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!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010 - you were awesome!

We have experienced heaps of blessings this year as a family. This year was all about saving two boys, Zhen and Theo, from a dismal life in an Eastern European mental institution.

They try. They really do, the doctors and staff of the orphanage. There was simply no way they could have known what Theo needed was growth hormone treatment. There is no way they could have provided it for him. His time was running out. I doubt he would have survived another winter.

I get a little choked up when I see how strong and happy he is these days. I love this boy something fierce! Look at the life in those eyes.

And Zhen. So much stronger than many of the children there, physically anyway. Emotionally he was weak. They try. They really do, the doctors and staff of the orphanage. The kids are clothed and fed and pushed around in strollers. There is just not enough staff or time for hugs and snuggles and teaching and toys.

I fall in love with this beautiful boy a little more each day. He's learned to seek and accept affection. When I kiss one cheek, he always offers me the other. He thoroughly enjoys all of the toys in the house, especially the linky rings.

He brought his linky rings to the doctor's office the other day. As he was fiddling with them the doctor asked me if he was getting good at putting them together. I said no. I put them together and he rips them apart.
Just then he brought the rings up right in front of his nose and he snapped them together! Don't you just love it!

Now that Zhen and Theo are home and safe I'll be turning my attention to the "lost children." The children who are left behind. I cannot let myself forget them. I carry an ache around in my heart for them. If the pain ever goes away, if I ever forget them they will cease to exist for me. I won't let that happen.
I don't know what 2011 has in store for us, but I'm looking forward to it a great deal. I cannot wait to see more lost children be found. I cannot wait to see how God moves and shakes. Life just keeps getting richer and more interesting every year!
Happy and blessed new year to you!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First Christmas

I spent some time today reflecting on Zhen and Theo's past Christmases. What were they like? Was there any celebration at the orphanage? I just don't know. I also spent some time thinking of where they might be today if we hadn't gone crazy last year.

Zhen would be turning four next month when he would be moved to a mental hospital. It's a dark place for a timid, frightened little boy. Theo would have been moved last summer and would not likely have survived in the condition he was in. If he had survived, he would be bedridden today and every day. Staring at the ceiling or the bars of his crib.

Praise God! This was not to be. Their lives were redeemed and every time I hear the Christmas story I hear the story of Theo and Zhen. I can hardly think about it without my eyes leaking! It was a miracle and we couldn't have done it without God.

This is certainly their first American style Christmas if nothing else! Does every American boy want a Tonka truck, or what?

Zhen was sure that it was for riding on! I just love the way he gets into a chair or onto a toy by bending over and backing up. It's a total hoot!

Zhen didn't fit so well, but Elmo did.

My little Theo looking so happy and healthy.

He got a vibrating teething toy from Santa. He's got plenty of teeth, although they are a bit ground down. He loves the sensation. I may have to stock up on these!

Showing him how to open a present. He didn't really get it. Neither did Zhen. In fact, after opening his truck, he toddled off to play with it. He was done with Christmas!!

Each day Theo is showing new skills. Today he almost got his knees up under him! He's bending his knees a bit more now when he drags himself across the floor. Some days I wonder if he will ever crawl, and then there are days like today when I have hope. Every teensy tiny advance he makes is like medicine to my heart.

Poor tired but still beautiful Zhen. We do stockings after all the other presents are done. Look what he pulled out of his! Twins!

Here is a present, Theo!
No clue. I'll bet next Christmas is a completely different story. I'm looking forward to next year and all the great things that are in store for my two Ukrainian miracles!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another first!

I cannot imagine that Theodore has ever had a chocolate chip cookie before this very day. I wasn't sure if he was ready for it, but while I was busy baking dad handed him one!!

What do you think? Was he ready? :) (I just think he's a little dreamboat!)

Here comes dad with another cookie!!! This is the face he makes whenever he sees food of any kind.

Give it to him, already!



On a side note, I'm not sure that chocolate after dinner was a good idea. Theo just absolutely would not go to sleep at bedtime. Maybe it was the sugar, maybe the chocolate. I thought a nice warm bath would relax him, but they just get him all excited.
We are looking forward to many more firsts for Theo and Zhen over the next few days. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas letter to an orphan

Shamelessly stolen from a dear friend. You can click on the photos for more information.

Dear little one,

I saw your photo today. You are so adorable! Your eyes are so deep and full of hope.

I love your little smile, I know it must be hard most days to find the strength to smile.

I have heard how little food you have, and that sometimes you have to share food with your friends. What a sweet and giving little person you are!

But I am writing this letter to tell you that I will not be able to help you.

You see my family is happy with the life we are living.

We already have four children and it would just be too much bother to the rest of our family to try and help you. I know that we could get bunk beds and you could share a room with one of our bio kids but really that is no life for either of you.

We have so much going on around here and life would be too chaotic to add another child to our family. We already have two children in dance classes and two that play sports. Christmas is coming up soon and our children already have a Christmas list a mile long of things they simply must have! They have to keep up with their friends when it comes to the latest toys and technology!

I have a ladies night out next week and I have nothing to wear. I really need to purchase a new outfit. I guess I could sponsor you but it will have to wait until next month.

I really need that new outfit and my children are "dying" for some fast food tonight. Good luck to you and I hope that you will find your forever family soon!

Merry Christmas from the Jones family

Friday, December 17, 2010

More miracles...

It's crazy how fast this little dude is changing! Look what I found today:
I know, it's picture of Theo. He's sitting up. Oh wait! He's sitting up! He was just crawling around on the carpet a minute ago.

Transitioning from a prone position to a sitting position is something most babies learn by around the age of 9 months. Typical babies just do it, no big deal. For Theo it's HUGE!

Love, love love!

I just love celebrating every new skill. This kid lived in a cage (tiny crib) for four years. Watching him come alive is so rewarding. *sniff* I mean what are the chances that a tiny little guy like Theo from an Eastern European orphanage would end up in my home in the middle of the U.S.A.? It's so improbable. But, it's really heartwarming. Did I mention how much I love this little one?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jill's Story

Merry Christmas to you dear readers! This is my little gift to you...a gift that I received when I became friends with Donna and her daughter Jill. Because of these friends, I was able to joyfully accept that my son Ralph was born with Down Syndrome. Enjoy!

Jill's story - written by her mother, Donna:

Jill was born in 1964 (back in the dark ages of mental retardation). She was not diagnosed with Down Syndrome until she was 3 months old. There were no tests back then to determine this condition, but we knew she had a developmental disability from birth. Parents just know these things sometimes, don't they?

On a visit to the the pediatrician at 3 months of age, the doctor picked up Jill under her arms. She slipped right through his hands. He said, "Yes, I believe she is retarded. Now, you will need to decide what to do with her. I must advise you that she will probably never be able to walk or talk. Most certainly not be able to read or write. I would advise you to put her in an institution."

I replied, "We have had her as part of our family for 3 months and have learned to love her and see potential in her. We will keep her in our home!"

Jill had a fairly normal life growing up. She just did things a little slower than most kids. She not only learned to walk and talk, but learned to read and write, ski, roller skate, dance, and play the piano. She rode the bus downtown to her job at a bank for several years.

She began taking piano lessons at age 16. We realized the talent she had when she sat at the piano and played melodies with her right hand. It was time for piano lessons! I asked a former student of my husband (who was a music teacher) if she knew of a college student who needed the money and would be willing to take Jill as a piano student. To my surprise she said, "I would!" Jill took lessons for several years, learned to read music and even learned to memorize everything she played.

To this day she practices a half hour every day except Sunday. She has had the opportunity to play all over the state, for many schools, at weddings and parties and at the state fair. We have always had the philosophy that Jill can do anything anyone else can do - it just might take her a little longer. I'm so glad we decided to keep her out of an institution!

***I'll be passing along any kind comments that you have to share with Donna and Jill.***

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My daughter.

I can't sing anymore. I have an OK voice...actually I think I'm pretty good. I just get choked up every time I open my mouth. All my emotions are still so raw. Even singing The First Noel made me weep this morning in church. Not your typical tear-jerker of a song, is it? I guess that is how undone I really am.

My open wounds are for the children I left behind in Eastern Europe. They start to scab over from time to time. Then I can function normally and fit in with the other suburban families suffering from dreamy affluenza in my quiet little town. Then something happens, the scab is ripped off and I'm yanked back into reality again.

A couple of days ago my daughter Rose yanked me back to reality. After looking at some children on the Reece's Rainbow website and praying for them she asked me a question. A question that just about broke my heart. "Mommy, if I was in an orphanage in __ (a certain EE country), would you adopt me?"

What could I say? I had to say yes, didn't I? I said yes.

But what is the real truth?

What if we didn't know about her? What if we didn't feel we could handle another child? What if we couldn't raise the money? What if our income didn't qualify for immigration purposes? What if we made excuses? I went to bed that night completely wrecked and wondering.

Then a few days later I watched this video and the questions in my mind changed. Now the questions were more like...what would I do to be able to get to my daughter??

You see, I do have a daughter in an Eastern European orphanage. Masha. In my heart she is mine. She is one of the least of these. She is royalty. Fearfully and wonderfully made by God. I can't get to her. You call yourself my friend? I need you to get on a plane and get to her! Who will go get her and be a mommy to her for me?

But you don't know her. You have not seen her giggle and dance. Her life isn't affecting you. I know you care and it probably makes you sad that she will be sent to live in a mental institution when she turns four years old next month. But, you'll sleep just fine tonight.

And so will I. And I hate that.

She's so far away. It feels like a dream. Was I even really there? And anyway, I've done my part, right? It's not my problem.

Except that, I'm still a part of the body of Christ. And He has shown me and given me a piece of His heart. And my heart is always going to hurt for the ones left behind. I will always be reaching out, encouraging, preaching, yelling, screaming...until the rest of the body wakes up. And then we will rescue the children like Theo, and Zhen, and Masha, and God will get the glory.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Look at my little big boy!

Today was a good day for my heart. The good news just keeps on coming!

When I woke up today I was greeted by Theodore who was sitting up playing in his bed. He was sitting up! He transitioned from laying down to sitting up!! This is HUGE!

I think he may be about done with the baby seat. What do you think?

Ralphie loves Theo! Theo merely tolerates him! ha!

Theo had a pre-op physical with his pediatrician this afternoon. He is up to 18 pounds from less than 13 in August. That's dramatic considering his size!! Most exciting is that his head circumference has grown at the same rate as his weight and length. Do you get that? His brain is growing!

The visit was a pre-op physical because Theo has an MRI and sedated hearing test scheduled for next Friday. I'm not holding my breath, though. He's been super snotty and coughing a bit. We may have to reschedule. :(

For your entertainment...

I can't forget to tell you how wonderful Zhen is doing. His cheeks are a little red from the cold, dry air. But, I think they are adorable!

Tonight I got down on the floor and taught him how to fly!!! A little tricky balancing him on my feet and taking photos! haha! He's so ticklish this is almost impossible to do!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guess what today is?

Can you guess what today is?

Why, it is Theodore's half-birthday! Any excuse to celebrate, right? I thought about making a cake, but he wouldn't have enjoyed that. Instead he celebrated with apricot baby food! A first for him!!

I had a hard time getting a good photo of him tonight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Ralph would not leave him alone. He kept grabbing Theo's hands or patting his arm. Very sweet, but...a little aggravating when he won't move on to something else after a few minutes.

The second reason I couldn't get a good photo is that Theodore is a world champion spitter. Did you know that is a sport? OK, I'm exaggerating. But not by much. See the apricot splatter pattern on the highchair tray?

I didn't really want to have to clean apricot baby food off of the camera lens. He got my shirt several times!! Good thing he's super cute, right? Now he's officially a super cute 4 1/2 year old boy!

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