"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters
compared to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back in Time

Over nine month ago something really important happened. We walked into a place that would change our lives forever.

We met two sweet angels. This is the first time we met Francesca. Francesca was exactly what I expected. A friend of mine had met her when she adopted her little one, so I knew a lot about her.

and little Victoria, who never, ever smiled. The orphanage director described her as having no spirit. When I first saw her, I was stunned. She was totally shut down and showed no emotions. I would find out later why. We had to decide within a day if we wanted to adopt her. We could choose to leave her. In my mind, there was a huge risk involved.

Victoria's eyes haunted me. When we left the orphanage that day, I couldn't get her eyes out of my mind. We made the decision that we could't leave her, no matter what her abilities would be, she deserved more.

We met with the girls twice a day for two weeks before out court date. Victoria never looked at us. She never smiled or opened her mouth. We thought she had a contracture in her jaw.

She was nothing like we expected. Her hands were clenched so tightly that she could only use her pointer finger.

Victoria didn't know how to hold a toy. Everything terrified her. She would grind her teeth constantly.

I tried laying her down on the floor to see how mobile she was, but she was too afraid to move.

She would lay perfectly still and cover her face, protecting herself in the only way that she knew how.

The first thing she showed interest in was my sunglasses. She was so weak that she couldn't hold her head up for long. Little did we know how malnourished she really was.

This is Victoria's room. There were never any children playing in this room. Everything was always deadly silent. They just lay waiting.

Francesca quickly came out of her shell.

I began to notice that Victoria would look over when I called her name when we came to visit. The caregivers told me she was now a "bad baby" because she cried to get out of the crib.

Even Francesca was so painfully thin. She often had fevers, so we weren't allowed to visit with her. She was so desperate for water that she would lick a drop of water off her hand.

My husband went home after court, so I began the daily visits alone.

The airplane ride  was going to be tough, but I couldn't wait to get them home.

Francesca was so lucky to have caring nannies.

One day they let me feed Victoria her bottle, which had a hole so big, she could barely swallow fast enough. They told me I wasn't allowed to bring her any other food because she would only throw it up later. My heart broke as she wailed for more.

I dreaded going to the orphanage everyday. My spirits were low. I wished I could break all the kids out of there.

Here is Francesca's room. The kids actually got to play and have fun!

Finally, the day came when I could take the girls out of the orphanage. By now, I was worried that Victoria might be too weak to even make the trip home.

Victoria always managed to show a little spunk. Here she is trying to grab the cup away from Francesca.

When I look back on these pictures, I can hardly believe the changes in the girls. Francesca is starting to use the potty, well, sort of. She likes to sit there and contemplate things. 

The speech therapist tested Victoria recently. She is at a 9 month level, which I find ironic, since that is how long she has been home. She has come to life before our eyes. (here she is pulling off her sock, which she finds hysterical)

There was a time I thought she would never eat more than baby cereal. Now, she eats everything! She has had to learn how to use her tongue and her mouth.  When we talk to her, she always pauses for a moment, as if she is taking time to process everything around her in her new world.

She's even eating with a fork on her own! Look at that tummy!

They have learned so much for their siblings (mostly good things!).

Francesca learned to walk once she was home and had gained some muscle strength.

Francesca is getting braver about trying new things. She is more genuine in her feelings too. She used to try to be happy all the time, now she lets her guard down and her screams out! She's not afraid to show real sadness (I think she is sad in the picture because she is wearing a clown outfit).

Victoria is a daredevil.

I never thought Victoria would be so mobile.

They are quite a load to carry around now! Victoria is actually heavier than Francesca (and little Catherine too!)

Since Victoria didn't have her cleft palate repaired until she was over two, she has had a hard time learning to speak.  She can say the "b" sound now, but only if we hold her nose! She will do it right on cue though, especially for a cookie.

Learning to blow into a harmonica has helped her build up her breath sounds, plus, it's fun!

She has gotten so mobile, that we put a helmet on her in case she decides to let go.

Here's something else I didn't think she would ever catch on to....blowing bubbles. I had to work with her for many weeks, but she figured it out! With these bubbles, she has to remember to squeeze the bunny to make the bubble wand come up.

Here is she pretending to feed her cow some cereal. Another huge step for her because she never used to mimic us. Now she follows me with her eyes where ever I go. She actually turns her head when I call her name. For the longest time, we thought she couldn't hear us, but since she was never spoken to, she just didn't know that a human voice meant anything.

Oh, yea! I can open my mouth wide now!

Francesca is making the sign for cracker. As you can imagine, she catches on to food signs lickety split!

We are so blessed by our angels! They have taught me so much, crazy hair and all!  


  1. Praise God Vicki Lou and Frannie May are your children. I know these last nine months have been in the trench months. I remember meeting them at the apartment and how scared I was for Victorias life. Love you and all the kids!

  2. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!

  3. They have changed so much! I forgot how skinny and malnourished they both were.... One of the best days in my life was to be able to meet you and hold those babies. :)

  4. They are beautiful. Thank you so much for allowing us to follow along as they learn and grow!

  5. So awesome Catherine!! Thanks for bringing all of us along on your journey - i have been blessed because of you!

  6. Cryin! I remember so much of this as I read along then. My heart hurts so much thinking of the ones who are left behind, but I believe that by sharing your story as you do and how wonderfully the girls are doing, that more hearts will be moved.
    One question though....we need those bubbles! Where do you get "belly squeezing bubbles?"

    Amy (Heidi's Mama)

    1. Thanks Amy! We got the bubbles at Kroger!

  7. OH! I'm in tears! And I never cry!! These girls are so beautiful and special. And so are you. :)

  8. Such beautiful babies, I love watching their progress.

  9. I remember reading your blog when you were in the orphanage. That's how I found it, actually - I checked the RR "traveling now" page, saw your Victoria (I had been praying for and following her - you're right, her eyes are haunting. And the sadness and loneliness in her original RR photo haunted me, too) and saw you had a blog to follow, and I was so happy I would get to watch her become part of a family. I'm so, so, so glad you took her, that you didn't get scared and back out. I pray I can walk in your footsteps someday and bring an orphan, or orphans, into our home- what a beautiful gift to get to watch the life come back into your child's eyes. I can't even imagine, but I hope someday, I'll get to know. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  10. Thank you for sharing your sweet girls with us! I cannot believe how much both girls have changed in the past 9 months! I can't wait to see what else God has in store for them.

  11. Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, I always look forward to a new post from you:)

  12. I came across your blog about 9 months ago (can't remember how now, but I use a RRS Feed to keep upto date!) and I am now looking at this post and seeing how far your beautiful girls have come, it is just amazing and has brought a tear to my eye.
    I had a special needs child, but I seriously wouldn't be able to do what you do. I am in awe of you and your family.
    The world needs more people like you.


  13. This is one of those posts that make me melt into my chair and dissolve into a mix of tears and smiles. You go girls!

  14. Great post. I love reading all those accomplishments. Francesca's fingers are looking good. Are they all healed up now?

  15. It's amazing to see what God has done!


  16. Awesome post!!! It's amazing how much they have changed. A true testimony of how love affects our life. God is good!

  17. I started reading your blog when you were getting your girls from e.u., and I remember your post about wondering if V would ever smile or be happy. When I read it, all I could picture is the little girl we see now - chubby, smiling and full of life! I prayed my vision would become Vs reality.
    Amazing how much love ( and food! But mostly love) can change a life.

  18. AMAZING. I too remember being scared about Victoria making it home just by looking at her pictures. She looked so fragile and lifeless. God is so good!!

  19. Wow, so great to see the changes! Are you able to send any pictures back to their orphanage?

  20. TEARS OF JOY! AMAZING! The changes are fantastic and in such a short time, so happy for your precious adorable little miracles! I love reading your blog!

  21. Just amazing seeing how well they have done with Love & Care.

  22. See what love and good food can do! Amazing! Sweet little girls!

  23. What sweet girls! I am in love with these kids.

    Have you ever done a post on your travels to adopt Isabella or little Catherine? As a semi-lurking fan, I'd love to hear those tales and how all of your wonderful kids came into the family.

  24. I love reading your blog, it always put a smile on my face.
    Your girls are so beautiful and all of you are truly blessed with each other.

  25. What beautiful SUPER HEROES!!

    I can't believe its only been 9 months? hey are going to do some AMAZING things!! Well, they already have!! Just imagine what they will do if they can come this far in 9 months!! Are you able to communicate how they are doing to the orphanage where they were? They need to know what the children they are starving to death are capable of.

  26. All I can say is ... WOW!!! Absolutely amazing!!!

  27. GOD IS GOOD! I cannot get over the changes in just 9 months!!! This brought me to tears!

    Question - I don't think I've ever caught it on here but how old are the girls? How old were they when you adopted them? I ask because I assume they're older than they look, as many orphans do.

    1. Victoria is 2 1/2 now and Francesca turned 3 in Feb.

  28. Thank you so much for this post! God bless your family for adopting. You have a blessing of a husband :)


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