Thursday, January 5, 2012

Noonday Giveaway!

I am excited to tell you about a giveaway on my other blog and a chance for you to win a $50 gift certificate to the Noonday Collection!    It's a great ministry that sells hand-crafted items from artisans learning a craft and using it to help them overcome poverty and bless others!   In addition, Noonday works with adoptive families to help raise funds to bring children to their forever home.   This is just one example of the unique, beautiful items available:
Click here to find out more and enter the contest for a $50 gift certificate! :)  

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wading through the Worries

First things first...Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!   This was our first Christmas and New Year's celebration with Karolina!   A dream come true and an answer to prayer.  The entire holiday season has been surreal as I basked in the blessing of the gifts we had to celebrate this year.  This was Augustine's first holiday season too of course.  Here we all are wishing you a Merry Christmas:

Now, on to the update.    I've come to realize that despite my best efforts, motherhood and worry just seem to go together, to some degree, for every child.   Worries about your kids fitting in, worries they may hurt themselves after learning how to ride a bike, worries about bad influences affecting them, etc., etc.   Try as I might to relinquish the worry, it still seems to creep in.   
 As we continue to settle in to life with our daughter (going on 6 months now) we have begun to see patterns that are promising, and others that, well...make my heart worry.     I have to preface my concerns by saying that I know things will take time, I understand it may be years before Karolina adjusts to all of the monumental life changes, and it may take years for US to be able to bring out the fullest in her and develop ways that will help her blossom and thrive in her own time.   That being said, part of my own worry stems from the different feedback we are getting, both from medical, and the child development standpoint.  
Karolina is 18 months old (as of Friday)!:)   She was evaluated by early intervention and was found to be between a 6-9 month developmental level, 10-12 in others (like gross motor skills) and a below 3 months of age in reception/communication.    Daily,  I work with her by repeating the basic words "ma ma" "da da" bye bye" etc.   She has never attempted to repeat any words or phrases. At first I was very defensive when it was brought up (she heard only Polish for the first year of her life, what do people expect)?!   As time has gone on though, I do understand what the "experts" were saying, even basic sounds she still does not repeat.
I did hear a great tip about imitating HER though, so we have begun to do that.  Instead of asking her to repeat after me, I follow her lead, and imitate the sounds she babbles.  She is very attentive so I know it's sinking in, it's just a matter of it coming out. :)    

Earlier this week it was recommended that down the road,  she should be tested for a genetic abnormality.  The medical person suggested Karolina may have signs of mild mental disability.  Yet, other medical specialists have not mentioned this, and have even been encouraging.   What to make of this?    What I see before my eyes every day, is a happy, beautiful daughter whom I love with all my heart and who is taking her time on some things, but I KNOW she is aware and engaged.    Yes, I realize she's not catching up at the level that would be preferred, and this weighs heavy on a moms heart, because I take it personally now that she's home.    I have so many questions.   Is it just that she will take longer, but still be totally fine?   Will she continue to have significant delays but nothing more?  Or are we looking at a lifelong diagnosis with substantial life-changing challenges?   It's impossible to know that information TODAY.    So, I'm trying to rest in that realization and not worry.  The best we can do is love her, give her all we've got, and trust that God will carry the rest.      And  I's still very early.  We still have a lot of things left to try, and  I am excited that she will begin therapy in January.   She qualified to receive in-home occupational and speech therapy from a place the comes highly recommended and I am looking forward to getting started.    She's also continuing to get one step closer to walking!    Just this week she has been standing, sturdy as a tree trunk, independently by herself.  Look at our big girl!

All that's left is for her to put one foot in front of the other!:)    I am so, incredibly proud of our beautiful daughter.   I see her and realize how far she's come already, and it's a reminder of how much we have to celebrate.  I need to stick Matthew 6: 25 on my refrigerator for that constant reminder about the futility of worry:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Catching Up

Happy Advent!    It's hard to believe Christmas is less than a month away.   The past year has been intense, and it's been emotional to reflect on everything that has taken place since last year at this time.   Our referral, meeting Karolina, my dad's cancer diagnosis, a surprise pregnancy, the adoption of our beautiful daughter, and birth of our new son.   I still have not caught my breath just yet but,  through my newborn-induced-sleepless-haze  I am still well aware that we have much to be thankful for.   We may not be rich in monetary things, but we are rich in all that matters.   Love, family, and a God that is good.

Since my last post, many things have happened and we continue to grow as a family and adjust to the changes.  I thought I would post some pictures and do a quick little photo recap.  First, our son Augustine Lawrence was born.  I gave birth to our fourth boy on October 27.

 Karolina is a big sister!   Our family has expanded for the second time in one year.  God is good.

Karolina enjoyed her first Halloween!  She was Blessed Mother Teresa and her brother Grant was St. Francis of Assisi
 She also celebrated her first Thanksgiving!   She LOVED the sweet potatoes. :)

We have also been very busy with various medical appointments,   to get a feel for where Karolina is developmentally.   She has made huge strides since we picked her up from the orphanage in May, but there  is still a lot to figure out and assess.    This was a learning experience for me.   During the adoption process  I focused a lot on the actual adoption, bonding, and possible behavioral issues that might arise.   However,  I didn't realize  how much we would be in and out of doctors offices when we returned.   

So far it has been a positive experience, and I am very grateful to have access to good medical care nearby.  When we received Karolina's medical records,  it stated she had "absence of septum pellucidum" in her brain.    This is a rare neurological condition that can cause seizures, various disabilities, optical issues and pituitary problems.   We heard that Poland sometimes exaggerates information on the medical reports so  no parents are "surprised" and caught off guard by something that wasn't listed.  Yet, you have to be prepared that everything on the medicals is accurate until proven otherwise.
After arriving home and having her looked at, our doctors did not believe she had this condition, but a few weeks ago she had an MRI just double check.   In an answer to prayer, her scan came back perfect...she has a beautiful brain!  No problems there whatsoever.
The hearing test however, did not turn out as well.  She failed two hearing tests and will undergo a "BAERS" test in a few weeks and see if it's a brain/processing issue, or something else.     

We took her to the doctor in July and she recently went back for her 3-month follow up.  The physical therapist said in terms of her delay that she's "not closing the gap, but she IS holding her own."    Karolina will be 17 months  on November 30, and is mostly at a 9-12 month level according to the assessment charts.   She still is not walking, speaking, or doing any gestures yet but we will get there!  We have an appointment to begin work with a physical therapist next week, and the local early intervention has also been to the house and will continue as she gets on a program.  

With this new territory, I am learning new things all the time.   Her physical therapist told us that Karolina is a "W" sitter ...I had never heard of that before.   When she sits, she bends her legs behind her to get more stability, but it's actually bad for her hips. Evidently, sitting like this can cause a child to be pigeon-toed when walking, and pose orthopedic problems. Here she is in her "W" pose:
  When she does it, I've been diligently changing her position to this instead: 
 And here is one,  just for fun.  :)  Karolina being her charming, smiley self!:)   

As I mentioned in my last post, this has been such a big learning experience for all of us, but one that I embrace.  Karolina is a beautiful child and I am so proud to call her my daughter.   She has seemed to adjust to the new baby without skipping a beat.  It's been hard for me because I am a picker-upper kind of mom, and was used to carrying her EVERYWHERE with me on my hip.  I suppose it's better for her to be  more independent, working on her cruising skills, etc. but having a newborn and a toddler has been challenging.   I have learned that is a great benefit of a large family, everyone steps in and there are more people to help.  Many hands make light work!   Well...there is still a lot of work, but I'm sure glad for the team-effort of the family. ;)
It's brought us closer, even if some days are a little chaotic!   We will hit our stride in time.

I can't end this post without  mentioning fellow families still waiting or "on hold" on their journey.  Not a day goes by that we don't pray for those who are yet to be united to their children.    We pray for the children to be matched, couples to be moved to adopt, and those in positions of influence to discern the best match.  We pray for the judges, officials, Magda, and the agencies to have prudence and efficiency to be able to get families HOME to be able to start their lives together.  

It's such an agonizing feeling to live in silence.  I hope this Christmas season brings good news of great joy for the families still waiting.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Chapter, New Territory


It's been 3 1/2 months since we picked up our sweet Karolina from the orphanage in Czestochowa, and 8 weeks since she's been home with us.   The many months of waiting,  praying,  and anxious anticipation have given way to a calm rhythm.   The passage of time is a funny thing. Our adoption journey was so intense and emotional, and seemed never-ending at the time, but now it seems like so long ago.  We pray for the families still waiting, and I hope for the same experience, that the sacrifice and waiting are worth every second, and dulled by the joy of what's to come.     I can hardly remember life before Karolina was here, and grafted on to our hearts.  I don't think a day has gone by that I haven't gotten teary-eyed at some point looking at her,    in awe of God's amazing hand in our lives and the fact that she is actually HERE.   

Her personality and development have blossomed over the past month. I need to make a record of specific dates and milestones of her achievements because she is growing so quickly. That being said, since arriving home, our lives have been filled with a flurry of medical assessments, doctors appointments, referrals to specialists and long days in waiting rooms. Sometimes I question if it's all necessary. So much so, that I recently cancelled a scheduled MRI because I just wasn't convinced the need was justified (and after consulting with her specialist).   She was born 6 weeks premature, and with a medical condition that may, or may not affect her brain. At this point, she is not showing any signs of a neurological defect, except for some general delays. So, I seem to vacillate between immense pride in her accomplishments, and fear and worry over her being slightly delayed. When we picked her up she was 11 months old and couldn't sit up on her own, crawl or use a pincher grasp. Now, she's 14 months old and crawling, standing (with help), using her fine motor skills to eat Cheerios and even scooting up the stairs!   

Pretty remarkable in my book. However, her Pediatrician is concerned that she's still not saying any basic words (like "dada").     With her doing so many physical things, I'm not surprised she is behind verbally, and coupled with the heard she only heard Polish until we picked her up...I still have faith she'll communicate normally in her own time.   I just wish I knew of a support group a way to connect with other families who have been, or are going through, the same things. This is new territory and I feel inadequate to understand it all.    I know she is smart, so my gut instinct tells me that with continued love and stimulation she will catch up. But, I would feel forever guilty if I was negligent in an area and missed something that could be corrected with early intervention. Although she is our fourth child, I feel like a novice and have been driven to my knees a lot lately, asking the Lord for wisdom and direction.

To add another twist, our surprise miracle baby is due at the end of next month. So, I'm half expecting to gain a little more confidence, just in time our lives to be shaken up all over again. Ha. :)      I say that with a grateful heart, I just pray for energy and teamwork with Jim to know how to juggle it all. God is good...great is thy faithfulness and rich in kindness is He,  and I trust Him implicitly with all he has blessed us with...crosses and crowns, in drought and abundance. I'm hoping to update this blog a little more now, and can't wait to see the community of Polish adoptive families share good news to come. I know there will be much to celebrate in the coming months and I can't wait to see it all unfold.    

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Official!

Court proceedings went great and Karolina is now legally our daughter!:)  Overjoyed!!    You can read the recap and see the photos here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We are Here!

Warmest greeting from Czestochowa, Poland!    My apologies for being MIA on the blog.  I have another  "every day" blog where I have been updating our adventures, but haven't had a chance to update this one.  I was hoping to cover more of the logistical angles here, and I'm hoping to do that this week.   Anyway, we are with our precious Karolina and tomorrow is our court date!   We arrived on Memorial Day weekend and picked her up on Sunday, May 29... "Gotcha Day!"
You can follow our updates  here, and then by clicking "newer entries."   I pray this is an eventful, happy summer for all other waiting families too.  We are REALLY excited for Heidi and her family to meet their new additions in a few days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meeting Karolina!

What a whirlwind!   On April 12 we left the states for Poland.  Our trip was nearly 24 hours but we were energized with the realization that we were on our way to our little girl!   We had a layover in Amsterdam and flew into Warsaw where we waited for a driver to take us to the region where Karolina is.  It was a 4 hour drive and gave us a great opportunity to see the sights along the way.   There were so many thoughts going through my mind, most of all the amazing way that God lead us to Poland, so far outside of our little bubble and in a way that only He could've ordained.  Over and over I just kept thanking God for this experience, and Karolina.

Our hotel was clean and nice.   The currency is the Polish zloty, and the exchange rate was very good (as opposed to the Euro).   Magda met us there and we felt we were meeting someone familiar after hearing so much about her from other families!    She was just as delightful as we had hoped.  

After we got cleaned up, she took us straight to the orphanage to meet...(as my heart skipped a beat) our daughter!   When we arrived we met with officials and were impressed with the cleanliness and atmosphere of the room.  They told us about Karolina, I cried and asked questions and then they asked if we would like to meet her.    Are you kidding?!   Jim and I looked at each other with our palms sweating and our knees knocking.   We nervously awaited her arrival until the door finally opened with a little bundle wrapped in a pink blanket.   They unwrapped her...and there SHE WAS!   What a beautiful face!   Her skin was so perfect!   Her cuddly body was so healthy and strong!      

We held her and I prepared myself that she might not look me in the eye or respond with affection.  In our adoption classes, we were told to expect that might happen,  and we understood completely.  However, she DID look me in the eyes AND SHE SMILED!    Here are our first photos together:

In the days ahead we bonded beautifully.  Thanks be to God.   We spent a lot of time together just falling in love. 

 Here is one video where a spontaneous moment made her laugh (and made me cry tears of joy). :)  I will forever cherish this video.  
Our last day was excruciating.   We knew the sooner we went home, hopefully the sooner we would return for her.   However, I never expected to bond with her so quickly, so completely.  We held her, prayed over her and I sang to her, hoping chisel every last detail into my memory for safe-keeping.

  It was devastating to say goodbye.  I didn't sleep for days and had a harder time than I had even expected.   I think the woman on our flight to Amsterdam  may have thought I was losing it.    I was sobbing one minute, and then hysterically laughing because the person next to Jim bit into an apple and shot juice across the isle into his eye and on his face.    I had tears of laughter and sorrow at the same's been a while since that has happened!   Lol.    

It's impossible to adequately convey our gratitude to Lina, Magda, and everyone involved for changing our lives for the better, forever.     There were moments of impatience on my end, and of lack of understanding in the process, but I have learned a lot and have a greater appreciation for the entire journey.        In the beginning we were so fearful of the cost, and although it was a valid concern, I realized then when God calls, God will provide, and He truly has.    Holding her, everything else seemed to fall away, and I realized the things I often place value in, are of little value at all.  Every single penny we spent, and will spend was more than worth it.     Clothes and eating out, vacations and cell phones are all nice, but I would sacrifice it all again in a heartbeat, in order to experience the joy and love that has come with Karolina.     

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change