Monday, February 8, 2016

Being Real

This morning I read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" three times. I would've read it 50 times if Anna had asked. When we picked her up she wouldn't even glance at a book much less sit in your lap for you to read it.

Last week was rough. It started off with Anna rapidly spiking a temp of 105 (literally went from fine to very sick in an hour) and a trip to the ER. After, lots of testing and struggling to bring her fever below 103, they concluded that she had a lower respiratory virus (not pneumonia) that had to run its course. So we spent a few days fighting a very high fever in a very miserable child.

The fallout of this illness was an increase in behaviors which seemed to be declining. And that's what I'm going to discuss just a little. I'm not going to discuss Anna's medical diagnoses or labels or family history for a few reasons. First, I want to protect her. Second, both the International pediatrician and Anna's own pediatrician question the validity of these diagnoses, and third, she is not nor will she be defined by these labels given by an orphanage in another country.

Tantrums - All kids tantrum, right? Yes, that's true, but when a child with Anna's history goes into tantrum mode it is driven out of fear and self preservation. Anna might bite (herself and me), scratch, hit, or bang her head during a tantrum. Thankfully, hers are relatively short lived, but you absolutely cannot discipline a tantrum from an adopted child the same way you would one from a biological child. We typically, keep Anna close, and the main goal is her safety and ours. We might hold her or lay her where she can safely thrash around with us nearby and within sight. We always follow with comfort even when we feel like doing anything but being comforting.
Food - To be exact food obsession. Anna has known hunger in her life. She has known what it's like to go without enough food, and if anything terrifies her, this does. I'd say that over 75%, maybe closer to 90%, of her tantrums have to do with food. She can easily eat a grown man under the table, and she'll finish a huge meal and go back to the table 20 minutes later. One of the things we're working on is her understanding that there is always food available. Anna will not eat with her hands or out of my hands. She will touch her food and play with it, but will not eat it. Still that's more than many kids who have come out of an institution. But I do look forward to the day when she will snack on a bag of goldfish. She is learning to self feed, but this was discouraged in her orphanage so it's taking time. Most days she eats six times a day.

Stereotypical behaviors - rocking, sucking fingers, shaking head back and forth, etc. In orphanages, children are not soothed so they learn to self soothe. This is how they comfort themselves. Overall, the intensity of Anna's behaviors is much less than other children, and they seem to be decreasing. When she rocks, we sit her in our lap to comfort her. Sometimes she rocks and laughs and glances at us to see if we’re looking. I'm sure to some this is manipulative, but rather than get on her for it, we choose to use it as an opportunity to love on her a little more.

Hugs and kisses are hard to come by and must be earned from Anna. She is slowly but surely becoming more affectionate. It can be frustrating when others try to get her to show affection. We are working very hard to teach her the concept of family and appropriate affection, and when others push in, it only complicates things.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I can promise you it's for neither sympathy nor applause. Please don't applaud me. I am not extraordinary, but I do serve an extraordinary God. I'm telling you this because I first, want to give you just a very brief glimpse of what Anna is dealing with, and more importantly, I'm calling on prayer warriors.

Now before anyone gets up in arms, we are doing everything necessary to help Anna. That includes therapies, doctor visits, and therapeutic parenting. But here's the deal. There are a lot of absolutes thrown around in the world of adoption, and one of them is that our children will never fully heal from the wounds of abandonment and neglect. However, I once again go back to God's Word and what it says, and that just doesn't line up. We are all damaged goods when it comes down to it, but we serve a God who heals our deepest wounds. So I'm asking you to join me in prayer for our Anna's complete redemption and healing. I'm asking you to stand with us in believing that God will reach those places that no amount of earthly intervention can reach. This is the hardest thing I've ever done, and many days my inadequacies loom larger than life. I've cried tears of heartbreak, tears of anger and frustration, and tears of joy, and over and over I'm forced to turn back to Him to give me strength and joy in this journey.

Psalm 107:20King James Version (KJV)
20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Anna Update

Oh my goodness! We've been home just over six weeks and have had Anna with us just over seven. It has been amazing, and hard, and exhausting, and thrilling. It has pretty much been all the things. I want to share about Anna's progress because oh my, our girl has made progress. I also want to continue to ask for prayer because we still have a long road ahead in quite a few areas. I constantly have to remind myself that we are running a marathon not a 100 yard dash.

Physical growth - when Anna left the orphanage on December 3rd, she weighed about 18 lbs. On December 15th she weighed 19 lbs 3 oz and was just over 31 inches long. At her weight check on Januart 19th she weighed 21 lbs 4 oz and was just over 32 inches long. Grow baby grow!

Bonding - Anna really seems to be bonding well with us. I think she's beginning to realize that we're not just caregivers who come and go, but we're here to stay. She has started giving big wet kisses and will let us rock her for short periods of time. We've pretty much been doing what is generally referred to in the adoption world as cocooning. We've limited visitors and haven't been out and about much. I haven't been to church in almost two months, and I miss it. But as we come up on the two month mark, we're slowly moving toward introducing her to the outside world. Key word is slowly. Please continue to lift us up in prayer in this area as it really is so important. Also, pray that I'll have peace and not overthink everything in regards to attachment. 

Speech - Anna really seems to be understanding more and more. She knows the meaning of eat, outside, bath, more, night night, and of course, no. She mimics us here and there and will repeat Mama if she's in the mood. We're working on some sign language along with words, but she's pretty stubborn about using her hands. 

Therapies - we have completed evaluations for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Now we're waiting on insurance approval. I have to admit I'm kind of on the fence about some of the therapists, but finding a company to come to our house was not an easy task. I'm praying that they'll be good with Miss Anna and have wisdom in deciding what's best for her.

Eating - oh boy! She still loves to eat. Doesn't always love to chew. Haha! But we're working on it. Anna will eat off a spoon and a fork and can self feed although she prefers not to. She will not eat anything with her hands or out of my hand. She's drinking more from a cup. Not enough but more. 

Sleep - she is sleeping in her own bed (crib) and generally does very well. She usually goes down without a lot of drama. This move to her own room was after we realized she sleeps better by herself. 

Overall - the little girl who wouldn't look sideways at a book will now sit and jabber while looking at them. Her self stimming behaviors (rocking, rubbing her head back and forth, zoning out while humming, etc.) are getting better. She still does them but not as much. She tantrums from time to time, but that's usually because Mama won't let her dump the dogs' water everywhere or something to that effect. She's no longer the terrified little girl we picked up.

I've really just hit the tip of the iceberg here. Adoption is one of the hardest and yet most beautiful ways of adding to your family. Some day when I have all my wits about me (read, I no longer have a two year old), I'll write more in depth about the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but for now enjoy the photos. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

One Month Since Gotcha!

I've done a pathetic job of keeping up with the blog. Chasing a two year old around certainly keeps you on your toes! But today marks three weeks home, and tomorrow marks one month since pick up. Hard to believe, and I thought I'd do a quick update.

Anna is doing so well. She's busy and curious and into everything. She's become quite comfortable at home. The terrified, frightened little girl we picked up is really coming out of her shell. She loves to eat and loves to take baths. Given the absolute terror the first couple times we attempted a bath, the second one is a miracle. We've pretty much been cocooning which is really nothing more than keeping Anna's world very small for a time in order to facilitate a better adjustment and attachment process. The weather this past week has mostly kept us indoors, and we're hoping for some sunshine in the next couple days. 

Andrew is doing great as a big brother and has handled this whole change with amazing resilience. 

Both kids enjoyed a nice quiet Christmas at home. 

Before I stop writing and let you scroll through all the pictures, I'll leave you with a few prayer requests:
  • For Anna to continue to attach well. This is a process that takes time, and she seems to be slowly figuring this family thing out. But prayers are certainly appreciated. 
  • For Anna's speech to begin to develop. She is pretty much non-verbal and finds it very frustrating when we can't figure out what she wants. 
  • That Miss Anna starts drinking from a cup (any kind of cup). She know how, and she sometimes humors us, but mostly she refuses and throws said cup. And we have tried open cups with and without handles, straw cups, numerous sippy cups ... and the list goes on. 
  • That we find just the right therapists for our girl. (No advice needed. We have so many recommendations and leads right now. Really we just need wisdom to make the best choices for Anna.)
Now enjoy all the pictures! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Oh I have so much to say. But I just don't have the time ... or energy. Haha!

We've had our beautiful girl for almost 2 weeks now. The transition has had high points and low points, but overall it has been good. We are building bonds and attachments, playing chase, giggling, pitching fits (just being real), and working on routines. We've also been to the doctor just to check on a few things that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Thank you for all your prayers. They are being answered! Please continue to pray for amazing attachment and complete healing (emotional and physical) for our Anna girl. We love y'all!

Sorry no picture ... I can't get blogger to cooperate! Boo for that (insert sad/irritated face here)!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Anna's Room

Anna's room is done and ready for her. She'll most likely be sleeping in our room at first, but we are going to follow her lead on what's best for her. I love how everything turned out. And never, in my life, did I think I'd ever put so much pink in one room. I hope she's a girly girl, but if it turns out not to be her thing we can always change it.