Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy GOTCHA Day - One Year Later!!!


One year ago today I walked into an orphanage as anxious as a mother in labor. I walked out with our sweet little Gracie in my arms and the feeling was surreal.  Today was an emotional day as I looked back at the pictures from that day and from the past year.

It's hard to believe Gracie has been with us for a whole year. You can look back and read all about our journey here and throughout my blog. Our sweet girl has grown, blossomed, learned to walk, learned to trust, learned to love and to be loved.

I know her first four years were hard and lonely, but God led us down the road to her and we are doing everything we can to give those years back to her.

Thank you for being a part of our journey!


video


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Adoption Day

One year ago today a judge in Bulgaria granted the adoption of our daughter!

One year ago today after a nearly sleepless night of prayers I woke up and immediately checked my email. This is the email I was looking for:

Your adoption was granted in court today!!!!

Shelley
It was short and sweet but said just what I needed it to. It meant we were officially a family of six and we would be on our way to bring our daughter home soon.

I immediately started to cry. I had no reason to think our adoption would not be granted. It was more of a relief. It had been four months since we met Gracie and we were longing to bring her home. The adoption process is long and hard, but oh so worth it!

Today, one year later, I stand in my kitchen making pancakes with two sweet four year olds at my feet. Gracie just came up to me and put her arms up. I picked her up, she smiled at me and we danced around the kitchen to the Blues Clues "we just got a letter" song. All is right in our world today.

One year ago today she had no idea. No idea that she became a daughter and a sister. But today, she knows.

One year ago today our family was preparing to spend Christmas without one of our children. We purchased an adoption ornament and put it on the tree for her. This year, she put her special ornament on the tree. I can't believe it's been a year. Oh what a year it's been!



 


Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nine Months

Nine months ago today was Gracie's GOTCHA Day!! Nine months.

It has been an amazing 2013 having her in our family. In many ways it has been just like having a newborn. The first few months were blissful, then we hit some tough months of adjustment and testing boundaries and now everyone is settled in and we have established a new normal for our household.

There have been so many changes this year. In January we brought Gracie home. In June our oldest son graduated from high school and in August he moved out of state to begin college. Gracie and her little brother also started school. It seemed like every time we got settled into a norm, that norm (or the path of our wind) would change.

With so much going on in our family combined with many doctors and therapy appointments, I just haven't had the time or motivation to blog. Some people have mentioned that they miss the updates. I understand that. I used to feel the same way when people I was following stopped blogging after they came home. Now, I understand.

Gracie is amazing! She has adjusted well. Most of the stimming and hyper vigilant behaviors she had at first are gone. There are still a couple of things we need to work on. Mainly, teeth grinding. She also likes to put her cup or toys up to the side of her face and ear and shakes them against her face. I'm pretty sure she has some sensory issues that we need to work on. Her teacher has mentioned there are things at school that she doesn't like to touch.  I had her in private therapy throughout the summer, but stopped when she started school. I now can see that she still needs more therapy than she is getting at school. Last week I called to get her back in therapy and should get her on a new schedule this week.

Some other things that have "gone away" since she came home are the medical conditions that we were told she had. All of her medical reports and doctors told us she was deaf, had hypothyroidism and had an infection with fluid around her heart. Since being home she has had tubes placed and can hear 100%, has had labs done to confirm that she does not have hypothyroidism and was taken off of the medication and has been cleared by the cardiologist.

Gracie has changed so much. We have a picture of her framed and hanging on the wall of what she looked like when we first met her. It's shocking. She is hard to recognize in that photo.

Gracie has now gained 12 pounds. She was only 19 pounds when we brought her home. She is now 31 pounds and only 5 pounds lighter than her "little" brother. When I look at her growth chart at the doctors office I can't help but smile and be amazed. I've seen how the line usually gradually climbs over the months and years, but Gracie's chart is much different. The line on her chart shoots straight up.

Yesterday was an amazing, special day. We celebrated Gracie's baptism. God led us to her through adoption. Yesterday we gave her the gift of knowing Him and receiving His Grace.

She received a special lamb from a family friend who told us that our adoption reminded her of this parable:

Luke 15:4   If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
We are so thankful that we were able to discern His plan for our family and go where He led us to bring our daughter home. She will now know of His love for her and will not be lost.
  
9 Months Ago

Baptism Day


We also took family photos this weekend. These are the first family photos since Gracie has been home and they are so beautiful and special. I can't wait to update my blog with a new look.


Blessings!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Freedom, Family & Fun

As we celebrate the 4th of July, we think of our freedom and what it means to be an American. Each year we enjoy our family, have BBQ's, watch fireworks, swim and vacation at this time of year.

This 4th of July is different for our family. We have a new family member who was not born an American and did not know freedom and family at all this time last year.

I have not been blogging much lately. I have to say I have been spending my time getting to know our little blossoming princess and really bonding with her. She makes it so easy to bond with her and to love her. As these first five months have passed we have settled into our new routine and established our new normal as a family of six.

I will admit it took some time and it was not all easy. There are still moments that are stressful, but we had those moments before Gracie was in our family.

Her face lights up when we come into her bedroom in the morning. Her face lights up when we get home from work. Her face lights up when we walk into the room...even though we may have only been away for a few moments. She is a bright and joyful blessing who lights up our days.

As we celebrate the 4th of July, I can't help but think of where Gracie came from. I can't help but think of what she looked like just ten months ago when we first met her. In August 2012 a little girl was brought into an orphanage playroom to meet us. She was a tiny three year old. She had no expression on her face. She had no fat or muscle on her body. She had no voice. She had no family.


Looking back on this picture I remember how terrified I was at the time. I was not sure how we would connect with her. I was afraid that she would always be this way and we would not be able to undo the damage of neglect and malnutrition.



TEN MONTHS LATER...



AFTER FIVE MONTHS AT HOME...










I don't know which pictures make me want to cry the most. I know that I have to fight the urge to cry every time I look at them though. I know that my heart and stomach do a butterfly dance when I look at the change and progression that have taken place in such a short amount of time. I am continually in awe at how God led us to this child who is so perfect and meant to be ours. Continually, I will praise Him. 

Gracie now has freedom, family and fun. She has life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She is no longer bound by the four walls of an orphanage, but surrounded by family and friends. She is an American. She is a treasured daughter.

She's our little FIRECRACKER!! Our bright SPARKLER!! 

Happy 4th of July!!!


 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two Months HOME

We have been home with Gracie for two months and I am amazed at all that has happened. I am so glad that I have these measurements and pictures to show me the changes. Since we see her every day it is harder to see the changes. I know she is growing. I know she is happy. I know she is learning.

She is now receiving therapy every week: occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy. Every week we see marked improvement. She can now drink from a honey bear straw cup, she can now stand and take about 3 steps, she can now play with toys more appropriately, she can now touch food, she can now chew food, she can now swallow without choking.

The orphanage behaviors have greatly decreased. The stimming, screaming over food, rocking, not wanting to be held, shoveling food into her mouth, hand flapping, chewing on everything, ...all of it has decreased so much that sometimes I'm surprised when I see her do these things.

We have visited many doctors and therapists since she has been home and now I feel like we have relief. Cardiologist, ENT, Audiologist, Pediatrician, Adoption Clinic, Orthotics. The upcoming appointments include: surgery to put tubes in her ears next Monday (she has fluid and moderate hearing loss), orthotics will be ready in two weeks, and endocrine appointment is beginning of May. We have also started the referral process with the school. I am not sure if she will start this school year or next, but I am open to seeing what happens.




First Day Home
One Month Home
Two Months Home
Weight
20 lbs
22 lbs
25 lbs
Height
33"
34"
34"
Head Circumference
17"
18.25"
18.5"
Upper Arm
4"
6"
6.25"
Forearm
4"
5.75"
6.25"
Thigh
7"
9"
10"
Calf
5"
6"
6.75"
Chest
18"
19"
19.25"
Waist
16"
19"
20.5"
Feet
4.5"
4.75"
4.75"
Clothing Size
12 months
18 months
18 months


Five pounds of weight packed on in two months. Four and a half inches gained around her waist in two months. One and a half inches gained in her head circumference in two months (do you suppose her brain is growing-how cool is that?). Three inches around her thigh gained in two months. These numbers just shock me. I never would have imagined this kind of gain would occur so quickly.

These pictures really force us to see what is hard to see on a day to day basis. This child is blossoming emotionally and physically. Seeing the change over a period of two months is really encouraging us.






Take a look at those love handles!!!

The little girl that we met for the first time seven months ago...
 
 ...now has life and love like never before!!


When I take the measurements...when I take the photos...when I compare them side by side...I get so emotional. There are hard moments. There are hard days. The journey has been exhausting. Look at this girl. She is worth every single thing we did to give her family, love, happiness and so much more. What a blessing she has been to us! We are so thankful that God gave her to us!!


 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Day You Were Born

Dear Gracie,

Today is the day you were born. Four years ago, in a country far away, your birth parents welcomed you into the world. Although we know very little about that day, I imagine what that day was like.

I know that you were their first child and they must have been so excited and anxious to meet you. I know that you were born via cesarean section and they must have been nervous. I know that you weighed 6lbs 9oz and were 19.69 inches long. I know that you were born in good health and that you were made perfectly by a God who loves you and knew everything about every cell in your body. I know that God had plans for you and that those plans included us even though we didn't know it at the time.

I imagine your birth mother holding you and crying over the emotion and excitement of the day. I imagine your birth father letting you grasp his finger as he smiled over you.

I wonder when and how the news came. The news that you were born with Down syndrome. The news that would crush them and their dreams for you. The news that didn't have to be as scary and sad as it was, but they had no way to know. I know this feeling. I lived it and it was hard. I trusted God's plan when your brother was born and I now know that His plan for us included you.

I know that your birth parents are thinking of you today. I know their hearts are hurting and they will think of you and wonder about you often, especially on this day. I know they visited you for the last time on your 2nd birthday. Today is your 4th birthday and I am praying for them. I am praying for them to have peace. I am praying for them to know that you are loved and taken care of and have a family. I pray that they know the Lord and they can find comfort in Him.

Today we celebrate all of your birthdays...1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th. Happy 4th Birthday Gracie! We Love You!!

Love,
Mommy









Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Month at HOME


Gotcha day was on January 21st. A special day surrounded by a lot of chaos and stress. I'm sure you can remember...if not read about it here.  We were so happy to have our Gracie, but by mid week I was ready to be home. January 26th we walked into our home and introduced Gracie to her new and permanent life.


I wanted to update you one month from the day we came home for a couple of reasons: numbers and pictures. On January 26th we took pictures of Gracie and measurements so that we could remember where she had been and celebrate the changes that we knew were to come.

As I took her measurements today my eyes filled with tears. How can this be? How can these numbers be right? Can a child really grow this quickly? I know they can. I've seen even more drastic changes in other children adopted in the same (and worse) circumstances.  But when my daughter has changed in such a way before my very own eyes...unbelievable. See for yourself.




First Day Home One Month Later
Weight 20 lbs 22 lbs
Height 33” 34”
Head Circumference 17” 18.25"
Upper Arm 4” 6”
Forearm 4” 5.75”
Thigh 7” 9”
Calf 5” 6”
Chest 18” 19”
Waist 16” 19”
Feet 4.5” 4.75”
Clothing size 12 months 18 months

All of these numbers stun me. I expected to see change, but this much so quickly surprised me. I never would have expected the size of her head to change so much if even at all within one month!!! Over an inch difference...in one month!!! Her waist...well, I knew that would change. Without a doubt I knew her waist size would increase, but 3" is shocking to me!!

Please, look at what a family can do for a child! I am not sharing this to brag on what we have done for Gracie. I am sharing this to inspire others. An orphanage...an institution...is no place for a child!

We still have a long road ahead of us. Gracie is progressing so quickly and amazes us everyday. She is such a smart girl who was never allowed or encouraged to learn and grow. Now she is making up for lost time and she is unstoppable. I can look in her eyes and just tell when something clicks.

You saw the changes in the numbers, now see them in the pictures.