Saturday, July 27, 2013

Little Sister :)

Funny how you'd think I would learn :)  God is so, so patient with me as he gently nudges and guides me on the path he has designed for me.  It's as if he has this wonderful journey laid out for me and I keep getting sidetracked by my own desires.  Then, he quietly whispers, "this way, Kristen" and I see all along how he has been lining things up to bring me where I am today.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom.  The desire for motherhood was/is so strong.  When I first started on my adoption journey, I wanted a little baby.  I think that's a very natural desire.  But, God had different plans for me.  He allowed things to happen that kept me from getting a baby and used those things to change my heart.  I'm SO thankful he did because I can't even begin to imagine life without Munni.  She has been the biggest blessing and most incredible miracle that has ever happened to me.

Back in March, a bunch of Ind*a mamas came out to Ohio.  It was an amazing week of fellowship, love, and encouragement.  It was also another life changing time for me.  Up until that week, I swore I would never do another Ind*a adoption.  It was extremely difficult and I couldn't imagine putting myself through that again.  And then I saw a little boy's face on my case worker's waiting children's list.    He awakened the fire within me.   He opened the door in my heart to Ind*a once again and the passion I have for that country was revived.  Munni and I prayed for that little boy for a month.  With each passing day that we prayed for him, a vision and hope grew deep inside my heart.  About 5 weeks later, we found out that he had already been matched with a family.  I was very happy for the little boy but I also was really sad.  I realized at that moment that God wasn't finished with me and Ind*a :)

I still had the desire to be a mom to a baby boy, Joaquin.  I knew that God led me away from the Congo.  Yes, the need there is great and I applaud the families who are still pursing Congo adoption.  For me, I knew that door was closed.  I was feeling in limbo.  It wasn't a good feeling.  I kept praying and praying about where to go.  I prayed about domestic.  I prayed about other countries.  I just kept praying.  In June, I ended up having a conversation with the agency I was using for Congo about their pilot program to Niger.  It's very new and for right now, it's for babies.  It seemed like a perfect fit.  The women were having a meeting about it and told me they would know by the end of July if I could be a part of it.

About 2 weeks ago, I had a conversation with my Ind*a caseworker.  Since all of my adoption paperwork was stolen, I need some letters written so that I can finalize Munni's adoption stateside.  We started talking about Ind*a, the need of the children, the process, and all things Ind*a adoption.  I told her that I always have a flame for Ind*a- sometimes it's just a pilot light but every time I talk to her, it becomes a forest fire.  I knew from back in March that I still have a valid dossier for Ind*a.  That is HUGE.  I did more work for my dossier than I did for my masters degree!  I'm not even joking!
Anyway, we talked and talked and I knew God was leading me back to India.  She went on vacation and I told her I would pray some more and let her know when she was back.

I prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  The funny thing about Motherhood is the innate ability to look beyond yourself and to put your children's needs first.  I realized that it's not about me and my desire to have a baby.  It's about Munni and what would be best for her in the long run.  My sister all along has been advocating for me to make my second adoption another older child adoption.  She thought it would be difficult to have such a wide age range between the two.  The more I prayed about it, the more I realized I needed to completely surrender my "ideas" and to really listen and follow God's leading.  I was about 98% sure I would pursue Ind*a again, but the Niger option was still lingering.  About 2 days after I talked to my Ind*a caseworker, I heard back from the agency of the Niger program.  They said they *might* be able to squeeze me in the pilot program at the end but it wouldn't be for at least another 9 months.  The funny thing is that I wasn't sad when I got the email.  I was happy.  Actually, I was ecstatic!!!  I knew that was the last answer to my prayers.  It shut the door on Africa and opened up wide the path back to Ind*a.   I feel such an overwhelming peace.  I feel so good that Munni will have a sister who shares her heritage and culture.

So where it stands, I need to finalize Munni's adoption, update my home study, and file my I-800a.  My caseworker will be looking for a little sister off of the special needs waiting list.  She doesn't think it will be long for me to be matched.  In terms of how long the whole process will take, well, it is Ind*a so that's anybody's guess :)  I am THRILLED to be on this journey again.   I love all of the connections I've made with the other Ind*a mamas and I'm so happy to be going through this again with all of them.  The best part though?  I will bring Munni with me when I go to get her little sister.  I am overjoyed at the thought of her being able to be a part of this and to experience the love growing in our hearts for a little sister whose face we have yet to see :)

We will definitely need a ton of prayer along the way, so if you are up for another prayer journey, we would appreciate your prayers!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Coming Soon!

More details to follow!!!  Munni and I are so excited! :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Older Child Adoption....And Why You Shouldn't Fear It

I've had several people ask me about adoptiong an older child and what I thought about it.
I have a lot to say :)
First let me start by saying that when I started out on my adoption journey, I wanted a perfect, beautiful,  healthy, infant girl.  Thank you very much.  And I thought people who adopted older kids were kind of weird.  Why would they do that?  I was a classic case of a person who only thought about the big, scary, word associated with older child adoption....RAD.  That's short for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Yes, there are people who have adopted children with RAD, and I can't imagine what their journey has been like but I also know that there have been a lot of developments with how to treat it.  Anyway, I was also a first time mom so there was a HUGE part of me that wanted to experience all the baby stuff.  So after Nepal closed and God slowly warmed my heart to special needs adoption, I was still thinking I would be getting a very young child- in the 1 year to 18 month range.
And then I saw this face:

I was an emotional basket case.  When I saw her for the first time, it felt like an electrical current shot out of the computer screen and into my heart.  I could not get her out of my mind.  But honestly, I struggled with her age.  She had just turned 5 when I found her.  Some of you may be thinking, "big deal, 5" but it was a big deal to me.  I had to surrender my dreams of having a baby and that was a big surrender.  She would be my first child and for YEARS I had dreamed of having a baby girl named Sofia.  
Munni's face changed all of that.
The second day after seeing her face, I requested her file.  Reading her file got me hook, line, and sinker but I was still struggling with the surrender of my dream of having a baby.  I prayed so much over the next four days; asking God to give me the strength for that complete and total surrender, that I wanted to be aligned with his will.  And on the 4th day, he whispered to me, "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me."  I felt such peace wash over me!  I share this because this was a huge part of my heart opening to an older child adoption.
After I came to the place of complete peace, I contacted the agency and told them I wanted to move full steam ahead.  I started showing her picture to everyone.  I was so excited and to me, she was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen!  I was already so in love with her that I didn't see what other people saw.  They saw an angry, troubled, little girl who seemed like a perfect recipe for having RAD.  In fact, I had several people pull me aside and ask me if I really knew what I was doing.  The told me they were very concerned for me to adopt this little girl based on the pictures above.
I sincerely believe that I had to go through those 4 days of prayer and surrender to get to that place of peace so that when people did question me, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she was mine.  
I prayed and prayed and prayed for her.  I prayed for healing and wholeness.  I prayed for peace and joy for her.  I prayed for our relationship.  I prayed for our attachment.  I specifically prayed that from the very first moment when we met, that when I touched her, she would experience an overwhelming sense of love, peace, and safety.  God answered those prayers!!!!  We definitely connected from the first time we saw each other.
Now that she's home, I wake up every day and honestly can't believe how blessed I am that she's my daughter.

We have normal struggles but now that she understands English, the conflict resolution is soooo much easier.  The first month was the most difficult.  I attribute that to several things.  The first is all the medical stuff.  She was scared out of her mind and had no way to express that except through meltdowns.  I was a new mom, hypersensitive due to all the pre-adoption education, that I was second guessing everything I did.  Looking back, I wish I would have found the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids sooner, cut myself some slack, and trust my instincts more.  When you become a first time parent to a six year old, you don't have that reserve bank built up that natural parents do.  So it can be tricky figuring out how much of the behavior is just normal kid behavior and how much is adoption related.

What I have loved most about adopting an older child is watching her experience all her "firsts" with me!  Her first airplane ride.  Her first elevator.  Her first shower.  Her first time on the toilet (they use holes where she's from). Her first shopping trip.  Her first beach visit.  Her first swimming pool experience.  Her first bubble bath.  Her first bike.  Her first birthday party.  Her first smoothie.  Her first zoo trip.  Her first experiences with pets.  Her first jewelry.  Her first experience with electronics.  Her first ice cream.  It is such a blessing and is so incredibly fun to watch her face and her reaction when she experiences all these firsts!  Watching her discover things has reinvigorated me and caused me to stop and recognize the beauty in things I have taken for granted.  We have so much fun together and she makes jokes.  She is one of the funniest people I know!  We laugh and dance together.  We watch Bollywood dance videos and try to dance along (who needs a Wii? lol!) We sing together.  In fact, she loves the Mumford and Sons song, "I will wait."  We sing along to it together and as soon as she hears the banjo in the beginning, her face lights up and she gets so excited.  It's so cute to hear her sing with her accent.  We have the best conversations in the car.  We walk the dogs together.  We garden together.  She helps me fold the laundry.  We read books together.  We pray together.  We "cycle" practice together.  We go to the park and swing.  And while we do all these things, Munni talks on and on; her mind is constantly thinking.  She tells me, "Ma, me thinkin'!"

Another benefit of adopting an older child is that they are somewhat self-sufficient.  Yes there were/are times when I baby her because she needs it but she also likes to do things on her own.  Since I am single, this has been very helpful :)  She loves to help me carry the groceries and LOVES to help me clean!  I give her little tasks that I know she can handle and she does them with gusto!  But the best part is that having her with me, and sharing these times with her has turned the most mundane tasks into times that I enjoy and look forward to.  She also loves to help me cook and it's so fun for me to teach her!

I could go on and on about what a blessing she has been, but then you could just read my previous posts :)  She wakes up happy every single day; what could be better than that?  In fact, she has had such an influence on me that the next time I adopt, it won't be a baby :)
If you are in the process of adopting and are wondering if you should expand your age preferences, I would strongly encourage you to do it!  You are giving a child life.  You are giving a child something every child deserves- a family.  The statistics for older children remaining in orphanages are staggering. I know that at least two families "passed" on Munni because they thought she would be an angry child and would end up diagnosed with RAD.
Their loss has been my incredible gain!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Simon update :)

I took this big turkey in yesterday morning at 8 am.
He was so scared :(  When they put him in the cage, he was shaking and at first, wouldn't give me a kiss goodbye.  BUT, I managed to get one before I left.  A big, sloppy, soft Simon kiss.
And then I cried the whole way home.
It was a nerve wracking time waiting for the vet to call.  I was praying that I wouldn't get the call that he had bled out.
In order to pass the time, I called Mer.  I kept thinking I would be all non-chalant on the phone, like I wasn't worried or anything.  Until I heard her voice.  And then the lump in my throat turned into these pip squeak noises, 3 octaves higher than my normal voice.  See, Mer loves Simon too.  And he gave her ALL kinds of kisses when she came to Ohio back in March.  She is also a dog person so I didn't have to explain anything, she just gets it.
Simon LOVED Mer :)
In order to distract me we decided to do some online screen sharing of our photography stuff :)  We were in a deep conversation about aperture/shutter/exposure and composition when I got *the call*  and like a great friend, she waited on the other line the whole time I talked to them :)
Everything other people and I had been praying for Simon, was answered!
1)  The vet thinks he got the entire tumor out.  YEAH!!!!!!!!!!
2)  The surgery was easier and shorter than he anticipated.  YIPPEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
3)  Simon bled, but not a lot !  WOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!
4)  Simon *appeared* to not be in any pain when I picked him up!  DOUBLE YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I was walking out the door to go get him, my sister called me to check in on the situation.  The floodgates opened again :)  Even though I knew that he was o.k., I think the stress of the whole situation was just pouring out of me.  One thing you should know about my sister- she was very anti-dog for a long time.  She wasn't always like that though since growing up in our house we had a lot of pets.  But then she got married to a non-pet person and he won her over to the dark side.
Until Barkley came along.
He won her heart.
And that made room for Simon :)
So she was concerned for him and me and the whole situation.  So much so that she was going to postpone her trip to Atlanta so that she could go to the vet with me.  Sisterly love :)

Simon was SO happy to see me!!!!  Look at that tongue!!
He got to wear this beautiful, full leg, wrap :)
They tried to put an e-collar on him, but he wasn't havin' it.  When I went back to the cage to get him, he had already taken it off.  The vet tech tried to put it on him again and he was so violent about getting it off his head that I told her to just leave it.  It would have caused more damage to his leg.

Ahhh, relieving himself.  You can see in his face that he doesn't feel good.  And he started to tear at the bandage.
After his potty break, he went right to bed and took a huge nap.  He is spoiled :)
He was pretty good yesterday about not messing with his wrapping but this morning, I woke up to a tangled mess, so I had to take it off.  When I finally got all of it removed, he licked his ankle a ton, but not the wound so I think it was too tight.

The vet sent him home with antibiotics and a ton of pain medication for which I was very happy.  He goes back on Monday for a check up and then two weeks later for suture removal.

The type of tumor he has is supposed to be cancer but a non-spreading kind.  It's a spindle cell tumor but until the path report comes back, we won't know if it's a slow grower (most common) or an aggressive grower.

The vet told me what a surgical center recommended for treatment which in my opinion was all kinds of crazy.  They suggest radiation and if it grows back more than once, amputation.  I'm not down with that.  When it comes to pets, I'm a quality of life believer vs. quantity of life.  I told the vet that I will never amputate Simon's leg.  My family learned the hard way with our Irish Setter, Shane.  The vet pressured us into amputating his front leg (he was a 100 lb dog) assuring us that it would save his life and that he would do just fine.  We weren't sure and under extreme emotional duress and in retrospect, feel that he took advantage of that.  Anyway, a week after Shane's amputation, it turned out he had bone cancer.  We put him down to put him out of his misery of the pain and struggle of not being able to walk.  That was a horrible experience for us because we felt like we tortured our dog.  Anyway, because of that, I feel very strongly about preserving Simon and all of my pets' quality of life- even if that means I have to say goodbye sooner than I would like.

Seeing Simon back to his old self this morning, was such a relief.  He brings me so much joy :)

 He's got his sparkle back :)

It's expressions like this one that make me laugh!

He's the king of our castle....or more like the king of our shoebox :)

Thank you for all the prayers for my sweet, funny, loving Simon!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I love this dog.
I mean, I really, really, really love him.
And I know he's just a dog
 this sweet face has comforted me on many dark days
and when nothing else would make me smile, his goofy self would wiggle and do the kidney bean and make me laugh :)

So when I found out that the lump on his leg is a spindle cell tumor, I felt like I got punched in the stomach.  He will be 6 in the fall, so I was counting on spending many more years with him.   He is having surgery on Friday.  On Monday, they will start stretching the skin every day by injecting fluid around the site.
Again, I know there are serious issues in the world but if you have a heart for dogs and understand the bond between us and them, will you please pray that the vet is able to safely remove the tumor- that it is not entwined in blood vessels and that Simon won't bleed to death?  Bleeding to death is the biggest risk followed by the difficulty to close the wound.  Thank you so much!

I would like to make many more memories with this goofy boy:)

Friday, July 5, 2013


This post is more for me to remember all of the cute things she has said :)

- Ev-er-rrrrry day me no you practice cycle!
-  No, no ma, me no wants a de-cussion - (discussion)  we have discussions when there are behavioral issues! (Peaceful Parenting has been a game changer for us!)
-  oh my word! (thanks Mer!)
- me likes Simon
- me smart!
- and saturday?  (as if saturday is called, "and saturday")
-  mommy skin no pretty
-  Can I hold-ja?  (pertains to anything she wants me to hold, including when she wants me to hold HER!)
- Hold-ja please - a variation on the above
- Yummy!!  for anything she likes
- she claps at the end of each curious George and answers the video
- Buh- scuse me - after she burps
- scuse me Simon (or Rollie) - when they are in her way
- me silly girl
- and next, blah blah blah, next.....  She never says 'then' when telling a story or recounting events.  Her conjunction is always, "next!"
- You comin' with me!
- That's perfect!  Is that perfect?
- Can I snuggy?
- Jee-jus house!  Jee-jus song!
- please and thank you all the time :)
- that's cool
- I donno what to tell-ja
- me no likes__________
- I need me some Papa- when she wants to see my mom :)
- When I say, "Thank you Pumpkin, or Sweet pea, or peanut" she says, "You're welcome pumpkin" or whatever term of endearment I used :)
- I can not do it - she never uses the contraction "can't"
- You know that?  after she explains something to me
- me smoothie making
- me pool outside go