Saturday, March 31, 2012


Cooper Immanuel Patterson
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Cooper Immanuel is named after his very special late Nana, Betty Immel.  When my mom unexpectedly passed away Dec. 23, 2011, we knew we wanted to name Cooper after her.  “Immanuel” is the closest we could get to “Immel”, plus it means, “God with us”.
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Conner Christian Patterson
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Conner Christian is named after his beloved late sister, Chrissie (Christyn).  “Christian” is the masculine form of “Christyn”, meaning one who holds Christ in his/her heart.
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On March 30, 2012, we officially adopted Cooper and Conner  in the state of Texas (in addition to their adoption in Ukraine). The boys will now have Texas birth certificates.  Yeehaw!

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Whew, can we call it quits now?  I’m exhausted!

Psalm 127:3
Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tricycling and Worshipping. Priceless.

Selah had her sedated brain MRI and skull CT scans yesterday, but we won’t find out the results until April 5, when we meet with the neurosurgeon and craniofacial surgeon.  The results will determine whether or not Selah will need the second phase or her skull reconstruction.  We’re praying God will (or already has) miraculously healed Selah’s skull so beautifully to where she won’t even need phase 2 of her skull reconstruction.  Jehovah Rapha is able!!!


Selah never does well with restraints, nor with anesthesia.  Together, the two make for a VERY unhappy, stressed little girl, for hours…until we get to the car, away from hospital staff, where Selah knows she’s safe.  I love that she knows she’s safe with us, I just wish she didn’t have to endure yucky hospital visits and sedations at all. 


Once we got home from our 6.5 hour hospital excursion, Selah was ready to PLAY.  She ran to meet Kiefer and hop on his tricycle so he could push her around.  I love these kiddos so much.  My heart swells with delight to see the sibling relationships God is knitting within our family.  Here’s a video of Kiefer pushing Selah on his tricycle (Conner and Cooper are also sitting outside watching the action):


Today we are readopting Conner and Cooper so that they will have Texas birth certificates, and so I will be listed as their mom on their birth certificates.  Because Matt adopted as a married individual in Ukraine (since we filed our dossier that way so I wouldn’t have to travel to Ukraine since Selah was supposed to have phase 2 of her skull reconstruction last fall, at the same time we were supposed to be traveling), I was not able to officially adopt the boys in Ukraine, only Matt could.  Because only Matt adopted the boys (even though I ended up traveling), I need to readopt the boys in the US.  And, because only one parent legally adopted the boys in Ukraine, Conner and Cooper didn’t enter the US as American citizens, like they would have if we had both adopted them in Ukraine.  In order to become American citizens, I need to readopt them, then apply for US citizenship.  (BTW, if you adopt internationally, I highly recommend readoption in the US.  This will allow you to easily obtain your child’s birth certificate in the future, as you would be able to get it from whatever state you readopt in.)


Before I close, I wanted to share the video below of Cooper worshipping at church last Sunday.  He LOVES the music, and we all just melt when he voluntarily starts clapping to the beat and/or flapping his arms up and down with excitement.  I haven’t been able to fully capture this on video, but the short clip below shows Cooper flapping his arms with excitement at the same time the worship leader sings, “We are FREE”!!!  Priceless.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Casts are on!

Cooper has both of his casts on now, using the Ponseti method of repair for his bilateral club feet. I was surprised to discover the casting position requires bent knees for Cooper for at least six weeks. He will get a new cast every Wednesday, with hopes that his feet will begin moving into a less clubbed position over a six week period.

If the casts work, after six weeks of castings, Cooper will have surgery to clip his heel cord, then be in casts for three more weeks.

If that works and Cooper's feet are no longer clubbed after this nine week procedure, he will be fitted for shoes with bars/braces between them that he will wear every night for three years.

Would you please keep praying for my friend's custody trial for her foster son? I was able to testify yesterday (Tuesday) because the judge and attorneys agreed to my being called out of order since I couldn't come back in the near future due to my schedule. He trial will resume tomorrow (Thursday), but Selah (our 17-month-old) has a sedated brain MRI tomorrow, so I won't be present at the trial. Just keep praying for birth mom's rights to be terminated and for my friend to be filled with His wisdom and His peace that passes all understanding.

Thank you so much!

Castings today

Cooper is in the process of getting his first casts today as he begins the Ponseti method of repair for his bilateral club feet.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Continue praying!

Thank you all for praying for my friend's custody battle with her foster son. I am not allowed to discuss the case, because the judge invoked The Rule, but it is public record that the case will resume Tuesday March 27 at 11:30AM.

If you're in the Houston area and would like to show your support of justice, adoption, fostering, and love, please send me a message and I'll give you the address of where to go and where to sit in court to support my awesome friend.

Keep praying for birth mom's rights to be terminated, as that is in the best interest of the child.

Thank you!

Sent from Lorraine's iPhone

Pray Today

Please keep my friend Nicole in your prayers today. She's been foster mom to "A" for almost two years now, and today is the final custody hearing for "A". Nicole is an AWESOME mom who has done an amazing job nursing "A" back to health and restoration. Thank you for lifting them up today!

Sent from Lorraine's iPhone

Friday, March 23, 2012

AGGHHH, More Ukrainian Delays!!!

When you adopt from Ukraine, one of the rules of Ukraine is that the adoptive parent(s) register the Ukrainian child(ren) with the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA after you enter the US with the child(ren). 


While at the US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, to obtain Conner’s and Cooper’s visas, the Ukrainian office gave us the forms necessary to register the boys with the Ukrainian Embassy after we entered the US.  We were told we must register them within 30 days of entering the US.  These forms were given to us March 2.  We entered the US March 3.


Because I didn’t want to risk forgetting to register the boys, I decided to take care of this task before we left for the hospital, which was just one day after entering the US with the boys.  I filled out all of the Ukrainian forms (that were given to me by the Ukrainian officer in Kyiv), made copies of everything, gathered all of the required documentation, included the boys’ original passports, along with a stamped return envelope (so the boys’ passports can be mailed back to me), and then mailed all of the paperwork to the correct address to the Consular Office of the Embassy of Ukraine to the USA. 


Yesterday I received a letter in the mail from the Consular’s Office.  Here’s what it said:


The Consular Office of the Embassy of Ukraine has received your registration documents, but we can’t use them because you sent us the old form.

Starting from January 1, 2012, the registration rules were changed.  Please visit our web-page.  There you can find the  new information regarding required documents for consular registration.


I am not even kidding you!!!  Those who either live in Ukraine, have visited Ukraine, have adopted from Ukraine, or have dealt with Ukraine in any way will most likely laugh out loud as you read this!!!  Me, not so much.  I’m screaming out loud.  My words were, “I cannot believe this.  Oh, wait, I mean I can believe this, but we’re in the USA now.  Oh, but wait, we’re dealing with the Ukrainian Embassy.  So, this is normal, but I still can’t believe this.  Oh, wait, yes I can.”  And, remember, the forms I sent in were given to me by a Ukrainian office in Kyiv on March 2, but apparently the rules and requirements changed January 1.  AGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!


The letter included a copy of the new forms (only one copy was included, but I have to fill out two copies because we adopted two non-related children), but the other problem is that the forms are entirely in Ukrainian.  Yep, not kidding there either.  Not a word of English on any of the pages.  These forms are specifically created for American adoptive families to register their Ukrainian children with the Consular Office.  I’m sure I’m not the only non-Ukrainian speaking/reading adoptive family who must fill out these forms!!!  Hmmmm, one would think there would be an English translation in there since the forms are for Americans, but, then again, we are dealing with Ukraine…in America.


So, just in case you’re in the same situation I’m in, click HERE for the NEW registration forms, along with a sample form you can print out to help decipher what info goes where on the Ukrainian forms.


Ugh, I just thought we were done with Ukrainian delays, but apparently Ukraine followed us home. Smile

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Joyful Noise…and Club Feet :-)

I woke this morning to such a joyful noise:  the sound of laughter over the baby monitor, compliments of Conner and Cooper.  BOTH boys reminding me before my eyes even opened that THIS is the day the Lord has made, let us REJOICE and be GLAD in it!  Hallelujah! 



Cooper had his visit with the pediatric orthopedist yesterday to examine his club feet.  We spent FIVE hours there!!!  WOW!  First, Cooper had MANY x-rays of both feet, probably about 10-12 in all.  Then we waited to see the specialist.  While we waited, we visited with a nurse and social worker who came in to check on Cooper’s needs.  Finally, the doctor made it in (along with an orthotics maker), and determined that he needed more x-rays before he could make any decisions regarding a plan of action.


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So, off we went for more pics.  This time, the x-rays were of Cooper’s hips and spine and neck region, about 10-12 more pictures.  The iPad rescued us because Cooper had to do some flexion x-rays where he had to look in various directions to have his spine and neck in various positions.  We never would have gotten Cooper to cooperate with this if it weren’t for the videos on the iPad.  All I had to do was hold the iPad wherever they needed him to look, and voila, Cooper held his body in the perfect pose for each x-ray! 


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We went back to the peds ortho after the second round of x-rays, then he shared his thoughts with us. 


Both of Cooper’s feet are clubbed, which keep him from being able to walk.  His feet scored in the SEVERE category.  Dr. D has never repaired club feet on a 6-year-old child because in America, club foot repair begins shortly after birth. 


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Dr. D decided to approach Cooper’s case as if he’s a two-year-old because of his size.  He’s hoping his bones and such will respond like a two-year-old’s would. 


So, the plan is for Cooper is to follow the Ponseti method, which begins with a 6-week series of castings.  The casts will be changed weekly, slowly bending his feet into a more normal position over the course of six weeks.  Hopefully Cooper will start this treatment next week.  (BTW, God made a miraculous opening yesterday for Cooper to see this specialist, who is booking six months out!)


After the six weeks of castings, Cooper will have surgery to “clip the heel”, which I believe is cutting a ligament, but not exactly sure.  Haven’t had time to research this yet.


After surgery, Cooper will be in a cast for three weeks, then he will wear shoes with a bar/brace in between them for a total of three YEARS.  Most of the time, the special brace only has to be worn at night, but sometimes the shoes must be worn 23 out of 24 hours for the first three months. 


No one is able to determine how Cooper’s case will turn out at this point since this  method of correction usually begins within 7-10 days of birth.  We’d love for you to join us in praying for the miraculous healing that our Jehovah Rapha provides, for His glory.


Oh, and we received a surprise discovery while at the orthopedist’s office.   Based upon his interpretation of Cooper’s various x-rays, Dr. D believes that Cooper does NOT have rickets!!!  The hospital specialists diagnosed both Cooper and Conner with Rickett’s based upon the extremely low amount of Vitamin D in their systems.  We’ve been told by numerous specialists that they’ve never seen Vitamin D levels as low as what Conner’s and Cooper’s tests reveal, which would mean it would be nearly impossible NOT to have rickets.  The hospital specialists felt the boys didn’t need x-rays to prove they have rickets since the Vitamin D levels were nearly non-existent.  So, if Dr. D is correct, this is a miracle for Cooper!!!


I’ll finish this post with some pictures of our beautiful baby Selah (17 months old now).  Please remember her in your prayers as she will undergo a sedated in-depth brain MRI in the hospital next Thursday, March 29.  Sedation is never fun for this sweet girl.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day

Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day.  I have to admit that until this year, I never really noticed this day before, but I’m so grateful today to have my eyes opened to the blessing of that 21st chromosome.  Our newest sons, who have Down syndrome, are still so new to us, and we’re still in the post-adoption transition phase, so I haven’t even had a chance to see what I should be trying to do today on World Down Syndrome Day. 

I do know that YOU can get in on this blessing by clicking HERE.  You’ll be blessed to see countless faces that sport that awesome designer gene!

Click HERE to learn more about a fabulous way you can help orphans around the world, many who have Down syndrome…AND, you might just win yourself some awesome prizes while you’re at it, including the new iPad 3!!!

Just for kicks, I thought I’d share a little of what March (beginning this week) and April look like as far as appointments go for our family (see list below).  I truly feel so very grateful to have this schedule, to take various kids to various appointments, to be taking our newest sons to various specialists to try to give them the best life possible.  Many people may not realize that being a full-time mom is one of life’s greatest blessings.  I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom (or on-the-go mom).  Thank you, God, for allowing me to be in this position.  May You be glorified in ALL things, including busy schedules and many appointments for the treasures you’ve entrusted to me on this earth.

March 19
  • Conner check up with pediatrician
  • Cooper check up with pediatrician

March 19
  • Conner ENT (hearing test)

March 20
  • Asher dentist
  • Ella dentist
  • Kiefer dentist
  • Naomi dentist
  • Lorraine dentist

March 21
  • Cooper pediatric orthopedist (club feet specialist)

March 26
  • Lorraine testify in friend’s foster child custody case

March 27
  • Cavities filled at dentist (Asher, Ella, Naomi)

March 28
  • Cooper blood draw (labs checking for refeeding syndrome)
  • Conner blood draw (labs checking for refeeding syndrome)

March 29
  • Selah sedated in-depth MRI at Dell Children’s hospital (out patient)

March 30
  • Readopt Conner and Cooper

April 3
  • Asher pediatrician
  • Kiefer’s Gotcha Day

April 4
  • Conner pediatric ophthalmologist
  • Cooper pediatric ophthalmologist

April 5
  • Selah 7-month post-op exam with craniofacial surgeon and neurosurgeon to determine if she must have phase 2 of skull reconstruction
  • Sawyer’s birthday

April 8
  • Easter

April 9
  • Conner follow up with ENT
  • Sawyer audiology exam with ENT (hearing test)

April 18
  • Selah well check with pediatrician

April 28
  • Two year anniversary of day that Chrissie bossed her heart

Still to schedule:  Sawyer and Mom vision tests.  Also waiting to hear back from the pediatric dentist regarding appointments for Cooper and Conner.  Cooper has a TON of cavities that will need to be fixed in the hospital under anesthesia.  I also still have to figure out therapies for Conner and Cooper.  Still working on getting an agency to provide in-home therapy, but, so far, all of the in-home therapy providers only accept Medicaid (not private insurance).  So far, the boys don’t qualify for Medicaid due to our income.  Praying and waiting to see if God has another plan for Conner’s and Cooper’s therapies.  Grateful that Selah’s ex-physical therapist (Selah graduated from PT) has offered her services to the boys for FREE.  One therapy down, 3 to go (OT, speech, feeding). Go God!

Well, happy World Down Syndrome Day!  I pray your life will be touched today by someone with the blessing of that extra special chromosome!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Cooper and Conner had check ups/follow up appointments with our pediatrician Monday morning.  Conner failed his hearing test.  (They used the infant hearing test that doesn’t require active feedback/input/following instructions from the patient.)  The peds recommended we follow up with a peds ENT doctor.


I called the ENT doc when we left the pediatrician’s office, and they happened to have a cancellation occur just before I called, so we snagged that opening.  Conner had his hearing tested with an audiologist at the ENT’s office, and he basically failed that test as well.


The test revealed that Conner can hear some sounds, but not all sounds.  They did a test that detects the amount of movement the eardrum has, which revealed very little movement (not good).  This made the doctor suspect there’s fluid hiding behind Conner’s eardrum, which could be the source for poor hearing and poor movement of the eardrum.


The ENT put Conner on an antibiotic for 2 weeks that works about 70% of the time to clear up fluid.  If the fluid clears up with the antibiotic, we should see an increase in Conner’s ability to hear. 


If there’s not an increase in Conner’s hearing after his course of antibiotics, we will need to consider ear tubes.  And if the ear tubes don’t increase hearing, we will need to consider hearing aids.


The discovery of Conner’s hearing issues might explain why the orphanage staff felt like Cooper was so much more high functioning than Conner.  I don’t know, but it’s something to consider.  If Conner couldn’t/can’t hear, that would explain a lot about his development delays (in addition to being left in a crib 24/7).  Poor little guy!!!


Please be praying that God will give Conner the gift of hearing.  It would be awesome if God would heal Conner’s hearing the same way He healed his heart.


BTW, the ENT was amazed that neither boys has any heart issues.  He kept commenting on the percentage of children with Down syndrome who have heart issues, and how rare it would be to adopt two boys with Ds with neither one having a heart issue.  Then we realized that in Ukraine, most of the children with Down syndrome who have heart issues don’t live to be six years old.  They would normally die of heart failure since people with Down syndrome are not allowed to be treated in most Ukrainian hospitals.  So sad.  Praise God for healing Conner’s heart and allowing Cooper’s heart to be healthy.


We adore these precious gifts from God!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Singing Praises!

Today is the two week anniversary of the boys being in Texas.  Eight of those days were spent in the hospital, but the boys are catching up quickly.  All that was stolen from them is already starting to be restored.


In just two weeks of being home, Conner (age 6.7 YEARS) went from weighing just 16 pounds to now weighing 20 pounds 1 ounce!!!  He has gained FOUR pounds in two weeks!


Cooper (age 6.9 YEARS) went from weighing 21 pounds to now weighing 26 pounds 6 ounces!!!  In just two weeks, Cooper has gained a little over FIVE pounds!!!


The boys’ hospital pediatrician called yesterday to let me know that their blood results are not showing signs of refeeding syndrome (huge praise), but there are some things that are still “off”, which is what she expected to see.  Conner’s liver enzymes were still elevated, but the levels are decreasing with time, which is good.  Hopefully they’ll be in the normal range soon.  Both boys kidneys are still stressed and working hard, but with more water intake, hopefully this will continue to decrease to a normal range.  Cooper’s iron level is still EXTREMELY low (anemic), but they expect that to increase over time, as he’s now receiving an iron supplement.


We praise God for these encouraging results, and for His protection of the boys and their bodies/organs as they begin to receive proper nutrition.


Cooper is consistently using the potty during waking hours.  This is not something we’ve taught him, in fact, he’s taught us!  He was apparently trained at the orphanage to use the toilet, so as long as we set him on the potty, he goes!  Yippee!  One thing he does that just totally cracks him up (and proves he’s all boy!) is squirting urine (on purpose) all over the room!  Every one of our boys (and yours, too, most likely) has done this at some point in their toddler years, thinking it’s such fun to have the ability to spray the room with urine.  We’ve now discovered that it’s best to give Cooper a toy that requires two hands to hold so his little hands are occupied while he uses the bathroom.  This helps reduce the likelihood of urine being sprayed about, accompanied by the most adorable laugh ever.


The other thing Cooper does that I think is just precious is that he laughs BEFORE he does something he knows he’s not supposed to.  You can just watch his little mind thinking things through.  During meals, when I’m feeding him baby food, he likes to sputter and spit and crack up when the food splatters everywhere.  That’s great fun for Cooper.  Well, he now knows we don’t like this behavior, so each time he takes a bite, we can just see the wheels turning in his mind.  He controls his behavior (by not spitting and sputtering the food out), but he just laughs and laughs and laughs as he THINKS about spitting it out!!!  I just love learning about this boy!



Conner continues to prefer very little stimulation.  I think he’d stay in his crib all day if we’d allow it.  It seems his favorite other place to be (besides his crib) is in a jumparoo (see video above).  He doesn’t jump in it though, he rocks himself.  Conner is a sweet snuggle bug who we all adore.


I wanted to share with you a blessing that felt like God reached out and gave me a big ole hug.  About a month or so ago, a local family gave our family a brand new beautiful cherry wood baby crib.  We had planned to use Pack-n-Plays for the boys, but this gift was one we couldn’t resist.  So then another friend delivered a different crib when she heard we were looking for a second crib.  The second crib was used, and it didn’t match the first crib (it was a honey colored pine Jenny Lind crib), but we really didn’t mind a bit.  We were just grateful that both boys would have cribs, and that both families donated these cribs to us.


Well, I discovered that the second crib had been recalled, so I followed the steps to filing the claim in order to have a safe crib.  Well, I was STUNNED when a BRAND NEW crib arrived that is IDENTICAL to the first crib we were given!!!  (I had no say in this, I simply filled out the forms, expecting to receive another Jenny Lind crib.)  We now have identical cherry wood cribs for the boys!!!  This was nothing short of a sweet blessing straight from God.  He continues to provide in abundance for Conner and Cooper.  (Did I mention before that a Facebook friend sent bedding for both boys?!?!  LOVE it!!!)

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Today is a day full of our singing praises to our King of kings!

Friday, March 16, 2012

So Happy Our Boys Are Home…

Many of you have asked about how Conner got his black eye that is in a few of our photos.  I had written a post about it, but hid the post because our adoption hadn’t been finalized and I didn’t want it to jeopardize our case in any way.  Click HERE to read that post and draw your own conclusion about how Conner got his black eye.  I’m just glad he’s home and in our care now.  Praise God for protecting and delivering this sweet bundle of love.


Speaking of bundles of love, I took the photo below of our boys’ feet while they were sleeping together at the hospital.  I just LOVE those precious tootsies!!!


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Conner and Cooper are doing well.  Both boys are meeting their nutritional intake requirements (32 ounces of nutrition drink for Conner and 40 ounces for Cooper), and we’re figuring out what each boy needs in order to not be overstimulated.


Conner enjoys sitting in this Little Tikes car on our porch.  He doesn’t push the car around, but he enjoys opening and closing the car door all by himself. Smile  Conner CRAVES much more down time than Cooper, and he basically falls apart if he gets overstimulated.  He cries the most pitiful cry I’ve ever heard and seen, a cry that won’t stop until Conner gets into a quiet, safe place.  So, so, so sad, but I’m grateful he cries because many orphans completely lose their voice when no one responds to their cries day in and day out.

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Thursday was blood draw day for both boys.  We took them to our “local” (30 minutes from home) lab.  Mattie was my helper, and the boys adore her.  She was tickling them and “getting them” (you know that I’m gonna get you game that we all play with babies?), and both Conner and Cooper just laughed and laughed.

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Until it was time to get blood drawn.  Cooper went first, not by his choosing, but because he bleeds easier, so I figured we should get his out of the way.  Sure enough, one stick, some tears and fussing, and about 2 minutes later, Cooper was all done.  I held Cooper in my lap for his blood draw, then Mattie took him and held him outside the little room we were in while Conner got his blood drawn.


Conner is HARD to get blood from, for many reasons.  Oh how he cried and cried and cried.  I think he cries just as much (or more) because he’s so angry about being restrained than the actual pain of the needle sticking him.  He HATES to be restrained.  He doesn’t like anything touching him, unless it’s on his terms.  He pushes away blankets, toys, food, drink, people…anything at all, unless he decides for himself that he wants something.  I’ve found that holding Conner in my lap with him facing outward, away from me, helps him feel safe, but when people are coming at him with needles and tourniquets, he totally freaks.


Needless to say, after two pokes accompanied by MANY scream and tears, complete with sweat, the lab tech hoped she had gathered enough blood to complete Conner’s blood tests.  We won’t know until Friday afternoon if it was enough because the blood had to be sent out for testing.


After the blood draws, Conner had an extremely difficult time regulating himself.  He throws fits that are directed at injuring himself.  He bangs his head, hits his head, picks the skin off his thumb until it bleeds, and stims crazily.  Poor guy.  I know God will redeem this precious boy, restoring him to a healthy place in God’s perfect timing.


I just feel SOOOOOOO grateful to parent these boys.  So grateful for all the ways God is opening eyes to the plight of the orphan.  It seems like every person who sees Conner falls in love with him and wants to know how to help orphans like him, the neglected, malnourished, near-death orphans who have no voice of their own.  I praise God for the opportunities He’s opening through Conner, for the testimony He’s building through our precious sons.  God loves His children dearly.  He has not forgotten them.  He will not leave us as orphans, He will come to us (John 14:18).  Praise Him for His unfailing love and faithfulness.  Sooooooo happy our boys are HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Just wanted to thank all of you who left comments, emailed, and Facebooked me with advice on transitioning Conner and Cooper into family life.


Our second full day at home (after the 8 day hospitalization) went much smoother for all of us.  Here are the things I decided to do to help the boys transition:

  • I decided to feed the boys in their bedroom.  Our house is full of joyful noise, our kitchen is always hoppin’, and there’s just not a room in the house that’s guaranteed to be quiet and serene, except the boys’ bedroom.  Conner is currently required to drink 32 ounces of his nutrition drink, and Cooper is required to drink 40 ounces of his nutrition drink. When the boys are overstimulated, they don’t want to eat or drink.  Moving the meals to their bedroom (and putting the main focus on drinking the nutrition drinks over eating with a spoon (which is more stressful for the boys than drinking is)) helped TREMENDOUSLY.  Both boys met their intake requirements on Day 2, praise God.
  • I put the boys in their cribs from 1-4PM, which they LOVED.  At their orphanage, all of the children were put into their sleeping cribs, in a dark, quiet room for “nap time” from Noon-4PMish.  I decided I’d stick with this schedule as best as possible for now.
  • I’m planning to set up a pack-n-play (or two), and maybe even their pop-up sleep tents in our family area downstairs.  MANY people recommended this, as it’s a way for the boys to calm down, yet still be included with family. 
  • I spent time in the boys’ room with them while they were in their cribs.  This is what happened at their orphanage.  The children were in cribs in the room that has windows while the “caregivers” read their newspapers and cleaned the room, watered the plants, etc.  So, I spent time doing my chores in the boys’ room while they sat and stood in their cribs.  This was a big hit because it allowed us to stay connected, yet we were in a calm, quiet, serene environment.  I got lots done, and the boys got good calm time.  (Neither boy showed any signs of wanting to get out of their cribs, not even when I would go to their cribs and hold out my arms, gesturing that I wanted to pick them up.)  Conner stimmed (self stimulated) most of the time, while Cooper sort-of played with some toys.  Conner doesn’t know how to play with toys at all, nor does he care to learn how…yet.  Hopefully that will change with time.  Cooper will hold toys in his hands, feeling them, and then he uses them to stim.
  • The most helpful piece of advice I received made me view this transition differently.   This person made an analogy of being overstimulated to the refeeding syndrome.  While refeeding syndrome was/is a huge risk as the boys’ bodies learn to digest food after being starved, the same thing is happening with the boys in terms of how they were starved for love, affection, and attention.  To bombard their delicate systems with an overload of things they’re not used to (lots of love, attention, play time, cuddle time, chaotic family life) would be to put their little bodies at risk in a similar way that their systems are at risk of refeeding syndrome.  While we WANT to immediately give the boys excellent nutrition and tons of love, we have to approach these transitions slowly and cautiously, giving their systems time to process and digest these changes, slowly, but surely.


Both boys must get their labs drawn today to check for symptoms of refeeding syndrome.  We’re going to attempt to do this outpatient at a lab nearby (well, 30 minutes away, but that’s nearby since we live in the boondocks).  Since the boys’ veins clamp down and collapse, I would greatly appreciate prayer that both boys will be able to get their blood drawn with just one stick.  And, of course, prayers that both boys will not have any signs/symptoms of refeeding sydrome/organ failure.


I have a feeling this outing will be WAY overload for the boys, so please pray for them to be able to calm down and recover quickly.


I also wanted to note that with all of our adoptions, we’ve always kept each child’s world small.  What I mean by that is that we have always tried to reduce the amount of stressors in each adopted child’s life (especially when they’re newly home) because simply being home and in a family is a huge stress to a child who hasn’t been living with a family and/or in a home.  We’ve chosen to not have visitors, to not go in public, to not attend church outside our home, to home school, to help our children experience a safe life in, in a safe family, in a safe home, in a safe world.  Usually, that means staying home, home, home, having little to no visitors, and having a consistent schedule with as little chaos as possible.  I highly recommend this for ALL families adopting, whether you’re adopting domestically or internationally, whether you’re adopted a young child or an older child, whether you’re adopting special needs or not.  This is important for ALL children transitioning home.


Another thing I’d like to address is sensory issues in adopted children.  Our two biological sons had sensory integration dysfunction way back when, both had occupational therapy for it, and The Out of Sync Child was almost as important as my Bible!!!  So, sensory issues don’t just occur in adopted children, BUT children who have lived in orphanages and institutions are extremely likely to have sensory issues.  I HIGHLY recommend two books to help with this:  The Out of Sync Child and The Out of Sync Child Has Fun.


On another note, I’d just like to thank our older kids for stepping up and helping in so many ways.  They played the role of Mom and Dad for a total of 5 weeks (while Matt and I were in Ukraine), then another 8 days while the boys were hospitalized, and now that we’re home, I feel like God has blessed me with lots of extra teammates.  Everyone pitches in so incredibly well that everything gets done even when I never mention the need for something to be done.  I’m so very grateful for the many helping hands and loving hearts God has blessed us with.  Thank you, Parker, Mattie, Meribeth, Sawyer, and Naomi for all you do to make our family FANTABULOUS.  We love you and are so proud to have you as our children.


And speaking of children, Kiefer (age 3) and Selah (age 1) have missed their mommy more than I realized.  While they’re adjusting to having new siblings, Kiefer and Selah have been extra cuddly with Mommy.  I’m loving having these extra cuddles, extra rocking time, extra kisses, extra hugs, and extra lovin’.  They’re doing GREAT accepting Conner and Cooper.  Kiefer LOVES to be a helper.  Selah is too young to understand everything, but she’s doing a fabulous job of sharing Mommy, even when she’d prefer to have Mommy all to herself. 


And, last, but not least, I want to thank the MANY friends and family members who blessed our kiddos with meals over the last 2 months!!!  I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to all of the many people who came alongside our family during this time.  Your service and gifts are greatly appreciated.  And to the many people who have donated to make this adoption possible, THANK YOU.  And to the folks who have donated clothing, baby supplies, bedroom furniture, bedding, and gear for our newest sons, THANK YOU.  God has seriously shown off through this adoption, more than He’s ever done with any of our other adoptions.  You, the hands and feet of Christ, have seriously blessed us beyond measure. 


We humbly thank you from the depths of our hearts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Hate Institutionalism

Check out this video of Cooper during dinner last night, our first night home from the hospital.  (The reason there’s no food on his tray is because he only eats baby food and drinks nutrition drinks.  He had already eaten, and was enjoying dinner time with his new family.)  This shows the JOY of being in a family.  I hate that Cooper’s and Conner’s first six years were spent in an institution where they were confined to their cribs pretty much 24/7.  I LOVE this video of redemption.


However, redemption is a process most of the time.  Today was our first full day home from the hospital.  Both boys are doing well, but I need some advice from the pros out there who have walked this path of bringing older children home from institutions where their lives had purely been living in a crib with no stimulation 24/7.  


Today was a bit overwhelming for all of us as we try to navigate this new family life.  Although it went very well, we’re realizing we now have 6-YEAR-old special needs “twins” (they’re not biologically related, but only a month apart in age), but both boys are very much like 6-MONTH-old twins.  This is going to take a little practice on our part to figure out what works best for institutionalized special needs kiddos whom we absolutely adore.  The thing I’m struggling with most is my emotions toward what these boys lived for 6 years versus what I want to immediately give them:  love, love, love, family, family, family, attention, attention, attention.  Unfortunately, what I want to give them seems to be overwhelming them, rightly so, given what they’ve lived for 6 years.  I hate institutionalism.


Both boys need to be fed baby food (and because they don’t particularly like it, this makes feeding times challenging ), both boys are in diapers, both boys cannot walk, and both boys seem to need a series of several naps or down times throughout the day, just like an infant.  6-YEAR-olds in 6-MONTH-old bodies, which is totally fine with us, we’re just needing to figure out how to best make life roll around here, easing the boys into life in a family vs. life in a crib 24/7 at an institution, plus figuring out how to best meet the boys’ needs.  I hate institutionalism. 


My day was spent focused on trying to make sure both boys got their daily intake of their nutrition drinks and baby foods, which, of course, takes a full day to accomplish.  At the end of the day, I realized that our schedule is very much like bringing home infant twins.  Drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper (literally, that many times), then bath, and then bed.  Maybe I need to substitute crib time for some of the play times.  I’m So.Very.Grateful for this opportunity to mother these precious babes.  I just want to mother them in the way they need it, which may not be the way I see it.


If you adopted a bed-ridden, institutionalized child, what things did you do to ease the transition to family life?  Cooper and Conner seem way overstimulated (rightly so), but I feel terrible at simply the thought of putting them in their cribs any other time than bed time.  I want them with us at all times, learning, playing, singing, loving, catching up on 6 years that were stolen, but then I see that both boys seem totally overwhelmed at times.  I guess my aching heart would feel better if I could just get it through my thick skull that the boys need a slow transition to family life, instead of tossing them right in to tons of love 24/7!!!


There are times that just holding the boys and singing to them seems far too much for their sweet little brains and bodies.  Institutionalism stinks.  My heart aches at the thought of leaving our boys in their cribs during waking hours, but my heart also hurts to see them overwhelmed and overstimulated.  I need advice from those who have walked this path, and I know there are lots of you out there.  Smile


Should I begin this transition with set times for “detoxing” in their cribs, especially after high stimulation times in our day?  Out of crib one hour/in crib 30 minutes--or out of crib 3 hours/in crib 1 hour--or in crib during traditional nap time and out of crib all other times--or something entirely different?


In hindsight, being in the hospital for 8 days not only healed Cooper’s and Conner’s physical bodies, but it helped ease them into life outside of their institution.  They still hung out in their crib almost 24/7, but I was right there 24/7, reading them stories, singing to them, holding them in short intervals (because they were attached to IV poles and there were so many specialists always coming in and out), and, of course, watching educational videos on their DVD players when they were awake.  Now, should I be doing something similar to this at home so that they’re not so overwhelmed with family life?!?!


OK, now that I’ve established just how much I hate the effects of institutional life, I beg you to PLEASE check out my friend’s HUGE fundraiser/giveaway, known as Mulligan Stew.  Lots of people have been asking me how they can help, how they can serve, where they can start to make a difference in the lives of helpless, mistreated, neglected, malnourished orphans like Conner and Cooper.  Click HERE to find yourself a great place to start making a difference today.


And thanks for praying for us as we figure this new family life out.  I know God’s already got it all figured out, and He’ll gently lead us in the direction He knows we need to go.  Grateful for all of the support He’s given us through people like you who are praying for us, loving us, sending notes of encouragement.  Thank you!!!

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