Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Heart Day My Sweet Girl!

Two years ago today, January 26th, Little Miss had open heart surgery to repair her heart. The son of a family friend said, "she needed to have her heart fixed so all her love doesn't fall out." He was talking about his own sister at the time, but I think it's a pretty perfect statement for the occasion.

When she was born and we found out that she had designer genes, the doctors were very quick to listen to her heart because heart defects occur in about 50% of individuals with Down Syndrome. They discovered that she had a congenital heart defect, or CHD. Her heart defect was called a Ventricular Septal Defect or VSD. A VSD is the most common CHD which means the surgery to repair her little heart is one that occurs most often. In fact, VSDs, if they are small enough, will routinely close on their own, unfortunately hers was too large and needed to be repaired surgically with a patch at just 4 months old.

But just look at how far she's come...
The day of surgery.

1 year later, signing telephone.

2 years later:
Navigating crazy obstacles at Monkey Joe's

and getting ready for football season with her Daddy.

A letter from mama...
Dear Peanut,
Words can't express the joy I have in my heart today that we get to celebrate your 2nd Happy Heart Day. I had such a hard time letting you go into that operating room, but I had to have faith and simply trust that our prayers would be answered. And look at you now, my sweet girl, you are a fighter inside and out. God gave you the strength to fight and to survive and you are doing it baby girl. Each day you are with us is a gentle reminder that we have so much to be thankful for, your heart is honest and pure and will surely take you far in this world. I'm so very blessed to have you as my daughter and to have this day to celebrate you. I look forward to celebrating many more happy heart days with you my little peanut. Happy, happy heart day to you!

Nearly twice as many children die from Congenital Heart Defects in the United States each year as from all forms of childhood cancers combined. Source: It's My Heart

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interactive Books

Way back in October I wrote about my project: Interactive Books. The book has been laminated and semi-completed for months now. I had to work on some finishing touches, but all in all it was usable. I just wasn't using it. :( I always had a "good" excuse and now I'm completely regretting waiting so long because Little Miss absolutely loved playing with her book today.

In hindsight, it would have been well worth the $20.00 for the book. I do love that my book is specific to Peanut and target words that she's working on, but between the time and money I spent gathering the materials for the book and putting it together, I'm sure I spent right around the asking price.

I like the books because not only do they encourage early reading skills, but we can use them to work on verbal and sign labels,

identifying colors,


as well as working on those fine motor skills.

All in all though, I'm considering converting some of Peanut's favorite books into interactive books because I really want to encourage as much verbal and sign communication as possible right now. But we'll see how long this little project takes to get off the ground...this little girl has a long list of favorite books ;-)

Oh and for those you of you that might not have seen my facebook post, M got her chubby little fingers on her right hand closed in the van door a couple days ago.

I was taking out one of the boys car seats, getting ready for Ben's eye exam actually and I turned around, pushed the button to close the door, and within seconds heard a wail that I hope to never hear again. I turned to see my sweet little red head, hand stuck in the door, picking her feet off the ground trying to escape. Talk about an awful moment for both of us! I screamed, she continued to scream, and I got her out as quickly as possible. Although my mommy ego is bruised, her little hand is healing well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time to Confess My Secret

Aside from immediate family and a small handful of folks, I decided to keep a little secret and it has been weighing heavily upon me. I thought, no sense worrying everyone else if there was nothing to worry about which, as it turns out, there's nothing to worry about. Either way, we would be the best parents we know how and love our kids with the best love we could given them. I would've fessed up, but I needed to be able to process it all independently. So here it goes...

Bradley and I have been afraid that Benjamin might be blind or have very limited vision. The handful of folks that we talked to about our fears are also people that noticed his visual deficits. And not only compared to his brother, but on a typical developmental scale, he just hasn't been responding visually as one might anticipate. For example, when you try to look him in the eye, he looks away, he doesn't track objects within his field of vision, etc. Due to our history with battling insurance companies, I was quick to schedule an appointment and request the referral. Thankfully (sort of), there was no fight needed. The pediatrician did a brief exam and felt that we should have him looked at by a specialist. As one might imagine, this only raised our level of concern and anxiety.

Well, today we had our appointment with the eye doctor and Benjamin passed with flying colors! The neural pathways are communicating with one another, the optic nerve is relaying information appropriately. There is some far sightedness, but that's completely typical for a 2 month old. The doctor suggested his delay was due to his low birth weight (5 lb 9oz.) and that he will catch up eventually. We've been praying fervently and God answered our prayers.

Prior to the appointment I had planned on taking pictures to explain our appointment. However, I only captured 1 shot which I took prior to us leaving the house. The appointment wound up being a whirlwind of activity which required me to hold Benjamin the entire time leaving no opportunities to take pictures. So, I'll leave you with pictures of our little guy...sleeping peacefully and probably thinking how foolish we were to be so afraid.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Davids Story: A Plea for Help

I am reposting this blog post from Ashey's blog. Please consider re-posting this message to spread the word and enlist prayer warriors for this sweet boy.

Monday, January 10, 2011
Davids' Story: URGENT NEED!!!
Contacts for more information about Davids:
1)LeAnn Dakake (New Horizons for Children)
678-313-8321 cell
dakake (at) mindspring (dot) com
2)Cathy Sawyer (An Open Door Adoption)
3)Barbara L. Lorenzo (Adoption Related Services, Inc.)
717-227-9560 *They have agreed to help anyone in need of home study updates/reviews*

Earlier today I posted "a plea for a boy in Latvia," and later received more information about his story. It is heartbreaking, and he is URGENT need of prayer and adoption!! Please read his story, and PRAY! Below is the message I received:

"Dear Friends and Prayer Warriors:
I have prayed over the last few days about how to share this story, and I have no words to adequately express it. However, it has to be shared and I will do my best. Many who have heard it are so sick over it, our hearts just ache. We know God has a plan; is it you?

In January, 2010, I met an awesome child/young man at an orphanage in Riga , Latvia . His name is Davids. He was one of a few children we were introduced to that day for consideration in our Summer 2010 orphan hosting program. He was really sharp and smart, had a great sense of humor and looked you in the eye when he tried to speak the good amount of English he had already learned. I remember asking his favorite things to do and he didn’t hesitate to explain he loved kite flying in the sky and dreamed to be a pilot some day! He also enjoys soccer, basketball, swimming and all sports. But, the thing that surprised us most was his age! He was already 15 and effectively the size of a 9 or 10 year old child. We asked the orphanage director more about him later, and were told Davids is healthy, just small and has the kindest, gentlest heart. He generally plays with the younger group of kids because the older ones make fun of him and claim to be “too cool” to hang out with a guy his size. As for history, he has been in 4-5 different orphanages, but has managed to keep hope for a brighter future. He is a sincere and especially child towards younger children. Lego building is one of his hobbies! I remember, he made a joke when I asked him if he liked dogs and cats…a traditional question we ask… He said, “of course! But, I am no cannibal.” And gave us the biggest smile of all! Later, when he was among the group and doing art projects, he drew a picture of a jet airplane landing under a sky that resembled the American flag. When I asked him to explain it, he told me, “My dream to fly airplane and live in family in America !” From that point, he had us at “hello” and we were committed to helping him fulfill his dream.

For the summer program, Davids was hosted by a multi-cultural, multi-racial family and he did awesome! He was kind to his younger host brothers and sister and enjoyed just about everything they did. He especially liked to build and make things and play sports outside, with swimming being one of his favorites! He learned a lot more English and wasn’t shy to use it either. While his host family was not his forever family, our team and staff was so thankful when we received a call from a couple who wanted to go and visit with him before his return to Latvia . We knew time was short, and we encouraged anyone who might be interested, to meet him asap. After one meeting, the family who went, let me know they would be adopting him and how encouraged and inspired they were by Davids. After many discussions, we realized that he needed to know the plan, as his birthday was coming up…his 16th birthday, which means several things to an orphan. First, it means they are about to age out and can’t be considered for adoption. Second, it means that they are on their path of graduating the orphanage and will soon be on their own. Third, it means life as they know it now: food, shelter, protection and security is about over. In the first year after a child leaves the orphanage, generally 15% commit suicide. So, it was decided for me to talk to Davids when our interview returned to Latvia this past August and see how he felt regarding this adoption.

When I sat down with him, I had a translator with me, but he didn’t need her. We sat on a sofa in the social worker’s office and I asked him how he liked America and what he thought? He explained he loved it, and it was more than he ever imagined! I asked him if he remembered this particular man who came to meet him and spent time with him the week before he returned to Latvia , and he said “Oh Yes and we had fun!” I went on and said, “Well, this man told his wife about you and they want me to tell you they are so happy, and they want to adopt you.” Davids’ look was utter shock! He said, “Who, me?” and I confirmed it was indeed him. He said, “Oh yes! VERY VERY much YES! And, they want ME?” He was just the most excited kid I think I ever had the pleasure to tell about an adoption. Most kids are shocked, but usually have to think about it and have several questions to ask before they really accept it and consider it as real. Davids’, on the other hand, was just the happiest kid on the planet that day; his dream was coming true.

Last week, I got an email from his adoptive family… now just 10 days before his 16th birthday,it basically said they felt that they would adopt a girl they met (which was planned all along), but they no longer wanted to adopt Davids’. They had changed their mind. The next day, I got an unsolicited email from Davids’ social worker in Latvia . This is what she wrote:

"Hello Le Ann,
I wish to ask you about one of our boys, his name is Davids T. He was hosted Summer 2010 at a host family in IL. Since he was close to 16, we got information and you shared with him that there is family who will adopt him. It was not the family who hosted him, but another one.
Till this day we never received more information about the adopting family, and we confirmed that the Ministry also has no information yet. I must share, we are all worried and concerned. Davids became so nervous in this last month, his attention to everything is gone. Yesterday he was moved to hospital, because of problems with his stomach relating to the stress of not knowing. We know this all is because he is so close to his 16th birthday; it's on 23 January this year.
We don’t know what to say and can't say anything to Davids because we don't know. It will be a shock for him if it's not true, he has so long lived with this thoughts focused on this adoption and a family in America .
We wish to know the truth to share so he can know and be happy again.”
We have tried to contact his family and explain, show them, what their decision has done to this child. So far, there is no response, but more importantly, there is no time with only a few days that remain for someone to file the I800 with USCIS to adopt Davids’. I have explained to his social worker what the full situation is, and as a strong Christian, she has agreed to pray earnestly with us for a new family to come forward for this child! The adoption agency who was working on this case has agreed to do everything they can to expedite the adoption and assist where possible to get them through the system.
If you or someone you know is interested in moving NOW to adopt Davids’, this is what needs to happen:
1)You must already have an approved home study issued by a Hague Accredited adoption agency in the USA . It must be able to be amended to show you are approved for at least one child, a boy, who is age 16 or under.
2)You must be willing to file with the USCIS the form I800, which will specify Davids’ as the child you intend to adopt, and it must be received prior to January 23, 2011. If done, this gives the adopting family 180 more days to complete the adoption.

Here are a few photos of Davids’: (the one on bottom is me telling him he was being adopted).

Please join us in immediate prayer and action to locate and identify Davids’ Forever Family!!! You are out there somewhere and God knows exactly who you are and He doesn’t make mistakes. We just need to get the word to you about him."
Le Ann Dakake, Director of Hosting Programs, New Horizons for Children 678-313-8321 cell
Cathy Sawyer, An Open Door Adoption: 404-667-0694

Monday, January 10, 2011

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins

Little Miss has always been a good sleeper. I accredit much of that to her heart defect as an infant that left her with very little energy to stay awake or interact as you might expect from a newborn baby. I never realized how sleepy a baby she was though until the boys came. All 3 of our kids have their own challenges and struggles, but the boys certainly do not struggle with waking up to eat. Bradley and I typically talk about how we would have to literally wake Little Miss up to eat to ensure that she was taking in enough calories.

With the boys, they make sure we are up to feed them every 2-3 hours. I shuffle into their bedroom, feed them as quickly and quietly as possible and lay them back down. All along hoping all they want to do is eat and go back to sleep. Some days we are lucky, other days not so much. Since we have a 2 year old and twin boys, sleep is a much needed commodity around here. The boys don't understand that their mama is a grumpy mama when she's deprived of sleep so, I've turned to sleep training.

I'm using the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins by Dr. Weissbluth, as a guide. I'm a partially-trained (had to take a break from certification to have these boys) behavior therapist, so I love schedules, organization, and data. The program presented by Dr. Weissbluth offers schedules and suggestions on how to teach your child to self soothe when it's time to sleep. I'm of the mindset that sleeping on a schedule is a learned behavior and is reinforced by the benefits of sleep.

Dr. Weissbluth compares and overly tired baby to the feeling you have when you are sort of sick. Your body is achy and sore, maybe you have a dull headache. It's hard to get comfortable. You can function throughout the day, but everything is blurry and just "off". When babies are over-tired they get uncomfortable and don't function at their best. Young babies can't tell you when they are tired or uncomfortable so they get cranky. When you pair a cranky baby with a parent whose functioning on little sleep, the whole house quickly becomes cranky. Watching for drowsy signals before your baby gets all wound up and out of control is a key element to beginning a sleep schedule.

According to the book, the first step is to watch for drowsy signals. You want to put your babe(s) down drowsy, but awake. So you need to be on the look out for when your baby is sleepy. You don't want to wait too long otherwise your baby will be overtired and soothing himself to sleep will be a much more difficult task. The book lists the following signals of sleepiness: decreases activity, slower motions, less vocalizations, weak/slow sucking, quietness/calmness, uninterested in surroundings, less visual focus, and drooping eyelids (p39-40). When you put your baby down when you notice these signs, it will allow your baby to learn to put himself to sleep rather than falling asleep being rocked or nursed to sleep.

Now, I have successfully put these boys in bed for the night so I'm going to wrap up there and post a little more tomorrow. Until next time, watch for those drowsy signals and be ready to put your sweet baby down drowsy, but awake.

*This is an older picture of the boys sleeping, but no way am I going in there room to take a picture of them right now. haha! Can you believe how big they've gotten already?!?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This is our life

Who ever knew how incredibly impossible it would be the capture a photograph in which all 3 kids look semi-decent to make the picture post worthy? Beyond that, it obviously took me quite a few shots before I even realized that Benjamin was staring up at the ceiling! ;-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Writer's Block

It's been over a month since I've posted a single word. I have excuses galore...3 primarily stick out the most. I certainly have plenty to write about, but each time I sit down to write either something distracts me or I am simply at a loss for words. So, for now I'll simply recap the last month or so.

The boys will be 2 months old on January 2.

Brayden is working on identifying the function of those wiggling things.

Benjamin is quite content to just chill out on their playmate. (An item their sister spent countless hours on)

As of late, Little Miss has been testing the boundaries to see just how hard she can touch her brothers before someone jumps to attention.

Although she's a feisty Big sister, she loves her little brothers and has been practicing reading books to her own babies. ;-)

We've been especially aware to ensure that Little Miss doesn't feel neglected with the arrival of the boys. We've spent a lot of time playing tag,

dancing before bedtime,

and made a couple shopping excursions with just the 2 of us.

And if holiday shopping, baby boy protecting, and jumping and jiving weren't enough...we threw in a little bit of practice with our Talk Tools horn kit. Little Miss has mastered the green and purple horn. woot, woot!

Happy New Year Blogger "resolution" is to be more consistent with my blog and following along with all the families I've grown to love and admire. Even though Little Miss and the boys are keeping me busy and I want to stay connected as well as journal the wonderful memories of this very blessed life I've been given.