Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Does Anna Eat?

I get this question quite a bit. It's obvious by the 8+ pounds she's gained and the three or so inches she's grown that Anna is eating and eating well.

Food often causes a lot of stress with kiddos adopted out of orphanages. Most are malnourished to some extent. Many eat only puréed foods and don't feed themselves even at five or six years old. They don't know how to chew and food is basically shoveled in their mouths. Anna came home underweight, malnourished, and eating mostly starchy puréed foods. In Bulgaria she ate the jars of baby food and primarily it was fruit. I would sneak in yogurt for fat and protein when I could, but it was basically survival at that point. I figured we could address her food issues once we were settled at home.

Anna quickly developed an obsession with food, and for about 6-8 weeks if she got too far from the kitchen she would panic. She was eating more than six times a day. It was not easy because I felt like I was tied to the kitchen. She would scream if her bowl got even close to empty and eat until she was almost sick. In order to help her gain some security surrounding food, we allowed her to eat on demand. This also helped to build a bond with us as we were (and still are) the only ones feeding her.

Once we were home, I did everything I could to make sure Anna got healthy, well balanced meals with plenty of fat and protein. I would cook meals during nap time, and we started transitioning her from baby to table food by puréeing whatever we were eating. I also made and froze extras for those times when I didn't cook.

I gradually went from puréed foods to finely chopped foods to normal foods cut into small pieces, and Anna now chews pretty much everything you give her. She did go through a phase where she held certain foods in her mouth, but she rarely does that now. She started feeding herself back in January which I think helped her feel more in control, and thankfully, she is no longer obsessed with food. If she's hungry she lets me know, but she now eats regular meals and snacks. Sometimes she asks for more. Sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she runs off to play instead of wanting to eat.

Many adopted kids, although they are hungry, refuse to eat and struggle with food. So I feel like we hit the proverbial jackpot when it comes to food with Anna. She does have some quirks. She won't eat out of her hands. She will touch food, but only eats off a fork or spoon. She only eats what I call "real" foods. Crackers, cookies, pizza (although she's not ready for that yet), etc. she will not eat. She eats all meats but prefers that I mix them in with veggies. She loves fruits and vegetables. We go through bananas, strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, squash, peas, carrots, etc. like crazy. She also eats either plain Greek or Bulgarian yogurt everyday and loves pasta prepared pretty much any way. When we go out to eat I usually take an avocado and a banana with us, and then she eats off my plate. Given time and maturity, I feel like, Anna will eventually eat finger foods.

One issue that is still ongoing is the drinking. She still drinks very little so we have to make sure she gets plenty of liquids from her foods. When she eats a bowl of cereal she will sit and drink the milk with her spoon. Since she eats a lot of fruits, I make sure she gets fruits with a high water content, and we just keep practicing drinking from a cup,

I'm super thankful that food as a whole hasn't been a big stressor for us. So many kiddos struggle with food, and I'm very aware of what a huge blessing a good eater is.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quick Update

This is going to be fast because I'm tired. Ha!

Anna is seeming to really understand a whole lot more and is definitely starting to settle into her role as resident youngest child and princess of the household.  I don't think I fully appreciated what it's like to be thrown into a whole new language, environment, family, etc. She has done very well all things considered. I also did not fully appreciate what it's like to bring a toddler with a developed personality and opinions into the family. It's  a steep learning curve for all involved, but I feel like things are starting to even out, and we're all finding out footing.

Overall Anna's receptive language appears to be growing by leaps and bounds. Her expressive language is lagging behind the receptive which is normal, but boy does it lead to some tantrums. That and just flat out not getting her way. In a lot of ways I feel like we brought home a 2 year old infant who has now grown into a toddler and is testing her limits. The biggest struggle is that she is very physical in her tantrums. She's also very loud. Thankfully, they aren't long, and she usually loses interest once she realizes she's not getting her way.

She's also been giving and receiving more affection lately, and most exciting is the fact that she's started to pay more attention to Andrew. Up until the past couple weeks she could take him or leave him, but now she thinks he's pretty cool.

So things are good, but I wouldn't be honest if I said they were always easy. They aren't. Some days I can't wait for Patrick to walk through the door, and others I feel like I could conquer the world and raise all the kids (those are the days I'm delusional in case you're wondering).

Please pray for Anna's continued growth and development especially, in the realm of language development. Please pray for Patrick and I to have continued strength and wisdom in exactly how to handle both of our kiddos.

And as always thank you, and we love you.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Anna Turns Three

On March 22 our Anna girl turned three. As much as I wanted to throw a huge party, I knew it would only overwhelm and confuse her. So we kept it low key. She was pretty perplexed by the candles and the cake and the presents. But the tissue paper? The tissue paper made her day. She laughed and ran around the house with it forever. 

This little girl has come so far. She's grown physically, emotionally, mentally ... Some days I get worried about the road ahead of her. Some days are beautiful. Some days are hard. But no matter what the day has held, I have to stop and remind myself that God has been faithful, and He's not going to stop now. 

Third birthday stats: 
Height: 34 inches (she's grown almost 3 inches)
Weight: 25 lbs! (That's 7 lbs in less than 4 months)
She's saying quite a few words: mama, dada, more, night night, Apple, yee haw, uh oh, ba (for bath), brush, raw raw (for row row row your boat) ... I'm sure I'm forgetting something

For reasons I cannot explain, I can't move my pictures around. The one in the stroller was taken at her three year well check. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Saying "Yes"

There is a blog post floating around on social media right now. It's extremely popular. I've seen it shared on Facebook multiple times. It's not likely to be read by those who aren't or who haven't adopted. It was a good post. The gist was that in adoption we need to look past the adorable baby photos, the heroics of adopting a special needs child, and the desire to speed up the process and truly understand what the future may hold.

And I totally get it. When we first read Anna's medical report there were parts that terrified me. There were and are still unanswered questions. Some questions we may never have answers to. We said "yes", not with some misguided notion that we were getting a perfect child, we said "yes" to developmental delays, malnutrition, major prematurity, a two year old that could only sort of walk and was nonverbal ... we said "yes" to institutional behaviors (rocking, finger sucking, tantrums), to people staring and asking "why does she do that?"... we said "yes" to a whole myriad of things most of which I'll never discuss here ... but really we said "yes" to our girl. Our smart, sweet, silly, bright, beautiful girl.

So I get it. In my four short months of parenting this way, I've had highs and lows. I've cried and laughed and had meltdowns and laughed again usually all in just the span of a few hours. And I never, never would push a parent to accept a referral for a child they know they can't parent.

But here's the thing, if you want to be completely honest, I'm not qualified to be a parent to either of my children. If you want to be completely honest, none of us know what lies ahead. Medical reports aren't worth much more than the paper on which they're printed. Some have turned out to be far worse. Some have turned out to be much better. And giving birth to a child doesn't exactly guarantee a picture perfect future for them.

So even though, I do get the reasoning behind the blog, I can't say I 100% agree with the blog post, and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way (and this is why I've chosen not to link to it). I do think you need to go into parenting in all its forms with your eyes wide open. I think you need to be aware and work hard and know that there will be heartbreaks and disappointments. But in the end, I think you need to realize that no one is truly qualified. No one is perfect, and life, especially parenting, is full of risks. And adoptive parenting, in particular, holds a million unknowns and "what ifs?". That is why I lean heavily on my Savior each and every day.

I'm very glad we said "yes".

The reality is that the Lord never calls the qualified; He qualifies the called.” 
― Henry T. Blackaby

(Side note 1: I am not saying to take special needs lightly or rush headlong into something you know you cannot handle. I'm just saying be open to God's leading and don't let fear dominate your choices.)

(Side note 2: I owe y'all Anna's 3rd birthday post. I just need to get it together and get the pics off the real camera.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Easter morning started off gray and dreary. It was damp and chilly, and certainly, not what one would call a beautiful Easter morning. But as the day progressed, the sun came out, and the damp cool air was replaced by a soft, beautiful breeze. It made me think of the first Easter Sunday so many years ago. How dark and dismal the world must have seemed as that day dawned. The grief must have been unbearable as the women went to the tomb only to be shocked to find it empty. And the revelation that Jesus was alive brought a lifting of the heaviness and the light shone through. 

Easter was good. It was busy, and the first holiday that Anna got to celebrate with family. I tried to get pictures, but photographing an eight year old and a toddler is not an easy task. By Sunday afternoon Miss Anna was exhausted and crashed in my parents' hammock (yes we were right there).