Most of them were put up high, mostly for show, not for play. There were no outdoor toys. The children played with sticks in a play area over gown with weeds, littered with broken glass and broken down ancient playground equipment. They were so excited when we brought them balls to play with. We also brought them playground chalk, but never saw them use any of it. However, with a little example and instruction, Cara is finally learning to play with her babies. She combs their hair, feeds them from the high chair, and puts them to bed, telling us to “shhhh… baby, spish (sleeping!). She will serve us tea during our tea parties, and pass out pretend food for everyone now.

Sharing is a foreign concept at this time. Hallie comes to play and she wants Hallie’s toys without allowing her to play with any of hers.  This concept will come in time, but unfortunately, Hallie has trouble with it! But she’s learning too that some things we have to teach Cara, and they get along quite well.

The tantrums continue, but are much less frequent, and far less violent. She knows what time-in means, and does not like having to sit on the couch with me until she calms down. She realizes that “I’m sorry, Mama” means the issue is over. Of course she uses that for other things too, so the concept isn’t quite there yet.  Telling her “no” will almost always get some type of negative response, whether an angry glare or full blown tantrum. I try hard to limit the no’s and keep things as positive as possible, to give her time to understand more language. One of the biggest issues is her demand for immediate gratification. If she says she wants something, she wants it NOW, not 5 minutes from now! She doesn’t understand that dinner isn’t ready yet, and she can’t eat right now.  That is a very big issue. I know she was hungry all the time in the orphanage. Not because she didn’t get enough to eat, but because her body wasn’t digesting her food, so the nutrients she ate, didn’t stick with her. Now that she can eat as much as she wants, she is learning that if she wants more, she can have it. This helps with the hunger, but not always the timing. If food doesn’t immediately appear, she gets very angry. I turn on the oven light now for her to see the food cooking, and that has helped.

Cara continues to sleep in bed with us. She is absolutely terrified of the dark. We’ve discovered this is why she did not want to go outside with us after dark while we were in country. She would start to cry and insist we go back to the room. A couple of times we insisted we go anyway, and she would calm down, but she was not happy. One night last week after we were in bed for a while, and she refused to settle down, I put my book away and turned off the light. She literally flipped out, screaming and crying. I turned the light back on and she stopped. A few nights ago we went out to dinner after dark and Ron had to sit in the backseat with her because she could not see us in the car and she was terrified. I feel bad that we didn’t realize this sooner, but now that we know, we can work around it. She has a nightlight in her bedroom, and I hope that will be enough light to help her transition into her own bed shortly.

She is such a joy and a blessing that it is hard to believe this is the honeymoon period and she is going to turn into some raging monster soon! If it happens, I’ll know it’s fairly normal, but I will continue to expect nothing but the positive changes I am seeing in this precious little girl.