Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Change is a comin'

After a long road of evaluations, meetings, home visits, meetings, evaluations, paperwork, meetings, and writing and re-writing the IEP, we made the decision to withdraw M from public school.

She was in a special-ed class for 2 1/2 hours a day, 4 days a week and went to the regular pre-k room for 30 minutes each day for a total of four 3 hour days.  We wanted her to have more time or all of her time in the regular pre-k room, but the school felt otherwise.  (I would like to say that her special-ed teacher is a wonderful person and a good teacher, but that room is not where we feel M needs to be spending the majority of her time) 

We finally got her OT and PT evals done this month, after sending in a certified letter requesting them in March.  Yes, 9 months.  After the evals were done and she "qualified" for OT and PT the school decided that they wanted to offer her 30 minutes of each OT & PT a week.  We had asked for 2-4 30 minute blocks each week.  She has a delay of up to 3 years in some areas. 

Once it became clear that the school was not going to allow M into regular pre-k for any more than 30 minutes a day and was not going to offer her a reasonable amount of therapy we started to ask ourselves why exactly had we put her in school to start with?

We put her into public school for 2 main reasons:

  • For socialization with typical children so she'd have peer modeling and friendship.
  • To receive occupational and physical therapy to help her realize her future academic potential

We realized that by doing private PT and having a private tutor to do OT with her, we are meeting her therapy needs to the best of our ability.

We withdrew her from public school and enrolled her in private preschool with Wy.  She'll be in a typical classroom setting with typical children at her developmental level.   

We think this will be wonderful for her!

I'm not a fan of change.  I thought we'd already made the best decision for her and after putting so much effort into public school, I hated to just throw in the towel.  However, it wasn't about what was easy or hard.  It wasn't about what was "ok" or "good enough" for M.  We wanted what was best for her.  As her parents its our job to be her advocates.

It is our job to make sure she's getting the absolute best that we or anyone else can offer her.  If that means utilizing every resource available to us and then seeking out even more when we feel like she needs more than she's getting, we will.

 Stumbo Family Story


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gotchya Day!

Today is the day that daddy broke Mariah out of the orphanage FOREVER.

It was a crazy day and one that resulted in no pictures....  so I'll leave you with a video of Mariah on Christmas morning totally absorbed in her new dollhouse that Santa brought.  Look!  It has stairs!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Christmas Story

Mariah's "Gotchya Day" is December 27th.  That's the day her daddy broke her out of those green orphanage gates and took her away, an orphan no more.

Phillip spent December 25th in Ukraine in an apartment in Kharkiv Ukraine.  We skyped him from his parent's house and I fought back tears the whole time.  That wasn't how we had planned Christmas.  We thought we'd be home with our new child before Christmas and instead we got to spend it with our family on two different continents.

This song really spoke to me. 

We were just ordinary people living ordinary lives, but we heard God's call from halfway around the world.

Yes, it was a strange way to add a child to our family.  People asked us why more times than I can count. 

Sometimes we asked, "Why me?"  We aren't special people!

Somewhere along the way though, we realized that it wasn't about us; it was about her.  I think it was when we were sitting with her at the orphanage playing on the floor with her and she started rocking back and forth that it really hit me how much she needed a family.

When Phillip was back in Ukraine after our 10 day wait finishing up paperwork to bring Mariah home, I imagined a joyous airport reunion complete with our family, church family, and friends.  I imagined how wonderful it would be for Phillip to see a large group of people waiting to greet him when he returned home with Mariah.  I wanted pictures of that moment to show her how loved she was and how wanted she was.  I mean we had spent over a year completing paperwork and 6 weeks in a foreign country adopting her!  It had exhausted us financially, emotionally, and physically, but here was the end.  Here was going to be the moment that made it all worth it.  THIS would be the day she'd touch down and become an American Citizen.

When Phillip and Mariah landed at Dulles on December 29th there were 4 people to greet them.  Myself, Wes, Wyatt, and my brother who I asked to come along to help me find my way to Dulles.  As it ended up that night, I got lost leaving the airport in the dark and my husband who hadn't slept for 3 days drove us all home.

Where was the joyous celebration!?

I struggled with this for a long time, and I will be honest, I still do.  A year later; that still hurts.

But this year as we are coming up on the celebration of Jesus' birth, I realized something that I knew but never really took the time to understand.

The Savior of the world was born in a stable.
Where was the joyous celebration?

God used ordinary people in a less than desirable circumstances because they were willing.

Was it convenient?  No.

Was it easy?  No

Did anyone applaud them?  No.

Why were they in a stable in Joseph's hometown anyways?  Why weren't they WITH his family?  I wondered about that...  Mary his pregnant fiance might have had something to do with that.  Maybe they weren't thrilled that she was pregnant before they were married.  "God told you what!?"  Hmmm....

Did any of that change the significance of that day?  No.

God's son was still born, albeit in a stable with no one around to help Joseph deliver a baby in less than sanitary condition even by Bethlehem standards.  No one offered congratulations or lined up meals for them.  Nope.
So... what's the point of this post?  Do I think we are Mary and Joseph?  Do I think Mariah is Jesus. 

Ummm.....  No.  Not even close.

My point is that I got hung up on human recognition and acceptance.  I hoped that people would understand the significance of what we had done and want to rejoice in what it meant for Mariah.  I had hoped that people would look at her and realize that there are thousands more, millions more like her that are waiting for ordinary people to just let God do something extraordinary through them.

I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought that night as they welcomed the Savior of the world...alone.  Did they realize the significance or were they just caught up in the moment of dealing with what it is to have a baby in a stable?  Did they know who Jesus would be and everything that meant?

Here we are a year later and I have wondered more times than I can count Why did God choose me?"  I am sooo inadequate.


I was willing and here we are.




Look who's tracing now!

Big progress for my girl!  She had noooooo idea how to hold a marker when she came home, much less trace anything.  Now she's actively trying to trace the letters on her board book.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cookie Decorating!

This is the 2nd year we've gotten together with our neighbors and decorated cookies!  Lots of fun :)

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I just...

I just swore twice.  In an email.

Mariah had her forearm crutches ordered (supposedly) nearly 8 weeks ago.  We were told it would take 2-8 weeks for them to arrive from a place that is an hour from our house.

Its been nearly 8 weeks so I called to check on them and guess what!?  They can't find the order!

I called back 2 more times to see if they'd figured it out and all I get is that the guy who "supposedly" ordered them is out because his wife just had a baby and maybe he didn't put the order where he was supposed to so they just can't see it.  Well, I understand that but someone should be able to tell me that you at least ordered them, right?  Someone should be able to find it, right? 

The receptionist laughs hysterically at everything I'm saying for some reason, and everything she says seems to be equally as funny and followed up with "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" 

She promised to have "so and so" who is filling in for Mr. My Wife had a baby so I can't be bothered check my email and let you know about the order.  Well, she was supposed to call me RIGHT BACK because I was pretty expressive with how irritated I was getting over this on the phone because after all I called on Monday asking about this for the first time and today is Thursday.

She cut her ridiculous laughing by at least 75% and promised to call me right back.

Guess what though?  No call back.

I googled them and found an email address to send feedback to.

I am usually super nice which coupled with looking like I'm 18 is why people don't ever take me seriously.

I was NOT nice.

And you know what?  I don't feel bad about it because I was actually really honestly to goodness angry that someone would treat my child with such little consideration.  If you are an adoptive parent you'll understand why that's kind of a big deal.  I didn't have to "pretend" to conjure up feelings for Mariah and hope that I'm not somehow letting her down because I still don't quite feel for her what I feel for my other two and wonder if that means I am not always advocating for her like I should be.  I was REALLY angry because MY child deserves better than to have her order lost and for no one to care about it. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Annual Report

I realized that December is indeed the month that Mariah landed at Dulles and became an American Citizen.  This means that its time to fill out the annual report for the Ukrainian Consulate on our adopted daughter. 

I wonder if they look at it closely?

I wonder if they know what kind of shape she was in when she came home?

I wonder if they compare the pictures and see how far she's come?

I wonder if they look at the pictures and see how much joy she radiates?

I wonder if sending in these reports makes people see that there is value in a life no matter what a culture says?

Remember, if you are an adoptive parent to a Ukrainian child it is your job to send in these reports on time!!  You signed paperwork and submitted it with your dossier, promising to send these reports.  Not sending these reports can cause Ukraine to decide to shut down the adoption process or make it even more difficult for future adoptive parents. 

Love this getup!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday on the potty

I bet this title will get me a few views!  Haha

Mariah likes to sing.  She has this hilarious habit of singing when she goes potty.  If she goes #2 she will call for me to let me know she's done so I can come ya know... wipe her.

Well, while she's waiting, she sings.  It was "The Wheels on the Bus Goes Round & Round" then it was "ABCs"  but today it was "Happy Birfday to me!" echoing off the walls in our bathroom.

Then when I go in there to wipe her hiney after taking a HUGE breath in hopes that I can get her cleaned up and run out to inhale clean air before I pass out, she keeps trying to chat with me. 

"Mama, can I have one of doz fwashlights you got daddy for Chrismus?" 

Me: "Not answering cause I am holding my breath and wiping her butt.

"MAMA! DO YOU HEAR ME!?  I am talking to you!  Can I have one of doz fwashlights? Do you dink daddy will care?"

Me: still holding my breath

"MAMA!  DO YOU HEAR ME!?  I am RIGHT here talking to you!"

Me: "Yes I hear you!  I am trying not to talk because you stink!"

"Oh, yes I do stink a lot."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coloring Improvement

Mariah colored this today.  I am pretty impressed with appropriate color choices and attempting to keep the colors in the lines (sometimes). 

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Mariah's name

I got this before we went to Ukraine last year. 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Tag. Big Meaning.

This would be the first time Mariah ever had a Christmas present wrapped just for her from her parents.  Kind of hit me as I wrote it out.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of the Wii System is.....

Tom & Carrie Woolfolk! 

I've know Carrie since the first minute we stepped into our church.  She was the one who took the time to say hi to the new couple and ask them if they knew where Sunday School was held upstairs?  Then she walked us upstairs to a room that is now full of our friends and the best Sunday School teacher EVER.   Coincidentally, becoming members of that church and friends with the people in that room is what led us to adopt Mariah.  

So... congrats guys!  I know your two boys (and the one on the way) will enjoy the Wii!

Also, because we were really touched by how generous people were, we added a few last minute prizes.

Sharon Moreno won an 8GB flash drive and Ernie Kidd won a $5 amazon gift card.

Our total raised was $665!!

Thank you to everyone who donated and shared!

She's ours! A year later.

On December 9, 2010 in a Ukrainian Court Room, we were declared the parents of Mariah Katarina Johnson.  A lot of worry went into that day.  We had been waiting and waiting to get a paper signed and stamped by a group of people who no longer had the power to do so.  Our translator told us that we HAD to have that paper signed and stamped then back on a train to Kiev to the SDA before we could have court. 

We sent out a lot of pleas for prayer regarding this paper and I know people back home were lifting us up and interceding on our behalf.
On the very  last day possible, "L" came to our apartment and said, "Its signed.  I don't even know who sign it, but I do not care!"  Our wonderful facilitator fronted the expediting fee himself to the SDA in Kiev to get that paper processed in 2 days instead of a week so that we could have court.

That was one of many times when we spent a few days wondering what in the world we were doing only to have to God show up and move a mountain at warp speed.

 We had to sit outside the courtroom in a waiting area for a loooong time.  The cases were running behind so of course we had to sit there and listen to people talk on and on about stuff in Russian.  We were pretty nervous.  This was the day we had been building up to for over a year!

On our court day, we were hoping the judge would be able to waive the 10 days because Mariah had several medical conditions.  Court itself was very informal.  The judge was actually one of the nicest laid back Ukrainians we had to deal with the entire time.  He seemed really happy that we were adopting Mariah and just went through our dossier asking us to restate the required information.  The orphanage director didn't come, but sent another person to represent her and the orphanage doctor came as well.  We were kind of surprised to hear how positive they were about us adopting Mariah in the court room because we'd not had much of a warm welcome at the orphanage.

After court, before we got the court decree, the judge actually spent a good part of the day trying to figure out if he could legally waive the 10 day wait for us.  As it turned out, he just couldn't find legislation that he felt would allow him to do that for us and not put him in a bad position with his job, so we knew we'd be going home to wait the 10 days out since we'd already been gone nearly a month.

We rode a bus from Kharkiv to Kiev for about 9 hours from 4pm to 1am  That is the worst possible mode of transportation in Ukraine except for maybe a few select drivers.  The bus stops are H.O.R.R.I.B.L.E.   Our bus actually nearly caught on fire because the brake on one of the wheels was sticking.  I was literally sitting on the problem area and could see orange glowing on things as we passed by.  We stopped a few times for all of the men to get out, smoke, talk about and get back in the bus.  Crazy.

We arrived at the Kiev airport around 1am for a flight that left at 5am.  We arrived in Frankfurt around 8am and had a 5 hour layover then sat on the tarmac for over an hour waiting for our crew to load up the food while the captain kept apologizing in a lovely German accent.  Finally, we flew 8 hours across the Atlantic to land in Dulles where my Dad met us and drove us the remaining 2 hours home.

A week later, Phillip got to make this trek back to Kharkiv to finish paperchasing for several days then made the "flight from hell" home with Mariah.  It was on this trip that he met Meredith Cornish who was also bringing home 2 little ones, Aleksa who has Down Sydrome and Wesley who has Cerebral Palsy.  They all landed together in Dulles before Meredith got on her final flight to Florida.   


Thursday, December 1, 2011

The CP Connection

Hi! Welcome CP Connection Bloggers!

We were introduced to the world of Cerebral Palsy on November 24th when we met our daughter in a Ukrainian orphanage for the first time.

Mariah was 4 years old when we met her and and had a diagnosis of premature birth, heart problems, crossed eyes, and many other things!  Here she is at one of our visits, hardly able to sit up on the couch.

I was nervous about adopting a child with CP because I knew NOTHING about it!  But, I knew that she was still just a child in obvious need of a family so we said "YES!" and brought her home :)  (Ok it wasn't that easy, just take a look at my sidebar timeline!)  We became her parents on December 9, 2010 in a Ukrainian Court room.

Since Mariah has been home, she has received an official diagnosis of spastic diplegia with minimal right arm involvement.  She was classified at a stage 3 but has since been moved down to a stage 2 due to her remarkable improvement over the 11 months she's been home.

Mariah wears Spring Leaf AFOs and will be receiving hot pink forearm crutches very soon!  She has had one round of botox in her hamstrings and calves and WOW!  That stuff is amazing!  We now have flat feet and she started independently walking, not just for short distances but for everything!

Mariah has also had an MRI that indicated minimal white matter damage consistent with a premature birth.  She's also seen an ophthalmologist for her strabismus and amblyopia but surprisingly enough all that has been required to correct and maintain so far is patching one eye an hour a day.  She has 20/20 vision!   

Our initial adjustment once coming home from Ukraine was horrible.  I won't lie.  It was awful.  I felt awful, alone, unattached to my child and did I mention completely and utterly ALONE?  That's what drove me to find other mom's who had kids with CP, particularly moms who had adopted kids with CP.

My adoptive mama friends rock.  They comforted me, told me I was normal (I doubted this), gave me advice, and understood where I was coming from.  I wish I lived closer to some of them but alas we are spread across the United States! 

Mariah will have been home 1 year on December 29, 2011 and while it has been probably the most challanging year of my life, it has been the most rewarding.  I love my girl and she is an amazing person who despite everything she has gone through in her short life, usually has a big ol' grin on her face.  She has taught me more about love and life than anyone else ever has. 

I hope to meet some new friends and have some new blogs to link up to!  Thanks for stopping by and PLEASE leave me a comment!  I am just needy like that; I want to know you liked my blog :)

Here's Mariah NOW!

Adoption changed our lives.
God chose us to be her parents and its something that I try every day to live up to.  

Stumbo Family Story

In case anyone is interested, the ChipIn Widget at the top right of my blog is a raffle rundraiser we're doing to raise money for Mariah's orphanage.  A $5 entry gets you a chance to win a complete Wii System!  The deadline for entering is December 9th.

Monday, November 28, 2011


In honor of the Hoos finding a High School team to take their place this weekend, Mariah is sporting a Hokie shirt this morning .  

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The day we found her.

November 22, 2010 was our 2nd SDA appointment. We approached it with a lot of apprehension as it was our 2nd appointment and we had just spent the previous week grieving at how our plans had ended from the 1st appointment. As it turned out, the child that we met the previous week from our 1st appointment and did not adopt, was adopted by another family not long afterwards.

That did a lot to ease the pain and the wondering "Why?" When we met her, it had been made so obvious to us that she was not the child God had intended for us. I'm not even sure how we both knew that; but for so many reasons, we just did and it was an awful, horrible, sinking, feeling if for no other reason than we thought she was meant to be ours and we had never thought it would be any other way. But she was meant for another family. I don't know why we had to walk that road... but I know that if we had not, we would not have Mariah.

We waited an anxious extra week in Kiev to have our 2nd appointment. The day dawned rainy and cold, so unlike our previous appointment. As it would turn out, the bad weather followed us for every significant day of our adoption journey!

When we walked into the SDA building for a second time, I was so nervous. We walked upstairs to a back room with a wrap around sofa (yes in Ukraine!) We had a different psychologist this time. She looked no older than me and while I was pretty sure she spoke English, she did not with us. We showed her our picture book of our family, heard the now infamous line of "such a young couple!" and started to look through the files she had for us.

It became obvious that something was up. Our translator seemed really miffed and mumbled something about having seen all these files many times before. She said something in Russian to the girl several times but got "Nyet."

We started looking at names, "Christina, Elena, Katarina." All of the children in the files had significant medical problems. Our translator kept saying "invalid" "invalid." I was nearly in tears. All of those children deserved homes, but the significance of their medical and mental problems was more than we were approved for in our paperwork. We kept coming back to one file though. It had a picture of a chubby cheeked baby girl with a crossed eye on the front. The more recent photo of her was awful. It showed her standing up on her toes at a tiny ball pit. It was grainy and blurry but we could see that she was in a dress and had very short blonde hair. Her name was Katarina. We didn't actually ask about her. The psychologist saw that we kept looking at and grabbed it from us. She went to the next room and called the orphanage that Katarina was at and asked to talk to the director about her. She spent 20 minutes of our allotted hour on the phone. She got off and came back. She started talking about this girl. She said that the director said she was a very good girl, she liked to dress up in pretty dresses and clothes, she was potty trained, she obeyed well and played with the other children. She did have cerebral palsy but she got around ok. She also said that she had a slight mental delay and a slight speech delay (I laugh at this now).

I begged God silently "PLEASE just give us a sign what to do??!"

I noticed a date on her paperwork that said "5/11/08." It jumped out at me because that is Wyatt's birthday. Now I know that in Ukraine the date wasn't May 11th, it was November 5th but THAT was how I'd write Wyatt's birthday. That date did it for me. I KNEW that I KNEW that God was telling me "Its ok, she's yours."

Then the psychologist told our translator that our time was up. We had to decide. This girl, or no child. So we looked at each other and I think we both knew what the other was thinking, "We didn't pick her, God picked us."  We really had only one choice.

We accepted Katarina's referral.

When we walked out of the SDA building our facilitator was waiting and he asked how it went. Our translator told him something (obviously that this child had cerebral palsy) and he asked us in a concerned voice, "Are you sure about this child?" We weren't really! But I just had this dazed sort of peace about it. I said "yes" we want to go see her.

So we started a blur of paperwork. We had to get MORE things notarized ( this can be quite the waiting process in Ukraine), we went to a post office to do something with our translator (love how we did things that we didn't know what it was, but we handed over cash and signed the line!) we had to buy train tickets to Kharkiv where Katarina was and we had to wait for a whole day before we could pick her her referral and go see her.

The next day at 4pm we met outside the SDA with our facilitator and a bunch of other couples who were picking up referrals. Around 5:30pm I think, we got our file finally and headed to the train station. Our translator came with us and let me just say that she walked FAST! We had about 100lbs of luggage and she had a purse! We finally made it to our train and found our car. She showed us our cabin that had two other people in it (the tickets were almost sold out). We had the top bunks and there was a young man with a laptop and an old man with the most hideous cough I've ever heard in my life.

It was HOT on that train and we stopped every hour it seemed to let people off or let people on. The old man coughed and coughed and coughed. I hid my face in the sheets and hoped he didn't have something that was contagious. I pressed my face against the cold glass for some relief from the heat that no one else seemed to mind!

We rode the train all night long.  No sleep. At.all. We arrived in Kharkiv about 6am and got off. Our translator set out to find a driver to take us to the office where the lady in charge of the orphanage was. It opened at 8am...we thought. So we went to McDonalds (Yes in Kharkiv!) and got some breakfast. I'd had NO sleep, my stomach was churning and I managed to order what I hate. An egg McMuffin. Blech.

I should mention that our translator's sister had JUST had a miscarriage two days earlier. She was a mess. She kept crying... I felt so bad for her.  Adoption is emotionally draining in a way I never thought possible, and this just added to my emotions.  I felt SO bad for her!

We went to the office to wait for the lady we needed to show up. 8am rolled around... no lady. Our translator went into the building to check. They open at 9am. Yay, more waiting. If you adopt from Ukraine, you should practice w.a.i.t.i.n.g. Oh and by the way...it was now raining.

FINALLY the lady showed up. Our translator talked to this lady in her office f.o.r.e.v.e.r while we waiting in the hallway. I could hear them nearly shouting and wondered what in the world they were saying?? It sounded like fighting almost, but I really don't know. Ukrainians are very vocal sometimes.

When they emerged, all seemed well enough except that it was obvious our translator had been crying again, but we piled into the car to go to the orphanage. We drove through Kharkiv city and down a street that had a Billa grocery store at it. Then we turned onto a "street" that had potholes bigger than our car. Seriously, we bottemed out and I was thinking "Great, we're stuck in a pothole. How is this even possible!?" In Ukraine this is normal.  So probably would be getting out in knee deep water to shove a car out of the pothole while traffic zooms around you, but the driver revved the engine and we catipulted out of the hole onto the mixture of pavement and mud. My head hit the roof. No one else batted an eye!

When we walked into the orphanage we went up a flight of stairs into a hallway with a green rug down the length of it. We went into an office and hung our coats on the coat rack along with everyone else. Then they told us to sit at a table. The orphanage Dr. was there and the director, and other people who I really didn't know what they were there for. They had Katarina's file and read us her medical and personal history. My mind was spinning... so much information in such a short amount of time and how do you process it when you are there to meet this child?

The director ended her statement with a final "Well she is a good girl and I really hope you will adopt her."

Then someone brought Katarina in. They were holding both of her hands and had dressed her in a hot pink dress that had frills all over it. She had about 30 little white flower clips in her very short hair, little black dress shoes, and she looked right at us and said, "Izdrahzwheezstya!" "Hello!" She "walked" over to us on her very tippy toes so I picked her up and set her on my lap. Her legs felt stiff to me, but she was smiling and jabbering in Russian. I gave her the toy I had brought her and she took it happily. Then she looked at Phillip and said, "Are you here to take me home?" She said it in Russian and it took our translator a minute to tell us, but oh my goodness she knew why we were there and didn't mince words!

We asked if we could watch her do her excercises like they had told us about. They whisked her off (we didn't know they'd do this!) and dressed her in gym shorts and a t-shirt and removed ALL of her hair clips, then brought her back upstairs to show us what she did with her "therapist." She talked the WHOLE time. Our translator was kind of laughing in spite of herself. "She says she wants to go outside with you and have a walk even though its raining." "She says she will put her own shoes on BY herself when she's done." "She wants to know if you are taking her home with you today?" "She doesn't like this stretch." We watched her and kind of laughed at what a chatterbox she was.

They took her back down to her grouppa and she waved "paka paka!" "Bye Bye!"

Our translator said, "So what do you want to do? Do you want to think about it?"

Don't get me wrong, we knew NOTHING about cerebral palsy. We thought she might have FAS based on her facial features (she doesn't, but at the time we thought she did), and we wondered why we didn't have this "magical" connection with her? Where was the starry eyed feelings of wonderment?? Not there!

But we said "Yes, we are SURE we want to adopt her. Give us the papers to sign and lets start this." So we did!

What a crazy wild ride it was just to get to our daughter and it wasn't over yet, but we knew that was the day we had found her. That was the day that we found the child behind the calling God had placed on our hearts. The road has not been easy; it has been long and hard and at times lonely, but God has blessed us immeasurably by choosing us to be Mariah's parents. One year later and I can hardly believe that she is the same child who tippy toed through the door holding onto a nanny's hands. She has taught me what unconditional love means and "How much more" must God in heaven love us.

Adoption is truly the way to see into God's heart and understand how He loves us.

And that was the day we found her.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More walking progress!

These new Leaf Spring AFOs really rock. She has support, but not so much stiffness that her legs can't adjust to uneven ground.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The shearing pictures

Would you believe that sweet little blue eyed guy could produce that much damage in about one minute?

Yep, and he's lucky he's so cute!

Mariah doesn't seem to care at all.  Wyatt insists "Buriah" told him to cut her hair.  She says no, but she screams if he touches her baby dolls so she COULD have told him "no" and obviously did not. 

I think the only one upset about the hair was me!  So, I will stick a hat or cute bow on her and wait for it to grow.  Meanwhile, Wes lost his scissors since he left them on the floor for Mr. Snippit to do his dirty work with.

Crazy kids.

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Friday, November 18, 2011


Look what happens when you leave kids alone for. 0765 seconds to take out the trash.  Wyatt + scissors = sheared Mariah.  Mama is not happy!  Thank goodness her school pictures were 2 weeks ago.

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I knew Mariah didn't walk as well at school as she was capable of, but I thought she was doing "ok." The thing with Mariah is that people feel sorry for her. They won't make her do what she's capable of. If Mariah senses that someone feels sorry for her, then she will ride that train as far as it takes her. She won't walk. She won't go get things for herself. She will whine about things to see what else she can get. She will pretend not to know how to do things or not to remember things in order to get more attention. She will act super fearful or overly affectionate to get more attention. It goes in a downward spiral if the adult doesn't put a stop to it and just tell her that she needs to do what was asked of her. Bottom line, its not good for her for people to feel sorry for her because it encourages her to act helpless because in her mind, uncapable = more attention.

But still, I thought that Mariah was doing ok walking at school. I thought her teachers KNEW. She was not doing ok. I got the progress report from her teacher and the evals from the OT and PT. The OT stated she took ONE step and appeared very "fearful" and held her arms in a "high guard" position. Um... what!?

Her teacher said her walking had gotten worse and she was "more fearful" of walking independently.
This is the opposite of what we've seen at home. She has gotten better at walking but MORE dramatic about whining and not wanting to do it. I don't take the drama though. In our house, you do what you are capable of or you just don't get to do things. Mariah knows this so if she wants to throw a fit, she goes up to her room and when she's done, she comes back down and does what I asked. We have very few issues these days.

So, I was upset at the evals and the progress report. I was a little angry at Mariah for acting like that but I know its a product of her previous environment and I thought I had explained that to people well enough. I wonder if people think I am just being mean when I say I don't let her get away with not doing things?? I wonder if they think I'm exaggerating when I say she will manipulate people to get out of things. I don't mean it in a mean way! I mean it as a warning to adults that you cannot let her manipulate you by the way she acts because she will and its not good for her to think she can control you!

I decided what to do. I sent two videos of Mariah walking here at home to her teacher asking if Mariah was walking the same way at school as at home because we thought she was progressing nicely, and she was doing awesome at PT.

The next day at school her teacher told me, "I got the videos; that is AMAZING!"
The school PT emailed me and said, "I like how "teacher" put it, "We have been bamboozled!" We will be working on encouraging her to walk independently now!


Game is up little girl. I'm tired of being the "mean" one who makes her walk. Its no wonder she came home from school and had such a bad attitude about doing things on her own! She went to school and thought she didn't have to do anything! I should be able to be the mama once in a while and let the professionals get Mariah to do her best. The frustrating part is that the professionals, Drs. PTs, OTs, teachers, random people at birthday parties, family members, think I am MEAN to let her struggle to do things. They think I am not telling the truth about what she can do. I guess they think I am just making it up?? She will never learn how to do things if people do them for her. She is capable and the more she works on doing things herself, the better she'll get at them. Its not mean to expect her to do what she is capable of because it will only make her better at it.

*sigh* I hope that now we can move on with her walking. Everyone has to be on the same page or its confusing to her. In the TWO days that her teacher had with her post-video clip, Mariah has walked SO much better for me at home and been generally happier. It really is true that a child who thinks she can control the adults in her environment is not a happy, secure child because if she can manipulate them; who is taking care of her?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mariah going FAST!

I appologize for the random noises (trains) and interuptions (Wyatt bringing me my freshly printed coupons) but hey such is life at my house! Anyways, you can see how awesome she's doing! From not able to sit up unsupported to riding a scooter in less than a year. God has big plans for this one. Adoption is not for everyone, I know that; but seriously folks, you are missing out big time if you don't.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Did I just do ALL of that?

My day was pretty full yesterday...

It started out with none of the kids having preschool because it was election day. So I decided to call the Kluge Center and see if Mariah's new AFOs were in because its been a month since she was casted and she REALLY needs them! Being persistant and slightly annoying pays off. I got a 3pm appointment. So I decided to ask if a PT could see her to evaluate her for forearm crutches since its such a long drive to go up there and requires a vast amount of kid jugging to drop the boys off with someone because if I took the 2 of them up there, I am quite sure I would be admitted.

Score 2 for me. A PT could see her at 3:30pm

I started the morning by cleaning the hosue. I told the kids they couldn't go see Nini till the house was clean. Whala, little monster messes disappered, 5 year olds become experts at operating the vaccuum cleaner and we have a clean house!

We left and I took the kids to the Post Office to pick up a package. We live a mile off the main road and the Post Office torments me by making me drag 2 5 year olds and a 3 year old into the Post Office on a regular basis. They get their kicks by watching me try to carry (or push Mariah in a stroller) while juggling oversize cardboard boxes to my van.

The kids wanted to eat lunch at NiNi's but I wasn't sure NiNi had lunch up her sleeve, so I ran by Hardees and got some chicken strips to take with us.

"It smells yummy! I'm huuuuuungreeeeeeee!!"

Then, because the Post Office trip was so much fun, I took the kids to vote. They all thought we were going to see a boat. They were disappointed. Somehow I think I managed to vote for the right people...

On to NiNi's and lunch!

Mariah and I left a little early so I could go return a coat at the mall at Sears. LandsEnd redid their Parka Styles and I am not a fan. I have about the smallest frame especially up top and the coat wouldn't fit in 2 sizes. I found last years model on sale for half the price anyways. Score.

After the mall, we went to the Kluge Center. The orthotics guy is AWESOME. Everyone should be like Dwayne. Mariah decided however, that she was going to act like she couldn't stand up, and walk? Hah! She has been walking so great at home and I was so frustrated... why does she do this?? She threw herself in the floor and acted like she couldn't move her feet when standing. This for the PT who is supposed to evaluating her for forearm crutches because she is "too mobile" for a walker. He was unimpressed but did the eval which consisted of measuring Mariah while she acted like she was about to fall over. I think once she gets the crutches though, she'll love them. They are going to be hot pink!

We also found out why we got an appointment card with a strange drs name. Her doctor left! Yep he moved to Atlanta right after administering botox and telling us he'd see us to follow up at the AFO appointment. Fortunately (or just God watching out for a frazzled mama) the new Dr. "happened" to be in the orthotics room while Mariah was getting fitted and was looking her over. I didn't know who he was till I saw his name card and then I was like "OH! We have an appointment with in a few months! Nice to meet you!" I like him better than the other Dr. anyways. Again, God watching out for frazzled mama and the little drama princess.

The new Leaf Spring AFOs are really awesome. I noticed a difference in her gait even with her being a drama queen the whole time. They are going to REALLY help her! The downside to the new AFOs is that none of her shoes fit over them now! So, after we were done at the Kluge Center, I had to go BACK to the mall to find her a pair of shoes for the new AFOs. I had to get 9s. She was in a 7. I was really worried that with a shoe that big (which is actually a normal size shoe for her age but she is tiny) that she'd have trouble walking but it did not seem to be an issue. She of course, was thrilled about getting new special shoes AND new shoes!

Meanwhile at the mall, Mariah notices the food court and asks for dinner. It was dinnertime so we shared some deep fried General something.

Then my shoe broke. Fortunately, it was a LandsEnd shoe so I went BACK to Sears and asked them if they could look up my order and replace the shoes. This is why I love LandsEnd. They took my broken shoe, processed the return and I walked out with a new pair of shoes that were on sale AND I got a 10% discount for doing a store return.

Next it was onto the grocery store because I haven't been in about 3 weeks and the natives were demanding food items that I didn't have. Mariah kept asking, "What's taking us sooooo sooooo long!? Are my brudaths asleep in der beds?" Haha the time change means its dark at 5pm and she thought it was like 10pm evidentially.

After an hour at the grocery store where I saved nearly $100 with my coupons and bonus card, we headed home to give the kids baths and put groceries away.

Oh then I had to prep for school the next morning which means laying out everyone's clothes, snacks, and backpacks.

This morning Wyatt showed me the reason he's had a fever for 2 days and has been generally a grouch. He has fifths disease and has blisters on his hands and feet. FUN!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"I want my family"

Last night we went to the last local football game for our High School. The kids love going as its quite the event here. They shoot off fireworks, a cannon, have a firebreathing lion, and shoot off t-shirts into the crowd. And that's just what happens each time they score!

The band is awesome. There is Dominos Pizza, ice cream, Krispy Kreme donuts, hot drinks, raffles, a REAL Lion and cheerleaders!

So last night while we were standing up watching the marching band, I noticed Mariah was singing something. I leaned down to see what she was singing and heard, "I want my fam-i-whee! I want my fam-i-whee!"

I almost cried.

I don't talk about it much mostly because it makes me feel insecure to say less than wonderful things about our adoption and our family, but we've had a rough adjustment. Bonding didn't come easy for parents or child. Trust has been hard to build and sometimes I think she didn't want her family. She wanted to go back to what she knew.

So for her to be singing that, just as a little 5 year old standing there singing whatever popped into her head; it was a huge deal, and I don't want to forget it. She also kept saying the entire game, "Mama I wike you so much, soooo much!"

I think I know why this breakthrough has happened. I noticed the other night when I put her to bed that she was really sad. She said she was mad at Wesley for waking her up, but I knew it was more than that lol

I finally got it out of her that something pretty scary had happened to her in Ukraine and something that happened at school had made her remember it. She was really upset that she was not safe and someone might do the same thing to her again.

I assured her that she was mine FOREVER and NO ONE was EVER going to take her from me. I told her this is her home and she lives here with her family forever and ever. I told her it was ok to be sad and its ok to be mad but please tell mommy or daddy so we can make it better.

It was like a light bulb had come on the next day. She told me she was SO MAD at me for making her wash her hands again. I was actually happy she voiced it because usally she just gets sullen over something then acts out but by voicing it and me saying "Its ok to be mad, but you know the rules." I think she feels like we understand her.

She has told me several times that something has made her SO MAD or she feels sad, but she is acting very happy.

Here we are, home nearly a year and finally maybe the final emotional meshing is taking place :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pre-Trunk of Treats

Mariah wore her American Dream Girl costume to school & the boys were figuring out how to get warm clothes under their outfits before tonight.  Wes is wearing long underwear under his pirate suit.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Win a Wii, Warm an Orphan

See this pumpkin guys? I'm holding him hostage and demanding a ransom. See, I have friends in Ukraine that I think about every day. They don't have mamas & papas. They don't have birthday parties. They don't have anything to call their own. So, I'd like to know this Christmas that my mama and daddy sent them something to remember me by. I'd like Natasha, Ola, Susanna, & Sasha to know that I haven't forgotten them and my mama and daddy haven't either. So, help us out by donating $5 to the heating fund.... or the pumpkin gets it!

-- Mariah --

P.S. Mama & Daddy are being way more diplomatic about it. They're offering a Wii up for grabs, so keep reading if that's more your thing.

Click the picture to read the full product description.

The system includes 1-Nintendo Wii game console (black), 1-Wii Remote Plus controller (black), 1-Nunchuk controller (black), the original Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, 1-wired sensor bar, 1-power cord, 1-standard composite cable, 1-console stand, 1-console manual.

This fundraiser is to benefit Kharkiv Orphanage #2 in Ukraine. This orphanage is home to 120 children ages 0-4. The fundraiser is being held to help fund the replacement of the heating system in the orphanage to make it more reliable and to actually put it back in working order in some rooms. Read my weather ticker for Kharkiv, UA next to this post. Its already getting really cold in Ukraine! We saw kids wearing tights with holes in them underneath shorts and layers of shirts in the middle of December.

Life2Orphans, Inc is a non-profit group that does support and repair work for Ukrainian orphanages, they will oversee the dispersment and use of the funds donated. Donations can be made in person or on-line. All donations made in person will receive their own ticket stub & online entries will receive an email confirmation from PayPal. Donations made directly to Life2Orphans are tax deductable. Donations to the ChipIn are not.

Entries are $5 each. That means if you donate $5, you will be entered once. $10 you are entered twice. $25 you have 5 entries, etc.

Help us raise money for these children and have a chance at a Wii just in time for Christmas! Who wouldn't love to win this? Even if you don't want it, someone will be thrilled with it as a gift!

The fundraiser will end December 9th ( which is the day we were officially declared Mariah's parents in a Ukrainian Court Room) and a winner will be chosen randomly via random.org and notified within 24 hours. The Wii will be shipped directly to the winner from amazon. com.

In addition to donating at least $5, sharing this giveway on your blog or facebook page will snag you 3 extra entries for EACH activity. Please leave me a comment letting me know you did so either on here or on my facebook page. You can only get the extra entries once :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

More cute kid pics!

Sorry for the lack of actual blogging.  Life went and got super busy on me!
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is that the same child?

Amazing to see what 10 months home looks like :)

This is why I don't listen to doctors who tell me she'll "never do this or that." Or she'll always be "like this." Ten months with a family and she is exceding her original prognosis of "stage 3 cp" How many others like her wait for a family to believe in them and help them reach their true potential?

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PT homework.

Mariah's PT suggested she do this to practice un-assisted walking.

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We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson