Sunday, January 12, 2014

BIg boy cups and two months HOME!!

I am a week late with this update, but it has been pretty crazy around here with Christmas, New Years, and starting therapies.

Grandpa and grandma Maxwell just happened to be visiting on the day we celebrated two months home with Ivan.

The boys got to open even more Christmas gifts!!

Landon was hysterical when he realized he had been given a tractor dvd and truck books!!

We call him our little drama king

Doing the happy dance

A couple days ago this mama reached her breaking point and decided that it was time to get rid of the hundreds of sippy cups that were taking over our kitchen.

Landon has not had a bottle or binky since before his first birthday so we thought we were doing pretty good, but recently he has become very ATTACHED to his sippy cups. Meaning he would carry a dangling cup out of his mouth all day long. I knew something had to be done when our Christmas pictures turned out like this...

taken seconds after cup was plucked from mouth
We caved so we could get a decent picture. As if "this" is a decent Christmas photo with that silly cup blocking our child's face.

We were also going through lids like crazy because the little Parana could knaw his way through the tip in less than an hour.

Clearly something had to be done...

After barely surviving an epic sippy withdrawl tantrum, a couple days ago, I texted Ryan and told him "operation get rid of sippies is going down tonight!" after Ryan got home from work we loaded up the boys and went to Target to let Landon pick out a "big boy cup"!

Of course he picked a Lightning McQueen one and was shrieking with glee and doing the happy dance (as shown above) all the way to the van.

As soon as we got home we told him he had to throw away all of his sippy cups if he wanted to be a big boy and use his big boy cup.

Bye bye sippies!!


Operation get rid of sippies = victory for MAMA!!

The next morning Landon and I made a nice little round place mat for his new cup, decorated it with cars stickers, and placed it on a reachable shelf in our fridge. It's been close to a week now and this big boy knows that he can only drink from his cup when he is sitting at the table, otherwise he goes and puts it in it's special spot in the fridge. He sits at the table a lot now haha but hey, it's progress :)

I will never forget the NICU nurse who nicknamed Landon "the thinker". If only she could see him now!! He is constantly doing crazy ingenious things like this... he made Ryan stick out his arm one lazy Saturday so he could stack all of his cars on it. There is no telling the plans God has in store for that beautiful mind of his.

Tah da!!! So proud of himself!
 He also has a new obsession with Ryan's guitar. He loves plucking the strings and will even start singing along.

All funny stories and hilarious pictures aside, I cannot believe how my baby is growing up! We are quickly approaching that 2nd birthday and this mama is LOVING every minute with this sometimes terrible terrific toddler of mine. I wish every one could have a Landon in their life to bring them joy and keep them laughing even through the hard days :)

On January 9th we celebrated ONE year since Landon's last open heart surgery!! We thank God everyday for allowing us to parent this amazing little boy and the chance to nurture that miracle heart of his.

Well that was our baby's update, now for our amazing eldest son!!


Where do I start?!? This past month has been remarkable! Ivan is really beginning to show us his personality. He is a little chatter bug and we are continually amazed by what he understands. He is beginning to put words together now and will even use up to three word sentences. He asks "What it?" all the time so I am explaining things all day long to both him and Landon. I just love having two little learners!!

Last Tuesday Ivan had his first dentist appointment. I'm kicking myself for not taking any pictures, but Ryan and I were both busy trying to keep him calm. Because Ivan was force fed and not given control of what went in or was taken out of his mouth, he has an extreme fear of opening his mouth for strangers. He will let Ryan and I brush his teeth, but that is it. So you can imagine how traumatic the dentist was for him. We were so proud of how brave he was. We can tell that he is learning to trust us and believes that we will protect him. The visit was very short since the nurse couldn't really do anything and Ivan was so upset the dentist only got to look in his mouth for a good minute (maybe not even that). Even though the dentist couldn't take his time, he got a good enough look to know that Ivan has quite a few cavities, but other than that, he isn't too worried. We were relieved to hear that his teeth and gums don't look damaged by all of the teeth grinding he does (it's getting better). We scheduled an appointment in early March for the cavities to be taken care of. It will be considered a surgery since they will have to put him completely out and it'll be done at the hospital. It's a bigger ordeal since anesthesia is going to be involved but we are relieved that our little man will be out the whole time and not remember any of it.

The funny memory I have from his first trip to the dentist was when the nurse was asking him what flavor floride he wanted. She was going through the choices, "banana, strawberry, mint, grape, and Ivan blurts out in perfect english and pronunciation MINT!! Ryan and I laughed out loud!! We have no idea why mint stuck out to him, but obviously the kid likes mint haha. By the time the dentist was done, Ivan was crying and screaming hysterically (so hard to watch) but he instantly calmed as soon as I picked him up. I wiped his tears and soon he was all smiles and shouting bye bye to everyone haha. He even told the nurse tank you when she gave him a sticker. Ryan and I could not have been more proud of him!!

We had to hurry home after the dentist because the occupational therapist was coming for her first visit that day and two hours later the Physical therapist showed up. Yeah, busy day was an understatement!!

The occupational therapist evaluated Ivan for a sensory processing disorder so she played and interacted with him while I filled out a long survey about his sensory processing. We don't have a diagnosis yet, she comes back tues so I'm hoping to find out what she thinks then. Overall, her visit was very encouraging. I know it is going to make a huge difference for Ivan to have someone who understands and can find activities for him to do that are age appropriate and also satisfy his sensory needs. Seriously, just talking with her for the hour and being around someone who didn't think it was strange that Ivan would rather play with a piece of paper then a ball was so refreshing. We want to understand and help Ivan heal from his sensory neglect and we finally feel like we have a way to move forward now.

Then the physical therapist came and got down to business right away. She stretched Ivan further than Ryan and I have ever felt comfortable going. She showed me how Ivan needs to be stretched and we talked about the goals we have for him. She asked if he can sit up independently and I told her he can when he is in a chair but not on the floor since his legs wont bend enough to allow him to sit up properly. Towards the end of our visit she told me that she wants him to start working on the muscles that he needs to use to sit up and showed me how to work with him. She said she believes there is no reason why he can't sit up independently, it's just that he has never had to use those muscles before so it will take some work. I was amazed that she thought that and kind of skeptical, but after she left I realized that Ivan was more flexible then I had ever seen him before. His legs were able to almost straighten and his feet could go flat (they are always pointing out) because she had stretched them so much.

Ryan and I were amazed and SO encouraged by the progress we could see in our boy after only ONE pt session. The next day we started doing everything the pt recommended and the results have been miraculous!!

YES this is our 6 year old sitting up for the very first time!!
He is so strong and such a hard worker!

No support!!
He loves sitting up and watching choo choo!!
The next day he had speech therapy which was also SOOOOO encouraging.

The speech therapist was amazing with him and he happily talked to her and played with all the fun toys she brought.

Towards the end of the visit we were talking over goals and I told her that we feel he is learning english at an incredible rate and we really don't have any worry's right now. She agreed that his speech is excellent for a child that has only been in America for two months. We decided to keep going with the visits for the next couple months and then see if it's something he even needs.

I told her that we really didn't know how verbal he would be because of his cp, but now that we've had him home we don't see any reason why he couldn't fully communicate someday. I asked her what she thought and her exact words were "His skills are truly amazing."

That is when my heart burst :)

Talking with her confirmed our belief that our boy is cognitively all there and one VERY smart little man indeed.

I thought we were a busy family before last week, but now we have added pt every monday, ot on tues, speech on wed, and pt again on thurs.

We are busy, but we could not be more thankful to God for providing amazing people who can see the treasure that our Ivan is and are working to help him become all that God created him to be.

I have been an emotional wreck this past week. We have been so encouraged through all of Ivan's therapists. At night, I often go into the boys' room and lay down by my sweet 6 year old. Words cannot express how grateful I am to be his mommy. Soon the tears are flowing as my heart is filled with such hope for his future and also broken by the thought of where he would be if we had not said yes to God. I know there is a large chance that my amazing little boy who now has no limits may already be dead from the neglect and abuse that takes place in adult mental institutions in Ukraine.

That knowledge is too much.

I sob as I realize I serve a God who does not forget the forgotten of this world.

To Him be all of the glory, honor, and praise!!

Ivan has started grabbing our hands when he knows it is time to pray (during meals or at bedtime) and he will say "tank you Esus men" (Thank you Jesus, Amen.)

That is redemption right there.

That is worth every meltdown and trial we will face with him.

His heart is worth redeeming and God is doing it :)

Daddy gave him a comb-over during bathtime
Then daddy messed it up and said ahhh go crazy!!

Evidence that this child obviously belongs in our crazy family!

Ivan Abraham Maxwell home 2 months!!

The hearts on his wall are the names of some of the people that helped support our adoption (financially or through prayer).

Adoption came into our life and completely wrecked it, but God remade it into something more beautiful than we could of ever dreamed. We will never for a second tell you that it is easy. Believe me, it's more difficult than anything I could describe to you.

Adoption is something you can only grasp when you're in the trenches.  

It's something you can only fully appreciate when you've gotten your hands dirty and your heart completely broken.

I know that adoption isn't for everyone, but I believe that it's God's plan for a lot more families just like us.

If you think you could never afford it...

never handle a broken child...

never give up your normal life...

If you think you could never be strong enough...

Then you might just be in the PERFECT position to ADOPT.

God doesn't choose the ready.

He doesn't choose the wise.

and most of the time, he doesn't choose the wealthy.

He delights in choosing the broken, simple, weak, people that He knows will have no way of explaining away His miraculous redemption...

We are those people.

Could you be too??

There are so many children, just like Ivan, whose only hope are for a crazy family to throw all logic out the window and just say YES.

Two months to forever!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Good bye 2013

Well it happened, another crazy year is behind our family.

Ryan and I are hoping that this next year will be a little less crazy, but with God in charge, who knows! And we wouldn't have it anyother way because clearly... crazy is stinkin cute!!

What a year 2013 was!!

Last New Years day I posted THIS. In which I announced that our hope for 2013 was to bring two more miracles into our family. 2013 clearly didn't turn out the way we expected, but we trust God's plan even when it doesn't go the way we plan.

We sent a small recap of our 2013 with our Christmas letters this year.

If you didn't receive one please don't feel bad. My usual list of 200 recipients was narrowed down to 30 family members. Which is why I wanted to post it here on the blog for everyone to see :)

Hello friends and family,

I can’t believe it’s been a year already, but what an eventful and life changing year it has been for our family!

In January Landon underwent his third and final open heart surgery. It was successful and as of now, his heart is completely healthy. He does have a small ASD (hole in the heart) but his cardiologist is hopeful that it will close on it’s own within the next year. Today he is an energetic “almost” two year old with determination to conquer the world and a smile that can melt a heart of stone. We are so blessed to have him in our family and we will never take for granted the miracle that he is.

Also in January we took a huge leap of faith and began the adoption process for two little boys in Ukraine.

February and March were jammed packed full of document collecting, fundraising and working on our homestudy for our adoption.

In April we celebrated Landon’s first birthday! A milestone that we once feared we may never get to experience. It was a day full of rejoicing and praising God for His faithfulness.

In May I, (Natalie) graduated from Liberty University Online with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Christian counseling and Biblical studies. It was such a relief and an accomplishment to finish.

I also ran the Fargo half marathon with my dad. I don’t recommend trying to train for a marathon while also working on an adoption and finishing school. Yikes!!

Our dossier (all the documents needed for an international adoption) was submitted to Ukraine in June so then we just had to wait for a travel date.

July was spent soaking in our last summer as a family of three, getting our apartment ready for our new addition, and waiting impatiently for that travel date.

In the beginning of August we finally got our travel date and we left for Ukraine the last day of the month.

September was a rollercoaster of a month. We met our sweet eldest son for the first time and he completely stole our hearts, but we also had to grieve the loss of the other little boy we had planned on making a Maxwell. Because he had an older sibling we were unable to adopt him.

On October 14th we had court and officially became the proud parents of Ivan Abraham Maxwell. One of the best days of our lives!!

After spending the rest of October in Ukraine by myself (Ryan had to go home to work), Ivan and I finally flew home on November 4th.

November we were finally together as our new family of 4!!

And that brings us to December! Ivan has now been home for over a month. He is adjusting very well and learning more English everyday. Ryan and I have a hard time imagining our family without him in it now. Our sweet six year old just fits right in and it seems as though he has always been a Maxwell. He loves being a big brother and is very loving, protective, and affectionate towards Landon. Landon has adjusted very quickly to having another child at home and although he may not like sharing his toys, he loves his big brother VERY much.

Our life is busier than ever, but we feel so blessed to have these two precious miracle babies to call our own.

So that was our 2013 in a nutshell! Thank you so much for walking through it with our family. We truly could not have made it without the love, daily encouragement, financial support, and most importantly, the prayers of all of you. We love each of you dearly and want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your support.

What a crazy, but awesome year this has been!! To God be all the glory!!

Wishing you the merriest of Christmas’ and a blessed new year!!