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!
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.
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?!
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.
She’s not crazy about sharing it with Verity.
But that’s okay. It’s not Verity’s favorite activity, anyway.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Katie survived conditions so extreme none of us can adequately imagine them.
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.
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.
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!