Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A YEAR!!! (And some days...)

We are blessed.

I was thinking recently, as I was tuckered out from a long, full day, that we've really got it good. Yes, I'm exhausted. And yes, our lives are full. But our lives are also good. Seriously, really good. There's not one part of our day-to-day that I would change. We are happy. And yes, we are blessed.

It's been a while since I've written. And though I sincerely dislike disclaimers like the one I'm about to give (and the others I've posted here in the past), I've really got to explain...

So, if y'all don't mind, I'll begin this post with a list of excuses. I'll lay them out horizontally instead of vertically, so the list will seem shorter and less whiney (ha!). But really. Here's where we've been the last few months:

We moved in Mid-March to a new rental house by our church (also my work). We committed to adopting Tony at the end of April. Mountains of paperwork have been filled out and fancy-stamped since then. In May I stepped in as substitute VBS director, starting from scratch. Said VBS happened 4 times around the city of Lincoln starting in June. One happened at my house. One week later I had a HUGE three-day-long fundraiser garage sale. On the last day of the garage sale I started feeling sick. Like, really sick. Turns out I had mono. And H. Pylori. At the same time. The H. Pylori was diagnosed first and was treated with duel antibiotics. One said antibiotic had a reaction with the undiagnosed mono, causing a measles-like rash that covered me from head to toe. (Was it itchy? Why, yes. Thank you for asking.) Sam and I lived at my parent's house for the better part of two weeks, after which I began a slow re-entry into life. I'm still experiencing some fatigue. And we're still using paper plates and bowls (and cups and paper towels, if I'm being honest). But I am absolutely on the mend. And now...last baby started kindergarten. I have been crying, literally, for two weeks. (Not constantly, of course, but you know what I mean.)


And this is the short list.

Its been a season of challenges. And a season of change and transition.

But even in the midst of challenge and change there has been so much beauty.


Now, to get to the good stuff!

A year!

I know it's totally and completely cliche to say, but I'm gonna go there anyway...

I can hardly remember my life without her.

Sam has added immeasurable joy and purpose to my days.

She is funny, clever, strong-willed, loving, passionate, eager, and so, so, so lovable.

And she is the bravest, most resilient and most inspiring person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Here's a little bit about Sam and an overview of our first year together:

  • Last August, when I carried Sam out of her orphanage, she was noticeably smaller than she had been when I met her in April (by about 4 pounds). She'd been living in isolation for an unknown amount of time, but bore marks on her body that let me know that her few interactions with people were not good. She was rightfully agitated and resistant to touch. She cried often, for long periods of time. She didn't throw fits. She cried. NOW, my Sammers is up 3 clothing sizes, 4 diaper sizes, and 18 pounds! She's even (barely) made it onto the growth chart for little girls her age! And she LOVES people and loves to be touched.
This picture, as well as the next, were taken the winter before
Sam came home. This is her too-small, meant-for-a-baby-boy bed.

Here she is in the hotel on our pick up trip. Her baths that week
were pretty traumatic. 
We were both exhausted and overwhelmed when we finally arrived home.  
She got the hang of baths after a few weeks home, but couldn't balance
herself yet in the tub.
She's a new kid. Enough said.
  • When Sam first came home, she had no interest in toys...or in much of anything. She was likely functioning developmentally at age 6 months (Susanna, I had no idea yet what I was talking about when I first made a guess at this! I was later give some good information that helped me, the first time mommy, to understand.) She would sit in one spot until I moved her and needed me to direct her minute by minute as to what she should be doing. NOW, she is an active, busy little monkey :) She LOVES to play and dance and sing and wrestle and swim and...LIVE LIFE! She is now developmentally closer to about 10 months.
Here we are, snuggled up in our "boat" safe from the world around us.
We lived here for a few days.
What's the plan, Mom?
Girl's got skills!

Here she is telling us all about it on the 4th of July.

Too fast for mom!

  • She has been under anesthesia four times this year. The toughest by far was a surgery to take out her tonsils and adenoids and replace her ear tubes. Her little body did not appreciate the anesthesia or pain medications and had quite a time waking back up. We stayed in the hospital for three days. Sam was not amused.
Here we are right before heading home with Lucy Loo who
was out and about visiting patients (we spent our last night on
the oncology floor where most patients were they for a longer stay than us).
  • Sam has (almost) mastered two signs. She can say (her own version of) "all done", which she likes to use anytime she's asked to do therapy work. Smart, huh? And she can say "music". A couple weeks ago she pulled that one out during a guest pastor's sermon as if to say, "How about we wrap this thing up and get back to singing?'
  • In March, Sam and I moved out of the community house where we were living with our friends, and into a sweet little rental house two doors down from our church, where I also happen to work. This house and its location have been a great blessing to us so far. 
Here's the Bolivar House where our friends continue to live and do ministry in the neighborhood.
Our friends, Jon and Anna, are in Bulgaria right now picking up their son, Simon, from Sam's
old orphanage. Check out their blog! Simon is a true miracle!
Here's our new place! We love it here. The layout is perfect for Sam, Tony and I.
The main floor is nice and open. I can see and hear Samantha from any room in
the house, no matter where she is. 
Here's our sweet little backyard. We've got a great little hill for sledding.
(If Sam and Tony decide they like sledding, that is!)
Our kitchen has windows! Its nice to be able to look outside while I'm doing the dishes.

Our living room, which opens into... 
...the dining room.

Sam enjoying our new porch swing with her cousins. Unfortunately, our porch
swing hasn't been feeling too well since VBS happened at our house.
I can't imagine why? :)
  • When we moved into our new house, we were zoned to a new school. Sam wasn't attending school at the time, but we were receiving school services including specialists coming to the house each month. When the physical therapist from the new school came over to meet us, she immediately noticed that Sam's feet and ankles needed some additional support. Sam had already been attending private physical therapy for 6 months prior to this meeting, and no one had noticed this! I am truly thankful that we met this lovely lady when we did, because she helped me come to the conclusion that I needed to consider other options for Sam's therapy. We transferred services over to Madonna, and couldn't be happier with the help we've received. We've both learned SO much. And of course, now Sam wears braces on her feet. 
Here Sam is, splashing int the pool with her physical therapist, Mandy.
  • Sam recently went on her very first vacation ever! We went to Estes Park with my family. She was feeling sad and looking pitiful on the drive there, but had quite a nice time once we arrived. 
She did surprisingly well on this fun horse swing outside our cabin.
Her core strength is pretty impressive and she had no trouble at all holding her balance.
Here she is tasting her first roasted marshmallow. She liked it!
So much so that she wanted a real bite! Too bad my fingers were in the way :)

Swinging on the porch with her very best friend, Cousin Audrey.

    We took a scenic drive up a big, beautiful mountain, taking stops along the way.
    Sam even likes playing in icy cold water! I rushed her right back to the car
    afterward for a nice dry change of clothes.
    Here we are near the top of the mountain. We hopped out at this point
    and hiked a little ways. Almost to the tippy top! But not quite. 
    Papa was nice to help me carry Sam back down.
    • Just the other day my super-strong and equally stubborn little girl took FOURTEEN independent steps! (Never you mind that I wasn't home...or that I immediately RAN home from a meeting at church as soon as I heard...or that Sam was hoping I wouldn't find out!) Do me a favor and don't tell her that you know I know.
    Here's Sam practicing her walking with Madi and Aunt Natalie. 
    This is the most walking we've been able to capture on video.
    • And last, but certainly not least! She's started kindergarten!!! Sammers is on week two of her first  year of school and she is doing so, so well! Sam is in a class with "typical" kids, although her teacher has a masters in Special Education. We had our IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting this week, and there were TEN wonderfully kind professionals there to help me create the best possible scenario for my daughter. I must add that this has not been easy for mommy. It was my heart's desire that I would be able to homeschool Samantha. But it just was not going to work. SO, this school, full of people who love Sam (literally around every corner I hear an enthusiastic, "Hi Sam!!") is the next best thing. She definitely is in good hands. So now, I work while Samantha is at school, and we have our afternoons and evenings free to be together. 
    Here's Samantha on the first day of school after I did her hair. 
    She still adamantly dislikes having her hair brushed and done. 
    This day was probably one of the worst. I've been growing her 
    bangs out, because haircuts are even worse than brushing...
    but that means we can no longer just wash an go...the hair 
    must be done. Here she is, just starting to calm down...

    Here she is all packed and ready for kindergarten. 
    Yes, she is standing independantly!! She's leaning a bit, but not much :)

    Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported and prayed for us this last year. We are thankful for each and every one of you.

    Stay tuned for an adoption update on Mr. Tony!

    Lots of love to all of you.