Mid-winter Q & A

February 8th, 2013


Q:  How are you?  Is all well with your pregnancy?  Is your ankle healing?

A:  Aaaaah, feelin’ pretty fine!  Compared with last month, that is!

Our January was dominated by some unusual challenges, compounded by an extended bout with the flu.  It took until the end of the month for all of us to really feel normal again, in time for me to enter the third trimester.  The ankle is slowly coming along without much help from me, I’m afraid.  <grin>

Most remarkable in all this is how our household took everything in stride and continued to function calmly, accomplishing educational goals, maintaining basic cleanliness, tidiness and organization, completing adoption paperwork, steadily preparing for two new boys.

The only area of life where I’m really behind is in writing thank you notes and answering emails, but that will eventually get done, too, just like the blog journaling did.  [If you are still waiting for an email, the reason is that you’ve asked me good, non-urgent questions that deserve more thought and time than I can dash off quickly.  I’m caught up to January 20th now, hurray!]

Our life is so different now than it used to be.  If you had asked me way back when, I would have assumed that this kind of life was for other people, and wouldn’t have thought it possible for us to do what we’re doing now as a routine matter of course.  God is still proving Himself strong to us every single day.


And how Stephen can fall asleep surrounded by a big family singing loudly is more than I can explain!

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Q:  How are Katie and Verity doing?

A:  It’s so good to see them both back to growing and learning and progressing after being on sick leave during most of January.

Verity’s sense of humor and fun is developing delightfully!  She loves to tease and be teased.  She understands the meaning of the words “funny,” “silly,” and “goofy!”  She belly laughs at my hair in the morning before I dry it, and says, “Funny hair!”  She gets silly when she’s tired of flash cards, and calls things by the wrong name on purpose, then says, “No!  Ha ha ha!”

After hardly uttering a word during her grouchy weeks of illness, she’s again adding words to her repertoire.  My current favorite is hearing her clear pronunciation of the word “piano.”  Or maybe asking her what the duck says, and hearing a perfect, deliberate “quack, quack” in response.

We think she’s getting pretty good at using utensils like silverware and crayons, for a two and a half year old.

We’re so proud of her readiness to cooperate in learning new skills and concepts such as pottying, her enunciation of syllables [we stress this so much as we work with her, knowing this will be a particular struggle for her with the motor planning challenges, low muscle tone, and highly arched, constricted and narrow hard palate that came along with her Down syndrome], her ability to comprehend and unhesitatingly respond to our auditory input without visual cues, and her attention span when we ask it of her.

Right now, she loves books, puzzles with small pegs, brushing her teeth with her electric toothbrush, the color yellow, holding and kissing her babies, making us laugh, and giving us tight squeezes.

This week marks three years since we first learned that our unborn baby daughter Verity had a serious heart defect and most likely had Down syndrome.  Before that momentous day, if you had told me of all that would transpire over the next several years, I would have been convinced that you had us mixed up with some other Musser family.

I wish there were words to tell you how blessed we have been by this one little Verity.  The love she draws out of us is enormous beyond description and there is not one thing we would change about her if we had that power, from her sweet-smelling softness to her spunky individuality to her clear, guileless eyes to the conquering of the next skill to the charming way she brushes the hair out of her eyes with her tiny hand.

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Katie is growing and looking so much older to us these days!

Over the past few months, she’s been making the most progress in her gross motor skills, gaining strength and proficiency.  She can crawl up the stairs quickly when she wants to.  I finally captured this on video, only to discover later that I captured it sideways and will have to try, try again on another sunny free afternoon.

She’s learning to go backwards down the steps with some prompting and support, can crawl on her hands and knees very nicely, is moving beautifully from half-kneel to stand, and loves to walk with both hands held.

She’s eating and drinking very well, and is slowly continuing to progress toward a proper chewing technique.  Just the simple fact that this child eats a wide variety of food in a wide variety of textures still amazes me.

She’s also continuing to progress in her toleration of various sensory input, in showing more appropriate emotional reactions, and in her attachment and bonding to us.

She loves all sorts of music and interesting noise and rhythm!  She is easily bored and loves action and interaction!

Besides all this good stuff, she looks sweeter than ever in her new Milly-Molly-Mandy haircut.  Doesn’t she?!

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Her physical therapist says this activity is good for requiring an upright standing position.  Katie loves the piano so much she doesn’t mind working a bit harder for it.

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She’s not crazy about sharing it with Verity.

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But that’s okay.  It’s not Verity’s favorite activity, anyway.  

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Katie knows which puzzle pieces make noise, and she likes those best.   She was so sensory-deprived for so long; she can’t get enough now.

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When she’s standing at a chair to play, we have to position her feet and encourage her to stand up straight and not lean.

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She can cruise all the way around our living room from chair to piano to chair to chair to couch.  But her favorite spot is the piano.

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You don’t have to be around Katie for very long before you realize that she’s a different sort of person!  But Katie’s favorite thing of all is no different than your favorite thing and my favorite thing.

She loves to be loved.

She soaks it up!  Drinks it in!  Never grows tired of it!  

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What does it take to love a child like Katie?  Some kind of heroism?

I am more fiercely adamant than ever before that what is most needed is total acceptance.  The kind of acceptance that God gives to His own children–nothing can separate us from His love because we’re accepted in the Beloved.

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Katie survived conditions so extreme none of us can adequately imagine them.

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She and the other older children in her former orphanage adapted to unthinkable deprivation for an unthinkably long time, and survived.

They survived for long years what we’ve never had to survive for a single day.  It has affected them in ways that nobody truly understands, but they are different and always will be different.

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In order to love these little ones, are we willing to set aside our previous paradigm for what constitutes an acceptable human being?  Are we willing to refuse to compare them with children who have had every privilege provided for them since before they were born?

God spared their lives for a purpose.

Are we willing to see them for who they are in His eyes?  Period?

Yes, Katie.  We are willing.

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Q:  Could you tell me more about your impressions of Tommy?  I’d love to hear more about him!

A:  Yes, I’d be happy to!  Look for an upcoming Tommy post.


Q:  When do you think you’ll be able to bring him home?

A:  Most likely, we will be able to go get him near the beginning of June at the earliest.


Q:  How will that work with the baby coming?

A:  Baby is due to arrive around the end of April/beginning of May, so Plan A is to go get Tommy when baby boy is about a month old and take him with us.  Much sweeter than traveling with a breast pump like I did when visiting Katie and bringing her home.  <smile>

Plan B, in the event that either baby or I cannot travel, is for Joe and an older brother to go bring Tommy home.  From all we have observed, Tommy is in a very different place emotionally than Katie was in, and due to this, his transition should be much smoother than hers was, although we’re prepared for anything.


Q:  Do you think Tommy will need to be hospitalized like Katie was?

A:  No.  He is receiving better nutrition than Katie was.  Also, his emotional state is not likely to be traumatized by the travel and transition as has happened with Katie and several other older children with similar histories, who were in a similar fragile emotional state and due to that, refused to eat.

However, he’ll need to be seen as soon as possible by specialists due to his scoliosis, and we plan to set that up ahead of time.  Because of the severity of his spinal curve, it could quickly move to dangerous levels as he begins to grow if that isn’t prevented by proper treatment.  He’ll be receiving a DEXA scan as well as other tests and any necessary treatments.

If the upcoming summer unfolds as it seems that it will, it may be similar to last summer–lots of medical appointments alternating with lots of fun summertime family activities!

Katie will have the summer off from school like other eleven year olds do, and Verity will age out of the early intervention program when she turns three at the end of June, so we’ll all enjoy a timely break from therapy for a few months.


Q:  How is Tommy’s adoption process coming along?

A:  Thank the Lord that we received our I800 provisional approval this week, less than five weeks before Tommy turns sixteen years old.

Having spent only a few days with our boy, I am aching to see him again and introduce him to his daddy, brothers and sisters, extended family, and friends!  Everyone is going to love our jubilant Tommy!

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26 Responses to “Mid-winter Q & A”

  1. Cinderellamommy says:

    So glad to hear of all the joyful Musser happenings! (And that you are all feeling better!)

  2. Taylor-Tots says:

    Thank you for such a lovely update.  I can’t believe how big Katie is becoming!  Love her new Milly-Molly-Mandy hair cut; it’s just right for her face.  (Now she just needs a Milly-Molly-Mandy frock to go with the hair do.)  And sweet, serious Verity!  What a beautiful munchkin!
    Glad you are feeling better, dear Susanna. 

  3. Mary Kathryn says:

    What a beautiful post! Thank you. It’s a joy to see your children and hear how much Verity and Katie are growing and learning. I’m especially amazed at Katie’s physical growth, and her stature. She’s so much taller than Verity now! She stands so well — she looks like any minute she will take off walking! I know these posts take a long time to do, and I do so appreciate the work on your part. What a blessing!

  4. Becky K. says:

    I loved this entire post!
    If you’d like to see your little white kitchen candle just pop by the blog.  I didn’t have much to talk about today but that candle is soooo cute I put up a photo.

  5. Jill B says:

    Thanks so much for the update!  The changes in Katie continue to astound me. Awesome!  Sounds like Verity is doing great too!

  6. Deanna says:

    I love seeing Katie by the piano!  She does indeed look like a big/older girl!
    That Verity!  What a little person she is!

  7. Nicole says:

    I enjoyed seeing your son (?) and baby brother, so much tenderness… And I am very impressed with your older daughter… so much love attention and I can just see you in her… (i have been watching videos on youtube)
    We have a 27 old daughter, a special child. She has given us so much joy, happiness and laughter that I do not know how we would manage without her! I have been very ill for two years and she has helped us to laugh along the way… the best medicine!

  8. hsmominmo says:

    I always enjoy your family updates and the Q&A posts. Thank you for taking time to share with us!

  9. I love reading these updates!  Katie’s new hair cut is so cute and she is getting so big as well.  It’s been enjoyable to see her blossom and grow….  Verity is adorable!  Thanks for taking the time to share with your readers!

  10. When our Isaiah (9yrs) told the Dr he shared a room with 5 brothers from BG, she asked “how do you sleep?” LOL!! He does! If I get the BG brothers up a half hour early he even sleeps through the lights on!! ;o)
    THAT’S what I need for our Jakie to stand! LOL!! A piano! Right now he’ll only stand independently in the play pen. Our Mosie is afraid to stand unless he supports himself reaching up or reaching straight foreward. Supporting himself using something as high as his waist frightens him. So much fun watching how each individual child progresses! Can’t wait to “see” Tommy home!

  11. Terri White says:

    Wonderful to hear you are all well!!  Thank you for sharing your lives with all of us!

  12. Lynn says:

    Your children are so lovely and precious.  I truly enjoy hearing about your family.

  13. Cassandra says:

    Agree that this post warmed my heart like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold, blustery winter day. Random comment but it is really amazing how Katie’s hair has grown so lush with love and nutrition! What I appreciate most about your posts is that you are humble. I can see that you are careful never to bring glory to yourself but to our Savior alone. And yet you still balance your posts with realism making our Savior all the more magnificent, in my mind. 
    So please trust me that I ask you this next question with no combative agenda. Just wondering where I stand in the ranks of the faithful. Perhaps rescuing one child should be a price I’m willing to pay at the expense of the rest our family’s lives. I don’t know. 
    I beyond believe you that bringing Katie and Tommy home are not about puffing up your ego or throwing out fleeces to God. I beyond believe you that bringing Katie and Tommy home has brought you joy beyond measure. And that you count it your honor to claim these children as your own.
    I know that being able to say, “Yes, Katie.  I will.” (I will choose to see you through the lenses and love of Jesus Christ) is what you really mean.  But I ask you this.  Would you say, “Yes, Katie. I will,” if Katie was a violent destructive child who was so emotionally damaged and clever enough that she could ravage your family?  Would you say, “Yes, Katie.  I will,” if Katie or Tommy single handedly manipulated authority well enough to raise doubt about your fitness as a parent?  If Katie or Tommy made you feel more like prisoners than parents in your own home? If your other kids lost a huge part of their childhood as you were required to pour yourself into the one, or two, emotionally damaged children who were determined to destroy the family. (even if said child was categorically victimized in their orphan life and cannot truly be blamed.)Would you still say “Yes” to the calling if you later learned that “Yes” to her means everybody else in the family is denied a godly, stable family life? 
    We love our daughter and she loves us though her expression of love is warped. We have and will commit all our emotional, physical and financial resources to making sure her adulthood is better than her early childhood years where she was abused in a Russian orphanage. She gets the best of care at all times and in all things.
    But it has not been easy and though we do it with joy, there hasn’t been more than a minute or two where we have been worry free in a decade. Happy – even very, very happy – was our baseline before our daughter’s mental health issues moved in full time.  She does know the Lord so we are not without hope. 
    Would you be able to say, “Yes, Katie.  I will,” if Katie were a different type of child, one who was determined to bring ruin upon the family (because the orphanage experience re-wired my dd so chaos makes her feel alive) . 
    Yours on the Journey,
    An adoptive mom

  14. Katie says:

    To repeat what others have said, Katie is SO big now!! How awesome that is to see!! Could you share her height? I know you’ve done posts with her “stats” but just curious. She does look much much “older” now. Also could you explain her shoes? I noticed they are not “typical” shoes. I am sure they are special to help her feet/legs but just am not sure how they do that. Also would LOVE to see recent videos of Katie. Can’t wait for you to put the stairs video – and maybe some others?! – up!! Thanks SO much for sharing! God bless!

  15. Louisa says:

    What an encouragement you are! Thanks for encouraging me on walk adoption walk today by sharing your beautiful insight…keeping it in God’s perspective is always the best thing!

  16. Lara Font says:

    Susanna – You and the family have been in my thoughts, both girls are so BIG!!!  Love to all, God is great!!!

  17. Katie says:

    This post makes my heart SO HAPPY!  The girls are doing BEAUTIFULLY!  Look how long Verity’s hair has gotten!  She looks so much more like a little girl and less like a baby *sniff*.  And what a smart cookie too, puzzles and books and talking – it sounds like she is such a joy.  Blessing of Verity indeed.  <3
    And Katie!  Oh my goodness, it’s hard to believe that’s the same little girl that came home a little over a year ago!  Look at her standing and playing and being a big girl!  She has grown so much – and not just since she came home, but it seems, even since your last post!  I am constantly amazed by her progress… the things that we think of as ‘little’ things with ‘typical’ kids are a huge cause for celebration for kids like Katie.  She IS perfect, beautifully and wonderfully made in His image, no matter what.  
    I can’t wait to see Tommy home.  Can’t wait.  Even more than I can’t wait for warmer weather!  I know he’ll have trials like every child does, special needs or no, orphanage or no, but having seen that SMILE… I just can’t even imagine the joy he’ll find in really, truly living.  
    Prayers for you and all of yours – thank you for sharing this update and making my day!  I just love to see happy kids being loved by their families!

  18. Katie says:

    Oh, and I just read another comment about Katie’s shoes – I’ll bet both her shoes and Verity’s were chosen specially to work well with their braces – just a guess.  ‘Typical’ shoes can be impossible to get on over those things, and probably uncomfortable too!

  19. Robin says:

    Love this update and the photos of your beautiful children!  Continuing to pray for your family.

  20. Denise says:

    LOL–  I  see the commenter above me mentioned the shoes–  I too would LOVE to know what SHOES you are using for your girls with their AFO’s?  They look super strudy!!!
    As always LOVE your updates!!  CANNOT wait to see them in MAY!!!  :)

  21. Susanna says:

    Hahahaha! I think this is so funny! Both girls are still wearing the shoes I found on a quick dash out to the closest shoe stores the night I got home with their braces and realized we had no shoes at all that worked with them! Verity’s shoes are leather baby boy’s shoes on sale at K-mart for 9.99, and I got a pair of 4W, which she’s wearing right now, and a pair of 5W for later. I think they’re cute on her because she’s still SO small, and they don’t look like boy’s shoes on her!

    Katie’s were also from K-mart, but they’re cheapie shoes and only temporary.

    The shoes need to be the child’s proper size in length, to prevent tripping over the toes, but they need to be wide in order to accommodate the braces. So I couldn’t just go up a size or two. We have to be able to open them up really wide, so tie shoes are preferable. And we have to be able to remove the insert from the shoe to provide more space on the inside. (When I took the inserts out of Katie’s shoes, there was *cardboard* underneath. They’re also hard to work with because of the Velcro. We’re planning to replace them soon!)

    The orthotist gave us a list of shoe brands that offer styles that work well with orthoses…let me get it from my purse…

    …word for word…

    New Balance
    Smart Fit (Payless) [I checked there, too, and they didn’t have any wides in the small sizes our girls needed]
    Cross Trekkors
    Faded Glory
    Air Walks
    Stride Rite
    Propet Shoes
    Appeals (Kids R Us)

  22. Susanna says:

    Cassandra, as you shared with me another time, you are in an extreme position that only a tiny percentage of other adoptive parents have ever been in. We are, too, I guess, but all our experience is totally different than yours. Without personal experience and understanding of the reality of your life with your daughter, wouldn’t I be the proverbial fool who rushed in where angels fear to tread if I dared to declare what decisions we would make in your shoes? (I think that was essentially your question?) Katie does not even come close to threatening the safety of our other children with violent, destructive actions. It’s doubtful whether she’ll ever progress to the point where she would even be capable of that, any more than a child under a year old would be capable of it. That would raise a whole set of hard questions that would require hard decisions, just as it would with a biological child. We haven’t been in that place, and I would be presumptuous to act as if I know all about it and to either tell you what we would do or tell you what you should do.

    But specifically speaking of what I was writing about when I asked those questions, our whole experience is in accepting a child who most of the world would say was a total waste of resources because she may never progress intellectually past 8 to 10 months of age, is severely delayed for her age as far as actual skills go, exhibits some autistic tendencies, and has many odd and even unattractive socially-unacceptable behaviors. My question was not, “Would we be willing to adopt this child if we could choose again?” or “Are we willing to continue to care for this child ourselves, in our own home?” or even “What is the best way to love this child in practical terms?” but “Are we willing to completely accept that this child will never be like other children, and see her as a precious, complete human being rather than view her as an essentially less valuable human being for the rest of her life?” She’s not a “thing” to be fixed before she is acceptable enough for us. We can help her as best we can to reach her potential, but it must be out of love for her and not out of disappointment in her, embarrassment about her, frustration with her, or any other unwillingness to accept her and her limitations. My questions are challenging myself and others in whether we are truly valuing the preciousness of every human life as we so blithely say we do.

    My heart goes out to you, Cassandra. Thank you for reaching out and writing openly. I wish there WAS an easy answer. I wish there was a way to ensure that everyone who needed support received adequate support. I can hear the pain in every word of every line of what you write, and I hurt with you as I read it. You are doing a very hard thing that nearly 100% of people will never have to do. I’m praying right now for you, friend. (((((gentle hug)))))

  23. ***Cassandra**** could you e-mail me at tarcher30 at charter dot net? I have children, children adopted and even by birth who have behaviors as you describe. I would love to hear your story, and share ours. Ours does not end in “happy” but on-going struggles even as they are into adulthood- ages 19-21-31-33-37 years old. (((HUGS))) and God Bless you!

  24. Katie says:

    Doesn’t the company that makes SureSteps have its own shoes too?

  25. Susanna says:

    Katie, thanks for the suggestion! They currently offer only one style in white that comes with pink or blue trim, and we’d personally prefer other options. It’s nice that there are so many choices out there. :)

  26. Ilisa Ailts says:

    Oh congratulations on your pregnancy!  And, this was a nice post to happen to come across as I thought “I better check in and see how they are”.  :)  

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