Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One Year

How can 365 days pass so quickly?!  We've had Louba in our arms for one, whole year. It was about this time, a year ago, we were sitting in a hotel in Vladimir, Russia getting ready to make the hour drive to the orphanage in Gus-Khrustalny. We would see her care givers for the last time. See the only home she knew for three and a half years (1279 days, 110,505,600 seconds, 1,841,760 minutes, 30,696 hours, or 182 weeks). Many of you have followed our journey here, on Facebook and Instagram, or in "real" life. We're so lucky to have our village helping make sure the next years of our journey go as well as this year has. 

To recap this year:
December: a Forever family!!!
January: just adjusting to a new life; told mommy she loved her
February: First American Haircut; still adjusting
March: Started pre-school
April: Meet some new friends at our LPA regional in Huntsville
May: A great 1st Birthday party!
June: attended VBS; was a flower girl in a wedding; spent LOTS of time at the ballpark
July: Family vacation to Chattanooga, first day of school
August: Fun at the Splashpad and roasting hot dogs
September: School days and learning all about pre-K
October: A trip to the beach
November: Her first Thanksgiving
December: A visit with Santa

Our plan for Louba's Day tomorrow (December 6th) is to eat at one of her favorite places (Fazoli's, Margarita House, or McDonalds) and to listen to her sing in her first Christmas program. 

Thank you to all of our wonderful friends, both near and far, who have loved on Louba this year. We're so lucky to be her (and her bubba and sissy's) parents.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Empowered to Connect 2012

still in process...

This past weekend I had the priviledge of attending the Empowered to Connect conference in Nashville. I thought I was going to an adoption conference, but it was so much more. I had read Dr. Karyn Purvis' book The Connected Child before we brough Louba home, and had flipped through it since trying to find ways to better connect and discipline her. I'll be honest, I HATED Dr. Purvis before we adopted. I didn't think she knew what she was talking about. I had two kids already that were fine. Why do I need to read how to raise another? But, after attending the conference, I really think she needs to come live with me for a few days and help me to better understand how to make these connections and help our family understand Louba's past. This woman is AMAZING!!!
I've always thought that we've had a great connection and attachement with Louba, and after the conference, I still know we do. We're not on the severe end of the spectrum of attachment disorder (or sensory disorder), just somewhere in the middle. Louba spent over three years in an orphanage. an orphanage with staff who I believe loved her and nurtured her as best as they could. But it still wasn't a mom and dad to hold her when she cried or give her things when she wants. Or, just making sure she knows she is "precious" like all children should feel. Seeing the videos from the conference, and hearing the stories from Dr. Purvis and the Monroe's, I heard Louba's story. I heard the neglect that she had to endure for those three plus years. I heard the cries that went unanswered when she was a baby. I heard the stories of the horror she must have faced when children would die in front of her. Things I know she will NEVER forget.

I sat in tears most of the weekend thinking about what my baby had to live through for three long years. But, also knowing that this is a new life for her. A life that I hope to make as enjoyable as possible. Michael Monroe, one of the speakers at the conference was such an inspiration, along with his wife Amy. (They are involved with Tapestry Ministry). One thing he said was "this is the beginning of your journey." No matter how long we have been home as parents, we can't go back, but we can sure go forward with healing and help. I really liked this couple. They gave a no nonsense view into their lives--the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly. They admitted to mess ups and that sometimes they give the sermons for misbehavior, sometimes the steps don't work the way you want them to, but we should keep on keeping on.

I only thought our journey had begun almost two years ago. Today it's beginning again. These strategies are not easy. I was emotionally drained this weekend from listening to these stories to trying not to get frustrated when trying them on all three of our kids. I tried really hard not to yell, not to put in time out, but to disfuse the situation or to help them make better choices. I have to keep reminding myself that it took her almost four years to learn these survival strategies, she's not going to "unlearn" them overnight.

I took pages and pages of notes. Here are some snippets from them.

From the Monroe sessions:
  • know your buttons and how to deal with them.
  • It's not about you, it's about healing for them
  • Pay attention to your past to make your child's (or children's) life better.
  • You can't implement the strategies if you can't make sense of your past
  • Learn who your children are and where they come from. They are not "mini-mes"
  • Try YESES instead of always saying no. Think about why you are saying no in the first place.
  • "Today is the first day of the rest of your journey"
  • Unlearn what we've been doing and do it the right way
  • experience helps
  • help family, friends, others understand
  • Take it one day/month/year at a time
From the Purvis sessions:
  • Give them permission to negotiate
  • Our journey is "in-process" not to fix them or us
  • Help them to self regulate ("magic mustache," chair push ups, wall pushes)
  • Model honesty
  • 1 in 20 kids have sensory processing disorder
  • keep a sensory journal
  • the most violent kids are usually the most tender-hearted
  • They are surviors
  • Give them a VOICE
  • Touch, eye contact, protective, and soft voice
  • Have shared power
  • If you discipline with force, you will get force in return
  • Immediate positive reinforcement is needed within 3 seconds
  • Tiers: Playful Engagement, Structual Engagement, Calming Engagement, Protective Engagement
  • Put the bar where they can succeed! Don't raise too fast or too slow.
  • If you up the structure, you must up the nurture
  • When it's over it's over; don't dwell
  • redirect the behavior, not escalate it
  • Use their VOICE
  • 40-60% of kids in international orphanges do not survive because of lack of contact
  • Use a warm tone when you talk
  • One-on-one time is a must
If you are adopting, have adopted, know someone who is...If you have kids regardless of if they are biological or adopted, you have to read this book and try to attend the conference or even listen to or watch the videos of the conference. It will change the way you deal with behavior issues of all children.

Sites worth viewing:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kid Interviews

I found several interviews on Pinterest for kids to answer on their birthdays, but we were so busy this summer that I didn't have a ton of time to sit down and type everything out. A couple weeks ago, I was able to sit down to some one on one time with the kiddos and get some answers.

First up, Julianne:

Julianne Elizabeth
Age 7, 2012
My favorite food: broccoli

My favorite sport to play is: softball

The best show on television is: Jesse

The coolest person on Earth is: mom

My favorite thing to learn about in school is: math

The thing I do the most awesomely is: watch TV

If I could go anywhere in the world, I’d go to: North Pole, to see Santa and the Elves

My favorite color is: blue

When I grow up, I’m going to become a: teacher

My favorite song is: "Happy Day"

One of my favorite books is: Chrysanthemum

Three words that describe me: good at softball, painter, and fast

My favorite season of the year is: winter

The snack I list the best is: trix and yogurt

One food that I really dislike is: guacamole

My best friend is: Chloe and Maddi

If I had one wish it would be: To have a million dollars

Next, my big boy, JD:
John David
Age 10, 2012
My favorite food: spasagna (from Cheddar's)

My favorite sport to play is: baseball

The best show on television is: Call of the Wild Man

The coolest person on Earth is: Ryan Lochte, US swimmer

My favorite thing to learn about in school is: Science

The thing I do the most awesomely is: play baseball

If I could go anywhere in the world, I’d go to: Rio

My favorite color is: blue

When I grow up, I’m going to become a: groundskeeper or fireman or Olympian

My favorite song is: "Drunk on You"

One of my favorite books is: Hunger Games

Three words that describe me: Small, fast, and funny

My favorite season of the year is: summer

The snack I list the best is: chocolate chip cookies

One food that I really dislike is: bananas

My best friend is: Parker, who he's been best friends with since he was 5.

If I had one wish it would be: to go to the Olympics

And last but not least, Louba Dooba:

Louba Jane
Age 4, 2012
My favorite food:

My favorite sport to play is: soccer

The best show on television is: Backyardigans

The coolest person on Earth is: Ms. Chrissy and Ms. Shandra (from school

My favorite thing to learn about in school is: ABCs

The thing I do the most awesomely is: read books

If I could go anywhere in the world, I’d go to: To cheese dip and eat

My favorite color is: pink and green

When I grow up, I’m going to become a: mommy

My favorite song is: twinkle twinkle little star

One of my favorite books is: backyardigans book

Three words that describe me: funny, I’m mean, pretty

My favorite season of the year is: winter

The snack I list the best is: red chips (Dorito’s)

One food that I really dislike is: beans

My best friend is: Sasha and Rose, Damonte

Chicken Salad

When I was in college at good ole' UTMartin, I worked in the English department office for several years. while working there, I made some of the best friends in the world, including my "boss" Judy. Judy is now a grandmother, although she isn't old enough to be. One of my memories of working in the English Dept. was our "gatherings" with all the professors and work study students. Judy made this amazing Chicken Salad and shared her recipe with me. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it here.

This recipe makes a huge portion. I usually half it for our family (or just me since I'm the only one who eats it).
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken (2-3 cans)
3/4 c. white grapes
2Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 C chopped celery
1/2 C pecans or almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Mayo
1/2 C cool whip

Mix and chill!! How easy is that. I like to serve mine with sweet Hawaiian bread or pita bread (croissants are yummy too).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Latest Favorite Pins

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies; Eric said they were yummy, but I think my Maw-Maw's recipe is better.

Chess bars; Butter, eggs, and sugar. What could be better???

Made one of these for my classroom. Mine is orange and light blue and not as crazy wild as this.


JD has played baseball on a team since he was four (maybe even 3 1/2). We've been on a travel team since he was 6 or 7. We love our team, but we play a bunch of games (almost 60 this season alone). Our team is more than just a team, it's a family. We get to experience life with these folks. They know some of our deepest secrets, they are part of our happiest memories, and some of our saddest personal times. I don't know what I would do if we didn't have these families in our lives. Here are some of his latest (i.e. coolest) shots from this seasons.


Our kids celebrate birthdays within weeks of one another. Louba's is at the end of May, Jules is just a couple weeks later in mid June, and JD has a birthday at the beginning of July. (Emma, my niece's birthday is just a week before Julianne's). We didn't have parties this year because we have been spending so much time at the ballpark with JD's travel team. We had some small family gatherings and the kids got to choose where they wanted to eat. For Louba, she wanted pizza and slip and slide; Jules wanted Mexican; JD wanted Buffalo Wild Wings. And, of course, I made cakes that they picked out. Louba wanted a barbie cake with a pink dress, Jules had a beach themed cake with candy shells, and JD wanted homemade oatmeal cream pies. We didn't go overboard with gifts either. The each received a new bike from us, and a few small things or money from everyone else. All-in-all, I think they still had a good birthday.

First Days of School

Today, Louba went back to school (a couple weeks before the other two go). I have to go back to work a couple days this week, and the big kids are spending those two days with Mom and Dad. These past few weeks have been so busy (more on that later).

Here's our annual first day of school picture of Lou (I'll post the others here in a couple weeks when they start). Louba will be in the pre-K class at her daycare, Jules will be a 2nd grader, and JD will be in the 4th. It's hard to believe I have one that's only two years away from middle school.

Louba loved school today. She was a little apprehensive about going into a new classroom, but went in and did great. Her teacher is the same one JD and Jules both had when they went to the pre-school she's at. She'll have to sign her name in every morning from now on. She told me she learned stuff but didn't know what she learned. She did say she got to play outside which is HUGE for her. (Hopefully, one day we'll have those bangs grown out and loose the 80s ponytail hair-do.) 

Monday, July 16, 2012


When we decided to adopt a "waiting child" we knew there could be problems. When we found Louba and knew her know diagnosis was achondroplasia, we expected some doctors visits. We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams with her health. We knew achondroplasia could lead to spinal compression issues, bowed legs, spinal kyphosis (which is a spinal curve), among other things. I'm one of those who really trust my doctors. I can research all day long, but they have spent years in medical school. My thought is, I don't like non-teachers telling me how to teach, I shouldn't tell doctors how to treat. Yes, I do ask questions and voice my concerns, but ultimately, I trust my doctors.

We have been to a geneticist (Dr. John Phillips) at Vanderbilt who said she's perfect. He still wants to see her in six months (or October now) to discuss the BioMarin study in more depth. We're still not sure what our role will be in the study, but know we want to be part of it to help other children born with achondroplasia overcome some of the medical issue associated with this genetic disorder. He took spinal and hand x-rays and said everything looked exactly how it was supposed too.  He did some neurological assessments and said she did everything the way she needed too.

We've recently seen an ENT and today her orthopedic doctors.  The ENT (Dr. Wanna) said her hearing was perfect too (she has slight loss at extremely high frequency). He also doesn't need to see her again, but recommend her hearing be tested by our pediatrician in a year.

Today's visit was to the orthopedic doctor at Vanderbilt (Dr. Green). I LOVE HIM!!! He made the kids feel so at easy and joked around with them the whole time we were there. He showed me the x-rays from our April visit and said, "She's perfect! I don't think I'll be seeing her again." Her spine has NO curve, her legs are not bowed (for an achon), her back is the exact shape it should be for achon.

So, we've paid money for doctors to tell us what we already knew, she's PERFECT!!! Our God is so good! We head to the dentist, eye doctor, and regular pediatrician in the next couple of weeks before school starts back.  Our girl is a smart one too. I'm glad we stepped out of our comfort zone and brought this one into our lives. I can't imagine living this life without this fireball.

If you are considering adoption, consider a waiting child. Talk to adoptive parents who have adopted from waiting child lists (the Browns, the Hoods, the Overstreet, anyone on Reece's Rainbow website--these are just a few of the families we know who have adopted from the waiting child lists from various countries). Special needs doesn't always mean lifetimes in hospitals or doctor's offices. SN kids are just kids who need families to love and nurture them to their fullest potential.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Missed Firsts

When we decided to adopt Louba, I knew I was going to be missing several of her milestones: her first words, her first steps, the first smile, laugh, cry. But, we went into adoption not looking for a baby. We wanted a toddler. I've thought about those firsts many times over the past few months that she's been home. I don't know what she was like the day she was born. I don't know how she felt when she heard her Russia mommy's voice for the first time out of the womb. I realized I've missed three and half years of first with her. I thought about it again today when we drove by the hospital John David was born in. I don't know what her hospital looks like.

What I do know, is I get to experience years of firsts with her. I got to see her first steps on American soil. I got to hear her first English words. I got to see her go to her first day of preschool, her first night with her forever family. I get to experience with her her first crush, her first kiss, her first broken heart, her first A on a test she studies all night for, and many, many more firsts that her Russia mommy doesn't get to see.

Am I sad that I'm not part of those firsts firsts? A little. But I'm so excited about what the next years hold for her and our family.

Her first 4th of July!!