Q: Do you stay in touch with Katie’s Baba?
A: We will be doing that through our missionary friends, the Blisses. When Baba Donka has a computer and internet again, we plan to send photos.
Q: Why was Katie able to get a Baba at the orphanage? Was that something you paid for, or was she paid by the orphanage?
A: Neither; the Baba Programme is being supported by a charity organisation. We don’t know how certain children are chosen to receive a Baba, but most of the children in her former orphanage still do not have a Baba.
Q: Can you tell us what is next medically for Katie? I know she is getting feeds through her tube so that she can grow. But what else is next? Dental? Or?
A: We know that there is more bloodwork in Katie’s future. We will need recommendations for some specialists. We need to look at the next dietary phase.
We should get a good start on a game plan this Friday afternoon with the help of Dr. Kevin A. Strauss, her pediatrician at The Clinic for Special Children. Dr. Strauss has been Verity’s pediatrician for over a year now. He’s a rare combination of genius doctor and compassionate human being, and we respect and like him very much for his humble spirit. (Allergic as we are to doctors with a god complex.) Actually, we appreciate everything about the Clinic, and consider ourselves blessed that it is only ten minutes from our home.
Q: You have mentioned Katie’s dental condition, how is that going? Has she lost most of her teeth? Will she need a lot of dental work in the near future?
A: Her top teeth are overcrowded, but in good condition. Her bottom teeth are gray, and coated with a thick layer of calculus. The dental specialist who examined her in the PICU said that she still has her baby teeth. He also said they wouldn’t be able to tell us the true condition of her bottom teeth until her teeth were cleaned. The cleaning will need to be done under anesthesia at some point.
Q: Do you have a schedule that you and the children are on during the day? I was wondering what a typical day (I guess “typical” is not a great word for it) in your household looks like with Katie home.
A: Schedule? No. I’ve tried and tried, but alas, schedules and I don’t get along very well together. One or the other of us begins feeling very whiny if we get too close to each other. Just the thought of a schedule makes me want to draw a deep breath and think about starting a project. But a good routine, with anchor times, is always my friend.
Speaking in very simplified terms to give you the general idea–certain things must be done by breakfast time, lunchtime, suppertime, and bedtime.
As far as our current routine, it is still being tweaked since we did not know until we came home with her what Katie’s care would involve. We’re starting at survival mode, and we’ll be slowly moving toward adding in activities as our household can tolerate it.
Q: How do you manage to keep your house so clean with 11 kids?
A: My first reaction to this question? ”What makes you think our house is so clean?” Heh heh. It is constantly a work in progress, as we live in a hundred-year-old 1300 square foot farmhouse with now 13 people.
Other thoughts, in random order…
We have older children who are quite competent, not just younger ones who are still learning to be competent. We were there some years ago, and yes, it was hard and fulfilling work. Now I even have an extra driver who only works part time and doesn’t mind running short errands in a pinch.
Now the challenge is to continue to allow the little ones to learn rather than having the big people handle it the quickest way. But we discovered that it is a great motivation for older ones to teach younger ones a task, if they know that they will be passing the job down as soon as the younger one can do it well.
If there is a job that would take one person an hour to do alone, it takes six people only ten minutes to do it together.
On the other hand, I realized one day that I could keep all of us occupied cleaning something or other all of the time, and it would be up to me to draw the line, since we don’t believe that God called us to spend our lives keeping our house perfect. So beyond a basic cleanliness, I have had to let some things go.
We do, however, believe our primary calling is toward building relationships, including relationships with our children. If something has to go, we don’t want it to be relationships. And constantly moving everyone onward to the next thing isn’t always conducive to sturdy relationships.
I do not like unnecessary stuff, and that is an understatement. I attempt to teach my children to judge between trash and treasure. ”And where does trash belong?”
At any given time, our house is more likely to be tidy than clean. If you come to our back door unexpectedly, you will most likely look through a pattern of fingerprints into our kitchen. Fresh fingerprints only take about thirty seconds, if that. Furthermore, I have observed that messiness in big, new houses looks comfortable, but messiness in small, old houses looks squalid. So decluttering is an ongoing event at our house. One of the many things I love about living in a small house, though, is that it doesn’t take very long to put it in order if we all go at it with a will.
If everyone who knows me well in real life voted, it would be unanimous. Susanna would only be improved if she would just relax more often.
And that, my friends, is that, for better or for worse.
Q: Can a local person come and visit you and Katie? Maybe help out for a day? I would love to be “helping hands” to you sometime! ~S.
A: Depending on the helper, we would love to have occasional help!
S.~ I know you and would love to have you come help out! Your offer made me choke up, knowing your connection with Mom.
Q: What is Katie doing throughout the day, as your life goes on as normal with all of the other children?
A: Truth be told, I can’t define exactly what normal is at this point. I seem to have lost track of that somewhere along the line.
But I can tell you about the several options for our Katie-bird. Usually, I hold her. Sometimes I will allow Laura or Jane to hold her for brief periods, and Daddy loves to hold her when he’s home. When she grows uncomfortable with being held, she either goes down onto the play mat or into her Nap Nanny, depending on which room she will be in and what other activity is going on there. The Nap Nanny keeps her safe in high-traffic locations. It has been the ideal, soft, portable place for her, holding her in a reclining position to keep the stress off her spine and enabling her to observe her busy family or be near me while I am pumping or showering.
Q: I noticed she is in a seat for a lot of her pictures… is that just because she feels more secure there? Is “floor time” something you haven’t really started yet, or does it make her uncomfortable?
A: It is simply because I am nearly always the photographer. In real life, when the camera is not a part of it, I am usually holding her or she is close to me. I do all her care myself.
Q: She seems to be blossoming so well… did God just especially bless her with her ability to bond and receive love, despite her past, or is there something specific you’re doing?
A: Random thoughts~
There are some parents who do everything right, and their adopted child refuses to accept their love.
We were told that the more care that the adopted child needs from the primary caregiver, usually the mom, the faster the bonding process occurs. Katie is totally dependent on me for her care, and I believe she can sense that I am reveling in this “duty.” I love being a mama, and this task is like mothering on steroids.
So many of you have been praying with us for Katie.
She had an unusually loving baba, very demonstrative.
We think her Down syndrome may be helping her out in this area. This is not a guarantee of happiness or lovingness, though, despite common misconceptions. She did get a full measure of stubbornness, which many associate with the extra chromosome. Joe just says she’ll fit right into this family.
However it is, we are just grateful for her sake that she is opening up and soaking in the love. We have so many years to make up for.
Q: How do you walk the line between giving her enough interaction and overstimulating her… and how do you get your younger kids to? (I don’t know the ages of your little ones other than Verity.)
A: You have described it well. There is a line, and it started out being razor thin. But it is widening rapidly.
Our children fall into a neatly organized pattern of Big Boys, Big Girls, Little Boys, and Little Girls. Joseph, Daniel, and Joshua are 18, 16, and 14 years old, Laura and Jane are 12 1/2 and nearly 10, John Michael, Peter, James, and Stephen are 6, 5 & 5 (today!), and 3, Verity is 17 months. (Katie holds the distinction of being a Big Girl and a Little Girl at the same time.)
Our children can be a noisy, active bunch, but they are not out of control. When the noise and activity reach reasonable limits for the occasion, we bring it back down. If it is appropriate noise and activity for the occasion, and I can tell Katie has reached her limits, chances are that I will also appreciate backing off to a quiet place for a little while.
Q: How did Katie feel about that kiss on the forehead from her sister? Does she allow others to hold her yet? Have those orphanage coping behaviors stopped or are near stopping?
A: Mama is #1 with Katie, Daddy takes second place, and Laura is in third. That was the first kiss Laura ventured, and Katie received it well, as you can see from the photographs. Katie also loves to hear Joseph play the piano, and lights up for either Joseph or Daniel when they enter the room.
Jane is working on making friends with her new sister, who is two months younger than she is. She discovered that Katie laughs when she whistles~
Q: What do Katie and Verity think of each other?
A: They went from simply tolerating one another’s presence to being curious about each other.
Q: What medications is Katie on?
A: The same thyroid medication that Verity receives each morning to control hypothyroidism, as well as various vitamin and mineral supplements.
Q: Why do they refer to her as a “medical curiosity?”
A: There aren’t many people around who are this tiny at this age, resulting from profound neglect from the time of birth. Even Hitler didn’t have nine years to experiment on people this way. She may never encounter any physicians who had prior experience with a child in a similar condition. For this reason, we believe it is wiser for physicians to approach her with a good measure of humility, and to some extent, to expect to learn from her.
Q: Are you continuing to see Katie make progress, and if so in what ways?
A: Yes! She is reaching out and touching things more readily now. I rarely saw her do that until the past few days. When I am sitting next to her, she will reach out and touch my arm and hand for short periods of time. She’s doing that right now, right next to me in the Nap Nanny, with my arm draped along the edge. Truly amazing considering that not long ago, she was agitated by any object within her reach, and would cry if she was unable to push it away.
Katie has a line. She can cross the line, but we cannot. She is always completely aware of where we are in relation to her line. Her line is definitely moving inward and getting fuzzier. This means she allows more close interaction from more of us. She more readily makes eye contact with me, and takes more pleasure in being touched and held. This morning I grasped one of her feet, then the other, saying, “Foot,” and did this over and over. She took it all in the first few times, then decided she liked it, and began to smile.
She is learning the language of praise. We could tell at the beginning that our praise communicated nothing to her whatsoever. Now she responds by smiling.
It can be uncomfortable and even scary to be in a place of need. It has always been a very sensitive place for me, and I am still wary of folks if I sense that they would resent what they have given, or see it as a burden to help me or our family, or use their gift in manipulative ways. Katie has come carefully to that uneasy place with me, and I feel it as an honor that she would trust me with her needs.
She has cried since coming home, a few times because she wanted me, and a few times because she was bored and wanted a change in position or scenery. She begins to grow agitated at the same noise and chaos level where I begin to grow agitated, so we make a good pair of family barometers.
She is gaining in strength and getting more active. She occasionally attempts to sit more upright on my lap and in the Nap Nanny.
She is gaining in feeling secure in her environment. She has demonstrated that she will scoot on her belly (army crawl) to get closer to something she is curious about or to get closer to me.
She is beginning to show some ability to regulate her emotions.
She has a small noise she makes with her voice that she thinks is speech. She will go back and forth with us in a conversation IF she is in the mood for it. She is in the mood for it more often all the time.
She does her orphanage behaviors mostly when she is bored or sleepy, and we are able to distract or re-direct her from some of them.
I began giving her the merest tastes of tasty foods a couple of days ago. She has received that well, pulling her lower lip inward rather than pushing the food out with her tongue. If she was refusing it, she would push it out, as she did to the food we attempted to give her in the hotel in her native country.
And of course, she is continuing to grow at a prodigious rate. I weighed her on our digital scales the evening we arrived home, to get a baseline for comparison. She weighed 12 pounds 8 ounces then. Last night she was 13 pounds 12 ounces, a gain of 1 1/4 pounds in 5 days, and an overall gain of approximately 3 pounds and 3 ounces in 3 weeks. We think that part of the reason she is more willing to sit upright is that she actually has the beginnings of a seat-cushion there now, which was entirely absent before.
Q: In what ways can you tell she is nine years old, and not a baby?
A: I have tried repeatedly to put words to this, but they haven’t yet formed in ways that make sense to those on the outside. The difference immediately became obvious to our older children as soon as we brought her home and she spent some time alongside Verity. Some of the differences have to do with her interests (she despises toys in a queenly sort of way), her mannerisms, her extraordinary curiosity about what we are doing (also known as nosiness), her physical differences, and her level of social intelligence.
That nosiness, by the way, may end up being her biggest motivator when she starts physical therapy.
Q: What specific prayer needs do you have right now?
A: That Katie would continue to thrive without getting sick.
That the bad cough Verity has had since we were in Katie’s country would go away and not come back.
And that our family would continue to adjust with aplomb to our new normal of life with our little fragile bird.
To everyone who has been so faithfully and diligently praying for us, thank you. We have needed the help of God, and His help has been unfailing. I want to tell you more about God’s provision for our needs in some future post.
P. S. I just remembered that I promised to email someone my post full of tips for traveling to Katie’s native country. If you remember who you are, could you pretty please forgive me and clue me in?
P. P. S. As I publish this, there are still 7 1/2 hours left of the Hidden Treasures auction. Not too late to get a few more bids in! Thank you for stopping in to check it out!