Thursday, May 11, 2017

INDIA - Dossier time!

Hello all!  Much needed update follows!
     We are adopting this little girl we told you about earlier!  Her name is Abha, and I'll just tell you right now, she's adorable.  I hesitated posting more details because for a while it was back and forth.  Do we have her or don't we?  Can we pursue or not?  We prayed and prayed for wisdom and calm and that Abha find a safe family, as things were uncertain and thankfully God answered our prayers AND allowed that we be the family for Abha which was just icing on the cake.  I firmly believe that God is guiding Abha to a family and also guiding our story, we feel privileged that it could be us entrusted with Abha.  So far so good!  We are two approvals into the 6-step gauntlet.
     We were matched with her on March 20 after much uncertainty.  There was a system error that appeared that we could not continue with her referral, but then the region said they were under the impression we were matched, so that was good news! Then a few weeks later the central authority said no, because of the previous mistake another family had reserved her.  Then a few weeks later after our agency appealed on our behalf, the central agency granted us the reservation and matched us with her.  Phew!  Talk about a roller coaster!  So we continued on with the immigration paperwork, and one of the papers appeared unacceptable.  After about a week, and a discussion with the supervisor, it was decided that the paper was acceptable.  NOW we are ready to obtain the necessary documents to fill out the DS-260 to obtain a visa for Abha to eventually travel to the US!  In the meantime, our acceptance dossier (see following pics) is traveling through India being approved (the next two approval steps) and will hopefully end with our NOC (no objection certificate) then it's the two court processes.  Little by little, we inch through!  Also we are going to be getting more info from the orphanage about her likes and dislikes and details about her day.  Hopefully in a little while we'll be able to send her gifts and pictures.  Once we pass court, I can share pictures.  Until then, I want to show you what an international dossier looks like, in case you ever wondered. I'll give you a hint.  It looks like a mountain of papers.

Yipes!  Imagine the postage!  It'll give you nightmares!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Goodbye Smartphone Day 1,047

I have a cellphone.  It makes phone calls and it sends texts and it takes better pictures than my digital camera I had in college.  I am content.  Guess what.  Maybe you read the title.  I still have not returned to a smartphone.

I posted about this decision all the way back in 2014.  I posted a 7 day follow up... um... 7 days later.  I am still so happy about my decision.  The more that time goes by, and especially on the days that I am particularly productive and not glued to my facebook feed, I am so grateful that I don't have something convincing me to look at it every 15 minutes.  (Besides my kids.  I want them to convince me to look at them every 15 minutes.)  Ok I'll be honest.  There are days that I spend too much time on facebook cuz I check email and then hover over and get caught.  OK and let's be honest some more.  I'm pretty productive in general because of I'm from strong Mohler stock.  Nothing to do with a cellphone.

Sigh, alright, YES it would be nice to get that up-to-date traffic information that warns me of delays on my Q2wk trips to Cleveland.  Aaaaaand every time someone tells me about a really neat app on their phone I just know I'm getting further and further and further behind in the "loop".  Aaaand there are those times that someone asks about my kids and then we both sit in that awkward space that now happens after the question "do you have pictures?"  I then must decide whether I want to show them my pixelly pictures and then have to deal with the embarrassment of whipping out my dumbphone or figure out how to get out of showing them pictures at all.  The struggle is real.  Aaaaand if you've ever texted a few emojis and you thought it might elicit an lol or a larger response and you didn't get it, it's cuz I can't receive emojis.  Or memes.  Too bad, cuz memes are funny and can really communicate in their own unique way.  I get little rectangles and "Unable to play message"-s.  It's a drag.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention those two times that I was at a women's bible study and the "take-home" was the fact that it's helpful to have an app that bings on your phone and sends you a bible verse to read every morning and handily reminds you to pray.  That happened twice.  It was awkward for me.  I'm not knockin' that app.  Not at all.  It sounds amazing.  The majority of the ladies got out their phones amidst spiritual oohs and aahs and immediately downloaded the app and there I sat.  Staring at the wall wondering how I was going to remember to pray.  I hope I can rely my internal will!  My memory is fickle and untrustworthy at best.

But that precisely brings me to my next thoughts.  Many times I feel like a cartoon character who has just been dropped in a crazy new world as an outsider looking in.  I'm also watching our culture in general more and more dependent on technology as a whole.  Me included!  I do own a computer and a Garmin and use it frequently.  But I'm also watching more and more people glued to their phones.  Even after those strikingly convincing YouTube videos circulated!  Those almost ridiculous looking scenes of people at restaurants and instead of talking are looking at their phones are now normalized.  But major discussion on that "issue" was a few years ago so basically from the dark ages now.  More so now than ever I have a deep sense that I'm still doing what I know in my heart is the most right for me.  And because of this I'm proud to practice patience and wait for the answer that could be found instantly on Wikipedia.  And I'm happy to wait in traffic because my Garmin hasn't been updated for 6 months and doesn't know that there's construction on this road.  And I'm glad to use several mental breaks a day as I wait in the parent-pickup at my kids' school or sit in a waiting room or wait for a friend at a restaurant.  I like sitting in my thoughts and I feel grateful that I still know how to do it.

Some smartphoners:


Ok that was kinda mean.  So's this: I do get a small sense of glee every time my friends and family wait for their phone to respond to something they are trying to do.  Even making a call.  So sad.  I want to type in a number and it comes up the instant - the instant - I push my keys.  So don't tell me my little LG doesn't have some elements of convenience.

Some people:


And guess what.  My phone is YEARS old.  YEARS.  So many years that I'm not even sure how many years old it is.  YEARS.  Count 'em.  That's a plural.  MULTIPLE for those less familiar with the English language.

Some people:

And my phone is durable too.  There's one visible scuff mark out of the dozens of times I've dropped it.  I look at some people's spider-webbed smartphone screens with morbid curiosity as to how it even functions.

Here's what it would look like if I knew more than two other people with dumb phones.  There used to be more.  They're dropping like flies.  The higher the iPhone numbers go, the less people I know who don't have them.
We'd probably have conversations like this.  I'm talking to you, Linda and Brooke.  Look at what you're missing out on.  All the fun we could have.

And then there's this.  When I dropped my smartphone and all the data accoutrements, our bill dwindled to a fraction and it hasn't risen very much since.

Some people:

I'm all like:

Desiree, I have to mention this since we were just talking about it.  Especially my husband who has a flip-phone can certainly speak to this one.
Some people:

I feel bad for my kids, kinda.  Cuz now that I'm sold on my decision, it's going to take some drastic action to convince me otherwise.  My children are going to grow up and I wonder if it'll be like it is now.  If it is, here's how it might look:

While at the Miller house:
My poor kids.

So there's the skinny.  1,047 regretless days without my smartphone.  I love it so much.  Thanks for letting me share my experience and making it through all the way to the end of this crazy post.

And now for the funniest meme ever!!!:

(Unable to play meme)

Stinks, huh?  Oh well.  Still #worthit.


Monday, February 13, 2017

INDIA - exciting news!

We found a little girl that we really think we should pursue adopting.  They are updating her medical exam and getting some of our questions answered but we really feel like this could be our next child. :)  Exciting!  I'll give details as soon as I'm allowed.

In other not near so exciting news but that does involve pictures, something's happening in a mini makeshift recording studio in our basement.

I'm really excited about it!  I'm trying to put together songs from all across my family as a fundraising effort for this adoption.  I'm hoping to be done with it by spring.  It's gonna be great y'all.  Just you wait!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

INDIA exciting developments!

  We have come to a very exciting part of our India adoption journey!  Our agency has been looking twice a week on the Indian child listing to see if any children match our profile.  We have had several calls already about possible children.  Some have been very young and some have been older (which we understood to be risky).  We were under the impression that we had to adopt in birth order and since Logan is 4 we would have to adopt a child younger than that.  Now it sounds like we could potentially try to send a referral through the Indian gauntlet of an older child.  They told us that they have declined matches before due to birth order, but that it's not an impossibility.  We are inquiring about a few children as it is.  We are in a very exciting but a very high-pressure-feeling discernment time.  Lots of prayer would be appreciated!
My sister Annie came and painted a Mandala on our wall (see above). :)  She painted a Hindi word in the middle.  Annie suggested some Sanskrit words, but we wanted to do Hindi so that our potential new addition could easily recognize it if they decide to learn Hindi later in life.  She painted the word "family" in the middle.  The lotus blossoms represent growth and new life.  I thought it was very appropriate.  She did a marvelous job and we love it.  It reminds us every day about the journey we are on.

Gianna update: her neurofeedback is going well and we are noticing some new cognitive processing.  She can now answer the question "what are you thinking about?" and "what did I just say?"  Her auditory processing is getting much quicker.  There's still a noticeable lag, but it's not as severe.  She will be sitting there watching a video with her brothers, and when there's a joke the boys will bust up and then a second and a half later Gianna will start to laugh.  Hey, it's an improvement!  Before, she would have looked at them, maybe fake-laughed cuz they were laughing and wonder what they were laughing at.  She had such trouble processing things that had just happened so many things were very confusing to her.  Also, she has much better memory in general.  She can actually remember things that happened at school and tell me about her day.  Part of that is she is becoming more aware of her surroundings and has less anxiety.  She can move through her day awake and participating.  Most days. :)
Therapy is still hard for her, but it will be for a very long time.  The therapist says she sees a noticeable difference in her eye contact with me.  She says it's clearer and more genuine.  That's very encouraging, and hopefully means true attachment is in our future.
Gianna is officially in size 7 clothes!  And very soon she'll be in size 8!  All of a sudden she really started growing and she gained 5 pounds and about half an inch in height in just the last few months! Hopefully that means other development will follow - particularly moving out of some of the toddler behaviors. :)
Gianna is really becoming a delightful family girl and joining in with our family more and more.  She's learning and growing every day and we are so proud of her.
Gianna just seems so much more relaxed and happy these days

She was a flower for her school play and I made her a little rose skirt.  She was so proud to be in the play.

Here she is waiting for her turn to dance.  She was the cutest little flower you've ever seen in your whole life.  She just was.  It's true.

Gianna you are the coolest thing, even with leaves on your teeth.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The picture part

In the van, almost there!

Dumbo - the first ride

Gianna was so so so excited to meet Ariel, I think it was a bit of a shock.

The day is wearing on us and we are fixating on smoothies

I love how everyone is so into this picture

Gianna just spotted a dolphin and she's not sure what to think about it!  What do we do with "happy trauma triggers"?  I'm not sure either.

We didn't visit lots of characters, but the ones we did visit were very special encounters.

At Animal Kingdom watching a very funny monkey

That monkey was pretty cool

Meeting Tarzan!  Logan was so shy with all the other characters, but he was intent on visiting Tarzan since he heard we were going to Disney so Zack helped him out.

Gianna loved the beach and swam every single day, even the colder ones.

Kian loved making sand castles.

Grandpa helped make some very impressive castles.

A sandy mermaid

yes, I was there too

Gianna is our little beach bum apparently

Logan swam and made sand castles, but took many breaks sitting in his chair eating chips

Meeting Anna

Friday, November 18, 2016

Catching up... also... PAPERWORK update

We've constantly been doing so many new and interesting things that it's hard to know where to start!  It's also hard to know where to stop once I start which anyone who's ever talked to me knows to be true...  Let's start with the India adoption since it never gets the first entries.

We sent all of our stuff in to immigration and our last medicals in to our agency right before we left on vacation over Halloween.  Then about a week and a half ago, we got word that we received our first India approval!  This was probably one of the larger "approval hurdles" for us to overcome, so that was great news!  They said that now they can begin to look on the waiting child list for children that match our family's profile.  They will be checking twice a week.  We could know very soon who our next family addition will be!!!  ...Or we could wait lots of months.  Either way, what a cool phase to be in!  Once we accept a referral that they send our way, we will have four more approvals and paperwork to complete before we can travel to go get them.  It can be anywhere from 9-18 months after we get the referral to travel.

Gianna has started at-home neurofeedback.  Three to five (we've generally been doing 4) times a week I attach little EEG wires to her head and ears and it reads her brain waves and gives her rewards for focusing on a video or game.  It targets certain areas she needs to work on, and hopefully will get her brain at a more optimal regulation to accept the attachment therapy.  We have already seen the changes at work, she listens and remembers what was said better, and she is calmer with less fits.  There are still fits, but there are less.

I can see her more and more coming out of her anxiety shell as well.  She is much more aware of what's going on around her, in a good way.  Her hypervigilance is decreasing and instead she's thinking about what day it is and how many days are there until Saturday, and paying attention more to what I said and remembering what it was she was supposed to do.  Not every day is perfect, and about every 2 weeks we have a rough one.  But there are vastly more good days than bad!

Gianna also continues to grow, and finally gained some weight to join that inch!  It's been a little while since her last weight check, so I'm wondering if that's increased even more.  Her eating is so normal it's delightful.

Both Gianna and Kian are loving school.  Kian is a wiggly 5 year old boy who cares more about friends than letters, and more about pretending to be a ninja on the playground than math, and he is having a blast.  He's learning a lot in spite of his "alternative interests". :)  Gianna is chugging impressively along.  She's managed to stay along with the 2nd grade class in math with significant one on one help.  They think she's ready to decrease that, though.  Also, she continues to "catch up" with regards to reading.  She started the year as a "beginning first grader" level, now a quarter of the way through 2nd grade she is at a "3/4 of the year first grader".  They switched her group because she had sort of "outgrown" it, and put her with a different set of kids based on her level.  She's now with advanced 1st graders.  It looks like progress and smells like progress!

Big attachment gain alert: Gianna has developed a "favorite toy".  This is huge.  Before, she would coin her "favorite" as anything that was the newest.  Whatever she had gotten most recently.  Then right before we went on vacation she started playing more consistently with a toy she got last February.  Casey the koala bear was also the one she picked to take on vacation.  Now she calls it her "favorite" and plays with it quite a lot.  This is not something we encouraged, but it is so so so encouraging.  If she has a budding attachment with a toy, that means that she is letting her guard down to love something.  And maybe, just maybe, she will feel secure enough to love and attach to a person, too.

I gotta tell ya - our vacation was the bombest.  We planned it very carefully and tread the activities with a watchful eye, and it paid off.  We had a blast and a bag of chips.  We trolled around Disney for 3 days and then went down to my parent's Florida place and spent 4 days there.  What a ball was had by all.  The grandparents joined us which made it really special.  Photographic proof to follow.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What's been going on????

Long overdue for an update, and for that I apologize!  We've been busy as per usual, and this blog goes neglected.  Here's been some highlights from the last couple months.  June was a rough one.  We had a lot of behavioral struggles.  More than likely it was an anniversary reaction being that it was one year from when Gianna came home.  Then after the really cruddy June, we crawled out of it steadily with every 4-5 days having an "off" day.  Now it's about every 5-10 days there will be a rough one.  You can tell within the first few hours which Gianna it was that got out of bed that morning.  I keep telling her I love her no matter what, no matter which Gianna greets me in the morning.  We all have tougher days, and each one of us needs more grace on some days than others, isn't it the truth.

I cannot tell a lie.  June was wild and wooly.

But here we are, on the other side, and the rest of the summer was a joy-filled experience of learning and growth.  In some cases, BIG growth.  My favorite area of growth is the fact that Gianna's new favorite word is "actually".  She will likely struggle for a long time with learning problem-solving, but I have had some major glimpses that some work is going on in that area.  I'll say "I wouldn't do that if I were you."  Or  "I wonder how that will go for you."  Many times, she says "Actually, I'm not going to", or etc.  And she makes a GOOD CHOICE!!!  Praises be!  Sometimes it's just my tone of voice that gives her a hint.  She loves to fiddle-fart.  She knows she has 30 minutes to do her cleaning up chore, and she loves to find anything to do instead of cleaning.  Some of this is developmental, some of it is control.  Depending on the day in some cases.  She'll come up to me with a procrastination technique "Can you give me a scissors so I can cut this out?" and I give a smile and a slow "Suuuuuure" and it turns into "Actually, I'm gonna clean up."  How cool is that?????

The good days are getting better and the bad days are getting less bad.

And I am freaking celebrating.

That doesn't mean things are still easy.  The fits continue, mostly on the "off days", but they are fewer and farther between.  She refuses to let me see her cry and yet after less time than it used to take, she will let me wipe her tears away and will relax into my hug.  On her best days she may even come to me and say "Can you wipe away my tears?"  Yes.  Yes child, yes.  That is my job and it's my privilege.  I repeat it over and over again so she can say it enough and start to internalize it, "I know you think you NEED a stuffed animal or doll to make you feel better, but that's what you WANT. What is it that you NEED?"... "A hug from mom," she'll reply, and the look in her eyes makes me think she's starting to want to believe it.

Pool partay!!!

Gianna had another developmental test.  It was more comprehensive, was specific to trauma and attachment, and gave an age equivalent to all the domains and behavior arenas.  They also do an assessment on her "maladaptive behaviors", which were all "elevated" (meaning she has developed some inappropriate responses to stress or big feelings. big surprise. not.).  In most of the domains and the behavior assessment my guesses were correct.  Gross motor, fine motor, academic, daily living skills, etc were all right about Kian's age.  So my hunches were confirmed that I can fairly expect her to perform the chores and skills that I can expect from Kian.  Generally speaking.  There are 3 areas that I was most concerned about: interpersonal relationships (how she responds to others), coping skills, and play.  I figured all these were at about a toddler level, and so I've instinctively adjusted certain expectations and discipline with that in mind.  I was more than right.  Suffice it to say, we have a long, long way to go in those significantly delayed domains.  The therapist said all the domains were likely even more delayed when we first brought her home, and it's obvious her anxiety is decreased.  So there is still lots to be thankful for.  We are starting to see some positive growth, we can say our love has made a difference (albeit small so far), and that now I better know the complex inner workings that we are dealing with.  It really opened my eyes to what's under the surface of her behaviors.

It finally happened.  Gianna grew one inch.  That one inch tipped the balance, and now she fits size 7 shirts.  I thought I was destined to buy size 6 for eternity, and it was with trepidation that I got the size 7 bag down.  Sure enough, most of the tops that were giant a year ago - actually fit!  The pants issue has yet to be resolved.  She's too tall for 6's (they're a big highwater), and she swims in the 7's even with adjustment.  The other day she came all stressed out about an "injury" on her hip.  She was shocked when I laughed and got excited.  It was a mark from her underwear.  The girl finally has enough meat to get a mark from her underwear.  I assured her it's normal and that mom's really jazzed about her cute round belly.  It's the little things, folks.

Gianna is one smart cookie.

Gianna is doing well in school.  She has an IEP, which we are hoping will continue to catch her up somewhat. She's in 2nd grade and has been enjoying her first month.  She's the kind of kid that does better in school than during the summer - the predictability and routine is refreshing to her.  Family still equals mumbo-jumbo in a lot of ways, so the school environment - even though it's challenging - actually regulates her.  She's continuing to learn and show us how adaptable she is even with her challenging beginning.  She has a lot to overcome, and she's showing us her indomitable resilience.  Oh that it would be harnessed and used for good - she could be quite a force to behold!!!!!

While we've enjoying the fruit of our labors, we're also preparing for another adoption.

An update on our India adoption!  Our home study has been completed, and we are ready to apply for immigration.  We are collecting papers for that and for a India-styled "dossier" of sorts.  Doctor's visits seem to be taking the longest just because of scheduling.  The immigration documents will approve us to adopt someone of "orphan" status.  Little by little, we plod through.  I've said it before, I'll say it again, even though it's about the same amount of work - it sure is easier when you've slogged through it before.  Just knowing the path is of great benefit.  We've run into our first few financial hurdles, and this time we've had less time and energy to devote to fundraising efforts.  We've made it work so far, but stay tuned - we're brewing a few ideas for those who would like to support our adoptions financially.  Of course, you're always welcome to donate via our PayPal button on this blog!  Anyway, that aside, please continue to pray for us.  We still have the India approval yet to go through.  We are trusting that whatever the outcome, we can be reminded of the joy of following God's call and we can trust him to complete the work that he started.  Even if it looks different than we imagine it to be, God is faithful and we rest in his assurance that we can trust him fully.