Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Glimpse

Elli doesn't do many things like a typical child. In fact, in a given day, she may not ever act like a typical child. Elli doesn't walk like a typical child. Instead, she walks (or bounces) backwards until she bumps into something. She may ignore whatever she bumps into, she may feel it for a moment to determine what it is, or she may grab it angrily and yell at it. When it happens to be Sophi, can imagine:( Elli doesn't play like a typical child. She sits in a corner of the couch. Her right thumb is generally pressed brutally hard into her right eye. Her left hand is playing with a noise-making toy. She will often press the buttons in rapid succession, so the sounds are cut short and repeat incessantly. Elli doesn't eat like a typical child. Usually, she clamps her mouth shut and refuses whatever I am trying to feed her. I put it up to her mouth and she whips her head back and forth, refusing to let me get any of it in her mouth. When we are brave enough to encourage her to feed herself, she makes a terrible mess, wiping her hands on her shirt, the table, the wall next to her. Elli doesn't use the bathroom like a typical child. Elli doesn't talk like a typical child. Elli almost never looks or acts like a typical child.

Today, for a brief moment, Elli looked like a typical child. She was having a difficult time in her Sunday School class. The teacher had pulled her out into the hall, and Christi and I heard her from our classroom. Even though Elli's aid was doing her best to take care of Elli without disturbing us, it got to the point where we knew one of us should go help out. So I went and tried to calm her down. I sat with her for a moment in the foyer. She settled down somewhat and then asked for a drink. I helped her walk down the hallway to the drinking fountain. I wasn't sure if she could operate it by herself, but I put her up to the fountain and said, "Take a drink, Elli." She pushed the bar, leaned her head forward, and took a drink. It was that simple. For a brief moment, Elli could have been any child. She looked and acted just like her peers. I felt a jolt go through me. I looked at her and ached for that child. I wanted to freeze her there, at least for awhile. As always, Christi had dressed and fixed her up beautifully for church. She was wearing an ankle-length dress that made her look more grown up. Her gorgeous hair had just been cut to a darling length. She was my little girl. And she was normal. Then the moment passed. She shoved her face down into the fountain and and started gurgling in the water as it pooled in the basin. She continued to drink, but the stream of water was no longer lined up with her mouth. It hit her high on her cheek on dribbled down through her hair to her mouth. She continued to slurp for quite awhile and then, when I told her to be done and pulled her away, Elli was back. She backed away, bounced around, let out a yell of frustration. I was devastated. Even now, as I am recording the experience, I am wracked with sobs of...what. I don't even know. Disappointment? Empathy? Fear for the future? It was a poignant experience.

I don't know how to be the parent of a child with disabilities. The physical ones I feel pretty ok with. It takes a lot of time and effort, but the physical disabilities I can deal with. If someone can't walk, I can carry them. If someone can't see, I can lead them. If someone needs surgery, I can accompany them and stay by their bedside. But the cognitive disabilities are so hard. I am terrified of Elli's future. Right now when she jumps and hollers at church, it's understandable. Right now it's almost cute when she lies down on the pew and puts her feet up in the air. But what about 5 years from now. What about 15 years from now? What then? So today, when this brief vision of Elli as a typical child dissolved into Elli as she is right now, it was a bleak moment for me. Christi is a saint. 99% of the anxiety, sadness and angst she feels over Elli's condition is felt in empathy for Elli. Christi cares so little for herself and the challenges it creates in her own life. Instead, she is focused on how difficult it must be for Elli's pure, innocent spirit to be trapped in a physical body that doesn't function as most people's do. Me on the other hand? I'm pretty selfish. I certainly have empathy for Elli and ache for the challenges she has in her little life. But much of my anxiety, sadness and angst is for me. How am I going to deal with these challenges for the rest of my life? I think I have gotten better at focusing more on her and her needs, but I have a long way to go. I am sure that one of the reasons Christi and I were blessed with Elli was to help me learn these lessons. So at first, when this moment happened, I was aching for me. I felt sorry for the dad who had to deal with screaming, crying fits. I felt sorry for the dad who had to face 20? 30? 40? more years of diaper changes. I felt sorry for the dad who has seen pictures torn off their hangers and broken, the piano bench torn apart and holes punched in the drywall.

But suddenly the perspective changed. God spoke to me. He reached out in His unspeakable way. This was not a moment sent to torment me. It was a glimpse. A glimpse of Elli...someday. Probably not in this life, but without a doubt it was a glimpse of how she will be someday. As Elli was drinking, her back was to me. A beautiful, perfect little angel, getting a drink. I could not see her face. In our living room, we have a huge picture of Taylor, Parker, and Jesi. It is from a professional photo shoot. They are walking away from the camera, hand in hand in the beautiful Tennessee autumn leaves. There is something so precious about that view of them from behind. Jesi is between the two boys and is looking up at one of her brothers with a pure love in her face. The vision that God gave to me was of Elli, walking away from me in the same beautiful dress as she wore today. Walking through a field of yellow flowers. Running, even frolicking through this field. Her chains were gone. The fog that has encircled her throughout her life was lifted. Elli was free. Finally, her body fully reflected the beautiful spirit inside. Sadly, she didn't turn and look at me in the vision. Someday, I will meet that Elli. I pray with all of my heart that when that day comes she will look at me and be able to say "Thank you, Daddy, for your patience and love." I am not always as patient and loving as I should be or want to be. I will try to be better. I will someday see that little girl. I don't know what age her physical body will be at that encounter, but I hope I may have the chance to meet her as a little girl. A whole, sighted little girl who can run through a field of yellow flowers and into my arms. A little girl who can run into my arms, hug me ever so tightly and say, "I love you, Daddy." I thank God with all my heart for the atonement. For the sacrifice of his son that in some unfathomable way makes possible a perfect resurrection for each of us.

I love you, Elli.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jesus Will Meet You There

It's been a LONG time! I went through a period of discouragement where I just didn't want to write, and then when that passed, I just felt overwhelmed at "catching up." But I had to write today...

A brief update on our girl: Elli continues to slowly progress. She has learned new words, but we still don't have much "back and forth" communication. Elli echoes words we say, or will answer the question, "What do you want?" with (usually) one-word answers, but that's about it. She will say "Yes, please" (more like "yuppies") or "no" and that is a huge blessing. Music continues to be a source of much joy to her, and she knows all the words to probably about 100 songs! She has even progressed to where she will sometimes let us sing with her-- not often, but it does happen. She has begun to pick out a few tunes on the piano and spends a lot of her time sitting there playing her tunes.

Along with these good things are of course new struggles. She has gone through a feeding aversion thing where she will chew food but just can't seem to get herself to swallow it-- so she'll swish it around in her mouth and then spit it all up. Fun. Many foods that she used to love she will now refuse to eat. This is getting better as of late, but has been a huge struggle. She also is having more screaming tantrums-- I think often just because of her limited ability to communicate. Once she finally calms down, which can take a great deal of time, we usually ask her to say "sorry." Yesterday something very monumental happened. She was screaming her head off at something and I went to try to help her for the fifth or so time and I was completely frustrated. I said, "Elli, you need to stop! You are making me crazy! You need to use your words!!!" I said this not thinking she really understood what I was saying-- but she must have at least understood my exasperation because she immediately stopped and said, "sorry!" with no prompting. I was so excited!! I picked her up and told her that it was ok and that I loved her and we proceeded to have the sweetest time together. It felt like such a huge step in communication.

But what I really wanted to write about occurred a few nights ago. Elli woke up screaming and raging and I went down in her room to try and comfort her. Nothing was working and she was MAD. I finally turned a CD on, and the song that was playing was "Jesus Will Meet You There." I've mentioned before that the line in the song, "when sunlight comes and your world is still dark , Jesus will meet you there," always makes me think of Elli. As I laid next to her and thought about the trials that her life holds for her, I started to say a prayer. It wasn't out loud-- I was just praying in my mind. I was pleading for Jesus to meet her in the dark place she was in and to bring her some form of comfort. As I came to the end of my prayer, Elli stopped screaming and choked out the words, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." I was caught off guard, as I hadn't been praying out loud-- yet she somehow knew I was praying. Then her sobs turned to giggles and she started saying over and over, "Jesus, Jesus." I hugged her and loved on her and within a few minutes she was sound asleep.

I had entered her room exhausted and frustrated, but I left a completely different person. It was such a tender experience to share with my sweet Elli. I know she is loved TREMENDOUSLY by our Savior, and I feel so blessed and humbled to be her mother.

I have a new resolve to keep up with this blog so that I will always have a record of these miracles and of the ways Elli has blessed our family.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Saddest Sound

Perhaps the saddest sound in my world is the sound of Elli crying. I'm not talking about her grunts and growls, her unhappy shouts, or even her angry wails. I'm talking about the times she is earnestly and quietly sobbing. It absolutely breaks my heart. Very few of her sounds are traditional communication, and she often makes sounds indicating she's unhappy with whatever is going on around her. (She also often makes sounds of great joy-most frequently unintelligible words sung to the tune of her favorite children's songs and sung at the top of her lungs. It's really cute.) But occasionally she quietly cries and has tears stream down her face. This engenders such a tenderness in my heart towards her. What is going on in her dark little world? What unmet need is causing her this sincere heartbreak? When she is feeling this way, she generally won't respond to questions like "What do you want, Elli?" So there's not much you can do to comfort her other than hold her and sing or talk to her. Last night she felt this way as I put her to bed. I tried to comfort her, and after awhile, she did seem to feel better. I just wish that she could explain what's in her heart.

This morning when she woke up, she was still somewhat in this mode. When I asked her if she wanted oatmeal, she just whimpered. I asked her if she wanted curry (leftover from last night-one of her favorites!) she still whimpered. Then, she sang the first bars of "Frosty the Snowman" in a a choked up, quavering voice. So I rocked her and sang Frosty the Snowman. When I was done, I again asked her if she wanted oatmeal or curry. She repeated her tear-stained request for Frosty, so I sang it again. Oh to know what unmet longing was stirring her soul. Why did this particular song bring her peace? I truly look forward to the day I can meet her after the resurrection. When she will have a mind that functions properly and eyes that can see. I believe we will have some great conversations and some wonderful hugs!


Thursday, June 18, 2009


I am ashamed that I haven't written this sooner!

The night I posted "Consider the Lilies" I was really, truly clamoring for any shred of hope I could find. I don't think I even conveyed how difficult the past few weeks had been. Jeremy read my finished post that night and gave me a hug. Then he went down to check on Elli before we went to sleep. Elli has always gone to bed with a CD playing soft music. It is usually a lullaby CD, or her "I am a Child of God" one. The previous weekend, my parents had let us borrow their CD player (Elli had broken hers-- again) and it already had a CD in it. It was church CD, and so we had been pushing play on that. I hadn't payed attention to what songs were on it. I'm assuming by now you've guessed that when Jeremy went to check on her, a certain "Consider the Lilies" was playing. (: Truly, this is a song I haven't heard for months, so putting it in our lives three times in one day really did seem a little more than ironic.

I went to bed feeling peace.

The next morning, I got Elli out of bed and fed her breakfast. Then I put her in her bath. This is where she had begun her daily screaming for the past several weeks. Lo and behold, no screams. I hardly dared move-- terrified of provoking her. Jeremy immediately said, "I'm telling you-- It's the prayers of those reading the blog." And he was right!

Fifteen minutes later, she started screaming again. But we had felt hope!! And to make a long story short-- within a couple of days, our Elli had come back. OK, not in full (she will still not label things for us), but our HAPPY Elli has come back, and that's what matters most!!! It truly has been such a miracle for us. So, I wanted to thank-you for your prayers, and for your sweet words of encouragement. I truly clung to every word. My favorite was the "Satan despises you, sweetie!" It made me ever more focused on not letting him win!! Of remembering who is really in charge here, and of His love for my daughter.

And so, while I don't have new words to add to the sidebar, I have a renewed spirit!! I am absolutely basking in the angel that is my little girl. She brings me so much joy. And while I continue to pray and yearn for miracles for her, I am learning more and more that SHE is the miracle!!! That having the privilege of her presence in our home IS THE MIRACLE!


P.S. Ok, so this is a LONG P.S. But I wanted to share that after I finished this post, I googled "Consider the Lilies" to see if I could find a picture. I came across the story of how the song was written, and thought I would share!

One day, as I was sitting at the piano in our chapel, (we didn't have a piano at home) I found my fingers wandering over the piano keys. I noticed what I was playing and repeated it so I wouldn't forget it. Once the melody had become locked into my consciousness, words began to form in my mind,

"Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow, how they grow."

I grabbed my pencil and began writing. As quickly as I could write, the words continued,

"Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with His eye."

I was beginning to feel very excited! Here was a way to share this marvelous principle!
The words kept coming,

"Consider the sheep of his fold,
How they follow where he leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed."

I thought of how Nephi and Lehi had been led on their way through "the more fertile parts of the wilderness..." and how the seas had parted for Moses and the children of Israel. Again, the chorus re-assured me,

"He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with his eye."

I was pleased that the message had been so well delivered, and gratefully acknowledged the power that had presented this song to my mind. I was about to rise from the piano bench and go home, when I felt a kind of downward tug, and sat down at the bench again. The message came clearly into my mind, "I'm not finished yet."

I sat down and the verse began,

"Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth..."

I panicked. I was afraid to tackle so large a subject. I thought, "My pen is too small to deal with a problem so great." The thought came into my mind, "You're not writing this, anyway." I then remembered someone very dear to me who once said she had a hard time understanding why God would allow little children to be abused, and I had a great desire to help her understand this subject better and be comforted. This urged me on.

So, tremulously, I continued,

The pains of all of them he carried
From the day of his birth.
He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And he will heal those who trust him,
And make their hearts as gold."

I wept profusely. I could not contain my feelings. The love I felt was so powerful that I was overcome. (Indeed, for the rest of the day, I felt somewhat removed from this mortal sphere.)

My soul vibrated with the message I had just written, for my own suffering and weakness had been taken in hand by the Wonderful Counselor, and where once there was darkness, light by light, strand by strand, he rewove the fabric of my heart with threads of purest gold, so that my affections and sympathies have been, in a marvelous manner, enlarged and re-trained to make me more like him.

This is the way of the Master. He tells us plainly that he has given us weakness to bring us to him. When we come unto him, he teaches, counsels, and heals us, replacing evil with good, pouring himself into us, a spiritual transfusion where his light replaces our darkness. The light he has put into us works its way through everything we know and feel and draws us to yet greater light.

One day, if we continue, we will be like him, for his light will have chased every trace of darkness from us, and will have drawn into us all the light he has.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Consider the Lilies

I'm not going to mince words. I am discouraged. I am beyond discouraged. You may wonder why I haven't updated for awhile--it's been so hard to even think about putting into words how hard this all can be. I am usually a very optimistic person. I don't like to focus on how stinkin' hard it is sometimes to parent a special needs child. I am good at feeling pure, unconditional love and finding the joy in each moment. Not now. How is that for being real? (:

The last couple of months have overall NOT been good for Elli. It seemed to start when she went off track from her preschool program. She was a fussy, ornery mess for a week. We decided she must be missing school, and we couldn't wait until she went back on track. Though it's only 2 hours a day, I think she really needs the structure and attention she gets there. It's such a fabulous classroom. Well, school started back up, but after only going a few days, Elli got what I thought was just a bad cold. We kept her home (so much for being excited for school) and it seemed she was getting better until one awful night, where she screamed pretty much the entire night. By four or five in the morning I had lost patience and left her crying so I could get some sleep. Jeremy ended up getting up with her and gave her a blessing, after which she finally fell asleep. When I went to get her out of bed the next morning at 9 am, I noticed there was dried blood around her ear, and blood coming out of her nose. YIKES. I felt awful, thinking of the pain she must have been in. When I took her to the pediatrician, he couldn't even tell if her eardrum was ruptured because he couldn't see back that far through all the infection in her ear. Poor girl.

I thought that surely things would get better after being on meds, but for the most part, it hasn't. She definitely FEELS better, I can tell that. But she has almost completely stopped talking, and instead does this yelling, grunting thing about every five seconds. My ears have had enough. It's driving me crazy. You might be wondering if her ear is still bothering her... I really don't think so, but I will take her in tomorrow for a follow-up. She's hearing fine, as evidenced by her bolting out of her chair the second she hears a word that has anything to do with sugar. That's our Elli.

I think, rather, that Elli is in one of her "slumps." Her life has seemed to have a pattern since she joined our family two years ago. She will progress, then regress. She will learn something new, then it will just disappear for months. I was so hoping that we were done with this pattern, but that doesn't seem the case. This time seems even more pronounced, because she was doing so well. Now, our cheerful, talkative Elli has turned into a uncooperative, grunting (and that word doesn't do it justice) demanding little girl. I was doing ok with that until the last couple of days (admittedly, there have been some happy times with her interspersed with the trials). However, today I had just had it. After trying repeatedly (I'm talking for the thousandth time) to get her to say a word, any word, only to have her scream in my tired ears again, I felt like there was just no hope. No hope.

Interestingly enough, I came onto her website for the first time in weeks and was lifted just a little (I mean the tiniest bit) when I saw that my last post was titled "Hope." Surely if I had felt it then, I could feel it again. Right? I was so yearning for something to hold onto.

Anyway, today I went to church late (following Elli dumping a leftover bowl of cereal/milk all over her dress, being changed, then spitting out a mouthful of chewed up food on her new outift) and was not in the right spirit, if you know what I mean. The first speaker was very good, but I will admit, I listened cynically as she talked about the wonderful role we have as mothers. Then there was a special musical number. A man stood up and sang a beautiful arrangement of "Consider the Lilies." As soon as he began to sing, a peace washed over me. I felt changed. Surely, if the Lord cares about the lilies of the field, he is aware of Elli.

And me.

Because really, I have not been the most loving mother toward her lately, and I needed to know that He was aware of that and still loved me.

There is a verse in the song that is as follows:

"Consider the sweet tender children who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them he carried from the day of his birth.
He clothes the lilies of the field. He feeds the lambs of his fold
and He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold."

As that verse was sung, I reached down and kissed Elli on the head and felt that love for her that I have been longing to feel, but that has been smothered due to frustration and discouragement. And for a moment, I again had hope.

I am therefore finally taking the time to write again-- to remind myself of that brief moment where I felt the love the Savior has for my sweet Elli. It was almost forgotten as I came home to more grunts and screams and defiance. In fact, I took off by myself to the cemetery to put flowers on Jake and Emmy's graves-- I couldn't handle taking Elli with me--and once again, was not feeling very loving toward her. I turned the radio on in the car to hear, you guessed it, "Consider the Lilies."

Deep, deep down I know that this will all be ok in the end, but right now I am CLINGING to the words of this song, just desperately trying to hope.

P.S. I couldn't get the song on my playlist, but I've added it to the sidebar if you would like to hear it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Ok, so I have not done as well as I intended at keeping up here-- but we have been posting on the family blog! Still, there is no excuse for not recording the EXCITING things that are happening with our Elli!!!

I must say, when Teri made this comment Jeremy and I just looked at each other like, "Wow. Really? Can she really be right?" It seemed so far off-- the day where Elizabeth would put two words together. Such a distant thing that it was hard to really even imagine. She has been copying phrases for awhile now-- even complete sentences sometimes-- but never using them on her own to communicate something to us.

Well, I am pleased and humbled and thrilled to announce that SHE HAS DONE IT!!! Our sweet lilttle Elli, who just months ago was not talking, has begun to put two words together!!! In the past few days, she has used the following phrases without being prompted:

"Go night-night!"
"Yummy, yummy oatmeal!"
"Take bath"
"Fruit snacks all gone."

It still seems a little surreal to think that she may actually learn to really talk some day!! I think that both Jeremy and I, while having hope in miracles and faith in our Father in Heaven, had in part resigned ourselves to the idea that she may never learn to communicate fully. Like having hope, while deep down thinking that it just wouldn't happen. I know that we have had many discussions over whether or not she could ever lead any kind of "normal" life. You have to understand that it took SIX MONTHS to teach her how to put food in her mouth! It took a year to get her to not be afraid of toys. It took WELL OVER A YEAR before she would consistently try to copy words we would say. When she first joined our family, at age 2 1/2, she would every once in awhile use a word, like "more" for a day or two, then stop all speech for a month or two. She had vocal tics (still does sometimes) that would drive me batty. She would have frequent tantrums and meltdowns because of lack of communication.

The Elli you would meet now is almost always HAPPY!!!! She understands A LOT! Sometimes we're not sure what or how much she understands, but compared to when she became ours, it is A LOT!!! Now, when I tuck her in and she wants a drink, I can tell her that I will get her one in a few minutes and she waits happily until I come back. It wasn't long ago that she would SCREAM if I didn't give her something RIGHT AWAY.

Elli is also letting us sing along with her much of the time (she can still be stubborn about that, but it does happen). She has a great ear for music, singing perfectly tunes that she has only been exposed to a few times. She is very deliberate when sitting at the piano-- not just banging like many kids do, but playing and then putting her ear close to the piano and really listening. She has been AMAZING in the past few months at singing the lyrics to MANY, MANY songs. She is great at memorizing. The other day, she was singing the song, "Bubble Gum." When she finished she said, "Little faster? Follow me," and proceeded to sing the song faster. Again, at the end of the song, "Little faster? Follow me," and sang as fast as she could! (: I was grinning ear to ear and asked her teacher about it. Surely enough, the CD they listen to at school asks for them to faster each time. So so cute.

Speaking of school, if you remember, the DAY AFTER I decided to set up this website, I was informed of a new preschool option for Elli. She has been going there for a few weeks now and it is FABULOUS! I cannot even tell you how pleased I am with the teachers and facility. It is perfect for her. Still two hours a day, four days a week, but now with a smaller class size and more teachers. More importantly, the head teacher has really taken charge of Elli's education. She has really, truly worked to insure that Elli's day fits her needs exactly. There is a lot of structure-- and a lot of stimulation. She does the exact same routine every day, and it is so so good for her!! The classroom has a trampoline, ball pit, and swing. It is full of toys that have music and texture. It is just, well-- perfect!! Elli's vision/mobility specialist, Eileen, has transferred to this new school with Elli and has told me that Elli is just blossoming there, and last I heard, has not had ANY TANTRUMS. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One especially cute thing-- they have been working on "quiet hands." This means that she has to take her hands from her eyes (where they so often are) and put them on her lap. They count to three and if she keeps them there, she is rewarded with an M&M. Well, Elli is very motivated by food! (: It is hilarious to watch her, as I say, "quiet hands!" She'll put her hands on her lap and then reach out almost frantically for her M&M. It is so hard for her to wait the full three seconds, but she is getting it! Soon, the time will be lengthened, and she won't always be rewarded. Eventually we hope that she will consistently do "quiet hands" even without a treat, and we can get those hands away from her poor eyes!!! The optometrist says it is a concern, because eye-pressing can push the eyeballs back into the head. This of course, isn't a concern vision-wise, but cosmetically it is, and I don't want her beautiful eyes to be pushed back!

So, are you ready for the cherry on top?

The other night, I was putting Elli's jammies on and she said, "Go night night?" I said "Yes, we are going night-night." She then surprised my by saying, "oatmeal?" I answered, "Yes, when you wake up, you will have oatmeal!" She then said, "bath?" I said "Yes, then you will take a bath." She replied, "rock-a-bye?" I told her that I would rock-a-bye her. She didn't say anything else, so I asked, "Then what?" She replied, "Bus?" I couldn't believe it. I was actually having a conversation with my little girl. It may not sound like much, but this was really my first (and only) real conversation I have had with Elli. It felt so good. She really seemed to understand what we were talking about! Again, I was filled with the hope that Elli, might indeed, rise above the struggles that have been hers and understand life.

I have always known that God could heal Elli. He could heal her completely, eyesight included. But I have not known that He will. I still do not know. He could very well keep the miracles coming beyond our wildest dreams, and she could live a life of great accomplishment-- graduating from college, marrying, and raising a family of her own-- with or without vision. Or she might level out right where she is, living dependent on us for the rest of her earthly life-- never learning how to read or talk with others or even use the bathroom on her own.

I am fine, either way.

I really, really am.

Because I know that HE knows what is best for her and for our family. I will love her the same EITHER WAY. And I know that SOMEDAY, because of HIM

my Elizabeth Mei will sing and talk and laugh and converse in full. and be FREE (one of my favorite pics EVER)
from the chains that now bind her. I know it will happen.

But I YEARN for her happiness NOW, and it sure seems like that would most likely be acheived if she were to live a "more normal" life here on earth! (: If she could one day have a conversation with anyone she chose. If she could experience the wonder and joy and adventure that comes from learning to read. If she could hold her own precious child in her arms.

And so, I hope!

And I find GREAT REASON to hope! Because this week, our Elli spoke two words together, on her own!! Because this week, our Elli at an ENTIRE bowl of oatmeal by herself WITHOUT me loading the spoon! Because this week, our Elli tried to put her jacket on by herself, and almost succeeded. Because this week, Elli giggled and laughed and sang and went entire days without crying.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home sweet home!

Two days ago, I had one of my most exciting/sweet moments with Elli! We had been outside playing, and as we walked into the house, she got a big smile on her face and said, "Home! Home!" I don't think that word has ever sounded so sweet as it did right then to me. Whenever we walk into the house, I tell her that we're home-- but it's not something I can really have her feel and practice like I can with an object. "Home" is more of a concept-- and she had obviously gotten it! (: My heart just sang and I was just so full of joy! What amazing miracles we are seeing!

On another note, today I put Elli on the trampoline while I cooked dinner. I can see her out my window, and she was having a great time. At one point, I noticed that something seemed a little, well, off! That something was her pants and diaper! Yes, our little Elli was jumping naked and happy on the trampoline. I wish I could have taken a picture, but I'm not sure if she's too old for that... She was so cute!

Also, I just realized that today Elli hit the big 50!!! Yes, she now has FIFTY words that she can use appropriately-- I AM AMAZED! There was a time where I didn't know if we would ever see this day!! So... I am setting a new goal. We are going for 100 words by the end of April! Even as I type it, it seems unbelievable that she could do it-- and yet I know that she can do it with HIM! We have been so blessed and have seen the Lord open up so many doors for her. The first 50 words were mostly made up of words that she has had a lot of experience with, and ones that we have been practicing for months- so it will be a stretch to get 50 NEW words! Can she do it??? I'm thinking so!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Curry Connoisseur

It was mentioned that I hadn't put "pillow fight" on yesterday's list. I had thought about it and decided not to, because it was a concept-- and up until now I had only been listing actual objects that she was touching and recognizing what they were and naming them. Well, Jeremy pointed out that her knowing what a pillow fight was is even more advanced than knowing an object. So, I've decided to add it, along with other words that she uses that don't necessarily fit under the "objects she can recognize by touch." So thanks, guys, for pointing it out to me!!

Today, Elli was not really happy with her peanut butter and jam sandwich, and didn't seem interested in eating it, as displayed by throwing it on the floor. I finally said in exasperation, "Elli, what do you want?" She immediately replied, "curry!" I was shocked! Last week Jeremy brought me home some curry from a Thai restaurant, and I had given her a little for dinner. Apparently, she really liked it!! It is one thing for her to name something like "banana" because she eats those all the time. But to name something she's only had once was ever so much more exciting! (:

Sadly, I didn't have any curry for her. ):

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blind luck?

So this is kind of a weak entry, but it is a great story, and has obvious relevance to Elli. It will be fun to see Elli's life unfold and the miracles that will occur for her. Click here to read a very inspiring account:)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pillow fight!

Once in awhile, my darling kids will round up all the pillows in the house and have a "pillow fight" with Elli. This consists of them dropping pillows on top of her while she laughs uncontrollably. We haven't done it for awhile, but tonight as I was tucking Elli in, she took hold of her blanket, hit it hard across her face and started giggling. Then she did it again and called out, "pillow fight! Pillow fight!" It made me so happy that she remembered the word for something we haven't done in a long time! YAY ELLI!!! (:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Enjoying Elli

If you haven't seen the slide show of Elli at the bottom of this blog, it's worth your time to sit through it. And if you have seen it, it's worth your while to watch it again. Go down to the bottom of the page. Turn up the music a bit. Double click on the slides so you see them bigger, and just drink in Elli. It will without a doubt lift your spirits!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Families are Forever

It was a beautiful, sunny day today and so after church, we decided to drive to the cemetery. We had been going regularly after church for a long time, but hadn't been for quite awhile due to the cold/snow. When we got there, I told Elli that we were visiting Jacob and Emily. She was so cute-- she would jump on their headstone and giggle and say, over and over, "Jacob and Emily!" She is always so happy when we go there, and I feel that it is because she is somehow aware of the special connection she has with them. Indeed, if it weren't for their short lives here on earth, she and Graci would not be in our home. It is amazing how the Lord works and how He brings to pass His eternal purposes. I know that we will all be together someday, and for that knowledge I am so very grateful. I love you, dear Jake and Emmy! Thank-you for all you have done for our family, and for guiding us to China. We know we will see you again!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Up the stairs!

Tonight as I went to put Elli to bed, I realized that we didn't have any new words to add to her list. We were downstairs and so I brought her to the bottom of the stairs, put her hand out, and let her feel a couple of stairs. I was about to tell her what they were, so we could practice, but I decided to just ask her instead. I thought if she said anything, it would be "carpet," but as she felt the shape of the stairs, she said, "up the stairs!" YAY!!!!!!!! Every time we are going upstairs I tell her, "Elli, we're going up the stairs." Apparently, she has caught on! She doesn't usually feel them with her hands-- just walks straight up-- but she was still able to tell what they were by feeling them. I am continually amazed at the progress she is making. She is truly a different girl than just a couple of months ago. I am so so so very happy for her!! Watching the world open to her through language is truly miraculous. I am so grateful to a loving Father in Heaven who has been with us every step of the way.

Oh, and P.S. Les-- Yes, Utah Truffle Bars are worth every one of their 306 calories! Sometimes we split one-- and it's still an indulgence! More often, I eat the whole thing myself and won't let Jeremy get within 10 feet of it. Once in awhile, when I'm being really good, I'll break a bar into thirds and make it last over 3 days. I like to eat them slowly and let them melt away in my mouth. Can you tell I'm passionate about my Utah Truffles? Mint, to be specific. Eat one a week and you'll be happy for the rest of your life! (;

Friday, March 6, 2009

A heartfelt post

I'm exhausted, but nobody can say I didn't write today! (:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tantrums and truffles

To say Elli woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning is an understatement. The tantrums she has had in the past were angelic compared to the one she had this morning! I must say, we were quite amused!!! She woke up with a goopy nose and I'm sure she wasn't feeling well. I'm not sure what exactly set her off, but as Jeremy sat her down for breakfast she began what was craziest tantrum I have ever seen. She was screaming and crying and throwing her tray off and flailing herslelf onto the floor. Then she thrashed around in such a rage that I could barely pick her up. I finally calmed her down enough to the point where she took a bite of oatmeal. As soon as it was in her mouth, she started screaming again and threw down the spoon. She then reached in the bowl with both of her hands and began shoveling sticky oatmeal in her mouth, all the while screaming and shaking. I couldn't help but laugh!! That probably sounds horrible, but there was nothing else to do!! Jeremy even got out the video camera to start recording it! I'm toying with posting it, but I think we would be tried for child abuse. (: She was covered from head to toe in oatmeal and was still screaming and shaking while shoveling oatmeal in as fast as her hands could go. When it was gone, she was even more mad! I put her in the bathtub and washed her off, and eventually coaxed her into the rocking chair where she finally cuddled up to me and started to calm down. I have NO IDEA what made her so upset! Like I said, I'm sure she wasn't feeling well-- but that isn't really anything new-- she gets colds often and they usually don't phase her much. I am happy to say that the rest of the day went perfectly well and she was very excited to learn her new word today-- "sticky blocks." They are those blocks with the prickly sides that stick together-- and there was something about that word that she loved saying! We would go through other words, and she would keep going back and saying "sticky blocks" and smiling and finding them on the floor. So cute.

It was four years ago this week that Elli was found along the side of a road by an older gentleman. She was brought to the police station and from there to the orphanage. I cannot even say how blessed we feel that she found her way from that road into our hearts and home. Just four years ago, a mother had to say goodbye to a beautiful little girl. I cannot wait until the day where I can meet her and express my love and gratitude for the amazing gift she gave us. I love her dearly for it.

Today we finished EVERYTHING for our newest adoption! The dossier was Fed-Exed to CCAI and now we just WAIT! I am so excited to be at this point!!! It feels so good knowing that we have done our part and that he will be in our arms soon. We love you, little Chu Chu!!

And now I leave you to enjoy the finest chocolate ever created! Yes, a mint Utah truffle bar is waiting for me on my pillow. If you have not yet experienced one of these, you have not lived. I truly believe this. So as you go about your business tomorrow, stop at a Deseret Book or Seagull Tape or Walgreens or even a random gas station (most of them carry Utah truffles_ and treat yourself to absolute bliss. If you live outside of Utah, you are still in luck. You can order them online in bulk, and the only thing better than buying one for yourself is buying them in bulk to share with all your friends! (:

Good night!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Family Blog

Tonight I decided to finally post over on the family blog instead of here. I will add Elli's "word of the day" and say that she had a fabulous day. She was singing her heart out almost all day long. (:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cousin It

This "every day of March" goal of mine is all that's making me blog right now! I'm exhausted, sick (just a cold) and want to curl up in my bed! My mind is all fuzzy right now, and I can't think of anything meaningful to say. So, I'm going to write about our Elli's hair!!! You will surely get a laugh out of this picture. For some reason, Elli's hair if left undone falls right over her face. It's just the way it lays. This is the reason I almost always it in ponytails of some kind-- if I leave even some of it down, it is always getting in her mouth and eyes. I've told people that her hair really falls forward, but to prove it, Jeremy took this picture. (: This is after having combed it nicely following a bath, but not putting clippies or ponytails in-- just a nice side part. Ten minutes later, it looked like this! Gotta love it!

As far as the new word for today-- we had another trampoline moment! I was getting Elli out of the car and put her hand on her seatbelt and asked her what it was. She felt it for a second and said, "buckle!" It was so cute! I had never practiced this with her. I am constantly talking to her and telling her what I'm doing, but never know how much she is comprehending. It is SO REWARDING to have her using some words and learning that she IS GETTING SOME THINGS! She's obviously listening when I tell her, "it's time for me to buckle you!" (:(:(:(:(:(:(:

Thanks so very much for your comments. They truly mean so much to me-- every single encouraging word. Truthfully, there are many times that mothering Elli is overwhelming, to say the least. So, THANK-YOU!

Ok, the bed is really calling out-- goodnight!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A word a day...

I was just thinking, if I am blogging every day this month, a good goal would be to add one word to the sidebar each day. It may not seem like much, but at the end of March, she could have 31 new words-- AMAZING. My rule with adding words is that she has to be able to identify them by herself at least an hour after we've taught them to her. For instance, she may copy something I'm showing her, but if I show it to her later in the day and she can't identify it, it can't go on the list. Maybe trying for this will give me added incentive to really work with her-- and I do feel like she is really wanting this and able to do it now. So... I'm adding this as a goal-- I'm praying for 31 words for March!! I know it can happen through HIM. Let's watch the miracle unfold!

Enough joy in one...

I am so in love with my kids! I don't always show it, and find myself nearly every day wishing I had spoken more kindly, taken more time, listened with more interest... Still, I cannot imagine loving them more!! The other day I was down about something, and then Elli started singing at the top of her lungs, "The Star Spangled Banner." I really need to get this on video, as it would surely bring a smile to your face. (: She doesn't pronounce every word, but is very much on key. Her voice is so so unique that you cannot help but smile and even laugh. I was thinking, "you know, if I cannot find enough joy in just that to get me through this day, then I am truly crazy!" In fact, I think I can find enough joy in just one of my kids to be really happy in my life! Really, each one brings such a swelling to my heart that I cannot imagine how I have become so blessed. I am so very grateful.

Tonight we had a VERY exciting thing happen. I was walking Elli downstairs to go to bed. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw her trampoline and decided to try something. I put her hand on the bouncy part and asked, "What's this?" She bounced her hand on it for a few seconds that blurted out with complete clarity, "trampoline!" This is the first time (at least that I can now think of) that she has labeled something without having ever been coached. Usually, we practice with her, and then she may or may not remember it the next day. So this was VERY exciting! What's probably more exciting is how she seems so happy when she can say a word. It's like something has turned on in her that makes her WANT to learn and WANT to succeed. She smiles so big when she can identify something by touch. I am really feeling that we are on our way to more and more communication, and that is amazing beyond words. (No pun intended).

So, come on-- are you completely impressed that I have done two days in a row? (: I'm really committed to keeping this going!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

I haven't been nearly as good as I intended to be in keeping up with this blog. This is so sad, because Elli has little miracles happening every day, and I know I need to be keeping a record of them. So, for the month of March, my goal is to post EVERY SINGLE DAY on either this site or our family website. Go ahead and remind me if I ever start to slack in this endeavor. (:

Yesterday morning when I went to get Elli out of her bedroom, she was laying down playing with a toy. When she heard me come in, she bolted up and said excitedly, "a drink, a oatmeal, a bath, a rock-a-bye!" It was so cute and so amazing. Definitely the first time she has strung words together like that. You obviously wouldn't really call it a sentence, but still! She knew the morning routine and said it in her own cute way.

Unless you really know Elli, you can't imagine how far she has come in the last few months. She seriously only had a handful of words, and she was never consistent in using them. At our last IEP, which was a couple of months ago, we went through all the words she had used and it was less than ten. She would repeat words that we said, but we're talking about words that she would use on her own and knew their meaning. It wasn't just that she wasn't talking, she also wasn't understanding very much. And, like I said, she was never consistent in using her words. You cannot imagine how wonderful it is to now be able to ask a question like, "What do you want?" and have her answer it much of the time, even if it is usually food! (:(:(:(:

One milestone we have crossed is that she will now consistently point to her body parts when asked. She has known them for awhile, but not understood to point to them. Also, we are progressing on the goal of spoon feeding herself!!!!! It's important to know that when we listed this goal, we had had zero success with this. She hated if you tried to put a spoon in her hands and would fight it tooth and nail. It was a fight I had given up on, until a few weeks ago when, miracle of miracles, she let me put the spoon in her hand and help her put it to her mouth. Now, for the last two weeks, she has eaten her entire bowl of oatmeal BY HERSELF! Ok, I guess that is a stretch. She still needs help getting the oatmeal on the spoon. But she picks the spoon up, brings it to her mouth and puts it back in the bowl all by herself. I just have to make sure that the spoon is loaded before she picks it back up again, because the concept of scooping the food is still missing. STILL!! Our girl is eating by herself! (:(:(:(: When we first adopted Elli, at age two and a half, she had no concept of putting food in her mouth. She LOVED to eat, but you had to put the food in her mouth for her. It took about six months to teach her the concept of bringing her hand to her mouth. She was that delayed. And then for over a year, if you would hand her, say, a piece of bread, she would take a bite and then throw the rest of it across the room. It wasn't that she didn't want more-- she just couldn't get the concept of taking a bite and putting the rest down where she could find it again. Now, this isn't a problem. So even though the feeding progress has been slow, it is significant and wonderful.

Well, this is all I have time for, but know that there is much more to come! Also, I have quite a few words to add to the sidebar-- YAY!!!

We love you dearly, our sweet Elli-Belly!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pray she doesn't get fat... ;)

It's really sad that I haven't been keeping up on this--  and I am determined to do better.  I just read my last post and was WOWED!  I had almost forgotten just how much Elli was screaming, and am so happy to say that she is doing SO MUCH BETTER!  It took a week or two, but now she so rarely has a screaming fit that lasts longer than a few seconds.  YAY!!!!  :) :) :)

Now when Elli starts to fuss and you ask her what she wants, she will almost always respond.  Amazing.  The downside is that 98% of the time she is asking for food.  LOL  At first, we were so grateful she was answering us at all that we tried to give her what she asked for.  We soon learned that it is impossible to keep up with her food requests.  Every few minutes she's asking, "Cake?"  "Cookie?"  "Applesauce?"  "Hamburger?"  What was a miracle (and ok, it still is) has quickly turned into constant battle over when to give in, and how much to give her.  This girl can pack it in!  I am telling you, she could seriously eat as much as any of you reading this!  She is a bottomless pit, and is going to eat us out of house and home.  So lets all pray for her to ask for some NON-FOOD things-- like reading a book, or going on a walk.  So far, the only thing she's asked for that isn't food (besides the one-time "bear hunt") is to rock-a-bye-- and she does ask for that a lot.

Last week I showed Elli a balloon, and she held it for a short minute.  Yesterday I saw another one, though a lot smaller, and wondered if she would remember what it was.  I put it in her hands and asked "What's that?"  She immediately said, "balloon!"  This was crazy amazing, because she has only labeled a handful of things ever.  So, I thought it would be cool to keep a running tab on the sidebar of things she can identify by touch and actually say the word.  My goal is to have five new things a week-- and believe me, that is a lofty goal.  :)

As always, thanks for your comments and your faith in this blog.   She is a different girl than when we started it.  We know that all things can happen through Christ!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Screaming fits

I had no idea when I started this blog just how much it would bless our lives. Watching each day for miracles in Elli's life has opened our eyes to the love the Savior has for her. We have always thought we were celebrating each milestone she made, but it feels different now. Like we are really seeing His hand in her life.

I am not going to record every little sign of progress right now, but I did want to share one thing. Elli has been, quite frankly, driving us up the wall with her screaming. In the past few days, she has several different times during the day had these AWFUL screaming fits. She is so loud and screeching, that it has my ears ringing. It is so hard to stay loving and patient and kind. We have felt very frustrated, as it feels like there is nothing that can be done. All of the kids have been going crazy with it too.

Well, today Jeremy and I had a talk. We decided that surely the Lord would help us conquer this problem. Thus far, we have been very inconsistent in how we've dealt with her screaming. Sometimes we ignore her, sometimes we try to talk to her, sometimes we are telling her "no" over and over, sometimes we move her to a different room, sometimes we try to rock her-- and nothing works consistently. So today we talked about how best to help her CONSISTENLY. We decided that each time she screamed, we would calmly tell her, "Elli, if you scream, we will have to cover your mouth." If she continued, we would cover her mouth until she stopped. If the screaming started again, we'd repeat the same thing. Elli HATES having her mouth covered-- but in the past if we have done it, we've done it without telling her. It hasn't worked at all-- it just makes her more mad. We felt like it was fair to give her warning and let her know that it was coming. Being consistent in this was part one of our plan. The second part was to PREVENT the screaming by giving her more attention. We decided that each time we (or any of the kids-- they are in on this plan) walked in the room she was in (usually the living room-- so we're in and out constantly) we would give her some attention-- even if just for 30 seconds. In the past we haven't been great at this-- often if she is happy, we just let her be for fear of making her mad. But, we decided that a better approach would be to just SHOWER her with as much attention as possible whenever she wasn't screaming.

We prayed about this plan, and implemented it a few hours ago. The first time Elli started screaming, I told her that if she didn't stop, I was going to cover her mouth. I didn't even know if she would comprehend what I was saying, but she did stop. A few seconds later, she started again. I told her again, and when she didn't stop, I covered her mouth. After she stopped screaming, I took my hand off of her mouth and asked her what she wanted. I gave her some choices, and she sat still for a minute. Then, miracle of miracles, she said, "Going on a bear hunt." (This was of course unintelligable to anyone but me, but I guess that's the way with every child as they are beginning to talk.) It felt SO GOOD that she could stop a screaming fit that quickly and end it by telling us what she wanted! She so rarely uses any words-- it is SO EXCITING when she does!! (: The rest of the afternoon has definitely had fewer tantrums and she has been responding so well to us.

We so want Elli to be HAPPY!!! She is such a light in our home when she is!!!! We love her so dearly, screaming or not, but our home feels so much more peaceful when she is not having her tantrums. (:

By the way, a very Merry Christmas to everyone!!!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baby Steps

At a recent conference with Elli's team of therapists and teachers, her vision and mobility specialist was talking with us. He gave us a suggestion that we try to take a step beyond just holding her hand and pulling her along when we walk with her. He told us to put one of our forearms against Elli's forearm as a signal for her to grab our hand or wrist and then we could lead her as she held onto us. It's a subtle difference, but a significant one. When we pull her, she has no say in the matter, but when she holds onto us, she has decided to follow.

Since then, I've really tried to do that with her, and she is making significant progress. Several times she has held my wrist or hand (without me grasping hers) and followed me across the living room to her high chair to eat. (And navigating our living room can sometimes be a bit of an obstacle course:)

Baby Steps!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Elli has a surprise...

I know most of you following Elli's story also follow our family blog, but just in case you haven't, check our latest blog entry. It is a movie the kids made and if you can get through the 8-10 year old humor and stick with it, it is sure to put a smile on your face. (:

As for Elli-- yesterday we had two very exciting moments. First, as she was having her bath, I was blasting music from the computer. She started to SING ALONG with the whole first verse of "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman!!!

Are you understanding the significance of this?!!!! This is one of our GOALS!!! Usually she will only sing on her own-- she stops as soon as you try to sing along. When music is playing she will wait until it is off, then she may or may not try to sing it. So this is BIG TIME!! YAY!!! She hasn't done it since, and believe me, I have tried!! But we know she is capable and I am pumped!

Secondly, Jeremy was playing with her yesterday-- throwing her onto the bed and tossing her in the air. She was in hysterics and having a blast. One time, after throwing her, he told her to say, "more please," which she did. This wasn't surprising, as she will often copy what we tell her to say. What WAS exciting?? The next time he threw her on the bed, she jumped up and said, "more, please!" ON HER OWN!!! (:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:

She has done this with food, but nothing else-- so we're thrilled.

Oh, and the cutest thing (this happened awhile ago, but I forgot to share). Elli loves to play with our blinds. Or should I say destroy our blinds? It is something we have basically given up on, because unless we are watching her every second, we aren't going to stop her from playing with them-- something about them just fascinates her. Well, she somehow got the little stick thing off-- the one that you use to twist the blinds open and shut. When I came in the living room, she was holding it and walking around with it in front of her-- just like a cane! It was so cute because it LOOKED just like a cane-- and it just got me so excited for when she is able to learn to use one. Right now, her therapists don't think she is ready for one (and neither do we.) But seeing a glimpse of the future is always exciting!


Friday, December 5, 2008

The joys of Elli

Just a little p.s. to my last post. After I was done writing, I went to the kitchen to get some lunch for the girls. I had left them in the living room while I was on the computer. I do this often, and usually get away with it. However, when I went into the living room, Elli was not there. She had climbed onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table. I went over to her and noticed her whole face was seriously glistening! I couldn't figure out what had happened, but noticed that her hands and the table were shiny too, as was her hair. Then I found an empty plate, which had held... a stick of butter!! YUCK! Luckily, Elli can handle the extra calories. (:

The miracles begin...

I am in awe.  The Lord knew exactly what He was doing when He prompted me to start this blog.  Because of it, I am so much more aware of the hand He has had in Elli's life this past week.  

The day after I began this blog, I had what's called an IEP meeting with Elli's teachers.  Right now, she attends a special needs preschool for two hours a day, four days a week.  In that classroom is one main teacher, three aids, a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist.  In addition, Elli has a vision/mobility therapist who is with her for an hour and a half each day. In other words, Elli is getting LOTS of quality one on one time.  During the meeting, her teachers/therapists talked about some concerns they have had with Elli.  Because her communication skills are so poor, there are often behavior issues.  For instance, she likes to bite-- OUCH!  And if she's mad, she can really throw a fit that gets in the way of any learning.  She doesn't like to sit still, and has a hard time transitioning from one thing to another.  She has lots of meltdowns at school.  Well, they had been talking about how to best serve Elli, and came up with an idea that they presented to us at the meeting.  There is another preschool in the district that is smaller (a maximum of 8 children in the class) and that focuses on behavior and routines.  It is fairly strict.  The idea is that they learn how to sit still for short periods of time, follow routines, etc. SO that they are better able to learn.  They really start with the basics and practice, practice, practice.  There is supposedly less chaos (which would be good for Elli-- she really doesn't do well when there is lots of noise and different things going on.) We have given permission for her to be evaluated for this class, and if she qualifies, we can go observe it and see if we as parents feel it would be a good fit for Elli.  I was very hesitant about the whole thing until I learned that her vision/mobility specialist, Eileen, (the one who spends the most time with her) would move with her to the new preschool.    We love Eileen and feel like if she transitioned too, it would make it much easier on Elli.  So... there is a very good chance that this could be exactly what Elli needs.  I found it interesting that this opportunity came the day after we started this blog!  (:  We'll obviously keep you posted on this.

Also, we have been debating for quite some time about Elli's birthday.  She was found when she was about six months old, and was given as estimated birthday of August 24.  Because of this birthday, she would not qualify for another year of preschool (missing that opportunity by 8 days) and should be moving on to kindergarten next year.  Jeremy and I both feel like kindergarten is NOT the place for her right now.  We know she would still receive all the services she now receives, but feel like it would be so beneficial to give her another year to "catch up" before we begin kindergarten.  Her situation is so unique, having spent the first two and a half years of her life with little interaction, and then switching languages-- all while being blind.   To give her the additional challenge of being the youngest in the class because of 8 DAYS seems unfair.  Especially when it's not really her birthday.  So, after much thought and prayer, we petitioned the courts to have her birthday changed.  Our doctor wrote a letter to say he approved of it, and yesterday, we had an appointment with the judge.  I had heard through adoption blogs that changing a birthday is rarely granted by a judge, unless you are trying to change it by at least a year because of significant medical reasons that suggest the original birthday is way off.  We were asking for a change of just a few days, but wrote a letter expressing why we thought it would be beneficial to Elli.  Well, guess what-- the judge totally granted it!!  No questions asked!!!  He was extremely gracious and came down from his chair to meet Elli and wish us luck.  So, Elli's birthday is now officially September 9, 2004.  We chose this day because it is my grandma's birthday, and we thought it would be special for them to share it.  Now Elli can have one more year with special education preschool services.  We feel truly BLESSED!!!!!

Now for the other miracles-- ones that might seem tiny to anyone that doesn't know Elli, but HUGE to us!!!!

Three times this week, Elli said "night, night?" following her lunch.  She knew it was time for her nap!!!  I couldn't believe it-- I am AMAZED whenever she uses a word on her own and in the right context!!  (:(:(:

Elli opened the door from her bedroom for the first time.  What a big step!!!!!!!!!!

When I put Elli's coat on the other day, she immediately said, "the bus?"  She had anticipated going to school, and had let us know using a word!  YAY!!!!!

Last night I was rocking Elli and touching all her body parts as I labeled them.  When I got to her belly button, she said, "button, button, who's got button?"  It was so cute!!  We played that game in her Sunbeam class on Sunday, and she obviously remembered it.  So funny that she made the connection, and so so cute.

The last two days, Elli has had way less frequent meltdowns-- a huge blessing for us.  We love when she's happy, and it's so hard when she's upset and there's nothing we can do.  This girl can get really MAD!

We have taught Elli to drum to the song "Little Drummer Boy."  Now when we give her a drum, she starts singing, "pa rum pa pum pum!"

And, a BIGGIE, yesterday at the courthouse Elli was trying to get me to pick her up, and I was ignoring her.  She then said, "Hold me!"  WOW.  I have practiced this with her lots-- I always make her say "hold me" when she wants me to pick her up, but I always have to say it first, and then she copies me.  So this was BIG to do it on her own.  (:(:(:

We feel like there is a marked change in Elli.  It is wonderful.  Jeremy has seemed to have more hope for her, and it is a beautiful thing to watch.

I cannot tell you what your comments on the last post meant to me.  As a parent, there is nothing in the world that means more to me that to have someone rooting for and praying for my child.  Thank-you, thank-you.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And God Remembered Elizabeth

I guess I should start out by saying that for any of you who aren't aware of Elli's story, you might want to start by reading her adoption blog. Elli has been in our family for over a year and a half, and the love we have for her is beyond description. It is this love that has prompted me to start this blog-- to document the answer to a prayer of mine. Let's see... where do I begin? Maybe I should start by sharing a section of a talk given by Spencer J. Condie, one of the leaders in our church:

s Jacob matured and became of appropriate age, his parents sent him to the household of Laban, where he would meet Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob told Laban, “I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. … And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29:18, 20).

You will recall how Laban beguiled young Jacob into first marrying Leah and then Rachel. “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). And Leah bore Reuben, then Simeon, then Levi, and Judah. Meanwhile, Rachel remained childless (see Genesis 29:32–35).

With ever-increasing envy and mounting desperation, one day Rachel explosively demanded of Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). Leah subsequently bore two more sons and a daughter.

The Apostle Peter testified that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering” toward us (2 Peter 3:9). In this age of one-hour dry cleaning and one-minute fast-food franchises, it may at times seem to us as though a loving Heavenly Father has misplaced our precious promises or He has put them on hold or filed them under the wrong name. Such were the feelings of Rachel.

But with the passage of time, we encounter four of the most beautiful words in holy writ: “And God remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22). And she was blessed with the birth of Joseph and later the birth of Benjamin. There are millions on earth today who are descendants of Joseph who have embraced the Abrahamic promise that through their efforts “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11).

When heaven’s promises sometimes seem afar off, I pray that each of us will embrace these exceeding great and precious promises and never let go. And just as God remembered Rachel, God will remember you. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I remember well the feelings I had when I heard this talk. Immediately, I looked over at my sweet Elizabeth Mei, and my heart was full as the Spirit testified to me that those beautiful words, "And God remembered Rachel," were meant for her, every bit as much as they were meant for Rachel. The words came with such force that I knew I would never forget it.. They have played over and over in my mind over the last several months, "And God remembered... Elizabeth."

We have over the last year prayed most earnestly for miracles to happen in Elli's life. Because she spent the first two and a half years of her life in such difficult circumstances-- abandoned on a street at six months, moved from orphanage to orphanage to foster care, then moving to a new country, family, language, environment, etc.-- it is no wonder that she is extremely delayed. As of today, we are not sure if those delays are from those early life experiences, coupled with being completely blind, or if she has other medical/cognitive issues. An educator once told me, "Imagine that you, with all your life experience, were permanently blindfolded and taken to China. Just how long would it take you to learn basic life skills and master the language?" I thought it a very thought-provoking question. How in the world can we expect Elli to be ANYWHERE developmentally when she is BLIND and has had the life she's had. It's just incomprehensible to think about.

Anyway, just after Elli's fourth birthday, I was on my knees and felt the Lord whisper a challenge to me. Now, I didn't hear words, but I felt very strongly in my heart that I knew what He wanted me to do. I was to write down the specific miracles I wanted for Elli in the next year of her life, and then watch His hand at work. I felt that maybe He was saying to me, "You know, Christianne, I have already done miracles in your daughter's life, but you are not always seeing them. Maybe if you write them down, it will be easier for you to acknowledge them when they happen."

So, as we drove up to Oregon last month, Jeremy and I had a good talk about what we would consider "miracles" in Elli's life. I told Jeremy to "think big!" To really have faith in the Lord and write down even the things that seemed impossible right now. We came up with a short list, and we both agreed that if those things on the list ever came to pass, that we would have witnessed a miracle-- one as significant and meaningful to us as Rachel's was to her.

Our list:

* be able to answer "yes" or "no" to a simple question
* sing along with songs (right now she will sing on her own, but not with anyone else)
* spoon-feed herself
* simple communication-- like "Hi, Mommy!" or "I love you."
* become potty trained
* appropriately answer the question, "How are you?"
* put shoes on by herself
* stop rubbing her eyes constantly
* play more interactively with siblings

And so, I am beginning this blog tonight for our Elli-- mostly for her and for us-- but also for anyone else that would like to join us in witnessing a miracle. I feel like sharing our list is a testament of sorts-- I want my Heavenly Father to know that I am trying my hardest to exercise faith in His mighty hand. That I am willing to share the deepest desires of my heart in hopes that others will join their faith with mine and pray for miracles.

Miracles for Elli.