Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Gentle Girl

You may remember these photos from the post I wrote while still in country. If not, let me introduce you ...
This is Lorie, well - at least that is her photo listing name on the Reece's Rainbow website (www.reecesrainbow.org).
She is five years old, and was born with CP and a spinal hernia (surgically removed) that has left her with weak muscles and lower limbs. I was able to meet Lorie many times, and was quite touched by her sweet spirit. She has expressive eyes, and those eyes still tug at my heart.She is often found rocking or trying to console another one of the babies in her groupa. She smiles easily, feeds herself, and can walk if you hold both of her hands and help her.
One afternoon, as I arrived at Ivanna's groupa for afternoon visit, Lorie was at the door - sitting on the floor. She saw me and crawled to me. I reached out for her hands, she grabbed ahold and I sort of lifted her up to her feet. There she stayed, for a few minutes. Then I walked her back into the groupa and set her down as they handed Ivanna to me. Lorie cried. It was the first tie I heard her do so. It broke my heart. Oh, let me tell you - it is hard to go day after day encountering sick babies and children in such dire need of love and attention. I somehow felt bad that Ivanna was going outside, being loved on for four hours a day, and Lorie was not. Lorie is in the same groupa that Ivanna was in. The "sicker" groupa, the one that does not take outdoor trips, or have much visitors. While this is heart wrenching enough, Lorie is turning six in May. What does this mean? In this particular orphanage children are due to be transferred to a full blown mental institution at age six.
Lorie is running out of time.
I can't imagine what awaits her once transferred.

This sweet girl, who can't walk, but wiggled her way into my heart.

You can find Lorie's information on www.reecesrainbow.org
You can help by spreading the word about Lorie on your Facebook wall, or blog. You can donate to her grant, in an effort to help a family be able to commit to her, and you can pray for Lorie. If someone was either paper ready or even started the process now - you could rescue Lorie from being transferred.

Lorie. She is a gentle girl. A sweetheart of girl.
A REAL girl, with a REAL need.
I pray that hearts will be burdened for her.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Have you ever prayed for something so fervently, but yet it still felt far off? Have you ever been so broken over an issue or situation that you awake through the night to take it to the Lord, while you weep? That was me throughout this adoption process, but especially during the beginning stages. I remember being so impacted upon learning of the plight of these orphans that it deeply put a burden on my heart - as if I could almost feel the heaviness. No matter the sequence of that day's events - I could not escape that burden. That heaviness. It often brought me to tears - which I could only turn over to Christ in continual prayer.
Then there were times that the faces I saw on my computer screen seemed so afar off that they almost became unreal to me. If it were not for other adopting family's journaling their "Gotcha Days" and in country experiences - it may have continued to feel that way. It was these stories, paired with the real burden and the ability to see and hold my little Justus that continued to keep it all real.
Then the day came that we travelled and got to see Max and Ivanna for the first time. I could not adequately describe to you the feeling that welled up inside me to see them that very first time. I still think back to that day in awe. They were REAL, and the burden that God placed upon our hearts for them was REAL. There was meaning to the six months of paperwork, approvals, and money spent. There was a REAL reason for our fervent prayers. That day my burden took a new twist. It was not just to go and see them, touch them, hold them but it became more pressing to RESCUE them. Now, not only were mine eyes affecting my heart - but I could smell the smells of that place, see the years of neglect upon my sweet Ivanna and all I wanted to do - was get them out. As we were in country, we could not speak to the things that we were concerned over - not wanting to invite any raised eyebrows while still in the midst of the adoption process. However, it was VERY apparent with regards to Ivanna that she had spent a majority of her life in a crib. She was dopey from meds (that was obvious) she was dehydrated, limp (not wanting to sit up on her own), not vocal, and she had a bit of a bald spot on the back of her head from what I assume is laying down ALOT. Her hands were red, chapped and had scabs on her thumb, and she was so skinny, so frail, and she smelled terribly. I cried at the sight of her. The orphanage doctor asked why I cried. I replied that it was because I had dreamt of seeing them both. Partly true. I also had a breaking heart at the sight of my sweet Ivanna. My flesh, wanted to take her away from that place that very instant. Yet, I know that as far as orphanages are concerned - the one we went to is considered a good one. Clean, well kept, offering outdoor walks and play time to MOST of the children. Just not Ivanna's groupa. I think that they really believe it is best for them. I believe that they think these children are so frail, and can't do much of anything besides be bedridden. A lack of education resulted in REAL neglect. A REAL reason and need to be taken out of that.
Three weeks. That's not a lot of time, really. However, three weeks home for Max and Ivanna and this is what it yields:
Ivanna - she has gained nearly two pounds, stands and pulls herself up onto the couches, is becoming SO vocal that she is constantly making some sort of noise, goes potty after meals on the potty chair, eats like a champ (when we first tried in orphanage, she would not even take a bottle), smiles and giggles constantly, seeks to be the center of attention, is always crawling and she is walking more and more.
Max - also goes potty on the potty chair after meals, loves to play the piano very sweetly and gently, is working on chewing crackers one bite at a time without gorging himself, reflux is sort of improving - but we are still looking into this, gave me hugs and kisses for the first time just a couple days ago!
Imagine what the rest of their life being apart of a family will yield? We praise the Lord for it all.

Pretty girl, gaining weight is a fun endeavor for her! She is a big fan of eating!

One thing that was a recurrent topic of discussion for my little Ellie and myself was how she was so excited to teach Ivanna to walk. Well, Ellie girl - that too is REAL. I snapped these pictures this morning as Ellie got to help Ivanna walk. Yes, you see all kids in PJ's and bedheads. =)

Oh, and runny noses. LOL - after all, this post title is 'REAL'

This picture is sobering to me. Ellie and Ivanna are only one month apart, both girls are five.

Every morning, the children eat oatmeal. It is mushy enough that they do not choke, yet textured enough to offer fiber, etc. I will give Ivanna a bottle, then Max a small bottle with his reflux med in it while I feed Justus oatmeal. I then, feed Max until there is just a bit left in his bowl. I will then allow him to take over. He is learning to not try and gorge himself, but pace his spoonfuls. I am not sure why, but this seems to be common with children coming out of orphanages - gorging and shovelling in the food so fast. While Max is working on feeding himself, I clean up Justus and put Ivanna in the highchair where I feed her oatmeal. Busy? Yes, but I remind myself just how blessed I am to be so busy.

I know this is a long post, and I apologize for it. I just felt the need to remind those who are contemplating the adoption process, or in the midst of it - that it is WORTH it all. These children are REAL, the need is REAL, and perhaps God has put this burden on your heart so that you too can realize the blessings of having the ability to offer a home to a child who so desperately needs one. Don't lose sight of that. If you are in the midst of the process, I know it can become paperwork focused, or fundraising hectic, but keep your sights on Christ - for He placed this REAL burden upon your heart ... He will REALLY provide all things to see it accomplished.
Praising Christ for allowing our REAL burden to become REAL praise!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Things are going well here in the Browning house. A little hectic at times, but that's not new. Max and Ivanna are adjusting, and so is everyone else. The children have been home now for a little over two weeks. We have noticed the most change in Ivanna so far; who by the way is currently sitting in my lap watching as I type. It is just her and I up late - and now I am learning my lesson on allowing her to have late naps. ;)

Ivanna seems to be finding her voice. She often grunts or make other noises. We didn't see her do much of this prior to being home - so we think she is just sort of getting used to making noises. She doesn't seem upset or angry, just making noises.

She also is crawling EVERYWHERE! Her favorite place to be is in my kitchen, perched at just the spot that I make her bottles, as if to tell me to get busy!

Another new accomplishment for Ivanna is that of enjoying baths. She absolutely hated them when she first came out of the orphanage. We suspect they sponge bathed her. She screamed the whole time we bathed her. Not now. She LOVES them. She splashes and crawls around in the tub.

Is it just me, or does her color look better? She is also packing on the pounds. She truly is blossoming already. It is quite astounding to be apart of her becoming more healthy.

Ivanna is not impressed with my obsession of hair pretties for my girls. Watch as she shows me what she thinks of the whole thing...

This is when I put it back in her hair. Ohhhh ... but that little pout is adorable.

Ivanna wasn't about to smile anymore for me.

Max sucks his little fingers all the time. We are now trying band aids on them to prevent him from doing so, but then he just goes to the other hand. Any suggestions?

Max is so very inquisitive. He is trying to touch the camera here. He just wants to figure everything out.

I have a feeling that Justus and Max are going to be best buds.

Super Cuteness!

Max is doing great. He had a swallow test done on Thursday, but I have to tell you - it was a bit frustrating. There was nothing "swallow" about it. They put a feeding tube down his nostril and then strapped him to a board to see the barium on their monitor down his esophagus, in his stomach and intestine. I thought the whole point of the "swallow test" was to see him swallow and to see if he aspirates. You see, when he drinks liquid, he immediately gurgles, coughs and throws up. He also has a bit of reflux when he eats. So, the test came back normal - and now I am just perplexed. He has been given reflux meds - but they are not helping. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Appreciate the prayer and all the sweet comments. I hope your Christmas is a blessed time with family and friends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our Christmas Miracle

Today was a busy day. We were able to take both Max and Ivanna into the pediatric cardiologist for a check on their hearts. Since nearly 60% of children with Down syndrome are born with congenital heart defects (like Justus was) this is an important appointment generally speaking. We were also aware of the big possibility that Ivanna had an untreated/unrepaired heart defect prior to the adoption being finalized. The embassy physician also stated that she heard a significant murmur when she listened to her chest. With all this - I was a bit anxious to see what the cardiologist (which, btw I think is the BEST EVER) had to say.
Both Max and Ivanna had echo cardiograms done, as well as some other procedures. Afterward we scurried back into the waiting room to await the results. The physician walked in, and began with these words ... "I think you guys have a Christmas Miracle on your hands..."
** Big Smile **
She started with Max. He has what is referred to as Patent Foramen Ovale. Basically, in the upper chamber there is a little wall that is open when an infant is born - but closes off eventually. His has not yet closed and is 2.9mm big. Translation: no big deal. If it remains open: no big deal. So, that was a relief.
Then ... Ivanna. She also has a Patent Foramen Ovale - and it also is 2.9 mm big. Guess what? No big deal. (Praise the Lord!) Then she cocked her eyebrow, and smiled big. She said "This is where it gets interesting..."
She went on to tell us how they could tell from the picture that Ivanna was born with VSD - a hole in the lower chamber. Justus had that also, apart of the TOF he had. Unlike Justus, the VSD that Ivanna was born with was in a location that NEVER is known to close on it's own by growing tissue to cover the hole. She went on to say that they could see that the hole was about 12 mm big. The doctor's eyes got big and expressed to us that this was a significant hole. When Ivanna was born, still an infant, she had a hole in her heart that was approximately the size of a dime. The doctor went on to say that Ivanna should have immediately been put on medication, and had open heart surgery at six months old.
Here is where the miracle comes into play ...

Ivanna's little heart ... began to heal on it's own. What is known to never happen, happened. The tissue grew. You see in the above picture - a piece of tissue sort of grew out and around to work and cover up the big, gaping hole. All that is left is a tiny hole that is 1.7 mm.
This is a MIRACLE!
The doctor told us that she does not know how Ivanna survived. She said that Ivanna, by all accounts, should have died without that repair to her heart.
Of course, we know that the GREATEST of physicians reached down and healed little Ivanna's heart. We know that God, himself, sustained her health just enough. We know that He kept her heart beating without the needed medication. We know that HE is the GREAT sustainer of life. We know HE is to be praised for this Christmas MIRACLE.

That's not all. Ivanna's heart shows no trauma. That is amazing in and of itself. Her heart is not enlarged from the extra effort to keep it going. There is no pulmonary hypertension - which astounds me. There is no need for medication or intervention what-so-ever. Just another check in a year to be sure she is on track.
I am still in awe of the fantastic news of such a story. I think this tiny, little Ivanna is going to continue to bring honor and glory to our Lord in magnificent, and unexplainable ways.
Now ... here are some more random pictures of late.

Max, clearly has good taste in literature. "The Open Door" by Mrs. J.L. Ragsdale is an incredible true story about a couple who serves the Lord by starting a children's home in the mountains. Very inspiring...

My sweet little Ivanna. She has already gained at least one pound since home. She is now 23 lbs.

Max is doing great. Here he is on his big brother's shoulders. He is still struggling with reflux and he has a swallow test scheduled for Wednesday. He weighs in at 26 lbs.

Isaac showing Max the tree.

We appreciate the on going prayer for everyone during the adjustment period. Both kids have now been to the pediatrician and cardiologist. We now have several other appointments with specialists for sight, hearing, and other things. Once we get past the appointments, and start them on the road of health - then things can find a normal pace. Ivanna continues to be a little piggy and is doing fantastic in learning to chew, holding her own bottle, and just taking in all the sights. Max also loves to eat, but we have to pace him a bit. He is loving puzzles, and is VERY good at them.

We hope you are enjoying this blessed Christmas season by enjoying family and friends. We praise God for the Christmas Miracle He has wrought in little Ivanna!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do you remember Brian?

Well, sweet Brian has a family now working hard to bring him home. They are also very dear friends of ours. The Burger family is having a blog auction starting today. Please, go to their blog and check it out. Do little Brian a favor and cross post on your FB page and if possible, your blog. He just turned five on Thanksgiving, and the Burger family is trying hard to bring him home before he is transferred to an institution.
The blog:


They will be adding more items over the next few days, so check back often. Perfect Christmas shopping opportunity. Gifts that have a double blessing - and a meaning. Make sure to go through older posts, and keep the Burger family in prayer as they seek to honor Christ in this adoption.

The Burger family is also selling pans of lasagna to local families. I am excited! This busy mom has ordered two pans, and not having to make dinner - well - that is AWESOME! They are also teaming with the Potvin family (working on fundraising for committment fees) and having a Christmas Bazaar at their home this evening - and I think they are selling baked goods as well. I would suggest contacting Sheri Burger for details. Please consider any one (or all three) fundraiser events as I know it is an encouragement!

Our family is THRILLED for them and for little Brian. How truly blessed the Burgers will be to add an 'extra leaf' to their family!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ivanna and Max

Well, both children have been home five days now. They are doing really well. Sure, there are adjustments that we all are getting used to. However, considering the big change - it is going great. I think the biggest surprise for me as a mother isn't the work load from having eight children as much as having what feels like three babies/toddlers around. Yes, Max and Ivanna are both five - but much of their behaviors is like having an infant or toddler. So, considering that Justus is only nineteen months - things get a bit hairy at times, especially during meal times. LOL.

There are some things that I am finding out now that the children are home. For instance, Ivanna is super easy to care for. She hardly fusses and usually just wants to cuddle. I am finding it difficult to keep her hands out of her mouth, and so for this reason - we put socks on her hands. When Phillip got her from the orphanage, he said she stunk so bad from her hands constantly being in her mouth - that he so desired to bathe her right away. Also, she has a thing for taking strings or socks or anything that is long and shoving it in her mouth and down her throat until she gags. I knew this prior to leaving the orphanage. I saw it for myself one day as I walked into the main groupa area to pick her up. She was laying in one of those big playpen crib type things and they had a string tied to the rail. No one else was around, and there was tiny Ivanna - swallowing that string and gagging it back up - over and over. I freaked and called out. The babushka entered and didn't seem to care or be bothered by it. The other thing I notice is that she doesn't seem to focus on anything very long. In fact, her eyes sort of flicker or slightly twitch just a bit. Concerning. The last thing that breaks my heart and speaks volumes is the fact that when I place her in her crib, and she isn't ready to fall asleep - she goes right into institutional behavior. She rocks herself violently, bouncing her head back and forth sharply as if to give herself a little bounce. She also hits her head. I can't stand it, and so if I see that she isn't falling asleep - I take her out. She has spent enough time in a crib. Consequently, she hasn't napped for the last three days. If anyone has any suggestions as to the behavior - I welcome them. I would especially like to hear from those who have adopted children with similar tendencies. One more thing - I discovered tonight that she must never had been taught how to chew. I hold a cracker up to her mouth, and she struggles to put her mouth down on it, then very tenderly takes a bite. I know these things will get better with time, and even if they do not- I am not concerned. I just mention them in seeking advice or thoughts. Considering what Ivanna had gone through in her life, she is doing quite well. I love that skinny Minne with all I have. I want to see her get healthy.

Max is doing well. He also likes to suck on fingers, but his are a bit more raw. We have tried the socks with him, but he just rips those right off. Band aids seem to do the trick. He also hasn't really been taught to chew, so we are just doing baby foods with him right now. His reflux was really bad while still in orphanage. It has gotten better here, and I am wondering if it is because we thicken his foods with rice cereal. He also has a bad, deep cough that crops up every here and there. I read that the reflux could cause upper resp. problems. So, we will see about all that. Other than that, Max is a go getter. He loves to get into the dog food, shut all my cabinet doors and throw the ball into the Christmas tree. LOL!! He also is such a sweet little guy. He laughs and smiles so easily. He is just precious.

I am leaving you with a video I took of Ivanna trying to chew. I just think it is interesting and want to continue to chronicle this journey, as I am sure they will be making great strides of accomplishment.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Our First Thanksgiving

Today was our first full day together. It went well. We also celebrated Thanksgiving, since last week Phillip, Isaac, Max and Ivanna were still in Europe. It was surreal to see all eight children around my table. I feel so unworthy of such blessings. I truly do.

All around the table.

Getting loves from Daddy

Gabriel playing with Ivanna
Max and his sisters - who are really his "little" sisters! LOL.

Max loves this balloon.
We had a wonderful meal together, and a great day. I can't tell you how full my heart is. When I feed Ivanna her bottle, or lay Max down and tuck him in - I just can't get over the awe of it all. I know that this adoption would never had happened without God's leading, directing, provision and care. This is why I am so grateful.
Ivanna is doing very well with transitioning. She LOVES all the attention, and actually seeks it out. She likes to hold your hands and have you walk around with her walking. I have been feeding her baby food and formula bottles with rice cereal to make it more substantial. I can't wait to see her gain weight. Folks, she is SO tiny. She can easily wear a size 2T and size three shoe.
Max is doing well also. Although, in comparison with Ivanna, he is having a bit more difficult time adjusting. I think with the adjustment to the time change, and getting use to all the faces, things will become a bit easier for him. He is such a joy. His little eyes sparkle and he truly loves to laugh. He is also tiny, yet unlike Ivanna - walks and gets around without a problem. He currently likes figuring out the dog dish. I personally think he just likes to see my reaction to him flinging dog food everywhere! ;)
I will try and post here and there about their adjustment (and ours) ;)
I will be blogging more about family things on our family blog: www.thebrowningbeat.blogspot.com
This blog will remain open, and as I mentioned above - used for how Ivanna and Max adjust, but also for advocating for other children and families, as well as anything else that could be helpful in the adoption community or regarding Down syndrome.
Thank you for the on going support and encouragement.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Phillip, Isaac, Max and Ivanna arrived today at the airport. Their flight was an hour delayed, and immigration took a long time. I, along with my sister and the kids, waited at the baggage claim. As we waited, two of the stewards (sp?) who attended the flight came over to me and wanted to affirm that I was the wife of the man with the two newly adopted children and older son which had just landed. I nodded my head and said that I was. Then these two ladies went on and on in their beautiful German accent of how special our family was, how it truly touched their hearts, and how it was so emotional to see and hear of the adoption. All I could do was thank them and praise God for how He continues to touch hearts.
Then we waited some more.
Finally my beloved rounded the corner with Isaac heading up the crew. We all ran over to them and talked and hugged in a big rush. It was beautiful!
Here are some pictures that my sister graciously took. They are a bit blurry, but still so precious to me because of the recording of the event.
Chloe trying to wait so patiently ... trying!

Isaac rounds the corner!

We all rushed to them as soon as we saw them!

It was SO good to see my sweet husband!

Happy boy!

Sweet Ivanna is so tired and ready to get out of the stroller!

Funny girl

Chloe LOVES Max! She wouldn't leave him alone and was quite persistent in holding his hand.

Sweet picture. Now, look at the size of these two. Cloe is three. Max is almost six. He is a tiny guy!


I am so full of joy. To be able to finally load up our car with my sweet babies that I have dreamt of for nearly seven months! This moment was AWESOME!

Aunt Jessica holds Ivanna for the first time.

She is so popular with her sisters and cousin.

Aunt Donna is feeding Ivanna.

Jessica said this was so special to her.

Max had fallen asleep on the way home. (it took us forever because of terrible traffic) So we carted him right off to bed.... poor lil boy.
My heart is full of joy and thankfulness. Tomorrow we will relax as a family of TEN and have our Thanksgiving. I so look forward to just snuggling and cuddling all day, and counting my blessings and naming at least some of them one by one ...
... Isaac, Gabriel, Ethan, Max, Ellie, Ivanna, Chloe, and Justus.
Thank you LORD!


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