Friday, December 5, 2014

On Hearing Impairment.....

I have been asked by a reader to write about Laurel's hearing impairment and how that impacts her daily life as well as what our therapy schedule looks like. Yippee! I get to talk about two of some of my favorite topics, adoption & hearing loss! 
A little background for those who may not know. Laurel was adopted from Ukraine in 2009. She was almost 2 years old and had no hearing aids or therapy prior to adoption. We knew she was deaf and may have some other medical issues when we pursued her. It was a clear calling from God. Deafness terrified me (how would we communicate?, how would I get basic concepts across to her much less concepts about God & Jesus!). However, the Lord clearly told me "I know you can't do this but I can!" So, off we trotted to Ukraine to find our treasure. 
Laurel was born very prematurely which is most likely the cause of her HI. 

When we met Laurel, she had NO speech/language. She would make noises or scream. However, I knew cognitively she was ready to learn it because the first day I visited her I put her hand to my throat and said "Mama" and she repeated it. She also learned to sign, "cracker", "mama" and "cat" the first day I met her and could use them appropriately. We took some signing cards with us and taught her basic signs to reduce frustration for everyone. She was so ready to communicate! She learned so fast. As far as behavior was concerned, she was very stubborn ( which would serve her well), and was all into everything! Most of that was the fact that she was in an orphanage and unable to explore at all so new freedoms were overwhelming. We truly had very little transition issues when home. Once she learned food was always going to be there and started understanding the Signs for "No, Yes, Eat, Drink, names of ppl, bed etc" tantrums decreased. She was very good at reading body language and lips and did not like to stray far from us which helped. I can imagine with a child who is resistant to being near the parent that this would be a challenge.

In Ukraine, Laurel had numerous medical issues on her chart (most of which are not in play at all now) and a few which were surprises. One of those was that when she got to the US, she was put under anesthesia for an ABR (hearing test) and they found she had something called Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder. Even back in 2009 it was a relatively new finding and there was not much information on it. I was scared! She didn't have just Sensorineural Hearing Loss or Conductive Loss but it was this other less known kind. Basically, it means the nerves were "misfiring" somewhere in her ear/brain. It is like a frayed lamp cord, sometimes she would be "on" and sometimes not. I charted her good and bad days and would see that days that a weather front (rainy, windy,cloudy) would be more "bad hearing" days. It is not scientifically backed up at this point but many AN mama's I have talked to notice the same thing. Within 2 months of arriving home, Laurel received and evaluation from our local Developmental Evaluation Services which showed she was behind in all areas of development (duh!) and set her up from OT,  and HI services. She received in home therapy 2 to 3 times a week through them until the age of 4. Within 2 months of being home she was also finally given hearing aids. It took a while because unless she could show on paper an impairment she would not qualify. So, she had to learn to "take the test".(When you hear the beep, a toy will pop out and play so eventually conditioned response would show that she would look back expectantly at the toy when she heard the beep). We were warned that kids with AN may not respond to hearing aids. It was kind of a try and see. 

Now, before we adopted Laurel, we had made the decision that if at all possible we would bring her into a hearing and speaking world. My mother had worked at a school for the deaf and saw the challenges a non speaking/non hearing child would face. We were preparing ourselves for the fact that she may not be able to ever speak or hear but our choice and prayer for her and we believe HER choice would be that she could come as close to "normal" speech and language as possible.  By doing this, it would greatly broaden her circle of friends and family that could communicate with her. That was a decision we had to tell many therapists. Once we made that choice, we were told to quit signing and concentrate on her hearing only. There were times that we were in noisy environments or she was too far away to hear me and I would still supplement signs for her. This decision proved to be a great one for Laurel as she started  to really pick up speech and language. 

When Laurel was 3 she was referred to a local hospital's clinic that specializes in hearing impairments and therapy. She was accepted and started once a week therapy there. It is a wonderful place that teaches the parent to do the therapies at home and we practice. Around the age of 4, it became evident that while Laurel was making some progress, she had plateued and there were some sounds she just could not hear (ex: "s", "f"). We began to think about Cochlear Implants. This was a scary venture for us because in order to do this, all of her residual hearing had to be destroyed to put in the implant. Laurel's right ear was her "good" ear (Moderately Severe). We were reluctant to do this because she could hear some in that ear. However, a few months later, God made up our minds for us which had been our prayer! Her testing showed a gradual decline in that ear. She was losing her hearing. So She was implanted with a Cochlear Implant. It was 3 hr. surgery and she came home that day. She recovered quickly and we eagerly waited the 4 weeks until we could turn the ear on. The big day finally came and when they turned it on, she could hear the beeps!! It was overwhelming to her at first and we started slowly but she gradually started back over with the therapy and made her way back up. It became evident months later that she could hear much more clearly with this implant!! 

During this time, she was accepted into an integrated preschool classroom for hearing impaired and typical children. She had 1 hearing aid and 1 Cochlear Implant. All of the teachers wore microphones and it was a great fit for Laurel. She went to this class for 1 year until Kindergarten. A year after the 1st implant, Laurel was implanted with the 2nd implant. We had to start over on the speech and language chart to catch this ear up but as promised, progress came much more quickly.

Laurel is now 7 years old. Unless people know she is hearing impaired, they usually cannot tell anything is different in her speech. She sounds pretty typical. Her Cochlear Implants made a HUGE difference. She needed them in order to get a clearer signal and be able to process as quickly as she can. She still has days that are harder for her to process speech and language than others. Some days it truly takes several times to tell her something before she understands it. Those days she seems more irritable as well and I believe it is her Auditory Neuropathy. But, those days are much less than with the hearing aids and we have told her about this disorder in order to help her cope with it better. It seems to help her to understand what is going on inside her body She has always had a lot of trouble with music and singing (getting the words in  order). The new Music program on her Implants have helped with that. Most of what she struggles with now is not from the hearing impairment but from the process disorder part of the impairment.  She is learning to read, likes math and is a very smart little girl! She is the hardest working thing I know!

So, our journey has been amazing with Laurel although  not always easy or clear cut. God has always shown up and helped us when we didn't know which path to take. From what I have observed, hearing impairment is kind of an "invisible disability" and it can also mask other issues. However, we live in an amazing age with wonderful devices and therapies to help one live as easily as possible. We are so thankful we took the leap and rescued this girl!
If anyone has any specific questions, please feel free to email me at

Saturday, November 29, 2014


We took a much needed getaway camping trip. No phones, no computers, no tv. We had to pack in all our stuff and hike several miles just to get to our camp. The kids did amazing. We had a lot of laughs and fun. The kids can't wait to go back.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chock Full of October

Laurel's 7th Birthday Party

This is what too much partying will do for you.

Noah's 8th Birthday Party

Bobbing for Apples!

No Party is Complete without a Pinata

Noah & Hayden; Best Buds


October was wild! Both of the babies birthday's are in that month so they got to choose what they wanted to do. Laurel chose a small family party at the Bowling alley complete with bowling, cake, presents and the arcade games. Noah chose a larger party with friends and family at Uncle John & Aunt Rachael's house for a hayride and pinata and a bonfire. What a wonderful blessed woman I am to have these babies!
Fall is finally here and the leaves are beautiful. We have taken a few field trips this month and enjoyed the outdoors. Halloween was wild this year as well. We started off by doing our local downtown walk and then went to our cousins house to trick or treat with them in their neighborhood. We had an absolute blast!We did however see about 1000 Elsa's! :)
October was busy but I say go big or go home! We are so blessed beyond what we deserve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"A Rose for Janie" AKA "Rose"

Laurel is the proud owner of a brand new filly!! Yes, we are crazy, but a bit of backstory.
My sister bought a mare in the spring. She rode this mare right up until a few months ago when she got off of her one day and said "Hmmm..... her stomach looks lopsided". Lo and behold, the mare was not only pregnant but within a month of giving birth. She had been told specifically that "there was no way this mare was pregnant" so she had not been watching for the signs and she was underweight when she bought her. So...... out popped a bright white little filly.  Rachael's husband said No Way Jose' to keeping it and Laurel fell in love.
 Years ago when I was young, my mother had someone tell her that if she bought her girls a horse, it would keep them away from boys. Worked well for us and Laurel needed a hobby that would not require an immense amount of listening (because of her hearing impairment) so she could relax and enjoy it. This little filly is so sweet and we are hoping it will turn into a pretty nice show horse for Laurel.

Now for the name. Less than 2 years ago, my Aunt Janie went to heaven from cancer. We named this little filly "A Rose for Janie" and will call her "Rose". Aunt Janie was so supportive of our horse shows and us riding horses and she had a bunch herself. Laurel loved the name. So there we have it. Rose will come live at our house after she is weaned. Hoping to build her a nice little shelter and pasture. Noah and myself will be scarce because we are both highly allergic to horses :( but Laurel's little take charge attitude will serve her well. Exciting times!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A hard post to write...

Last night in USA. Steak & Lobster! 

     I don't know why we think when we obey God's call that things will be easy but we are guilty of it.  We think just because it is right, things will go smoothly. Experiences has shown me it usually is the opposite. Things get HARDER, more out of my control. That is where the beauty of Christ comes in. When we are weak, HE is strong. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It is then that people can see these "good" things, done for Christ were not done in our power at all. He started and finished the good work.
     V was with us for 10 weeks. Sometimes these weeks were extremely long and sometimes we went along just great. Mike remembers where he was standing in the woods when he heard the Lord say "This is the child you are to host". We went kicking and screaming at first. We had specifically told God "no older boys". Ha!
V is a very sweet, shy and sensitive child. He is also very scared, insecure, untrusting and broken. Living where he lives has made him this way. He has to be this way to survive in his world. We saw behaviors that to most would cause your hair to curl. We had prepared for the worst and were still shocked. God continually took us back to his command to Mike "He is the child". We needed the directness. He made huge strides the last 2 weeks he was here!
    While he was here, we had to call the translator several times to try to calm V down when he would get upset. We look back and see he really had a rough time with transitions of any sort as well as anticipation of events (even good ones). He truly did not know what to expect. During one of these calls, the translator had to call the orphanage and get them involved. V told us they told him he would get in trouble got back. He was scared. This was the sole reason he did not want to go back.
       We took V to Atlanta to meet the plane. The night before we had a blast playing in the pool and eating steak and lobster. He didn't want to leave but he said because he was afraid of what would happen. He was brave at the airport. He and Mike talked and he had a good long cry and then looked up and said "OK, I am brave now." He truly is. He told us he was going to work hard in school, get a job, save money and come back to America to work. We told him if he did we would pick him up from the airport :) 
      V left here with HOPE of a better life. He has Jesus in his heart. He knows what a family is and that there is life outside of his orphanage walls. This is the reason that hosting programs exist. Not every child is adoptable either due to parental rights not being revoked, paperwork issues, age, or even the child's own preferences to not leave their birth country. Hosting programs (like cultural exchange programs) gives a child, who would otherwise never leave their hometown, a chance to see the world. V has HOPE. He knows he is loved. We and our family made that very clear.

Now for the rest of the story................
      A young lady at a shoe store who is from V's country offered to translate for us. So, we called his missionary friend, A. A told us that she has not been allowed to see him and his phone is lost. He also has a broken bone in his arm from "messing around". Hopefully in 2 weeks she will take him a phone so we can call him. We hung up heartbroken. We do not want to believe he was mistreated but we know what goes on inside the walls. BUT GOD. That night, I was googling his orphanage and found a young woman who had been to an orphanage in his city. Lo and behold, right there on her blog, is his picture!! She is with Little Lambs, a ministry who ministers to orphanages. V was in her Bible study group. She was able to fill us in on the challenges of the orphanage life. She has written a wonderful blog post to V. Please hop over and watch the video she has of him! Her group has a wonderful ministry that helps the kids aging out of the orphanage get in a home instead of the streets! That is EXACTLY what we have been praying for him.

V has an army of people praying for him. Even though it was challenging, it is no mistake he was chosen. We love him and are committed to helping him make a life for himself. Please join us in praying for him. Hopefully sometime soon we will have more concrete ways we can support him.  
Thank you for following our journey! I know not everyone agrees with hosting or even adoption. However, please know we are doing what the Lord has called us to do. I challenge you to find and do what God has called YOU to. There is such peace in obedience, even in the hard times.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Never too old to learn....

We are halfway through our hosting commitment to V. What have we learned? Well, for one, that we are NEVER to old to learn :) Parenting two totally different kids we mistakenly thought we had all the tools we needed to parent a third for the summer. However, this special boy comes with some very unique challenges. He comes from a world with no "I'm sorry's". Humility and weakness are the WORST things you can display in an orphanage. You will be a huge target. So, thousands and thousands of children grow up not knowing how to resolve conflicts (even small ones). They only know how to escalate situations. These kids only know how to withdraw, fight and distance themselves from the one thing they want the most, LOVE!! We have been struggling, for the past 4 weeks with V with conflict resolution. The slightest disappointment would set him off and he would sulk, pout, refuse to eat, hide in the bushes etc..... for HOURS. He is a pretty dedicated pouter :) Now my inner parent knows just how to take care of such things from my typically raised younguns' but alas some things are not allowed for host kids. So, we sought God like never before. We were exhausted from his meltdowns, he was exhausted and so were our kids. God is so good and faithful! My heart was tapped out. I was ready to be done. BUT GOD. He put a new song in our hearts and set our feet on solid ground. God showed us that emotionally V is like a 2 yr. old. Once we started addressing the behavior like you would a 2 yr. old things started to change. He had no word for "I'm sorry". So, we practiced, he did it and he was amazed the incidents were over and didn't end in hiding under the bed for hours or midnight calls to his translators. We are practicing breathing techniques to calm down. We talk about what the roles of men and women are (NO CLUE). He is very teachable which helps. Amazingly, God brought me the "feelings" I wanted to have to get through the next 4 weeks. I know we will have setbacks, but he has gone 6 days with no major instances and that is huge. Our prayer is that he will take these lessons back with him and grow in the Lord. He has a hunger for God's word and we know God will not leave his children.

One last thing, yesterday, V asked me for a baby doll. He has never asked me to buy him anything at the store but cherries but he wanted a baby doll. He is 12, and a boy. But, it further proved to us just how emotionally stunted these kids are. He has loved on, fed, kissed and rocked that baby. He named it after his father who passed away last year. He has learned that when it cries, you don't just walk out of the room and shut the door but rock it and give it a bottle. Things he would have never learned in his orphanage, we have the privilege to teach him, hopefully helping to end the cycle of orphans having orphans. We are so thankful for a God who answers a prayer for wisdom and gives us stamina to do what is right when we are empty. We are so glad we didn't give up when it got bad. We appreciate your prayers for the rest of the hosting. We can't wait to see how much more he will grow and learn and how much more we will grow and learn.