Sunday, June 30, 2013

Next Stop...Philly for Surgery!

Heading out today to Philadelphia Shriner's for Toby's BIG SURGERY!

Please be praying for our boy as he has so much done tomorrow--July 1st! Surgery is first thing in the morning...and we will be flying home the very next day.

Please pray for him to travel well. He hasn't done very well in the past, and I can only imagine when he is in such pain.

I expect him to be quite frustrated as the arm he favors will be the one now cast and rendered useless for the next weeks.

Thankful for your intercession!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Three Months Since Gotcha!

I just had to celebrate this 3 month mark with a few pictures...

Three months ago today, we met our little man...
Immediately after being given Toby. March 18, 2013.

Back at the hotel, March 18, 2013.
Day 2. Still scared.

Compare that with these fun pictures from yesterday...

Toby, family looks GOOD on you!!!

One more time! Let's see him side to side:

If you ever had a doubt about adoption, whether or not children belong in families...I hope this makes it clear for you!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Toby's Diagnosis of Arthryogryposis Multiplex Congenita

We knew when first fell in love with Toby that he had AMC or Arthrogyposis Multiplex Congenita.

We did the research and decided that YES we would take this on.

What is AMC?

I'm glad you asked. Especially because this month (June) is AMC awareness month!

From the May 2013 AMC Picnic in Ohio. Pictured are all the individuals affected with AMC. (plus me b/c Toby wouldn't stand with strangers!)
Arthro means "joint"

Gryposis means "crooked"

Multiplex means it occurs in different joints anywhere in the body and is unique to each individual

Congenita means present at birth.

Whew! What does that look like in real life?

Well, it looks VERY different for different people.

Sometimes all joints are affected. This means that the child/adult is completely wheelchair bound and must control it by their chin.

Sometimes it only affects their lower extremities. Club feet are common and scoliosis can occur. If the lowers are affected, it usually means years of therapies, casting, and surgeries to get to a level of mobility.

This mobility is different for each person. Some are able to walk with a limp, an irregular gait or even a hunch. Some use walkers. Some are able to walk smoothly.

Some people are affected only in the uppers. This is how our Toby is affected. It was such a shock to us when we learned last summer from his orphanage that he could walk! (We actually didn't believe it at first!)

We had an amazing time meeting other families affected by AMC at the big "meet up" held in our very own beloved hometown of Westerville, Ohio.

A sweet friend, Jenny, adopted from South Korea as a child because of her AMC. She now can walk but also uses a wheelchair. She is SUCH a sweetheart! Working on her PhD!!

My dear friend Jackie with adopted son, Gideon. Jackie shared with me all about AMC and what it would mean for me as a parent if we said YES to Toby's adoption. Gideon is affected in both the uppers and lowers.

I snagged this photo op with the well known Tracey Schalk--a key spokeswoman for AMC. She is uber sweet!!!
Tracey lives alone and drives a car.  She is affected in nearly every joint. She can do ANYTHING!

Having this incredible network of AMC'ers has been awesome. I learned early on that we need to be going out to the Shriner's Hospital for Children to see Dr.s van Bosse and Zlotolow who are the nation's best in AMC treatment.

Toby and I did that just last week.
My traveling companion. He's pretty cute, huh?
 We traveled on two planes to reach Philadelphia. We used Miracle Flights for Kids that helps children with medical needs get to their necessary hospitals. They were great!!!

Once we reached Philly, we had an amazing picnic with fellow adoptive families in the Philly area. It was SUCH a blessing! I learned a lot about Russian adoption and met some fabulous new friends!

One incredible meeting was face to face with Kelly who advocated for Toby on her blog. It was a really emotionally beautiful thing to introduce this precious orphan to her...we both got teary!
You are right, we aren't looking very teary here. We had moved on to laughing! :)

The next day, it was time to go to Shriner's.

AMAZING place.

Those men with their caps...I never paid much attention to them all my life.

Now, I am SO THANKFUL for what they have been doing.

Did you know that after your insurance, Shriner's pays EVERYTHING?  They work hard so that there is no extra financial hardship on the families.

Waiting in our room to have different doctors come and visit Toby.  p.s. He does ALOT with his feet that he cannot do with his hands! ;)
 We were treated so lovingly and saw doctor after doctor and went for some pretty crazy and creatively shot X-rays! They sure know how to work with children!

Amazingly, we were done by noon!!
They sent in the clowns! Shriner's are known for their great clowns!
Playing at the train table with friends.
Look who showed up in Philly too! Our buddy Gideon from Kentucky! AWESOME!!

The diagnosis Toby received from Dr. van Bosse was that his type of AMC is Amyoplasia. This type is fairly common among AMCers and is non genetic. It is thought that it is due to a lack of oxygen in the spine during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy.

Shockingly, 90-95% of the amyoplasia type of AMCers are affected in the lowers. 

Toby is in the 5-10% who only are affected in the uppers.

Another moment where I was just amazed.

When Dr. Zlotolow (upper specialist) came in and saw Toby, he remarked in awe, "This is the 3rd patient I've seen now only affected in the uppers but missing toes on a foot. I HAVE to think there is a connection."

Wow. There is still much the medical community does not know about AMC.

We learned that Toby is missing some muscles and other muscles are very atrophied. Due to lack of fetal movement in the womb, these joints "freeze" or contract. He has internally rotated shoulders, locked elbows with about a 30 degree range in one arm and both wrists contracted and adducted thumbs and the tendons in 6 of his fingers are so tight that they cannot be straightened.

Dr. Z determined that to begin help Toby become independent, he needs to have surgery to enhance his favored arm. He will have what is called a rotational osteotomy on his upper arm as well as an elbow release. He wants to have it done before he turns 3.

That means now.

The goal will be to get his hand to his mouth so he will be able to feed himself.

We are scheduled for July 1st.

I ask that you be in prayer for Toby as he faces a multi-faceted surgery on that date. Pray for me to as he was not the easiest little guy with whom to travel!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Finding a Home for Yuri and Zhenya

I'd like to introduce you to these two special kids: Zhenya and Yuri. They are orphans who live in Ukraine. I am trying to help find them a forever family.

"They are truly amazing kids with really tender hearts! We've been to Ukraine, we've been to the orphanages, and these kids are really amazing!" ~Sheryl, host mom summer 2012.

Because they are biological siblings, the Ukraine requires that they be adopted together.

That's a VERY good thing for Zhenya who is already too old to be adopted--she is 16 going on 17. (trying not to break into song here...)

In the Ukraine, children are no longer eligible for adoption after they turn 16.

However, the loophole is that her brother, Yuri, is only 15. Because HE is eligible is she!

Ukraine places a high value on keeping siblings together. Thank you, Ukraine.

So here's the scoop on this MOST precious orphan sibs:

They have only been at their orphanage 3 years. Before that, they were at home with their single mom...where they knew love...and extreme poverty. Tragically, she passed away. Before she did, she made sure these two were carefully placed in a Christian orphanage.

Why do I know so much about these two? My friend, Sheryl, had the blessing of being their host family last summer for 4 weeks. She is deeply desiring to find them a permanent family. In her words, "She has cried buckets over these two, but for some reason God has said no to we are hoping desperately for another family will come for them."

Yuri is 15 years old but in early December he turns 16. He is described as being quiet, extremely polite and kind, embarrasses easily, socially shy, laid back, non-aggressive. He does well with with other teen boys, and does not take advances from girls. If a girl even spoke to him he would blush! He is not into sports, but rather is interested in working with his hands. Yuri would thrive in a family where the dad farms, is in construction, or electrical, etc. He is very handy. He has a goal of owning his own electrical business. He is a dreamer and very goal oriented! He wants to work for a living, as opposed to going to school. Would not do as well in suburban life...prefers the country.  After he went home Sheryl said he has really become focused on his academics. (I think she was an awesome host mom!!)

Zhenya, pronounced"Jania,"
is described as loving to bake, be in the kitchen, and do crafts. She is very good with little children. She loves anything artsy. She is more obstinate than her brother, but zero trouble at all. She has more of a controlling personality than her brother. She is desperate for a family! She wants to come to America permanently so badly! She could really use prayer for a very big life altering decision she must make on August 31st  regarding her future.

They come from a pentecostal orphanage, required to dress in a certain way--no jeans at all, only skirts. When they were here they showed great respect for this and continued to be modest, even when it was not required.

Both loved Christian music and only wanted that downloaded to their devices.

The family who comes for them must have paperwork done by first week of December due to Yuri's birthday. They would be perfect for family with home study already done.

Sheryl believes they would fit in well in a family with other teens so they can bond.

These two will be coming back to America through a hosting program June 25-July 29! They will be here in Ohio, so if you wanted to you could meet them and spend time with them!!

Please consider these precious brother/sister pair!

If you are interested, please message me or leave a comment with your contact information. (I will not publish it but get back to you privately.) 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

About Our Esty...

So many have asked sweet questions about our newest child, dear

Esty Marilyn HanHan...

so I thought I would share a bit about WHO she is and WHY we are pursuing her.

Esty at age can see a video of her when this photo was taken. Look below!

As God has grown me in the past year, I have personally witnessed the incredible POWER that advocating for voiceless orphans has on lives.

Afterall, when Kelly advocated for our Toby here, exactly EIGHT lives radically changed...with more lives along the edges being impacted by Toby's story and his life as a Shaw.

My life by someone else advocating for orphans.

And so, it was only natural that I would begin doing the same.

Sharing faces.

Sharing stories.

Passing on links, making connections and praying my heart out for these children who need families.

Esty was one of those children I advocated for.

On November 20, 2012 I advocated for her on my Facebook page.

Here was a little girl who had been waiting in her birth country for someone to love her.

For someone to find value in her life.

I learned that she wanted to become a doctor when she grows up.

I know the reality: she is handicapped. Wheelchair bound.

In China, this means she is locked away from education.

Schools have no wheelchair access.

No special needs accommodations.

She has no hope of ever becoming a doctor if she remains in China.

Yet she has been waiting for a family for over 8 years.


I cannot begin to comprehend that, honestly.

I think about where we were when she was born. (Incidentally, we were in China, living our lives as a family of 4 then...)

I think about where we were when she was abandoned (again, we were still in China...and I so wish I had been able to scoop up this little broken baby left on a train!!)

We came home then, had Oliver, gave birth to and then buried Oskar, moved and began a life in the NW corner of Ohio...all the while



It was in the quiet of the early morning when God spoke clearly and directly to my heart about this precious girl who was still waiting.

"You can handle her needs." God spoke.

CLEARLY there was no mistaking His words to my heart.

I was a bit dumbfounded. "Me, Lord?"

I immediately told Brian about this...and we began praying.

It was just 2 weeks before we would board a plane to China to bring Toby home.

Yes, the timing of it all was SHOCKING.

One day after that, as I fastened a clay necklace from Toby's fundraiser around my neck I had the distinct feeling, "This necklace is not mine. It is for HER."

When I took it off and looked at the verse on the back, I read the Scripture reference: Jeremiah 29:11.

God was saying this verse about her: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

I was trembling.

This child who I had merely advocated for needed this necklace.

It was hers.

It had a message that SHE needed to hear.

So, I took it with us to China. I printed out the first page of her file that held the information about where she lived.

On our final day in China, I asked our guide to help me mail it to her. She gladly did. She wrote out the verse in characters and added my message, "A friend in America loves you. She wants you to have this necklace and understand the message that it carries. You are treasured."

She asked me if I wanted to sign it. But what could I do? I certainly could not build up her hopes that I was her Momma...but neither could I sign my first name because I LONGED to become her momma!!

So it went to her without a signature.

In the meantime, God spoke to Brian that we are to bring Esty home. The phone call came to me just 4 days after coming home with Toby. "Amy, I'm ready to start the process bring her home."

Oh, sweet man!! I rejoice in my husband who always listens to God's voice!!

By now, sweet Esty has been given the news that she has a family.

I cannot help wonder if she touches that necklace and dreams about us, like we dream about her.

This video was taken a few years back when an agency was desperately trying to find her a family. I have watched this over and over and over again. I cannot wait to wrap my arms around Esty and let her know HOW MUCH I LOVE AND ADORE HER!!!

Note: at the time of this video, she was blessed to be out of the orphanage and living with a foster family; that is the "mom" and "little sister"to whom she is referring. Sadly, she was returned to her orphanage where she still waits today.

It is our joy and great honor that God has chosen US to be that permanent, loving family for Esty. We are over the moon joyful to begin the walk of understanding Spina Bifida and how we can help her gain the most independence possible.

We are so excited to shower her with love and affection and begin training her heart.

Please pray with us that God will bring her home quickly and in a way that ALL WILL SEE that God is mighty!!!

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