Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something beautiful...

Something beautiful is happening right now.

You might remember that on our 22+ hour trip home from Ukraine Theodore didn't sleep more than a few minutes.

He couldn't.

He had no idea how to relax with me holding him. I realized when we got home and I placed him in his bed that he needed to be put down and left alone. Left alone to rock and roll himself to sleep.

How sad.

You will be pleased to know that at this very moment my sweet angel is laying in my arms like a ragdoll...sleeping. He is just as limp and relaxed as can be. He still sleeps with his eyes open, which freaks me out sometimes. But, I'm enjoying this special moment and typing with one hand anyway.

Thank you God.


It's a great day in the mornin'!
Mariya has a family!!

He family has a heartbreaking story to tell. I hope that you will visit their blog and show your support.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A small deal...

I have some small decisions to make.

Small decisions that could be a big deal.
Isn't the way life generally works?
Here is a small thing (person really!) to make you smile:

Your prayers are needed to cover this decision. I'm so blessed to be able to come to you with this small request. :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Now that's an...

Now that's an adoption fundraiser!!

This is the way it is supposed to work. When last I checked Adeye's blog there was a total of $15,891 and 236 contributors. That is $67 and change on average. That's more than a fancy coffee drink but not completely outrageous. If you were one of the contributors, thank you!! What an example of love in action. A precious little girl will now get to experience the love of a family.

In the next week or so I'm going to give my readers the opportunity to pour out some more love on another deserving child. Watch this spot!

Been a long time...

It's been a long time since I posted bathtub photos!! Enjoy!

It's only a matter of time before Theo is big enough to join the bathtub party. Giving Zhen a bath is like taking a bath. Kwim? He gets a little wild! Ruby thinks it's great and joins him in dousing the entire room.

That's OK because I needed to mop the bathroom floor anyway.

Ruby is loving her new brothers more than the other kids. Don't get me wrong, they all love Theo and Zhen! Ruby has taken to them in a very special way. Though she is the youngest child in the family, she has taken on the role of "the boss." Maybe she takes after me, maybe it's a girl thing, who knows?
"The boss" is often benevolent. She distributes toys, retrieves dropped bottles, and delivers fresh diapers and a package of wipes to the "big boss," me! She has made a habit of hanging around at diaper changing time to let me know just how stinky things are!! Oh, man. I seriously need to get that on video.
First thing in the morning "the boss" wants to know about Theo. Theo? Theo? That's what I hear. It sounds more like the word "dew" coming out of her little baby mouth. So cute!
So often parents are discouraged from adopting because of some perceived negative impact on their bio children. "What will they think?" "What will that do to them?"
I'll tell you what my kids think: They think Zhen and Theo are fantastic. They know that we still love them as much as we always have. They know that it is possible and a good thing to help other people who are in need, even if we have to far out of our way.
I'll tell you what it has done to them: It has made them better people. More loving. More accepting. More likely to have compassion. More likely to act on that compassion.
It's a good thing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My thoughts today...

Aside from doing a lot of other things, I've been thinking lately about the reasons why people don't adopt. I mean, really! Check out this photo of Tori...

She's got that something special, don't you think? Why, why, why has she not been adopted? Why? She's beautiful! She's cognitively normal! I bet she's smart. Smart enough to know that she doesn't belong in a mental hospital.

This morning Ralph, in his Ralph-ish way, asked to watch some TV. I turned on the Netflix for him and I let him pick out what he wants to watch. I usually flip through a bunch of kid shows before he points to the one he wants. Then he plops down in his little director's chair and waits for the show to load. It's really quite cute.

Today he picked Veggie Tales. Not what I would have guessed for a Caillou and Pingu fanatic. But he asked, so put it on. Then I went into the kitchen to finish breakfast for the other little ones. French Toast, by the way!

Pretty soon I heard the familiar sounds of Larry the Cucumber being robbed and dumped upside down in a hole. (It's the Veggie version of the parable of the good Samaritan.) Along comes the mayor and then a doctor. The end up singing to each other about how important and busy they are. All the while, Larry is upside down in a hole, unable to help himself.

You'll have to forgive me, because my trip to Ukraine changed me, although not as much as I had hoped. I see everything through the prism of "this orphan crisis." Today I watched Veggies through that prism for the first time and I thought it was very profound. That, or my mind has finally gone soft!

Why are we constantly telling each other how busy we are? Why are we constantly trying to elevate ourselves in the eyes of other busy people? I'm just as guilty as anyone. Why am I not preparing myself to go back and rescue Tori or Masha or Noah or Anastasiya myself? Yeah, I'm busy. Yeah, I'm out of money right now.

Isn't it funny how the people who are most concerned with helping orphans are the ones who happen to be out of money? I wonder if there is a certain danger in comfort. A sort of sleepiness. Not the kind of contentment that I want to experience. Is there any one out there who is crazy this way like me? Feelin' a little lonely.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We have been having a lovely boring week here. No doctor appointments. No weight checks. No school programs. Ahhhhh.

The laundry got done. And folded. And put away!! The floor got mopped. Some neglected paperwork got done. Oh, there's more to do. I'm fairly far behind around here. It's going to take some time.

The boys are fitting into our family so well. Ruby thinks that they are here for her entertainment. Her and Zhen have a great time at lunch. He's learning to trust her. She's learning to share with him. It's beautiful!

I thought that Zhen and Ralph would be great buddies, but Zhen is closer in size and development to Ruby.

Zhen and Ralph had great fun the other day messing up Rose's bed.

Theo is doing a lot more of this lately!
He has not gained any weight in the past two week. So disappointing.
Theo still hasn't started his medication yet, though. I'm going to wait a few weeks to get worried. Right now I'm just enjoying him. He's so fun. Sometimes he looks so much like his photos from two years ago that I catch my breath. You see, I loved the idea of Theo before I even met him. He's a dream come true.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More about Zhen...

This has been a week of firsts, especially for Zhen. Heck, the past 4 weeks have been a series of firsts for both boys. First train, airplane, taxi, and 15 passenger van rides. First trip to Walmart, Dillon's and church. First snuggle time with brothers and sisters. Awesome!

This week I had food on my mind with Zhen. I can barely count on two hands the times he has choked on seemingly safe foods. My mission is to get this kid safely eating a healthy diet. I'm demonstrating chewing for him in a rather embarrasing and exaggerated way. It seems to be helping.

Last Sunday Zhen ate some pizza! I know, not healthy. But if he is going to fit in with this family he's going to eat pizza on occasion. One night I overcooked some broccoli and Zhen couldn't stuff it in fast enough. Healthy enough? Tonight he got to try some popcorn! It was great fun watching him try it.

Here he is playing with some musical car keys. Precious, delightful boy. He's really so easy to care for. He's been a great blessing to our family.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Theo today.

I can hardly believe that Theo knew what to do with this little toy. I guess it's pretty self explanitory. :)

Still, he is such an unknown entity to me even now, that I marvel at every little skill that he shows me!

Doesn't he look good today? I swear he is fattening up before our very eyes! The docs want me to take him to the "Failure to Thrive" Clinic. I'm not convinced. It's not like it is some huge mystery why he is so tiny.

I just don't want to get sucked into the clinic and therapy black hole. I'm not in a hot hurry anyway. I want to give the boys a chance to get comfy and settled at home. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


My goodness how Zhen has changed in the last two months!

The little Zhenya I met in July was much like a wounded animal. His behaviors initially alarmed me, but I knew from the reading I had done that I should expect certain behaviors. I did a little reading on institutional autism and regular old autism, just to see if that was what we were dealing with. It all boils down to this: we will not think about any diagnoses for a year, at least.

Now, I'm already seeing improvement in his behaviors and disposition! When he was first home, he would crawl away into his room and shut the door. I thought that was a pretty smart way to deal with our big crazy family. We gave him the freedom to explore and choose where to play from day one. Now, more and more, he is choosing to hang out with the rest of the family.

He gives me amazing heartfelt hugs. He really, REALLY wants to be close, but sometimes he can't handle it and ends up ringing my bell with his tough little skull. He got me good tonight and I have the headache to prove it! I'm happy to report that this hardly ever happens anymore. He's really getting the hang of accepting affection!

About Zhen's name. I can't help but feeling that we goofed. We love the name, but people don't know how to say it. God bless them for asking, but half of them get it wrong even after I say it for them a few times. A couple of people don't even try. I just don't want to be irritated with the people I love. If you are reading this, I'm NOT talking about you! :)

The 'zh' in Zhen makes the sound of the 'zs' in the name Zsa Zsa. It's not Zen, that's a little new-age-y for our family. It's not Jen. The good thing is that he knows his name and he does respond to it!

Eating is going well. He hasn't choked on anything in two whole days! All the kids finally understand that you just cannot hand him a banana to eat. It must be mushed or we will have a serious problem. He does a really great job of feeding himself, but he eats extremely fast. Sometimes I like to feed him myself for two reasons: to promote bonding with me as his mother and also to slow him down a bit and encourage actual chewing and enjoyment of his food.

Bedtime and naptime are easy. He sleeps well at night and goes to bed without a fuss. He rests at naptime but I cannot count on him actually sleeping in the afternoon. I'll take quiet rest time over nothing at all. Afternoon quiet time is the key to my remaining sanity!

Zhen continues to crawl gracefully on one knee and one foot. He uses the knee to balance and the foot to propel. He's a smooth crawler. Occasionally I will catch him scooting on his butt. This I will not encourage. I've heard of kids wearing out their pants doing this regularly.

The doctor was really pleased with his physical condition when we saw her today. He will need a heart echo and his eyes checked. She agreed to check him for parasites and lead levels after I related how I experienced him eating anything disgusting he could get his hands on at the orphanage. He doesn't do that here though. Hmmmm.

All in all, Zhen is an easy boy. He's just easy. Easy to feed, easy to entertain, easy to care for. Getting to know the real Zhen, that's a little harder. He's shy. He's timid. He's starting to let me in, though. I like what I see more and more.

He's a keeper.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Theodore is amazing. I love him and his name more and more each day. I love the "adore" part the best. I want to take a few minutes to share a bit about him.

You can't understand how small he is unless you meet him in person. He just has the tiniest ears and nose and hands and everything. He is really the size of a six month old baby, but something about him seems old and wise. Maybe if I can get him chubbed up a little he won't look like a skinny old man.

I didn't know anything about this boy when I first met him, with the exception that I would love him. And I do. I learn something new about him each day. He can roll over. He can flop 180 degrees and fast! I don't yet know how well he can hear, but he can spy a baby bottle like a little hawk! He stiffens up and gets all happy when you hand it to him. If you don't give it to him, be prepared for him to complain loudly!!

After we got home from the hospital last week, I've noticed that he seems stronger. It really struck me today. He loves to stand on my lap. He stands up so straight and tall! This is not typical of the children with Down Syndrome that I know. Theo does not have the rubber chicken legs that Ralph did when he was little. Zhen still has rubber chicken legs at the age of three. I'm just so proud of Theo and looking forward to him getting a little stronger every day from here on out.

Also, I've learned that Theo loves stuffed animals. He grabs them and hugs them close. It is the sweetest thing. He is especially fond of the stuffed Mickey Mouse that he got while he was in the hospital. I don't know who gave it to him, but it is a huge hit. It has lots of interesting colors and it just the right size for his little hands to grab.

Theo can spit. Really spit. He can get me from three feet away!

He hates when his head gets bumped. Sometimes he will be holding a toy and smack himself inadvertently. I've seen him fall over a few times. He does the ugly cry when his head is bumped. It breaks me when he does his ugly cry. I strongly suspect that one particular woman at the orphanage thumped him on the head one too many times. :(

He is a snuggle bug. He likes to be held and rocked. He likes it when I blow raspberries on his neck. He gives me the big smile when I do that!

I look forward to learning even more about Theodore for years to come. I'm thinking of a way to get a camera so that I can share some photos with you again. His appearance is already starting to change!

Tomorrow...all about Zhen!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Theo is home!

I brought Theodore home on Friday night. Finally!

It got to the point that the hospital wasn't doing anything for him that I couldn't do at home. This is very frustrating. It's not the first time I have dealt with this. This time I had the presence of mind to talk to a patient advocate. The advocate helped the doctors and I to get on the same page. Communication is very difficult when you are 200 miles away.

The very last set of tests that were done Thursday on Theo indicate that he is growth hormone deficient. Aha! I doubt if the doctors in Ukraine would have ever had the means to test him for this. I doubt if he has grown at all over the past two years. He might never grow any more without treatment. Could you imagine? 13 pounds?

Growth hormone deficient on top of malnourishment on top of Down Syndrome. This kid had three stikes against him. I believe that I have told you what mothers of imperfect children in Eastern Europe are often told: their child’s disability is a punishment from God for their sin. Because they hear this so often, they struggle to see God as a loving Father.

Here is the truth as stated in the Word -- John 9: 1-4 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Theodore made lots of friends at the hospital. Since I was not able to be there he spent a lot of time hanging out with the nurses, therapists and volunteers. This is not the perfect scenario for a freshly adopted child. How would this impact his ability to bond with me as his mother, I asked myself many times.

However, I had the chance to see the impact that Theo made in the hearts of many of the people he met. I witnessed tears from seasoned medical professionals on several occasions! This was God's plan, not mine. I never would have chosen this particular plan.

But, the whole experience made sense to me at last on Friday. When the endocrinologist came in to speak with me about Theo's test results she started off by shaking my hand and expressing her thanks to me for saving two orphan children from Eastern Europe. Her imperfect English was thickly accented. My mouth was surely hanging open as I asked her where she was from.

Romania. No joke. She worked in Romanian orphanages while she was in training! What are the chances? She understood the psycho-social deprivation that he has endured. None of the other docs seems to take it into consideration, which frustrated me to no end. She explained the test results and we developed a plan of action. It's a new path for us, that is certainly true.

So now, dear friends, let me remind you..."As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." There is much work to be done. More orphan children who need homes. More adoptive families who need support. More people who need to know the truth about God and His unfailing love. Please consider what the Lord would have you do.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday night updates

I was waiting to post until I had some good news to report. I keep telling myself, maybe tomorrow. The tomorrows add up and soon I find that a week has gone by.

Theo is still in the hospital. Hundreds of miles away from home. This sucks. I really miss him. How can that be? He's not been my son for very long, but it just feels like someone is missing around here.

Every day when the kids come home from school they ask me if Theo is home yet. They miss him, too!

Zhen is doing great, for the most part. I just can't get used to the fact that he cannot/will not chew food! I gave him some little tiny pieces of watermelon tonight and I thought I might have to call the paramedics. It was ugly but I finally got him to cough it up.

He really enjoys playing by himself. We try not to force ourselves on him too much, but still encourage him to hang out with everyone else. He's really getting better and spending more time with us. He's very serious so I spend a lot of time trying to get him to laugh or even smile. I hope to see more of those very soon!

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