Wednesday, December 23, 2009

AWAY IN A MANGER

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Words cannot express how happy I am this Christmas season. Since our journey to Ukraine, Mike and I both see things so differently than we ever have before. We see others needs and our excess. We see that life isn't about things but about people. We see that our lives are so short, and we only have a short time to make an impact for Christ. We see that little things DO NOT MATTER!! ONLY what we do for Christ will last. We don't sweat the small stuff anymore (or at least much anymore) :)

We are so blessed to have this little life entrusted to us this year. Last year when I made my New Year's Resolution I wanted this to be the year. I prayed that God would allow me to see my little girl by Christmas in 2009. PRAISE BE TO GOD, He granted my request. Laurel is such a joy in our life. Challenging sometimes? Yes, but anything worth having is. She is like a little sponge. She soaks up every word, action, motion and song. How wonderful that we have been allowed the privaledge to teach her about our Lord Jesus. Who would have thought just 3 short months ago she was in an orphanage, never having heard about Jesus, never having hope of a Mama or Daddy and never having had a Christmas. Well my friends I can say happily that ALL of that has changed! PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sweetest Words Ever Heard

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So do you want to hear the sweetest words ever?? Just click on the video above. Laurel is REALLY trying her best to talk and has lots of new words in just the last few days. We are praying that these hearing aids will do the trick for her and if the last week is any indication then she's quickly on her way to speech and language. I could not be prouder of this little girl. She is the toughest thing I have ever seen and I love being her Mommy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

HO HO HO

A little lost Reindeer
Brother & Sister

Picking out a Christmas Tree


The cutest 2 shepherds in the Christmas play

Can you believe it's almost Christmas?? It has been a while since I updated so I'll give you all a quick rundown of the craziness of our lives right now. Laurel & Noah loved helping us pick out a Christmas tree at a local farm. We love our tree! The babies have been to 2 Christmas parades which they LOVED!! Laurel thought it was the neatest thing that candy was being thrown from vehicles to her. She would definately have been flattened if we had let her go.
We had a church Christmas party which was a lot of fun. The kids sang Away in a Manger while dressed as shepherds. Too cute!! Laurel actually stood up there (probably b/c I had to sing it) but she still did great. Noah proceeded to give Laurel a thorough dental exam on stage while singing it. I just had to laugh. He's definately headed to be a dentist.
We also had Laurel's MRI this week. We decided on a full brain MRI due to the fact that her records in Ukraine showed hydrocephaly. We didn't get the results back for the brain scan but found out her nerves and ear parts are all there! She is a good candidate for a Cochlear Implant if the hearing aids don't work. She is saying : off, up, brother (trying), bye bye, hot and attempting other words. We are praying these are all good signs. She doesn't bother her hearing aids hardly at all now and we are even going with the pilot hat now.
Thanks for checking in. More update later...... we are off at 5am to go work at a wearhouse for Operation Christmas Child.




Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wired for Sound


We are wired for sound!! Yesterday (Tuesday) Laurel got her hearing aids. They are so cute- pink of course. The picture above is of Laurel after she got them. We bought her a recommended Pilot Cap from a place called Hannah Andersson. It ties under the chin and works great. I wish I could have videoed the look on her face when she actually "heard" for the first time. Her eyes were huge. Laurel amazes me. She is such a trooper. We were at the hospital for 2 1/2 hrs. and she was golden. But, I should have known it was too good to be true. She screamed the entire way home- 1 hr of screaming. I'm pretty sure she was in overload.
This morning she woke up happy as ever and let me put the hearing aids in. I'm not seeing a huge difference yet but it's only been a day. Please pray with us that this will help her! I'll update a picture of the hearing aids themselves later when I get a chance.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Weekend of Walks

A ride on a tractor
A Walk in the woods

A walk in the wagon
No he wasn't choking her!




We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with all our friends and family. Yes, it was busy but Hey, aren't all Holidays? In between huge meals, we tried to go for some walks in the woods with the babies and walk off all those extra calories. Heres to trying! We found a beautiful place in the woods that the kids loved climbing on the trees and playing in the leaves. As you can see from the picture directly above, it was exhausting. :)
ps: In medical news...... LAUREL GETS HER HEARING AIDS TUESDAY!!! We are so excited but guarded b/c we know she still may have to go to Cochlear Implants in order to make sense of the new sounds she will be hearing. We truly appreciate your prayers about this matter. We'd love nothing more than she be able to hear on Tuesday and begin to learn to talk. She has done really well in the last week with language. She now says "bye bye" and "Pa Pa" for Poppy!! She making all sorts of new sounds. Also, on a positive note, her loud screaming (or talking as she thinks it is) seems to have calmed down some now that she makes some sense of her language.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING





Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Boy, we have so much to be thankful for this year. Last year at this time it was only a dream to say "in 2009 I'd wish I could have my little girl here". By God's grace it really happened. The longer I look back at our process and all that it entailed, the more I see God's sovereign hand and how he directed our path. Yes, there were dark times and times of uncertainty but I can say with my whole heart that God takes care of His children. If we wait upon Him, we WILL rise up with wings as eagles. I praise God this season of thanks for my family.Also for my parents, sister, in laws and extended family. My church family and my many friends that I have made through this adoption journey. It is to be truly a HAPPY THANKSGIVING.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MAJOR UPDATE




Hi out there in Blogger land. It's been a while since we've updated but our lives have been crazy the past couple of weeks. An update on Laurel: Sunday, Laurel was dedicated to the Lord and some of our family was able to be there to see it. A very special day indeed!! Yesterday (Monday) we had a marathon day. At 9am the CDSA came to do Laurel's developmental evaluation which went pretty well. Then we packed up and went to UNC to do another hearing test and meet with the ENT. Big news is she actually passed her test- well, she tested that she does indeed have moderate/severe hearing loss. This is a HUGE praise because now we can start with hearing aids. She got the molds for her hearing aids and we will get them in December. We are praying these will give her the boost she needs to hear and process speech but the Drs. are very careful to caution us that with Auditory Neuropathy about half of people have to have Cochlear implants in order to process speech. However, everyone starts with the hearing aids to rule out that they won't work. Either way, it's progress and we are very excited!! She also endured a EKG and blood work for some Genetic testing. We have scheduled an MRI for December also. She was such a trooper even though we didn't leave the hospital until about 5:30pm.
So please remember sweet Laurel in your prayers. We appreciate each and every one of you.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Wonderful Fall!!


Butterfly Princess & Buzz Lightyear




Getting our first Doughnut


We love fall around here (see Noah's blog pics at www.thelittleredhouse.blogspot.com). Laurel has had her first doughnut at Krispy Kreme (loved it!), been to the Fair, a Horse Show and dressed up for Halloween. I'd say that officially makes her an American child! She's adjusting wonderfully although as with any other child we do have our days!!
I wanted to share a bit on the progress that she's making. When Laurel came to us as with most children in orphanages, she had a few institutional behaviors. These included getting up on her knees and rocking when she was upset or to fall asleep. Also, she would completely have a full blown meltdown and smack Noah if he came around me or sat in my lap. Finally, she would feed herself, never allow you to feed her and when finished clean herself up. I know that sounds wonderful to most people but she learned this out of necessity and we wanted to regress her in some ways to help her attach to us as caregivers and bond.
We started to work on the "rocking" behavior by rocking her for a few minutes each night (as long as she let us) and then put her to bed. Six weeks later the "rocking" has completely stopped-even when she gets upset! The down side is that when she wakes up sometimes in the night she cries and wants us to put her back to sleep but I see this as a HUGE postive. She actually NEEDS us and Wants us!!
As to the aggression towards Noah, that has scaled way back. They are playing together and after nap, her favorite thing to do is go hug her brother and rub his head. Definately progress meaning she feels more secure.
Now to the food issue. Her gorging has stopped-she is realizing that food won't go away. She still likes to do it herself (which we still encourage) but will now allow me to feed her some. Also, she "asks" for help in cleaning herself and plate up now.
I am so proud of this little girl. She is as tough as nails but Oh so sweet. She has a fighters spirit and I love that about her.
As to what's next in the way of medicals. We had a third hearing test on Friday. Laurel actually semi cooperated and we got a reading on her. From what they could tell, her hearing loss is in the Moderate/Severe Range. She is not hearing speech levels which is a problem. We go back to UNC on Tuesday for an evaluation by the ENT, schedule and MRI and do another hearing test. If they can get a reading then we could possibly schedule her to try hearing aids and see if that will help her hear some speech. With Auditory Neuropathy it is a "try and see" method with most things. If the hearing aids do not work then the MRI will tell us if she has an intact Cochlear Nerve to see if Cochlear Implants are an option for her. We truly appreciate your prayers as we still journey to help Laurel hear.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SWEET GIRL






We've definately had a fun filled weekend! Noah & Laurel had their birthdays together on Saturday at home. We had a huge party with a moonbounce and lots of family and friends. She had a blast. When I think of the difference in her life now and what it was I get tears in my eyes. I also think of all the children left behind with no Mommy or Daddy's to kiss them. No birthdays and no room to just run an play and be kids.
Yesterday I took the babies to my Grandmothers house (about 2 hrs away). She hadn't met Laurel yet and was very eager to. They loved seeing the cows, walking on the farm and seeing the peacocks.
We have a somewhat slower week this week. Our coordinator with the CDSA is coming to enroll Laurel for services on Wed. and that's about it in the way of Dr.'s appointments. However we'll make up for it in the next 2 weeks.!!



Thursday, October 22, 2009

LET'S CATCH UP

At the Fair
Laurel ate her corndog and half of Noah's!

Practicing for one day she can show a horse



So what can I say about this week?? Oh my- busy busy busy. Friday night we went to watch Aunt Rach and our cousin Cole show at the State Fair. Rach also won "Best NC Scene" with her picture of Noah running through the tobacco field. Congrats to her. That's a HUGE deal.
Then Sat. we took the babies back to the Fair to ride a ride, eat some food and see the animals. What we were thinking taking 2 two year olds to the Fair , I have no idea!! But, we still had a good time. Then, Sunday evening Noah got his first throw up stomach virus. Poor child, but thankfully it only lasted a few hours. Monday, Laurel had her visit with the eye doctor to check on her strabismus (crossing eyes). Well, Praise God, she DOESN'T have it and no other eye problems that she is very prone to due to her premature birth, age, condition and a whole host of other things. So that is one less thing we have to do. We'll recheck with that doctor in 4 months to make sure she is still on track!!
Then, early Tues. morning Mike and I both got the horrible stomach virus. We thought we were going to die but God was good and the kids were really easy that day. We definately couldn't have made it w/out our families that day. We were worried Laurel would get it but she's a tough Ukrainian girl and she hasn't so far. By Wednesday morning, we were better and off we went to get Laurel's hearing test under sedation and tubes for her ears. We had to wait 2 hrs. past our appt time due to the fact that a girl in a group home swallowed a laytex glove and a pencil!! I would have like to have been a fly on the wall in that surgery!!!
So...... here's the diagnosis..... Laurel has "Auditory Neuropathy". Basically this means that her nerves are not sending the sounds to her brain. B/C of this diagnosis, they could not tell how much she could hear. This can only be done with a Behaviour test which Laurel really does not cooperate with. They did see a little fluid so they did put tubes in also.
Today, we went back to UNC to get yet another Behaviour hearing test. Once again, she failed it b/c they couldn't condition her to look at the screen when she could hear or feel a sound. They say it's pretty common for 2 yr. olds to not be interested in the screen and toys. So the Dr. won't put hearing aids in her ears until she passes one of these tests. We have to keep going back until they get some idea of her level of hearing. We are scheduled to go back in November to get the test again and to meet with the ENT again and schedule and MRI. So we are just at the beginning of this journey but the Audiologist really believes that we will be able to do SOMETHING to help her hear. Our only concern is getting the devices as quickly as possible b/c they have told us that ages 2-3 are the CRITICAL times to get language in a child so they will be able to speak. But that didn't get past God and he has chosen that our journey to have Laurel hear will take a winding path and go a little longer. Thank you all for your prayers and concerns. We have a peace that God will work this out and do what is best for our little girl. She's tough I tell you (and smart to I've been told) ;) I'm very proud of her already.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BIRTHDAY PICTURES

Mmmmm..... chocolate cake!!
Big brother giving Little Sis her birthday present

Laurel with her new baby stroller, and diaper bag
Here are some pictures of Laurel's first birthday home. We had Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles over for a small party. We sang to Laurel (don't think she heard us) but she looked cute. Noah had to help her blow out her candle. She couldn't quite get the hang of it. We got her a baby stroller with a baby doll and a diaper bag. She pushes that thing everywhere.
Laurel had her 2 yr. shots and check up today. All of her titers came back great which means that the orphanage did a great job with her shots and her immune system took all the shots well. She needed 5 shots to get up to US standards so she had 3 today and 2 in a month. She also had her TB test today. All of her other bloodwork came back perfect..... except she's a little anemic.
Anyway, the day was pretty tiring for little girl. She melted down and went to bed with a slight fever at 6:30pm. I find myself missing her when she's not around.!!




Monday, October 12, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!!

Laurel at 1 yr. old
Laurel when she was born

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREL!!!! Today Laurel turns 2. I had to post some of her Ukraine pictures. The top one is when she was about 1 yr. old. Sorry it's blurry but we were shown it at the SDA and were allowed to take a picture of the picture but not take it. The bottom picture is of Laurel and her adoptive "Babushka". She worked at the orphanage and was SO good to Laurel. She taught Laurel to shake hands and cried when she left. She told Mike that she was a good child. We prayed for Laurel even before we knew her that God would send someone into her life that would show her love. This sweet lady did that. We are also so lucky to have her baby picture. It also had to stay at the SDA but they graciously let us take a picture of it. 2 years today Laurel was born. She was born "Anastasia" and only at 30 weeks. She is a fighter let me tell you. She wants to live and thrive and Mike and I will do everything possible to help this little girl do that. It is her 2nd birthday but her FIRST real "birthday". Tonight we'll have a small party with cake and will celebrate her and Noah's birthday's together in a few weeks with a bigger party.
When we found Laurel, my dream was to have her here by her 2nd birthday. I cannot believe it really happened and she is sitting here on my lap as we speak. God is so good and His plans for us are GOOD plans. We are so blessed to have Laurel as part of our lives. Happy Birthday my baby girl! We love you.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

PRAISE GOD


So we started our day early to make it to Laurel's Audiology appt/hearing test and an appointment with the ENT. She basically flunked the hearing test, not because she couldn't hear so much as they really couldn't condition her to tell them when she was hearing or feeling something. She wasn't interested enough in the flashing lights and animals to care if she was feeling something. They said it was very typical of a 2 yr. old to want to run around and not sit and watch the lights. Anyway, so here's the good news....... The ENT examined her and saw fluid behind BOTH eardrums. Also, her right ear (which is the ear we think she can hear a little out of) is completely ocluded (hope that's the right word) with ear wax. I know that fluid behind the ears is not usually considered good news but to us it may be an answer to prayer. The Dr. said that best case scenario is that we get tubes in her ears and she be able to hear immediately. Now, we aren't counting on that but we can always pray!!
He also said that even if she has NO hearing whatsoever that they would still be able to do something to help her. He has patients that are completely deaf and have 2 cochlear implants and can hear and have normal speech. Who knew! He really is an advocate for getting her evaluated as quickly as possible, finding out exactly how severe her hearing loss is and why and then getting her fitted with a hearing device. The major reason he wants to do this quickly is because she is so young and in order to help language development it is critical we do this by 3 yrs. He was so positive about the whole situation and actually said "don't worry, we will help her hear!" PRAISE THE LORD. Thank you all for your prayers and don't stop praying.
We scheduled the sedation hearing test for the 21st. They will put her under general anesthesia and then do an indepth hearing test. Then they will put tubes in her ears if they still think it is necessary. We will find out that day their recommendations as where to go next to help our baby hear. So......... that is all for now. Next up, we are meeting with our Developmental Coo. from the CDSA on Friday. Then her 2 yr. checkup and shots next week. The next week will be insane. She has an Eye appt. for her Strabismus, then she gets evaluated by the CDSA, then her sedation. All in the same week. Poor baby, but she is a trooper.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Doctors and More Doctors

I had to have a picture to match the one of Noah
My beautiful, sweet girl


So she won't keep her sunglasses on but she'll wear mine



What can I say about this past week? Exhausting, excillerating, hillarious, silly and complete happiness! I LOVE my little family. This little girl was meant to be here with us. She is so much like Noah- even in looks! Laurel has done really well this past week. Granted we've had tantrums and meltdowns (don't take the girl's shoe's off or change her diaper). :) But all in all in has been a very easy transition. I know, I know, it will get harder but I'm treasuring these times. I feel like I did the first weeks when Noah was born (minus the complete exhaustion and extreme pain) :)
This week has been insane as far as Doctors appointments go. We had to go up to do Laurel's parasite test on Monday. She does have 1 kind but they are shedding out so not to worry. It was from contaminated water. Then, Tuesday, Noah got an awful ear infection so back to the Doctor. Then Wed. we spent most of the late morning and early afternoon at the hospital getting all of Laurel's blood tests. She was a trooper!
Laurel is signing about 10 words now. It really helps with the frustration of not being able to communicate. I really think she can hear high tones but we'll let the Drs. decide that. She'll eat near about anything you put in front of her. She's a prissy little thing. She is really doing well with sharing attention with Noah. We still have trouble if I hold him but we are working on it. She actually has been initiating hugs with him. She is a really quick learner. She LOVES outside and animals (see, I told you she was meant to be ours).
Please be in prayer for the next 2 weeks for us. Laurel sees the hearing specialist and has a hearing test next week. We also meet with her Developmental Coordinator next week. Then the next she sees and eye specialist and has her 2 year check up with all her shots. We also have an appointment to get her evaluated for services with the CDSA. We'll be busy for a while but it'll be worth it for her. Thanks for your interest and prayers!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

WELCOME HOME PICTURES

Mike and Laurel's cheering section
Here they Are!!!

Noah kissing his little sister Hello


OUR FIRST FAMILY PHOTO
So here are some of the welcome home pictures from Saturday night. Mike and Laurel had a wonderful cheering section. Laurel was so wide-eyed over the whole ordeal but held up pretty well (until we had to strap her in the carseat!).
Laurel has been doing so well at her new home. She is really picking up signing which will hopefully cut down on some of her frustration meltdowns. Breakthru today was Laurel actually enjoyed her bath. Usually she just stands in the bath and cries. Today I made her sit down and she actually played, and played and played. Then she screamed when she had to get out- Oh well. Also, she and Noah actually hugged each other. The first few days Laurel saw Noah as a threat and didn't want him to come near me. But last night she initiated the hug and Noah was thrilled!! He said "Oh Mama, she likes me!!"
Laurel had her first check up with our Pediatrician on Tuesday. It was a very general check-up just making sure she didn't have an active ear infection or pneumonia. The Dr. said she looked remarkably well. She only weighs 5lbs less than Noah and he's a year older!! She also measured her head which had concerned us a bit b/c she does have a significant noggin. Believe it or not she is within normal limits in that too! She will go back hopefully next week to get all her tests and titers to determine where she is in her vaccine schedule. Our homework was to perform a lovely parasite test. Funny story about that for another day. :) Laurel is set up to see the CDSA to get evaluated in 2 weeks so we'll know what services she'll be eligible for. She also goes in October to an eye specialist to determine what to do about her strabismus.
All in all we are doing wonderful and so glad she is home with us. It just seems right. She is truly ours and a gift from God. We are so lucky to have this little girl in our lives.




Sunday, September 20, 2009

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!!

Laurel meeting the Chickens
Noah and Laurel in the playhouse

Sliding all by herself--- And the sliding board
ISN'T made of wood like she was used too!



Eating breakfast- Yummy banananas and oatmeal


Noah and Daddy leaving the orphanage!!



AT HOME FINALLY!!! It doesn't seem real that this journey really has ended...... but the adventure of finding out just who this little girl is and her potential is beginning!!
Mike and Laurel made it home Saturday night after a LONG ride home on 3 airplanes.
God was so good to them and his mercies never ceased. We prayed specifically that he would have understanding "neighbors" next to him on the planes that wouldn't mind her screaming and wiggling. God answered those prayers. We also prayed he'd have no problems through customs and he did great!!
We had lots of friends and family that met he & Laurel at the airport with posters, yells, and American flags!! Thank you all for being their and your support. I can't believe that little Laurel Anastasia is actually asleep in the room next to me. The first night she slept great and even napped later. We are enjoying learning her although breaking her routine can prove challenging. She loves to be outside so I know she'll flourish here.
Thank you ALL again for your prayers and support through this. Please continue to remember us as we begin the arduous medical tests that she'll have go through in order to get her healthy and hopefully help her hear.
Now that we are home, I will be taking this blog off private. I will hopefully get a few more pics of the homecoming which are on other people's cameras. I was too busy tackling my husband and new little girl to get pics. :)