Nadia's 3yr. "Gotcha Day" anniversary was this past Tuesday, June 17, 2013! Woo Hoo!
It got me thinking of all the things having Nadia has taught me and our family the last three years.
When we first met her, the only information we had about Nadia was that she was "quiet and healthy."
We also had our experience with our other daughter with Down syndrome which gave us a sense that we "knew" about Nadia even before we met her.
Both of those assumptions of "known" information were false...as we were soon to find out.:)
So here is my ever growing list of "Things I have Learned since Nadia joined our Family":
1. Children sharing the same label or disability can be as different as night and day.
While Josi is somewhat reserved and quiet in new situations... Nadia is wide open and raring to go.
You have to "earn" the privilege of being hugged by Josi....Nadia gives hugs away freely (and perhaps a hair pull just to let you know how much she 'likes' you.)
Josi is compassionate and concerned when someone is hurting...Nadia is usually the one perpetrating the hurt but has recently shown remorse for her offenses. :)
Bottom line: Please don't make the mistake of grouping people with Down syndrome(or any disability) into the same category by saying things like, "Oh, they're all so loving." or "They are never in bad moods" because like all people, they have unique, God-given temperaments and personalities that make them one-of-a-kind...like the 'rest' of us.
My one grandmother used to say that Josi is an angel sent from Heaven. I told Josi this recently and she looked at me incredulously and said, "I'm not an angel!" To which I replied, "I know you're not!" (It had been a particularly difficult homeschool morning so this exchange was hilarious and had Michael and I laughing through lunchtime.)
2.Shoes are Optional
One of the things that initially drove me nuts was getting Nadia all dressed to go somewhere and have her remove her shoes and hair bows as soon as I pulled out of the driveway. I even bought lace-up hi-tops in hopes that she wouldn't be able to remove those...wrong. If the girl can figure out how to remove the slats from under her mattress then she can certainly remove any type of shoe known to man. So, after much scolding and gnashing of teeth (MINE), I decided this was not a battle to have with a smart, strong-willed preschooler.
Most of Nadia's shoes and hair ties are stashed somewhere in the car so that they can be put on when we arrive at our destination. At the end of school this year, her bus driver gave me (literally) a complete handful of the hair doo-dads she had strewn about the bus throughout the year. Thankfully shoes are easier to keep track of but I'm sure the drivers and teachers deserve a raise for all the times they've put Nadia's shoes back on to and from school. :)
3. Depending on God and Having a Sense of Humor are NOT Optional
(Warning: This first story may have too much information for my male readers)
So, I'm driving back to NC from PA and we stopped at a busy rest area in Maryland. I took both girls into the bathroom with me and had Nadia go potty first. After getting her taken care of, I assisted Josi in making sure her pad was on right for the long car ride. It's finally my turn and as I am in mid-pee, Nadia decides to jail break the door and make a run for it. I yelled for Josi to go capture the little escapee as I finished my business with the door wide open. This kind of thing used to make me want to cry and complain about how hard my life is, but honestly, after 3yrs. of some of the hardest parenting moments I've ever known, my best response is to just LAUGH! It really is funny and everyone I've told this story to has laughed out loud...so laughing is apparently the appropriate response to these situations....because the alternative is depressing and draining.
(Are you laughing right now? If not...check your pulse.)
I've also been brought to a place of realizing that I'm not equipped to do this parenting thing without my Heavenly Father--the perfect parent. Nadia has been a complete puzzle in a lot of areas as we CONTINUE to try to figure out what causes certain behaviors, why she isn't talking when we know she's very smart, why she doesn't sleep very well, etc. I could drive myself nuts trying to figure these things out or worse try to "fix" them.
I have learned that true contentment can only come with complete trust in God and in accepting the situations He's allowing and knowing that He's got it figured out...and when it's time...I will too.
I spent the first year or so trying to turn Nadia into something she wasn't...not accepting her for who she was because who she was, wasn't developing "fast" enough to make life easier for me. I'm not proud of that statement but it's the truth.
I am almost 50yrs. old and I have never been busier as a parent with any of my children. It's draining,and at times overwhelming, but as God has worked with me to see how immensely rewarding it can be to trust Him fully with the details, I am learning to be content with who Nadia is no matter how 'far behind' she might be. Which leads me to #4 in what I've learned...
4. Verbal Communication is Highly Overrated
Nadia has about 15 words and numerous signs but she will only use them if you ask her to repeat you. However, there are very few situations where we can't figure out what she wants or needs. Would it be easier if she were communicating by talking now? Sure.
I used to think the 'talking' aspect of a child's development was a necessary benchmark to gauge her intelligence level. Having Nadia has taught me to emphasize what is truly important vs. what culture deems important. She can let us know what she needs and she knows that we are going to meet her needs, which is way more important (especially to a former orphan) than correct pronunciation or how many words she has at a certain age. Learning to "chill" in this area has been huge for me and I'm thankful for the change in my paradigm that raising Nadia has allowed.
6. Healthy is a relative term
When we first received Nadia's file in Ukraine, we were told she was born with an open oval window in her heart. This was a little bit of a surprise but in no means a "deal breaker". Thankfully, it had closed on its own and she hasn't had any major medical issues since we're home, but she's certainly had her fair share of doctor and hospital visits over the last 3yrs. which is something I initially dreaded because of my experiences with Josi in this area.
Here is another difference between our 2 girls. Josi has always been deathly afraid of anything medical. Doctors, needles, band-aids, etc. used to send her into a full-blown tizzy. We used to joke that if her childhood constipation issues got too bad, all we had to do was walk into the lobby at the dr's office because she immediately had to use the bathroom every. single. time. And it wasn't a quiet "Psst...Mommy, I have to use the bathroom." It was take 2 steps into the lobby, grab yourself and yell "POTTY!!!" at the top of your lungs. She has kicked, hit, bit, and spit on medical personnel as I apologized profusely and left those appointments vowing never to step foot in another doctor's office again. EVER. (Are you laughing now? Because it took me many years not to dread these visits and their predictable results...and no I wasn't laughing then.)
Thankfully, she has matured into a wonderful patient and even the dentist no longer needs to take her in the "special room" so that other patients don't realize how truly horrifying going to the dentist can be. :)
Nadia on the other hand enters all appointments and hospital visits like she enters most other situations. "Who can I hug?" "What can I knock over and destroy?" "Will there be snacks?"
I thought it was so wonderful that she was playing quietly with this remote at her last surgery pre-op (ear tubes, allergy testing, and turbinate reduction) until the nurse came back and said she was ringing the nurse's station every few seconds!! (Oh yes, I certainly laughed at that one!)
There are many, many other little (and big) lessons I've learned and am still learning along this journey with our Ukranian Princess. But for now, I leave you with the biggest one:
No child, no matter how difficult they may be to parent, deserves to live out their life in a mental institution (which is where Nadia would probably be by now). As I watch the waiting children on Reece's Rainbow and see how many are facing transfer to a mental institution because they've aged out of the "Baby House", or those getting ready to turn 16 and AGE OUT of the system for good, only to be given a few dollars and cast out into the streets, I can't help but wonder who will be the ones to step out of their parenting comfort zone and take in what could be a difficult child to parent? Are there days when I wish I could rewind our family's life to 3yrs. ago? I'd be lying if I said the thought never crosses my mind.
But the thought that pervades my thinking more often is how much our lives have changed for the better because of adopting Nadia.
This verse sums it up for me:
1 Peter 1:7
King James Version (KJV)
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
I met my good friend, Jenn, when we were both adopting our girls from Ukraine. We happened to have the same social worker and so when she mentioned to me that another family was adopting from Ukraine and that they lived 4 blocks away, I was so excited!
3yrs. later, we are still good friends as we share in the ups and downs of loving these Ukrainian sweethearts as they adjust to life outside of an institution.
Jenn and her husband have decided to add 2 more precious babes rockin' that extra chromosome to their family!!! Look at these 2 cuties! On the left is Riley and on the right is Danny.
This time they are heading to a different country, and just like last time, it will take thousands and thousands of dollars to complete their international adoption.
So here's where YOU get to participate in God's call on ALL our lives to minister to the orphan.
Jenn is having a fun giveaway over on her blog. It's a Wii U valued at $385.00 and you can receive a chance at winning it by donating the equivalent of 2 Starbucks drinks, or a few Happy Meals. The more you donate, the more chances you get to win this new, in the box, entertainment system! I'm sure everyone out there can sacrifice a few dollars to build up the Wojcik's adoption fund, but if not, you can also win a "chance" by sharing her fundraiser information on your blog, FB, Twitter, or whatever else is out there that I don't know about. :)
So, hop on over to Jenn's blog and put in your donation entries. Don't wait, don't put it off, you're just a few clicks away from making a difference in the lives of 2 orphans who desperately need to be in a family--so go for it!!! And THANK YOU!!!
This is what usually happens when I try to get a "nice" picture of all 4 kiddos...
1 out of the 4 is smiling and ready.
Have no idea what little girl is doing...not to mention the eldest who is supposed to be helping her be "picture ready"--yeesh! And Josi? Well, let's just say I stopped fighting that battle about 100 rolls of film ago. ha ha ha
Allen's interpretation of, "Please try to get Nadia to look forward."
My perfect picture poser has turned into a "deer-in-the-headlights" imitator.
And Josi...yeah, uh, no comment. :)
This is the best one of the bunch so we'll call this one a keeper. :)
Whether they are photogenic or not, they are mine and I love 'em!
Having a Birthday! It's not until Monday but we will be partying all weekend long.
The table is set.
The cake is baked!
(Josi LOVES Reese's Peanut Butter Cups so when I showed her a picture of this Peanut Butter Boston Creme Cake she wanted me to make it--I hope it tastes as good as it looks. yummo!)
The balloons are blown up and I even splurged for that extra inner coating stuff to make the balloons last all weekend on into her birthday on Monday the 11th! (It's probably a big, fat, gyp but I wanted to try it.)
And here she is! The one whom we'll be celebrating this weekend!
15 years! WOW!
Looking forward to a weekend of good friends, family, and good times!
For those of you Groundhog's Day Enthusiasts, you know that tomorrow is the BIG DAY for that squatty-looking, furry figure to come out of his hollow and predict whether we will have 6 more weeks of winter (which I'm voting for), or an early end to winter (boo).
I actually have a friend whose favorite holiday is Groundhog's Day (yes, I know, I have weird friends...but in my sphere of influence, weird is actually a positive quality trait!). His Mom used to make him a groundhog cake to celebrate...not actually made out of groundhog...at least I don't think so! I've even come across a few Groundhog's Day Cards that I've sent to him over the years and I always try to call to let him know I'm thinking of him on this special day. That's what friends do...at least the weird ones. :)
For those of you who aren't Groundhog's Day Enthusiasts, here are a few fun facts about tomorrow:
In an early morning ceremony, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will rise as he has for 125 years from his heated burrow at Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., and signal to his handlers whether or not he sees his shadow. No shadow means an early end to winter. And if the groundhog does see his shadow? Six more long weeks of the season. Over the years that the ceremony has taken place, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and not seen it only 17. (Records don’t exist for every year.) In 2008, the crowd heartily booed the prospect of “six more weeks of winter”.
So the big question on everyone's minds tomorrow morning will be...."Will He or Won't He see his shadow?"
While this is all fun and good and I for one enjoy the lighter side of our human existence at times, it made me think of other situations where the same question is asked with greater consequences, "Will he or won't he?" (he will be used as the accepted generic he/she for the rest of this blog post)
"Will he pick me to be on his team during recess or will I be the last one picked again?"
"Will he pick me to be invited to his party everyone is talking about or will I be home alone again?"
"Will he ask what's bothering me or will I just be ignored as usual?"
"Will he pick me for the job or will I just get another rejection letter?"
Or the heavy-duty, gut-wrenching, unspoken question that anyone who's adopted from an orphanage has seen on the faces of the ones not yet chosen...
"Will he pick me this time or will I be passed over once again?"
No one who has entered into the stark rooms of an orphanage to pick up their child can EVER forget the looks on those faces, and the questions behind those haunting eyes....pleading, begging...and in some cases... dreadfully resigned to their hideous plight.
Here are some facts compiled in 2012 regarding orphans:
It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report.) The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include abandonment (millions of children) as well as sold and/or trafficked children. The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers…
According to data released in 2003 as many as eight million boys and girls around the world live in institutional care. Some studies have found that violence in residential institutions is six times higher than violence in foster care, and that children in group care are almost four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children in family based care.
Every day 5,760 more children become orphans
Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but… Each year 14, 505, 000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen
Each day 38,493 orphans age out
Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home Studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals
Another study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years…
No phone calls or cards to celebrate their homecoming.
No cakes being baked to let them know they are special.
So this begs yet another question: What can I do to help?
A lot of times the only thing standing between a family answering the, "Will He or Won't He?" question to adopt, is finances. They are willing but not always able because of that one obstacle. I think almost anyone reading this post could answer yes to being able to give something...anything...no matter how big or small....in order for a child to be given the answer they've been longing for as they languish in an orphanage day after day...YES HE WILL COME FOR ME!
We adopted through an organization called Reece's Rainbow. If you click on that red link, you will find a tab for all the waiting children...hundreds of them...who could all use a donation in their account. Your donation might just be the tipping point for a family whose been watching and praying over adopting that child to finally say YES, WE WILL!!
Yes, I'll be curious to find out if we have 6 more weeks of winter tomorrow morning, but I'll be over the moon excited to find out about that next child who has been committed to by a family who was willing AND able to do so!
Happy Groundhog's Day Todd, and hopefully Happy Gotcha Day to many, many children in this upcoming year!
We've had strep throat lurking around our house. Nadia was the first to come down with it last weekend.
She went from a runny nose on Friday morning to a full blown case of strep by Saturday morning...poor baby. She couldn't keep her hands out of her mouth so anyone who held her during her non-diagnosed, contagious time was highly exposed.
So far, my niece and I have both come down with it as well. :(
All I can say is, "Thank God for antibiotics!"
She is a new person just a few days later as she gets ready to go to school.
"Bye Mom, hope you feel better...take a nap today ok?" Yes, I will!!!
Praying this one doesn't get it! (I think the four-legged one is immune) Josi and illnesses go together like oil and water...like Republicans and Democrats...like NC State fans and Carolina fans....ok, you get the picture. Prayers would be appreciated. :) :) :)
We are a sports loving family, and one of the things we've been missing are our family outings to the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Games!
(For those of you non-sports people--there was a player lockout, that lasted 116 days, that ended recently once management and players agreed on a new contract...or something like that)
Last night was our first home game!
We dressed in our Hurricanes' Gear and eagerly anticipated leaving to be there in time for the puck drop.
(I know Nadia doesn't look too excited but trust me...she is)
Almost the whole gang is ready...waiting on the eldest and the leader of the pack.
(Nadia's not sure why she has to pose for pictures when we said we were leaving soon)
Josi and Michael, however, are doing their best to pose AND manage the wiggly worm.
"OK, I'm smiling...now can I get down and get in the car?"
"One more? OK, but that's it puleease!"
"Woo Hoo! Here we go! GO CANES!
So we ended up losing...handily...to the Tampa Bay Lightning. BUT, that's not why we go...although a win is definitely the icing on the cake.
We love the family memories we are making and also the awareness that is made possible when crowds see our 2 girls out doing what other girls their age might be doing with their families.
Oh sure, we get some stares and a few double-takes now and then (not often, though), but mostly we get opportunities for a conversation here and there about special needs, adoption, inclusion, etc. and usually lots of smiles when people see our 2 beauties cheering on the CANES like the rest of the fans!
Just a small, fun way we can espouse the positives of special needs in our little neck of the woods... which is always a Win!
"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways: we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness. It should rather be an expression of breathless expectation."- Oswald Chambers
I am a Northern Gal transplanted in the South for over 20 years now. I have a wonderful husband who is the best partner God could have given me. I have 4 terrific kiddos--3 born from my womb and one born in my heart through adoption. Join me as I chronicle our lives as newly adoptive parents and as we navigate our new normal of having 2 daughters with Down syndrome.