"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Days of Testing

Yesterday AM we loaded up early and headed out of town with Katya for two days of testing with the Nuerophsycologist, Dr. Abby.

No, I don't have photos. Sorry. I confess to being bad about remembering such minor things as a camera . . . and even when reminded that I could use my phone . . . I forgot. I really was so engrossed in observing the testing process that I truly forgot to get a photo of Katya with Dr. Abby even though I had really WANTED to get a photo!

I will try to blog more another day about the testing more in depth. For now, we are home, safe and sound, and still very, very happy with the Dr. God provided for Katya, and grateful that He has sent us to someone who is ALMOST as fascinated and charmed by Katya as we are. Dr. Abby sees the miracle that Katya is, and is so excited to be working with her. Her common-sense and compassionate approach makes me very comfortable with her, and even after two days of spending hours together in a small room with Dr. Abby, I'm still very happy with her! That ought to count for something, right?!

Even better?? She has given us some very positive preliminary feed-back from Katya's testing that is far more in line with our own observations and gut-feelings than what the school's testing was. We expected that could easily happen, but of course, you never know. While we remain very optimistic about Katya's cognitive level, we have also tried hard to remain clear-eyed and realistic and open to the possiblity that all was not as it seems. We especially tried hard to do so after the dismal report from the school's testing.

But if I had to guess whose testing is the most accurate?? I'll guess that Dr. Abby's is. She spent far more time taking a history of Katya, she spent far more time really listening to us, and LOTS more time observing Katya than the school assessor did. She also had an ASL interpreter involved today (and was positively impressed with how much better Katya tested on her alphabet and number recognition when the ASL interpreter was there catching her signs.)

All in all, I'm glad we pursued this, and am eargerly waiting to see what suggestions Dr. Abby will have for us and the school after she reviews all the results. We will be going back to Cinncy to meet up with her in a few weeks and go over every thing together.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So Tired . .. .

So tired . . . so very, very, very tired of negative news from the school about Katya. It's to the point I cringe when the phone rings.

There is one person way up the "food chain" there that I don't think has said one single positive or encouraging word to us this whole year about Katya. Every single phone call, every single interaction is to report negative things.

I'm really weary of it.

Yes, Katya has problems. Yes, she still does things she shouldn't do that are not socially acceptable or appropriate. But a positive or encouraging word occasionally would go a long way.

Today I got another phone call. With the main teacher gone, and a sub in place, Katya bit a child and pulled a chunk of hair out of a child's head. While I'm glad they inform me, it would be SOO nice to just once every couple of months hear a positive word about my child from this person. Just every once in a while, you know?

We will continue to address the biting and hair pulling at home . . . although the fact that she no longer does such things to Chad tells me that Katya is capable of stopping if the stakes are high enough, and that she isn't likely to stop at school since they have ignored our pleas for a behavioral plan that addresses such things. I don't want my daughter to behave in those ways, but I also think that given her history, her non-verbal status, and the fact that they have ignored our suggestions largely  . . . I can only shrug my shoulders and not let myself get too emotionally involved any more when they keep reporting issues.

So, even though I shall try not to get too emotionally involved, I will pull out and read these books to Katya again:

 Teeth Are Not for Biting

Hands Are Not for Hitting

We have used them a lot already with Katya, and will continue to use them. Geared for the toddler crowd, they are perfect for Katya, teaching her simple but important concepts in ways she can understand. The English is simple and perfect for a child still learning English as a second language. The pictures are bright and engaging, and while the children pictured are clearly children, neither the art work nor the words are "babyish". So there is no offense to Katya's view of herself as a "big girl".

We also have and use other books in the series, and highly recommend them to anyone looking for a good method of helping their children learn appropriate social interactions.

In the meantime . . . wouldn't it be nice if there was a similar book that we could hand out to those needing it  that would teach them how to say positive and encouraging words every once in awhile about Katya?!

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 26, 2012


UPDATE--I have changed the link for the affiliate link to Amazon again. Please let us know if it doesn't work for you AFTER you have checked your computer for an Ad Blocker program. I am being told by some blog readers that they could only access it after setting their Ad Blocker settings to allow Ads on Katya's page. Hopefully this helps solve the dilemna.

I'm being told that at least one family who wanted to shop through Katya's Amazon affiliate link isn't able to see it. They sent me a screen shot which definitely does not show it. In case there are others who are having that problem, I'm going to try to add another link in this post until we can figure out what is going on. Please use whichever link works for you if want or need to shop at Amazon!

The Duecks for Katya


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Give Thanks . . . .

Give thanks with us . . .
  . . . that the girl that experts tell us should by all rights not even be able to be up and on her feet walking, not only can do that, but she can run, AND she can ride bike!

After this video was shot, Kristina backed off even more and Katya did even better with biking faster, and steering better! We still need improvements on the braking, but I have little doubt that will come. In time . . .

Stay Tuned!

We have a treat coming for you . .. . hopefully later tonight . . .

And . . . keep on reading the blog because we have NOT forgotten our plans to do a give-away for our faithful blog readers  . . . it's taking me a bit to get my brain all wrapped around what plans are the best, but it's in the works . . .  ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Big Step

Miss Katya had her first trip to Kentucky yesterday! We got her up right around 6:45 AM to get dressed. Poor thing--she was sooo sleepy but tried hard to cooperate. She was in pretty good spirits all the way down, and considering how new and strange every thing was for her, did pretty good at first when we got there.

However, **HER** Mommy picking up cousin, Rebecca, and holding her for a bit, triggered deep anxiety and sobs, and Katya was not very comfortable or happy much of the time after that. Any time any of my sister's children came around, Katya was clearly upset and expecting the worst.

I did find it interesting that after Grandpa and Grandma walked in the door and spoke to her that she finally let out one of "tension releasing" sighs and then was finally willing soon thereafter for me to put her down for awhile.

With lots of holding and rocking, we got through the almost 5 hours we were there. Katya did have moments she enjoyed, but it was clear that her anxiety levels were high enough that we felt clear that making the decision to only stay for a few hours had certainly been in Katya's best interests! She warily watched all the farm activity from their high balcony type porch, but wanted nothing to do close-up with puppies, the horses, goats or chickens! Happily though, she not only tried to imitate the chickens, but she also tried to imitate the horse! So that was good.

While Katya played "Survey the Kingdom", Chad, Kristina and Charity had a fun time with playing with the animals, especially with the horses. Kristina was delighted that she was able to ride Grandpa's old horse, Justin, all on her own--a first for her! Chad absolutely adored all the little puppies, and was happy to hold the cat as well.

When we left around 5:45 with a packed supper in our cooler, Katya was clearly eager to head back home. She traveled well, listening to music, playing with her travel toys, and then finally using the IPad and some educational apps to keep herself occupied. She was still wide awake when we arrived back home soon after 10:00 PM and then after a fast shower and a bit of rocking from Mommy one last time for the day went happily off to her own bed.

We were glad we could go, even though it was a lot of driving for only such a short visit. However, making sure that Katya is eased into new situations and isn't re-traumatized is an important component to helping her heal, we believe.

So, the first big step--going to visit relatives--was accomplished! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

For the first time ever, we enjoyed Thanksgiving Day as a family of seven! What about last year, you ask?? Well, we were flung into all different directions as Katya was in Baltimore, MD at Johns Hopkins Hopsital, getting Inter-Cranial Pressure Monitoring done.  She did get out on Thanksgiving Day so we were able to head home the next day (to find that mice had taken over our house while we were gone . . . necessitating hours and hours and hours of cleaning  . . YUCK!) but it was certainly not how we had dreamed of spending Thanksgiving Day together for the first time.

This year was much more the thing of our dreams. We were so thankful to all be together, and thankful for Katya's improved health, and for a yummy, yummy meal!

We pulled out the turkey that was given to us earlier in the year, and carefully saved for Thanksgiving, added in mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes from my Dad's garden, cranberry sauce, our traditional cranberry/apples/nuts/celery  jello salad, green leafy salad, and a yummy apple pie Charity made using her canned apple pie filling from the fall.

Tomorrow, on "Black Friday", we plan to head bright and early to visit our relatives in Kentucky for a few hours. It will be Katya's very first trip to their house, and so we are planning to keep the visit short and head back home for the night. It means a long day, and probably no Black Friday Shopping for us, (ha! ha!) but that's OK. We weren't really planning to do any anyway.

But if YOU need to do some Black Friday bargain shopping, check out Amazon. You can use our affiliate link on the right hand side of the blog if  you want to. We always appreciate it and are thankful for our shoppers! ;-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Re-useable Cloth Christmas Gift Bags

Trying to do something to help bump the funds for Katya's dental care up faster. Dug in my stash and pulled out Christmas fabric, and ribbon. I sewed up 5 bags today inbetween other things. I hope to sew more as fast as I can.

I'm putting up the first two sets that are done for sale.

Set 1. Both bags are from new fabric and ribbon from our non-smoking home.

Set 2. Both bags are from new fabric and ribbon from our non-smoking home.

The large bags are approximately 10.5 inches wide and 17.5 inches long.

The smaller bags are approximately 7 inches wide and 15 inches long.

These bags can be used over and over again for gifts, making them extremely environmentally friendly as well as economical.

If they need washed, a quick hand wash and line dry is fine. I suspect that they would be fine in the washing machine on gentle as well--the fabric would certainly be. I'm just not entirely sure how well the ribbon would hold up long term if machine washed frequently.

Asking $7.50 plus $3.00 shipping/handling to the lower 48 states. Shipping else where is more and please contact me for information.

I accept payment via PayPal at phdfam@gmail.com  When ordering, please specify what set you want.

Thank you!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Forward Progress Musically

And another great report from music class today . . .

Hi Hope Anne, Great news : ) Miss Katya walked right up to the piano, studied it and picked out a C without being told, she then went on to find and and label them all by herself, with just slight guidance on the last one. From there she played each one and then played all the groups of two black keys up the piano. This was all without my bidding, she just knew what we had done in the past. It was so fun to see her study the keyboard and figure it out, adjusting her finger when she knew it wasn't quite right, no prompts, no stickers etc. She knows the keyboard layout now and can find a C
I helped her then label the next notes, D, E, F, and G, just getting her started and she finished with the right notes. Then, on her own again, she played each note up and down which is our song, "Climbing up the hill, going right back down" This very deliberately and in the right time. Anna cane in to see what she did and was very excited also, praising her. She said, "Give me a high 5! " which Katya did happily : ).

She did well on the harp as well, just enjoying playing up and down slowly each string, making a pleasant sound. I would think this would be a pleasant past time for her at home. She then put the music in for Twinkle Twinkle and played about 1.2 of it very well before she lost interest.

I did want her to finish and expected it of her and she grumped and walked away, but I did bring her back as I had given her a command. That was the only resistance today other than slightly trying to pinch the rabbit we had that I was holding for her. She pet it very sweetly for a good while and then for some reason wanted to pinch, but I corrected her. She is much more at home with the rabbit than the first time.

So a very good day. Her understanding now opens they way for me to begin teaching her some songs.
It is so fun and encouraging to see the steady progress Katya is making in this area! Praise God for a teacher who is committed to working with Katya! We are blessed. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Support Group Fun--Thanksgiving Day Theme

Saturday we scurried around and trotted off to the special needs support group. Katya was happy to go--she understands when we tell her we are going to the party for her and her friends. Charity's violin lesson was cancelled that day, and so she was able to go as well. She was pressed into service as a buddy to a girl who communicates via ASL as none of the regular interpreters were able to show up. While Charity isn't fluent, she at least knew enough basics that the young lady at least could communicate some basics.

Katya was paired with someone who had helped her back during VBS in the summer. Katya liked T., and T. liked her and so it was a perfect pairing. Katya actually ran to T. and hugged her when she first saw her yesterday.

Next order of the day was the rice box. Katya dearly loves this activity.

And then on to another good thing--LEGOS of course! Katya is a big fan of Legos by now!

Meanwhile, the older children were given a chance to help fill shoe boxes for needy children for Christmas. Kristina opted to do that and highly enjoyed picking out items to put in boxes.
When she was finished with that project, she played with a doll house for awhile while keeping a slight eye on Chad. (She is paired up as his "buddy" but he needs very little supervision and help, leaving Kristina fairly free each time to enjoy herself!)

Katya meanwhile had finished up her Lego Creations.
And since the program next called for Singing/Bible Story Skit time, Katya was popped into an angel costume and put up front with her helper to participate. Initially, she wasn't sure about her new role
but it grew on her!

I'm told she made a sweet angel, and raised her hands high to praise and thanksgiving when it was her time to perform!
Chad represented a king. "I am the King! Worship God!" was what he said. He said it so deeply and seriously, that everyone broke out into a happy chuckle!

Chad thought they were laughing at him (meanly) and frowned and signed "NO! NO!" in ASL at the crowd. (We helped him understand afterwards that they had LIKED how deep and serious his voice was, and that the laughter was happy laughter, not mean laughter . . . he was OK with it then.)

Afterwards, Katya enjoyed running and dancing with praise and worship music.

So did Chad and Kristina.
Craft time!!
"Yes, I take my crafting seriously!"
After snack time there was still time for playing with Play-Do before the adults were done with their talking, Bible time, snack and craft. (Typically, it's the females in the family who come, but yesterday one of the men did too, so that added a fun dimension to the discussion time!)
 All in all, another great time was had! I'm so very thankful and grateful that this local church felt the call to start a support group for familys with special needs kids. It plays a very important role in our family's life.
(All photos by Charity from http://waresbycherry.wordpress.com/   )

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another Adoption Resource

When we set out to bring Kristina home, our bio children were both rather young. Even though we tried to prepare them for the changes that adding Kristina to our family could bring, they just couldn't comprehend entirely how difficult it would be. Shoot, for that matter, neither did we! I really don't think ANYTHING could have entirely prepared us  . . . but thankfully we did have some decent preparation in the form of classes, reading books etc.

For our children, there was much less prep. We read what good books we could find to them, but it became quickly apparent that our prep had been entirely too limited, too "sanitized" and was.not.enough. There was no way it was enough.

Bringing a wounded child into our home who had no compunctions about erupting into a frenzy of hitting, kicking, biting, pinching and every thing else she could think of when her fearsome tantrums did not move us to give her what she wanted was not something we could have prepared ourselves or our children entirely for. Nor could we have entirely prepared them for the issues that RAD like behaviors could cause. It was just really too hard to have known how to explained all that well ahead of time to young children who had never seen or heard anything like it. Their wide eyes and fast exits out of the house were proof of how much they hated the "show". To this day, some years later, there are struggles stemming from those months of pain and anger.

I have often wished I had known more about how to prepare our kiddos for the possibilities that came in the package. With Katya we tried a lot harder, and I think were overall more successful in preparing our children. Of course, some of them were old enough that we handed over some of the adult books intended to prepare adoptive parents. Those were helpful to the older ones. And we had lots and lots of talks about how pain and being wounded causes distrust and how that spills out even on to "safe" people who love you. We talked about how being non-verbal causes frustrations that could lead to a lot of screaming and yelling.

After Katya was home, we continued (and still do!) to teach and train and educate  . . . we are pretty open with our kids about the types of abuse she suffered, and how those can impact a child. I'm happy to say that the kids all are very loving and protective of Katya. Even though she has stretched them to their limits often, they have not lost sight of their love for her. She knows she is loved by her siblings, even though she doesn't always know how to receive that love yet. But little by little, it's coming easier for her!

So with that background in mind, you can see why our family was thrilled to find out about a new resource for adoptive families--a blog called "The Soak Share". It's been in the works for a while and debuted today for the first time! Please book mark it and follow along as siblings of adopted kiddos share from their own lives what it's like to be the sibling of an adopted child! What a great resource for families who are adopting to help prepare their children, or for children whose siblings are already home to find a "connection" and to know they are not alone!

Enjoy "The Soak Share--Siblings of Adopted Kids".

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stunning News

On the advice of a blog reader, I connected with "Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords" a few weeks ago. Then, I found the book, Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter at our library, and devoured it.

As read about Schuyler's journey towards communication, I became very excited about a device I had never heard of before called "Hip Talk". The Hip Talk is made to be worn around the waist of a non-verbal person, in a fanny pack type of case, and can easily go wherever the person goes, leaving their hands free for regular activities until they need to push the buttons to communicate a pre-programmed word or short phrase.

This device resonated with us like no other device we have considered for communication before did. Easily portable, leaving Katya's hands free to play, much more affordable than other devices that have been suggested,  and while it didn't provide a complet method of communication, it sounded like a great "first step" device. It seemed like something that could really be "right" for her as she could easily play on the playground and in gym with it, and yet have it handy to communicate with her peers in a basic fashion. Programmable up to 60 different words or phrases, that would bring her to around the same level as she is with ASL signs, only everyone who could hear could understand this.

After some discussion, we dashed off a polite but firm note to the school, alerting them to this device, and asking that it seriously be considered for Katya' communication needs.

Within a few days we had heard from both her speech teacher, and the Director of the Special Ed program, letting us know that this was a device they didn't know anything about but were willing to research.

That was my first shock. We have had sooo much conflict with the school that it was truly shocking to be taken seriously about this.

My second shock was yesterday getting a phone call from the Special Ed Director telling me that they have researched every where and not been able to find a "loaner" "Hip Talk" and that the company has a very strict policy about returns, and they just are not sure if they really should go ahead with it right now, or just wait until after Katya has assessments done the end of this month, and then we can sit down and discuss the results and have a meeting to discuss and decide what to do in terms of communication for her.

My heart sank to my toes, and I began to advocate for Katya. Charity was there and she said that I handled it masterfully. It had to have been God . . . helping me to fight for my little girl, because I was in a store, with all the children except Katya, so I wasn't even in a good spot to really discuss this. With every bit of diplomacy that I could come up with, I went to work running my mouth . . . and by the time the conversation ended, the Special Ed director said she was going to put in a purchase order for Katya's "Hip Talk"!!!

Can you imagine the DOORS this could open for Katya if she is able to physically use it?  It depends on both the flexibility of her arms (due to her dislocated elbows) as well as her ability and willingness to wear it and use it, so we will just have to see, but I have a good feeling about this.

I am so excited . . . I can hardly wait for the "Hip Talk" to arrive at school and for Katya to be introduced to it! Please join us in praying that she will be successful in using this, according to God's will!

We are still in a state of happy shock . . . so many times Katya's needs and our concerns for her have been "back-burnered" or worse . . . and to have actually been listened to and approved for something that is this important to her future is stunning and shocking. I really do think it is in answer to the specific prayers that some of her prayer warriors were putting up!

Next month, my daughter will be EIGHT YEARS OLD. And for almost 8 years, she has lived without a voice . . . without a way to let people know what she wants and needs. The last year she has had a limited ability to communicate with SOME people who know ASL. But she has no way to communicate with the world at large. Do you realize how huge this will be if she can adapt and learn to use this at it's highest level? Do you realize what doors emotionally and educationally this could open for Katya?? Do you realize what an amazing gift it would be to our family if she can begin to communicate more and more fully with a device so that we know what is in her little heart and mind?

Hot burning tears are pouring out of my eyes as I type this. My Mommy heart longs and yearns for my daughter to have the ability to communicate the joys and sorrows that are in her heart . . . Watching Miss Katya's pain and frustration and knowing she wants to communicate but can't has been sooo, sooo hard.

What a blessing that our blog reader suggested Schulyer's Dad's blog to us! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! You may have opened a much bigger door than you ever dreamed when you suggested it! We are grateful to our blog readers! You really do make a difference in Katya's life and in ours!

And now you too can rejoice with us at our stunning news!! The school is actually buying Katya a communication device!

Ten For Orphans

During this month of Orphan Awareness, I want to continue to highlight groups that I believe to the best of my knowledge and research are operating with good business practices, and ethics.

The current ministry I want to point your attention to is "Ten For Orphans". This started out of an awareness that if enough people would commit to donating $10.00 regularly, it could make a powerful impact on the fundraising efforts of families.

First of all, a family who is fundraising, such as the Nance Family, fundraising this month for Maxim, set up an account with one of 3 approved ministries who have been carefully reseached by the founders of "Ten for Orphans", Ben and Rebecca Barringer. These are ministries who as nearly as can be determined are ethical, true to their word, and working hard to support adoptive families and the needs of orphans. As money is donated for the specific family that is fundraising each month, the funds are deposited into their account. When the family has met the conditions for having their funds disbursed, the ministry disburses the funds to the family.

Your donation is totally tax-deductible, and a child who urgently needs the true love of a Mommy and Daddy who are committed to his needs gets a family! The Nance Family have adopted before, including a child with a very severe level of special needs.

Knowing how urgently Katya needed a family, and what a huge difference it has made in her little life, I can not wait to see how love, food, and good medical care make a differenc in Maxim's life!

Check out TEN FOR ORPHANS and get involved in orphan care!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Trip to the Doctor

Today we set off on a jaunt to one of Katya's Doctor's. This Dr. has a special interest in nutrition as part of  healing, and has been very helpful to various members of our family because of that over the years.

We had a long list of questions we wanted to ask Dr. S. Katya was started on a daily dose of fish oil post-op once she had healed enough, per our family doctor's suggestion, and with Dr. Carson's approval. We feel we have seen benefit from it, and want to keep Katya on it, but we wanted to discuss the doseage with someone who is very knowledgeable about such things. We also wanted to ask Dr. S. about GINKO. Quite a few people have suggested that to us as a possible thing to try with Katya. But when I would research it, I just always had enough questions and checks in my spirit that I never felt clear to go ahead with starting Miss Katya on it.

Well, Dr. S. approved the fish oil doseage and actually suggested we increase it a bit. As to the Ginko?? That was a big, fat "NO WAY." She said that it is still too close to Katya's surgery to even think seriously about it--that there is some suspicion that Ginko can cause brain bleeds in cases like Katya's. The fish oil was fine, but no Ginko.

We are glad we listened to our God-given intuition and waited till we could get Katya seen and discuss this with a Dr! While we love using good food and good supplements for health and healing, we are always mindful that we need to be wise and careful, do our research, and get good input from professonals who have made a special study of these things.

Dr. S. suggested we increase Katya's Vitamin D. intake due to how extremely deficient she was found to be post-discharge at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Vitamin D. deficiency has been linked to all types of problems, and since Katya's allergies continue to be a major issue requiring daily attention year round, Dr. S. wants to continue to keep an eye on her levels. As a result, we have a script for lab work to check that plus some other things such as her iron levels etc.

We were given some other helpful suggestions and info, and will follow up again in April. The only other real "new" piece of info is that she diagnosed Katya with Torticollis. You can read more about it at the link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torticollis

This did not surprise me, as I have noticed she tends to hang her head fairly consistently to one side. You will note that in many of her photos. In Katya's case, she could have a number of reasons as possibilties of why she developed it. Her "birth trauma" (whatever that all entailed, no one could seem to tell us, but it's part of her Dx pre-adoption) or the issues with her eyes being off alignment prior to surgery etc.

At this point, the suggestion was for us to do daily gentle massage with a soothing ointment such as arnica gel or something similar on her neck to try to loosen up the super tight muscles. I imagine we will eventually have to do more follow up on the problem, but there are other issues that take a higher priority at the moment. It seems we constantly have to triage Katya's needs in order to make sure we don't get overwhelmed.

Overall, Katya got a clean bill of health, and Dr. S. was so happy to see how much improved she was since she had last seen Katya about a year ago. We got home in time to get Katya back into school for about 2 hours before school was dismissed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Progress in Several Areas

Today when we were making home-made chicken noodle soup with the leftovers of a whole chicken we roasted the other day, Charity asked Katya who was hanging around the kitchen to "Please get me the pot with the holes." Now, we had not talked about the pasta insert in that manner to Katya before, so we weren't at all really expecting her to be able to bring us what we wanted. But, we still like to throw new things out to her from time to time, just to see what she can do. Katya went right over to the cupboard, stared in it for a bit, then pulled out the pasta insert and brought it right over to Charity!

When we were ready to add minced garlic to the gently bubbling fragrant pot of soup, Charity said, "Katya, please put in two spoons of garlic." And Katya carefully did EXACTLY that!

So those were our exciting bits from today when Katya was home with us (Veteran's Day meant she had the day off from school).

Katya also had a successful time in her music class today. I will share what her teacher wrote up about the lesson today.

Hi Hope Anne, Had a great day with Katya. : ) First of all she is getting much more comfortable with the rabbit - goes over on her own to look at it, cautiously, but does have interest. She pet it several times today.
My task for her today was to place quarters on the set of two black keys to be able to identify where they were. This she did 95% by herself. She loved it because it was tactile and a project she could do by herself. It was a little frustrating, though because they weren't quite wide enough to stay well. From there she could identify the two black keys and without asking started hopping from one set to the other, like I have had her do before. The next task was to draw on the letter C's , which see loves and does so quite carefully. She played each of those as well.

Today's new work was to identify the five tone scale by letter so we drew the letters first on her notepad. I took her hand to write the top line and she copied each below it with surprising neatness and accuracy, even adding the lowercase ones by herself. We applied this to the keyboard where she drew a few sets by herself with no help from me, getting the order right.

The next celebration was on the harp. I placed Twinkle Twinkle music under the strings for her to play and showed her how to do it and took her hand to do the first round. From there she tried herself and on the second try was Very meticulous and careful with full attention and played the entire song hitting about 80% of the notes. B. and I cheered and praised her : ) It was so fun, she got up excited, walking about smiled, then came back and plopped in my lap. From there we started a bouncy game which she just loved.
So it all went well. She was very pleasant this time with no discipline problems. Her attention span has also greatly increased.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oh The Difference . . . Love Can Make!

The photo above was a photo taken at the time Katya was officially released for adoption in the summer of 2010. By the time we came for her, she looked even worse than the photo above. Starvation and abuse had taken an even bigger toll on her little body. Her hair was sparser and her eye brows and eye lashes were almost gone. She was skeletal, pale, and not in good shape at all.
Now, after just a little over a year of love and good food and medical care, behold Katya's 2012 school photo!

This is a child who knows she is loved.

The Shepherd's Crook

Today I want to introduce you to a ministry that works with orphans that is near and dear to our family's hearts--"The Shepherd's Crook" based in West Chester, Ohio.

"The Shepherd's Crook" has faithfully been advocating for orphans, and working to improve the lives of those "left behind" since January of 2002. Our family first found out about them sometime around late 2003 or early 2004. I was researching adoptions, and found the link for their website. We signed up to get their email alerts, and as the saying goes, "The rest is history!"

In September of 2005 an email popped into my in-box from TSC, as "The Shepherd's Crook" is affectionately known by many. As I sat there prayerfully reading over the various children who needed families, I suddenly came to the last listing in the email. A very grainy, side shot of a little girl, ripped evidently from a video, and a short description, alerting people to the urgent need of little girl  in Russia. Russia had given her agency about two weeks to find a family for her, or they were going to remove her from the adoption registry, stamp her file, "UN-ADOPTABLE" and place her in an institution. People were asked to contact her agency directly for any further questions.

I still remember sitting there in our tiny trailer living room, staring at my computer screen as chills ran up and down my body, goose bumps broke out, and it was if an audible, and yet not audible voice said in my head, "That's my daughter!" My heart was pounding, my body was breaking out in sweat. I had a very, very physical reaction that was completely unlike anything I had ever experienced before even with all the 100's and 100's of photos of needy kids I looked at over the years. Nothing had prepared me for what I felt going on.

Today that little girl, our lovely Kristina, graces our home with her love and laughter. Yes, the same Kristina you have seen so lovingly helping Katya learn to bike in the video I posted in the last post was about to be classed as "UN-ADOPTABLE" and sent to a institution to languish with no love or care or future.

Thank God that there was "The Shepherd's Crook" to rise to the challenge when the agency was down to the wire and needing a family for Kristina! Thank God that TSC rose to the challenge, as crazy as it seemed to find a family on that short of notice who would agree to start the very lengthy and exhausting process to bring Kristina home.

During our tumultous journey to Kristina, including finding out that I was expecting Chad (!), TSC stood by our family. They sent a birthday card with a caring note when we went through Kristina's birthday without her. They sent a lovely little lamb to welcome her home with shortly before we left to get Kristina. There was so much caring and prayerful support shown to our family by the entire TSC staff.

Nearly a year later, in September of 2005, Kristina landed on USA soil and clapped her hands and happily exclaimed, "America! America!"

Based on our our contact over the years with the staff of TSC, including in person contact, we highly and heartily recommend "The Shepherd's Crook". They are indeed a worthy organization to support. There may not be a lot of bells and whistles, and they may not be bright and glitzy, but they are rock solid, respectful, trust-worthy and honest.

It would be my fervent hope that you will check them out, and then begin to help support their work with orphans. In a world of adoption, it's far too easy for scams and ugliness to exist. It's hard to know who to trust. But based on our experience, and the experiences of many other happy families who have been helped in their journey to their children by TSC, I think I can safely tell you that TSC is operated with integrity, dignity, and filled with reputable people.

God bless "The Shepherd's Crook"!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Biking VIdeo

Much love, patience, tears, and hard work has gone into getting Katya this far! Along with sweet treats and tons of verbal praise and encouragement!

I think by next summer Katya will be able to bike on her own. What do you think?!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Charity was able to capture some photos and videos today of Katya biking.

Here is one.

I love how Katya's one eye is peeking out from under her hat! No wonder she had trouble steering! I suggested to Kristina that next time she periodically check that. ;-)

So, would any of you like to see video?! Leave a comment if you would!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sometimes . . . .

 . . . it is easy to grow weary of fighting the battle to make sure that what is done is in Katya's best interests.

 . . . it is easy to let other's negative responses to my efforts to make sure my daughter's best interests are met depress and drag me down.  It's a good thing that I'm getting slowly wiser in putting on my tough Mommy-skin and not letting their arrows pierce me.

 . . . I just want to curl up in a ball and bawl at the frustration and pain I see Katya go through with her lack of communication.

 . . . I am not so strong and brave and cheerful as I wish I were.

 . . . only my firm belief in God and His promises is all that gets me through yet another day.

 . . . I am angry beyond words at the evil in this world that allowed my daughter to suffer, and at the evil in this world that allows her to still be taken advantage of due to her inability to talk.

 . . . there is no way I can let myself really think or feel about what is going on with all of this or I would not be able to function as I need to.

And sometimes . . . sometimes . . . I can not wait for Heaven . . . God willing, Katya will have a new and perfect body there, with the ability to function completely perfectly.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are You Aware?

Are you aware of the desperate reality of life for orphans around the world? And what are you doing to make a difference? If you are a long-time reader, you are probably aware on some level, and likely are doing something about it. If you are fairly new to Katya's blog, you may not really "get" how desperate life is for so many orphans, nor how urgent it is that something be done by EVERYONE.

 As we shared today at the church who helped us rescue Katya, one sweet young Mama told me with tears in her eyes that she wants to help save the life of some child. She was at a point in her life where she didn't see how she could do that, but she felt the pull and tug. I was happy to share with her some basic things to consider--some ways she could help NOW without even being in a position to adopt herself. Maybe some day God will open the door for that for her and her family. . . I hope so. But until then, they CAN make a difference in the life of an orphan in so many OTHER ways. YOU can make a difference in the life of an orphan too!

  First of all, there is always prayer. Fervent, effectual prayer. Pick a country, pick a child, and/or pick a family adopting, and PRAY specifically each day for your chosen prayer target. Pray fervently and faithfully.

Then there are always families who are fundraising for adoption expenses. You can find someone and help them, whether in person or monetarily or both. I know one family here in town who was adopting, and when we went to help with their fundraiser set-up, our family and one or two relatives of theirs were all who showed up to help with the set up. And since it was to be a HUGE yard sale the next day, we were seriously, seriously short-handed. Where were the others who had a burden for adoption?

Don't forget about hosting! If you don't know much about it, research it! You can positively impact the life of a child for a number of weeks in your home, without the expense and long-term commitment of adoption. This may be the only chance this child ever has to see a normal family unit in action, and can have a powerful impact on their life in so many ways.

There are short-term mission trips to orphanages that you can help sponsor or help with by going along! One organization that does trips is The Boaz Project. We have worked with them and supported them for a number of years and really appreciate every thing we know of them.

This video makes me cry every time I see it, as my heart breaks again. Watch it. And then pray and with a open heart ask God what HE wants your response to be.


 Thank you to all who prayed about our trip to visit the supporting church. They were warm and welcoming and while Katya had some anxiety on the way up there, she did calm down after we prayed with her and did overall great with everything. The food served after the service helped too! ;-) Life is always better for Katya when food is involved!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Orphan Awareness

There was a church in Ohio that not once, but twice, donated very generously to Katya's adoption expense fund, in addition to praying without ceasing for her during the adoption process and even after she was home. This was wonderful. And is wonderful. It becomes even MORE wonderful when you realize that this church really did not know our family. One family who attended the church DID know us, and based on their trust in our journey, and their request to the church for assistance for us, this church gave willingly. Not once, but twice, they gave to us. Wonderful?? YES! It becomes again even MORE wonderful when you realize that this church was a small church--and TWICE0--not once, but TWICE--they gave several thousand dollars to help with the sum we needed to get Katya home. Clearly, this church understood how to be Jesus' hands and feet to Katya! This church has long wished to meet Katya and our family. Due to how stressful new places and change has been for Katya, they and we have held off on making any hard and fast plans up until recently. They asked us to come for Orphan Awareness Sunday so that we can all meet and fellowship. So we will be getting up early and driving two hours one way to go to church with them tomorrow. I am praying for a blessing for all of us. For calmness and peace for Katya. And that through this exchange, this church which is clearly already aware of the need of orphans may possibly become even more aware.

Friday, November 2, 2012

School Program Part 2

Katya clearly enjoyed this program. And now when we show her the videos at home, she looks very interested and happy. This is a huge contrast to the first number of months when she was home, when she did NOT want anyone showing her photos or videos of herself! She did not want to look in a mirror, or have anyone photograph her. I'm of the opinion that she was reflecting the attitudes of disgust and disdain that she had felt growing up. Now that she is a loved and cared for child, she no longer finds seeing herself something repulsive. Treat a child like garbage, expect them to see themselves as that too. Treat them like the treasure they are, and you will find them reflecting that back as well. In spite of seeing various areas of healing happening for Katya emotionally, she is still suffering with nightmares and what appear to be flash backs at night. She could use on-going prayers about that, as could we. We are, to be blunt, very weary from interrupted sleep and short nights. And as tough as it is on us, I'm sure it's worse on her. We are considering some different sleeping options--including pulling out the trundle bed from Charity's bed that is normally a guest bed, and putting Katya right beside Charity to sleep at night. It seems Katya derives comfort from being closer to Charity, so we hope that might be a good thing to get Katya through this rough patch.