"Adventures, I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull...But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just landed in them, usually...I expect they had a lot of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten."

-Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The CP Connection #2- Progress

Stumbo Family Story

Any time I need a reminder of how far Alina has come in the last year, I just have to watch video's of her in Ukraine, and after we came home. Video's like this, taken October 2010 in Ukraine.



Or these...

Taken 3 months after coming home, and after getting AFO's and de rotational bands.



Taking a few tentative steps in May.



And getting so good she can walk without AFO's in August.



And able to walk long distances in October.



The progress is astounding. She is a hard working little girl. The last couple video's she's not wearing the de rotational bands. She has torosion on her legs because the spasticity is on the inside muscles of her legs, which pulls her feet in. The de rotational bands work great, but they stress her out big time. Its a large piece of velcro foam around her waist and then stretchy bands wrapped around and down her legs, connecting to her AFO's and they keep her feet somewhat straight. I will say that she is doing great without them, the muscles on the outsides of her legs are really coming around, and she's able to keep them fairly straight if she's not tired.

I'm so proud of her. It has not been easy for her, she's had to work really hard, put up with therapy and stretching, trying to give up while everyone is telling her YOU CAN DO IT! She amazes me, and everyone around her.

*this post is part of The CP Connection blog ring. Click the icon at the top of this post to view others!*

Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We had a great Christmas. Very low key and we got to see everyone important. We have to choose what to do and what we have to miss every year, and we've kind of went on an every other year type of thing, and that works. Running around too much just makes for cranky kids and tired parents!

We haven't had any snow (but its snowing today!) so the kids were able to use their new scooters a few times, and the temps have reached 40 almost every day! Completely unheard of for MN in December. Just yesterday we all went to the store in nothing but hoodie sweatshirts!

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and that the new year brings you blessings!

Just before opening gifts Christmas morning


All ready go to up to Grandma's!


Traditional in front of the fireplace picture on Christmas. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

Once again we traipsed into the backyard to cut down our tree. If you didn't know, our home is located in a tree farm, so we have ample supply of trees. Although they haven't been properly maintained/trimmed for years so we always end up with Charlie Brown-ish trees. :) But thats ok... a quirky tree suits us.

The winner this year...


It takes a mighty talented dog....

Or maybe she's just telling me no more pictures. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

A walking update

Alina is doing AMAZING with walking! She walks all over now, and its fun to watch her carry her plate to the sink after meals or get her own cup, simple every day things. Of course we are still working on proper gait, and still considering options for her (surgery, orthotics, etc) but from not even being able to sit on her butt a year ago to walking today.... not too shabby!

(she walks a little better without these goofy boots on, but she insists and she doesn't fall, so I let them slide on non-school day. :)) Also she is supposed to be wearing derotational bands, but they stress her out so we don't wear them as much as we are supposed to. She does just fine without them, however with them on her feet are very straight.
WITH her AFO's on....



And these last two are without AFO's on. :)




Thursday, December 1, 2011

The CP Connection

My friend, Ellie had a great idea to get a circle of CP blogs linked up. So today is the first installment of...
(click to Ellie's blog to read more about the blog link)

The CP Connection

Stumbo Family Story

If someone had told us two years ago that we would be adopting a child with Cerebral Palsy, we would have probably laughed it off and went about our business. Then, in May 2010, I seen this...


.... and everything changed. That little face, those goofy pigtails and choppy hair, the big blue eyes and adorable little grin changed everything. Without really realizing it at the time, I was looking at my daughter. There was just something about her, and as I read the tiny little blurb about her, I kept reading past the Cerebral Palsy diagnosis. But a few days later (and after looking at her picture a few more times) I finally googled Cerebral Palsy. I found the Gillette website for their CP Center (where she is now seen) and read until I thought my brain would burst. So.much.information. when we had so little to go on for her. So, I did what any crazy person would do, I started blind emailing people for information. I asked on adoption boards for CP parents to contact me, I emailed doctors, called offices, asked anyone who would listen for information. I found a couple really great moms to bounce information off of and to ask questions (like you, L!) and every single person was uplifting and encouraging.

So, we stepped off the cliff, a leap of faith. We submitted paperwork, updated our homestudy and information. We went for new fingerprints, put together a new dossier (remember we had started our adoption in Kyrgyzstan almost 2 years earlier, then it shut down.)

We did all of this with many unknowns. How affected would she be? Is she speaking? Walking? Is she in any therapies? School? Was she well cared for? Could we really do this?

But it all seemed right, paperwork went easily, everything fell into place in a timeline that was perfect. Our time in country was wonderful, and we really enjoyed ourselves. And of course, we came home with a perfect little treasure that is the amazing 4yr old we all know and love today.

But still, its hard sometimes with all the unknowns. We had and still have lots of questions, and as we were able to meet more parents, get to know more who had adopted and who had children with CP, and as our circle grew, we became more confident and everything got easier. And I'm so thankful for those parents who encouraged us, the moms who answered all my emails and questions and didn't tell me I was crazy (though I'm sure at least one was wondering what I was on... lol!)

We cannot imagine our life today without Alina. She is perfect in every way. Yes, she has Cerebral Palsy, and yes, she struggles with some things, and so do we. But if we ever have a bad day, we just have to remember that little picture above, and where she came from, and how far she has come in the last year. She is amazing and she will always be amazing.

And we are blessed to know all these families, these new connections and ones we've known for a year or better. Families who have kids living with CP and being able to share with each other. That is amazing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Catching up is hard to do!

So in the last month we have taken great new family pictures, enjoyed the last of Fall, had excellent conferences for the boys at school, and the most exciting... it SNOWED!

So here is a photo and video dump of the last month. Because words aren't nearly as exciting as pictures. :)

Family pictures, October 2011.




Home 1 year!


Halloween 2011! Alina is wearing the Tigger costume both boys wore. She made a last minute choice to wear this over her pirate outfit. It was adorable, except everyone kept calling her a boy. :)


Al the silver miner and Anth the diamond miner


Really excited about the few little snowflakes that were falling


Alina's new baby, 'Spike' (or why 4yr olds don't name babies!) :)


No pictures, please!


The only reason they help me in the kitchen... to eat the goods!



Oh! Snow!


She is really excited about the snow. We were outside for hours!




Friday, October 28, 2011

Video's

Alina got a new walker to take to school. She uses it in gym and when the class goes outside. She walks without it all the time, but she's very unsteady outside, and can't run so in the gym it works great for her too.


It came with this GIGANTIC sheet of stickers to put her name on it, and it had a ton of flowers, hearts, and swirly things. The girl went nuts making it as gaudy as possible. :)

Oh, and she can also run her little legs tired in it. Pure joy!


Here she explains how to use her walker.



And here she demonstrates how she basically pulls it behind her while running. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gotcha day... 1 year later

One year ago I was standing in the doorway of her group at the orphanage one last time. But instead of asking for Alina to be brought out, I handed over her clothes. Her brand new clothes and shoes, the first things she could call her very own. She was mad when the nanny brought her to the back instead of out to me, but when she seen the clothing she seemed to understand what was happening, and was smiling nervously. Then she appeared before us all ready to go!



She was really excited to see so many people standing around looking at her. :)


She hadn't seen me all day because we were running around doing paperwork. I know she was wondering if I was coming back, and she got up into my arms and gripped the back of my jacket, not wanting to get down.


Look at those spikey pigtails!


Its hard to believe its been an entire year since I carried her out of those doors for the last time. She was nervous because it was dark out and I don't think she every got outside after dark.


The car ride to the train station was awful! Poor girly had a ton of something for dinner just shortly before we got there, and she let us know a few minutes into the car ride by throwing up. It was awful, she felt terrible, it was all over her, all over me, and all over our sweet facilitators car. But of course we all lived and got to the train after stopping to clean up a little bit. It was bittersweet getting on that train... we wanted to get home with our girl, but it was hard to leave the people and places we had come to know and love. It was very emotional for me leaving Nikolaev. I felt like our girl had been jipped out of seeing the beautiful area where she was born. But also knowing that she wouldn't have fully remembered it even if we took a few days to show her. We will go back when the kids are all a bit older, so they can understand and appreciate.

This is Alina today. :) Look at the difference in her pigtails! The dress is shorter, a little tighter on top, and the tights are now too small. And the pink dotty shoes don't fit at all!






Happy Gotcha Day, Alina! We love you and are amazed by you every day!

Friday, October 14, 2011

One whole year ago...

...we were standing in a cold Ukrainian courtroom asking to be Alina's parents. I remember walking into that room and feeling REFRESHED! Crazy, right? Let me explain. Ukrainians like it hot, and the baby house, our apartment, stores, the bus were all hot. And anyone that knows me knows I'm comfy at about 65 degrees. Anything above 80 and I'm ready to burst into flames.

Save for the cage on one wall (for bad guys, thankfully we didn't have to stand in it!) the courtroom was beautiful and the woodwork gorgeous. Eugene, Sasha (our facilitator) and I squeezed our butts onto one bench. She was in the middle because she was translating for us.

The entire experience was surreal. The Judge read through our paperwork and I gave our speech. We were asked a few questions and they looked at our photo album, and then we were asked to sit while they left the room. A few minutes later they came back and announced us Alina's mom and dad! It was such an emotional moment for us, and as the jurors walked out and warmly took our hands and wished us luck (or congratulations, I don't recall) we couldn't help but shed our tears and grin like fools telling them 'Spaseeba! Spaseeba!'

We had lunch and then headed to see Alina at the baby house. She had no idea what was going on or why we were still blubbering goofs during our visit.

















Taken on our afternoon visit after court.

I can't believe its been a year.
Happy one year 'made ya ours day', Alina!

(and don't forget about Operation: Christmas in Nikolaev! See the button to the right. Any donation helps, be it a small toy for one of the boxes, an entire packed box, $2, $10, 20 packed boxes... every little bit helps bring Christmas to the little ones still waiting! Everything has to be packed and ready to ship by Oct 31st! Please visit the blog and donate!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Did you know?


That anything purchased in my Etsy shop in the month of October will help fund Operation: Christmas in Nikolaev?

Thats right! All proceeds from sales in October will go directly to sending Christmas to the kiddo's at Alina's baby house! There are 115 cute little reasons to donate, purchase something in my Etsy shop, or build and send a box of your own.

We have about 24 days left to build and send enough boxes for all the children! So go to the blog and donate (www.operationchristmasinnikolaev.blogspot.com ), build a box (or 5!) and send, or purchase something in my Etsy shop, you can find it just to the right of this post.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Operation Christmas in Nikolaev

Have you ever been to Nikolaev, Ukraine? I have. I spent four weeks there. That is where Alina was born and where she spent her first 3.5yrs. Its a place we hold very dear to our hearts, and people we met and the children we fell in love with never be far from our hearts or minds.

A year ago we walked those halls for the first time. Nervous anticipation as we trotted behind our facilitator to meet our girl. This was it. We had waited so long for this moment and we had no idea what to expect. We burst through that door way and there she was! Wearing that pink dress. She was completely blindsided by these visitors who stood there smiling at her like big fools.

We remember the sights, the sounds, the smells..... and we remember those we had to leave behind. The little faces we fell in love with who are still waiting for their families to come. We are forever changed.

But we can do something. We can help give the kids at Alina's old baby house Christmas! Sometimes no matter how loud we shout and how many people we talk to it doesn't feel like we are making a difference, especially to the kids.

Please please visit this blog http://operationchristmasinnikolaev.blogspot.com/
and consider donating a box for a little one at the orphanage. Or donating $5 to build a box or to help with shipping. The information is all on that blog, and every single person who will be working very hard at this has adopted a child from the Nikolaev baby house. And we want nothing more than to bless our childrens 'first siblings' who are still waiting.

Imagine the excitement of a child who has never had a Christmas present or anything of their very own getting a little box of goodies for Christmas. It will make a difference!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Little A turned 6yrs old today. I can't believe it.... 6yrs ago I thought I was going to be pregnant forever as he was a week overdue. We couldn't wait to meet the little guy, who turned out to be not so little, but chubby cheeked perfection. :)

Today we enjoyed the day at Jackson Street Roundhouse, his favorite place in the world. It was a beautiful Fall day, just like the day he was born!

All ready to go!


Workin....


Perfect.... I love this picture!


The Roundhouse








Happy #6, buddy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

'I'm awesome!'

One thing she's gained over the last year is an ego. :)



And a new walking video. Notice how she can stop short now... a new skill required for school I suppose. :) And also notice how she kind of clumps along down the driveway, but when she was motivated to get up to the trailer for a bike ride she walks great! :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Its the first day! Of the 4th and Kindergarten and Pre-K!

Big A started 4th grade, Little A started Kindergarten, and Baby A is in preschool. Time is flying by... they are growing up so fast!

Ready for 4th grade!


She was so excited to see the bus! And about 3 seconds later she was melting down because SHE Wanted to get on the bus. She didn't understand that she gets to get on the bus in the afternoon. :)


Love this guy!


And off he goes!


FINALLY, in the afternoon, it was her turn to go!


She took a walker to school for gym, outside free play, etc.




And last, but certainly not least, Little A started Kindergarten today. :)


He was a little nervous.


But it helps to have a big brother around.


And the big boys were off.