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.