This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)
Not to forget our first born, in addition to our adoption excitement, Emily had a milestone week, too! I'm happy to report that we had an IEP meeting at school during which they officially reduced her services because she is doing so well and no longer needs as much support! She now meets or exceeds the level of her peers in almost every academic area and has become quite confident and independent. There is a classroom aide at her disposal, but she has not been needing or using her assistance. Amazingly, her teacher made no mention of any distractibility and instead assured us that Emily is staying on task and is a good listener :) Based on how well she's doing, they no longer classify her as a "supported ed" student (one who needs support for 60% of the day or more) and at the meeting, her status officially changed to that of a "resource" or consult student. That means she doesn't need much special support, but will be kept on their radar in case she should need more help with the transition to all-day first grade next year.
Her pull-out time (for OT, PT and speech) was also drastically reduced since her fine and gross motor skills are now in line with her peers. Her handwriting has really improved and she LOVES spelling new words on every scrap of paper she can find! In fact, sometimes when I ask her a simple question, she runs to find paper and pencil to WRITE her answer. I've also noticed a big improvement in her ability to listen and understand when I read her stories (her biggest weakness has always been auditory processing). Reading to her used to feel like a frustrating waste of time since she couldn't pay attention and everything seemed to go right over her head. But now I'm actually enjoying reading Junie B. Jones books aloud (sometimes a censored version!) because she's getting it! It's so neat to see her moving towards just being a good 'ole "regular" student! She doesn't even qualify for summer school anymore :) She will still get pulled out 30 min/week for speech to improve her auditory comprehension, but that's about it. Hooray!
I'm SOOO glad we stuck to our guns about wanting her to stay in kindergarten again this year!! I've seen absolutely no adverse effects (at this age there is no stigma or realization that she's doing anything unusual) and yet we've seen so many benefits. With all her preemie issues and hospitalization she essentially lost a year's worth of development and simply was not able to magically catch up for that lost time. Since it was clear that she was still developmentally delayed in some areas, it just made sense (to us anyway) to hold her back a year. Being with kids her developmental age has made a world of difference for her confidence and we're thrilled with how well she's doing.
I'm in awe of God's work in her and also how He's expertly managed to time and arrange our adoption around her needs. Instead of seeing the adoption slow down as a negative, I can now see how His hand was in every step of the way. China's delays allowed us to really focus on Emily this past year and set her on a better educational footing. Now that we're all feeling more comfortable with her educational prospects--and future in general--we're more ready and able to expand our focus to include another child. I just love the way God works! When I let Him lead, He leads me down better paths than I could ever find on my own :) Note to self: Remember this. Learn from this.
Okay, admit it, you thought she looked like a boy, didn't you? Me too! So, just for fun, I did some digital magic and added some "virtual" hair to her picture just to see what she might look like once her hair grows out. Kinda cute, eh? Even with the scowl on her face :)
For over a year now, we've been preparing our hearts for an unknown baby girl in China who needs a family. A few months ago we changed our course a bit and decided to request a baby with special needs (specifically a correctable heart defect). The original reason we considered requesting a special needs child is that the line to get a healthy infant has slowed so much that our documents would expire before it'd be our turn to adopt. However, as I began to explore what issues were considered special needs, I began to think about Emily, our tiny one pound miracle. She'd had so many health issues that I imagine she would have scared off most prospective adopters--after all, her future was pretty precarious. And yet, look at how she has flourished! Having lived through her success story, we now have the courage to offer hope to another child who might seem too scary to others.
On November 6th, we got word from our agency that they had a new list of Waiting Children (special needs or older/hard to place) and that they just might have a match to our request. . . It took longer than I expected for the list to get translated, but we FINALLY got THE call yesterday. The match they presented wasn't exactly what we had requested so we were a bit surprised at first to be offered a child who will turn FOUR in February! However, once the initial shock wore off, we started to get excited about Emily having a playmate (which was actually one of our original desires). We have the option to wait for a healthy baby, but we had previously decided that we would not reject any child who was proposed to us. Age four was a shock, but I'd already told Andy that I felt like God was gently preparing me to get an older child (toddler, I thought). Although we had requested a baby (due to attachment/bonding concerns), I'd been praying that if God had a different/better plan, that He would match us with the child that He knew was best for our family. Based on this, before we even got her files or pictures, we decided to trust that He is in control and has great plans that we can't even conceive.
Rong Fu Tan is estimated to have been born about Feb. 1, 2003 though she wasn't abandoned (in poor health) until June 19th 2003. She was then taken to be cared for at RongXian Social Welfare Institute in the province of Guangxi where they took care of her and tried to nurse her to health. Her file says she is timid, active, has a ready smile, gets along well with others, is quick in reaction, is fairly introverted and sometimes obstinate. "She loved playing the game 'you throw the object and I pick it up...and is sometimes naughty, climbing on the bed rail or chair for 'climbing competition' which is funny as they are like a group of monkeys...she is sociable and plays well with others, never arguing with them. . .and has recently learnt to hug others to show her affection." According to the checklist, she walks steadily on her own, speaks in short sentences (in Chinese!), understands "no" and is able to understand simple conversation and commands
I think He knew that a double shock of ill health AND an older child might push our limits, so He graciously gave us a child who's rare and complex heart issues have already been operated on :) Based on her file and some internet searching, my layman understanding is that her heart is on the opposite side of her chest than the norm and is a mirror image of the norm (Dextrocardia). Also, instead of having just right and left atria, her left atrium was subdivided resulting in three atria (cor triatriatum). In addition to these, she had the more typical heart defects of holes between the chambers (Atrial Septal Defect and Ventricular Septal Defect). As a result of these heart issues, being institutionalized and having frequent upper respiratory infections, she is developmentally delayed both physically and intellectually (sounds familiar!).
The amazing thing, however, is that her records show that last December somehow she was apparently flown clear across the country to get corrective heart surgery at a brand new cardiology hospital!! I'm assuming that her heart is still in an unusual position, but it appears that they were successful at closing the holes between the chambers and perhaps also removing the wall between the left atria. I believe the needed repairs are now complete, but we're having a doctor examine her files to be sure. While recovering, she suffered from pneumonia, but after a stay of 24 days went home as a success and then apparently flew back again for a follow-up in May. I'm amazed by this since orphanages in China don't have the means to take such extraordinary measures with these abandoned kids. I'm wondering if she was a beneficiary of an American surgical mission like you can read about at www.LoveWithoutBoundaries.com/medical.php ?? I hope some day we can find out and thank them.
As you might expect, just like any other expectant parents, we're excited, hopeful, and also a little scared. We hope to travel to China early next year and begin to begin this leap of faith.