Archive for the 'blessings' Category

What’s one more?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I haven’t been blogging a ton lately, and many of you know why. We have a third child with arthrogryposis in the house these days thanks to the foster care system. And while I’d love to take a million pictures of this sweet child’s face and tell you the amazing (unplanned) story of how she became a cuddly and loud and goofy and precious part of our family, unfortunately I’m prevented by privacy rules as she’s still a ward of the state. Going from one child with AMC to two had it’s difficulties, but going from two to three has been another story entirely. I have no free time anymore thanks to a casting and splinting schedule that has tripled. My blog has grown cobwebs. I forget what my husband looks like. And going grocery shopping or to Miracle League or to events involves a lot more logistics now.

And guys, we got a minivan. This just got real.

But it’s worth it! Love these kids! They are all so smart! And stinkers! Ohhhhhh I have stories. :)

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Birthday girl, Laelia, walking without braces!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAELIA!!! She turns 7 years old tomorrow! Here’s the birthday video I did for her last year documenting the years it took her to learn to walk.

Well now we’re doing this walking thing even better!!!

I need to preface these million videos with a few comments. First off, we didn’t think Laelia would ever be able to take steps without her braces. And there was much doubt in the medical community if she would ever take a single step, so ambulating with braces is still a miracle. But without braces? I didn’t really think it was possible. There’s only so many years of trying and failing before you assume she’s just missing those muscles. My hope, truthfully, was in some not-yet invented robotic.

Laelia largely directs her own physical therapy now, so when she showed a bit of trepidatious interest in walking with her KAFOs (full leg braces) unlocked at the knees we of course tried it. And lo and behold she got pretty good at it! Then we decided to try GRAFOs which are ground-reaction AFOs that cover much less of her legs requiring her to do a lot more work. (Dr. vanBosse in Philly had suggested these.) This led to the four month battle with our insurance that still haunts me, but we got them! She was super wobbly her first try in the physical therpist’s office, but she did great!

Next came walking in GRAFOs all by herself using crutches. “Stand back, Mom!”

Then getting so good at it she could go down the ramp and lift her crutches off the ground!

Then one day during physical therapy at home she just shed those crutches all together!

A few days later she was walking like she’d been in GRAFOs all her life!

So we decided, why not? Let’s try walking with NO BRACES! The crutches came back out for balance and she did it!

Then we moved up to walking in just her socks! Not even shoes on!

Then two steps all by herself without a walker!

Then four!!!!!!!!

Then she just held my hand and walked all over the place in nothing but socks! (Had to cover up our foster kid’s face in this one.)

And finally just once (she hasn’t been able to do it since, mostly because of her leg length difference) she walked across the room in nothing but socks while holding on to NOTHING.
(Sorry about the white box, but it’s the only video I have!)

We have so much hope for the future! I think she’ll be walking even better as she gets older! So exciting!!!

Laura’s kidney (kidney saga continues!)

Monday, November 18th, 2013

(For a link to the story with text click here.)

I want to thank Ashlee DeMartino from 10News for airing the original story (seen here) about the cancelled surgery. James is a great advocate and because of his fight and the exposure from the news report a new surgery date was given that’s only two days from the original date instead of two or more months! This last week has been a roller coaster ride for the Rivera family. Thanks for all your prayers and support. My aunt, uncle and cousin fly in day after tomorrow! Exciting!

(The above video contains Roland being a cute little annoyance who wouldn’t let us do an interview. He was really cute. He talked the whole time I did. :))

There’s so much background to this that is incredible. One of my good friends, Meg (who is responsible for the veggie lasagna that kept my newly adopted and very stubborn son alive for the first month home), really cared about her coworker, James. In fact one day when she was over she pulled me aside to talk about him. She told me all about his family and his little girls and his circumstances. She encouraged me to find out my blood type and consider donating to him since she was one of the few who knew I was starting that process anyway. I contacted my kidney coordinator and, after talking to Janine I got James’ coordinator too, but long story short he didn’t fit in my chain unless we wanted to kick several people off the chain who had been waiting a long time. Plus our two hospitals weren’t really compatible, although Sharp was willing to try to work it out if there were no other options. (Sharp Memorial and the NKR pretty much would have done whatever I asked even if it was in no one’s best interests but mine. They take care of their donors.) Then Laura said she would see if she could help. (So in a way Laura gets credit for the six additional people in my chain who got their kidneys since James was now taken care of.) After the testing Laura found out that not only was she a match for the oh-so-hard-to-match James, but she was a VERY close match! The kind of match they usually only see with siblings! I texted Meg the good news about Laura and she was texting me back while in labor and I didn’t even know. Haha! Her son was born sometime soon after that! This is the most random amazing story. James’ and Laura’s surgeries are this Friday!

Double Birthday Fun!

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

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Laelia cut her own hair.

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And the lady at Supercuts evened it out for her birthday. (It’s short, y’all.)

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Grandpa and Grandma drove the ten hours down to stay with us for a couple weeks.

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They wear the kids out. :)

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And they bake the kids cakes!

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Hand-decorated by Grandma

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Birthday hair band

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On the go!

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Wink

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“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Whiny boy was cold. Mama didn’t mind all the cuddles to warm him up.

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Presents!

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More presents!

Tomorrow we drive up to LA for the AMC mini meet up! Can’t wait to see all our AMC friends!

These last several days were nuts. In the the last 12 days and next two we had/will have:

1 ministry fair
1 major all-day metabolics clinic we waited 8 weeks to do, with testing
2 visits to the orthotist
1 battle with insurance over a shoe lift
2 school meetings for Roland since he no longer qualifies for Head Start because of his diagnosis and we have to transfer him
1 meeting with regional center (2 hour psych eval for Roland, he’s now testing at 26 months old, he’s three)
1 wedding
2 trips to AWANA with verses memorized
2 ball games (Miracle League) for Laelia
Cleaning the house for 3 visitors coming to stay with us
1 blood draw and doctor’s appointment
3 special writing projects
1 trip to Laelia’s school for her citizenship award
2 trips to Sharp to meet with doctors
1 Compassion Int. conference where we worked the booth
1 AMC meetup in LA
1 double birthday party for both my kids
2 orphan blogs due on the first
1 giant fundraiser with multiple vendors that I’m organizing

And of course my surgery is Monday. I’m donating my kidney to a stranger same as my hubby did a year and a half ago. Kids will hang with their grandparents while I’m recovering the next couple weeks.

Then naps for everyone!

Video of Laelia

Monday, September 16th, 2013

I created this video of Laelia learning to walk as a present for her 6th birthday. I used all of the videos I had of her where she is moving her lower limbs. And let me just say that there were not many videos of her even moving her lower half for the whole first year there, despite daily physical therapy and stretching. Wow, it’s amazing how far she’s come and how hard she worked. Laelia’s birthday party isn’t for a couple of weeks yet, but tonight she caught me editing, saw it was videos of her and then squealed and demanded to see it. (By the way this is my first video editing job EVER and it was really hard and I cussed a lot and now I hate technology.) So the cat’s out of the bag and I’m just going to make it public.

Enjoy.

First day of school!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

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First day of 1st grade and first day of preschool WITH bus service!!!

(How dare this girl be in 1st grade!!! She was in newborn diapers yesterday! And didn’t we just bring home Roland from the orphanage ten minutes ago??? Not right!!!)

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After so many weeks of wanting to ride the bus, little Rolly was doubtful this would happen.

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When the first bus arrived they started cheering!

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It was for Laelia. This marks the very first time our bus service has worked out correctly on the first day of school. For preschool the bus never came and we ended up fighting them for a while until they realized we were NOT backing down and gave us a bus. For kindergarten the bus took Laelia to the wrong school while both Charley and I drove to the correct school and then went crazy looking for her.

But today with the same bus service nothing went wrong! Well except for Roland cried when Laelia left. I should have known that would happen. He wanted to ride the bus with her. “No bus! Ba back! (Come back) No! Waywe-a! (Laelia) Ba back Waywe-a! Bus! Boo (school) bus! Boo bus!! No mama no!”

Yeah after 15 minutes of that, his own bus showed up.

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Roland’s bus driver strapped his car seat in. (Yes still pink. By the time he’s in college we’ll get him a blue one.)

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Actually I was really worried. Roland went blank. I asked if he liked his school bus that he’d been begging for all summer and he didn’t say anything or give eye contact. He did not understand when I got off the bus without him and I watched his blank expression as he drove away. I was getting flashbacks of his trauma coming out of the orphanage.

But his daddy was waiting for him when the bus pulled into his school. Charley called me right away and reported that Roland saw him and was all smiles and happy to be back in his classroom. Then he chittered endlessly about his school bus adventure in Rolly language. He gets bus service two days a week and he has school for only three hours in the morning so it’s not too much for him.

After I put Roland on the bus I shot over to Laelia’s school for orientation. I met her teacher and aide and gave them all the usual warnings. ;) Laelia clung to me doing her “fake shy” thing. But two seconds later she was in the swing of things. We even decided not to bring her walking sticks this year and see how it goes!

The only sad part was when Roland came back home on his bus all smiles and then went through the whole house looking for his sister who has three or so more hours of school a day. He asked maybe three thousand times, “Waywe-a where?”

When Laelia finally got home she was sound asleep on the bus (as usual) and Roland screamed his hellows so forcefully and so jubilantly that she woke up. Then they hugged a lot and two minutes later they were fighting over something. 0_O

Love these kids.

And these kids love school.

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Happy Gotcha Day!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

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We take “Gotcha” day literally around here. Good catch, Laelia!

My baby boy’s Gotcha Day is TODAY! Happy one year home little Amerikrainian!

Last year on this day (August 15th) Roland left the orphanage and was promised that he would never EVER go back there. Welcome to family; family is permanent.

“Are you sure you want him? Would you rather have a ‘healthy’ child?”

Our son (the diamond in the rough, a pearl of great price, the treasure in the field) is forever wanted! Desperately wanted. Incredibly loved!

What they couldn’t see, we saw so clearly.

So did all of you.

“Didn’t you pick him up two days ago?” a nanny asked on this day last year. No, we hadn’t. Was he just a number? Another mouth to feed? He’s so much more than that.

I carried him out the formidable green gates, down the stairs with no handicap access, across the streets with no crosswalks and into the car with no car seat.

He literally left without a thing to his name. Well he would have. They striped him of clothing, and then when they realized we had left his extra clothes at our apartment in Kiev, an hour away, they suggested we leave him in the orphanage another day. (Um, no.) Finally they allowed us to take home different clothes (comically too big, mismatched and pink-laced) only because I asked really really nicely. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand it also may have had something to do with the fact I had just gifted them 100% of the money the Ukrainian government had in a savings account to feed Roland that would have gone to me. My back. Your back. Scratchy scratchy.

He had no toys.

He had no ability to chew the first foods we gave him. And he choked on his first snack. (Great job, mom!)

He was so scared during our walk around busy Kiev (on our aimless hunt for diapers) that he started shaking and then threw up down the front of my shirt. Cars and buildings and people and noise… this was all completely foreign to him.

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With no language and no way to get away he braved the terrifying umbrella creature over his head. What torturous moments in the rain.

And, even though I imagined this magical instant bond, he was also wary of this strange woman he was strapped to.

But then that woman put him in a bathtub.

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Or glorious day! He LOVED his first ever real bath! So much!

He discovered the microwave that was kept near the floor because “Let’s put microwaves on the floor!” said the dumbest apartment designer ever.

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And the best toy in the world was the door in the apartment between the bathroom and kitchen that he loved to close, then wait excitedly for it to open again, then close it again.

He didn’t make great eye contact.

He didn’t know how to hug or rest against me or cuddle.

But he was willing to learn. Slowly. Cautiously.

He fell asleep for the first time in his life that night with a Mommy right next to him, hand on his tummy–no bars, no distance.

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With those little stiff arms that would NOT bend.

Several days later Roland would get his passport and fly home.

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…and scream most of the 26+ hours of travel. And throw up on the plane. And hate us for doing that to him for a while. :)

Then he was home. And he was ours. And it was so surreal. That first night home I fed him a bottle of donated breast milk and rocked him gently. It would be three long, hard days of detoxing whatever drug was in his system before I got a moment like that again. Well worth the wait.

He is not the same boy I took out of the orphanage that day. He’s a maniac! Haha!

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(Click to enlarge.)

Happy one year home little man!

Roland

We love you.

To celebrate Gotcha Day he got chocolate! (Haha, not as great as it sounds thanks to his new metabolic issue.)

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We made sugar-free chocolate cake and sugar-free chocolate cookies to celebrate since Rolly now has sugar limitations.

Cookies: 3 mashed bananas

1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

2 cups oats

1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup of sugar-free cocoa powder

350 degrees for 20 minutes

Cakes: 1/2 cup ground walnuts (or crushed)

1/2 cup carob or cocoa powder (sugar-free)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

4 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

350 degrees for 20 minutes

(The cakes tasted like sawdust so I suggest adding some almond milk or unsweetened apple sauce.)

The best gift to an adopting family: baby pictures

Monday, June 24th, 2013

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Roland’s only baby picture

By the time Laelia was 2 years old we had exactly 247 billion pictures of her. It’s weird to have so many baby pictures of one child and only one single baby picture of your other child. But today my friend Carissa found not only nine pictures of our son, but a video!!! He looks to be probably 1 year old. We literally just saw these for the first time today! We’ve watched the video over and over. My husband got really emotional too. (And it’s pretty hokey.) We joke that of course it’s in slow motion because our son does NOT sit still long  enough for a calm video. ;) First, here are the pictures. (That suit!!! Little teefies in his mouth! That pout! He’s so little!!!)

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And little Yehorchyk’s video (the cooing slays me!!!):


 

Here’s him now with his new stretching elbow splint (and tennis ball added by Uncle Phong so Rolly wouldn’t damage more furniture):

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I’m all grow’d up now.

 

In other news our friends, the Ashes, are adopting a little girl with special needs from China!

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These are friends we knew before either one of us were in the adoption process or even talking publicly about it. You remember Elliot from the blog post before last? She’s the one walking for the first time. Well she’s getting a sister! Go here to learn more and maybe even donate a little something. Laelia has already said she will be donating her tooth fairy money as soon as her tooth comes out. :)

Speaking of teeth I took both kids to the dentist today. Both had great teeth! Roland was not happy getting his teeth cleaned… it took three adults to do it. He also just about destroyed the entire office before that with a rampage of happy screaming and touching stuff and throwing things while Laelia was being seen. Laelia, who has previously been terrified of the dentist, behaved perfectly. She followed all instructions even when she was so scared she was shaking. (She was only scared of the suction devise though.) Afterwards she showed off her princess teeth. And Laelia has her first permanent tooth growing in behind her first wiggly tooth! I was informed that the tooth fairy’s new rates are $1.25, a national average. (Laelia thinks that’s like a million monies.) She’s wiggling it daily so she can donate her monies to Elliot’s sister’s adoption.


Here are both kids posing with their new Congo shirts, helping another friend get adopted. (This friend is in the same orphanage as my nephew/the kids’ cousin.) Notice Laelia’s new haircut that she picked out herself. Every time the lady cut her bangs Laelia would demand, “Shorter. No more hair in my face… I use my face for everything.” ;)

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Now that we’re back from the three hours at the dentist I’m going to go lie down for ten years. Excuse me. ;)

 

 

 

Videos!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Here’s Roland standing up by himself (using the wall) for the first time ever!!!

Here’s Roland riding a bike for the first time ever!!!

I usually get to sleep in on Saturday. This was my wake up song. (Roland only knows two letters: B and Y.)

Which quickly de-evolved into this. My kids are insane.

A bunch of pictures.

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

So here’s a bunch of random pictures. We won a kid’s digital camera in an adoption auction. It’s Laelia’s new favoritest thing ever. Here are four shots taken by Laelia.

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Daddy. I love the angle.

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Mommy who doesn’t know she’s getting her picture taken.

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Roland is grumpy he can’t play with the kid camera.

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And a self portrait showing off Laelia’s first ever wiggly tooth! (Bottom middle.) :)

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Here’s a picture of Laelia’s x-rays. Notice the length difference?

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Right leg… pins almost ready to come out!

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Left leg pins. She’s only a few degrees from perfectly straight!

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Picnic at the park.

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Roland can’t climb the hill so he’s calling for Daddy help.

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Both kids climbing to the top!

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Laelia can now remove her shirt!

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She lifts it over her head…

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Then she flips over.

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Then she looks up until the shirt falls off!

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Roland was practicing standing with his braces unlocked. He didn’t like it.

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Roland’s school happened to have a picture of Laelia up on the wall from three years ago! She was a favorite so they put her picture up. We got a good laugh when we realized that it looks like these are the kids guilty of bringing the weapons and drugs to school. The offender list. ;)

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Daddy helping the kids inside the house.