Thursday, November 30, 2006

New photo - Josh and Grace

Papa with Gracie on a canoe on the Liberian shore.

The child LOVES the water!

We're all exhausted after too many long days and two few naps! Gracie is making great progress already with lots of TLC, although she's also developping her personality more and pushing limits! It's good to see her exploring and even challenging a little as she clearly is comfortable that we are her parents. It's clear that she will need every form of therapy available and we are excited to see how she grows and develops over the next year - surely in leaps and bounds!

She fortunately eats everything and is at the point where her meals only take an hour as we figure out what textures of foods are easiest on her. I'm still not sure if we're feeding her enough and hydrating her enough! But we'll come into it!

I am giving seminars to the nannies at the orphanage on various health topics and that is quite enjoyable, although a challenge to switch from the mode of giving talks to colleagues in the medical field to individuals in a different country who speak a different English from mine who have no medical training at all!

We are otherwise enjoying the heat, the surprise holiday yesterday (former President Tubman's birthday) and trip up country a bit to an old mine turned into a lake (one of the hottest days of our lives!!), and time with friends here. We are blessed with fantastic hosts in the guesthouse who love the Lord and provide us with many challenging spiritual conversations.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Photo

Mama and Gracie in her first swimming pool on Sunday November 26, 2006.

Pray for Gracie

Hi, friends - please pray for Gracie (and parents) - she has a fever and belly pain - she was crying through the night (nearly killed me!). Pray that it's NOT malaria!

Also, many are asking about her sizes:
She wears a 18-24 month top, 18 month bottoms, size 5 shoes at the biggest. She is VERY skinny, so pants don't really stay on her very well. She has pierced ears and beautiful long hair!

She loves milk and "Liberian food" (as in rice) but has eaten everything that we have put into her mouth.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend in Liberia

It was hard to remember that it was Thanksgiving weekend. Pennsylvania is gearing up to hunt... what a distant thought in a land of living day to day!

We had a thanksgiving dinner with a missionary family (and many others). This is a time full of firsts for Gracie and it is so fun because she is able to actively enjoy all her firsts. She enjoyed her ham, turkey, beans, and pumpkin pie (among all the other firsts at that meal).

Friday we went to the office and arranged the first several days of our schedule and discussed the challenging logistics of how to teach useful topics to different members of orphanage staff. We then also visited the orphanage for the first time and Gracie (dolled up a bit) received a warm welcome - she was clearly well enjoyed by staff and kids alike. "Little G" and "G-G" and strains of her favorite song rang out as she arrived with her parents!

Yesterday (Saturday) we participated in "intake day" at the office - I found it heart wrenching to encounter so many mothers presenting their children for adoption and to take one of the very ill children away from his mother for good. Her face looked so grieved and anguished, I will never forget it. The baby then fell asleep in Josh's arms for a bit but woke up later and was so extremely distressed to not see his mother around.

I did medical evals on several kids with special needs and enjoyed my time playing with the kids as well as preparing as complete as possible medical information for prospective parents.

Today (Sunday) we attend a local Baptist church with friends. We had a wonderful time and Grace was absolutely enraptured with the music, dancing, drums, and joy in the Lord. We, of course, make for an interesting spectacle. But Grace rewards all comers with an infectious smile and her obvious disabilities make people much more sympathetic and even glad for her to be in an American home.

After church, Grace had her first swimming experience - we were invited out to this exotic and luxurious complex of foreign investors to swim in their swimming pool and the adjacent beach. Grace LOVED the water and I think we are well on our way to aquatherapy!

We have noticed that Grace is getting stronger already, day by day. Our horseplay, feeding of different foods, use of sippy cup (took us a long while to get that down) instead of the open cup, and helping her position her body to maintain herself (on her elbows centered under her shoulders when on her belly, hips and knees and feet centered and planted for standing, sitting with supporting her weight on the table in front of her to play with objects on the table... all these (and 2 on 1 attention) seem to already have strengthened her.

So much for a week with just spending time with Gracie! We started working after one day with Gracie and will likely work up until the day that we leave! There is much to be done here and Gracie is such a flexible, adaptable, joyfilled child, that she allows us the luxury. (Our next challenge to work on getting her into a routine!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Family of Three!

We are in Liberia - the electricity goes in and out because the generator is having trouble keeping up these days! So hopefully it will stay on long enough to post and the internet connection will allow me this luxury!

We were united with precious Gracie on Thanksgiving day - I will write more about this later. But, oh! is Gracie a joy! She is so beautiful, so joyfilled, and a bit mischievious. Her physical limitations do not permit her to accomplish much mischief, but we can tell that she is trying to push some limits already. If we were not in love with her already, she is irresitable and such a treasure and blessing from God. In our two days together, she has not cried once. She spends most of her days smiling, she loves to snuggle (good match for us!), and has the most contagious laugh!

Life takes more effort for her - her cerebral palsy is moderate and every activity is a challenge and is clearly tiring for her. Meal times (which she loves) take a long time and much patience and diligence to ensure that she gets enough food and drink. There is often coughing and sputtering as her mouth's movements work against herself, pushing the food out instead of in, keeping her from sucking and chewing effectively. Sippy cups and bottles don't work (yet) for her mouth, so for the moment, it's regular cup with caution and patience!

She probably doesn't understand our strange English, but she does understand, "dis yo ma and pa?" and rewards any mention of mama and papa with a huge smile and a glance at the appropriate parent with her huge brown eyes. She understands that much!

She awoke on her first morning with us with a beautiful sleepy face and as her eyes opened as she was snuggled between us in bed she saw my face and gave me a beautiful smile and instantly turned her head to see Josh's face and give him a beautiful smile. The smile said, "I wasn't dreaming! you're still here!" She then immediately pushed herself up on her hands and starting playing with our faces and her little bear blanket.

She seems to already have made some progress with improving stregnth daily as we play nonstop with her which strengthens her muscles AND gives her the stimulation that she may have not received since she was an infant, if then. 2 on 1 attention has kept her wired and giggling for two days straight, and not very eager to settle down for bed!

I could write for hours about our gem. We are in for great challenges as we get her the therapies that she needs. But the joy of seeing her little face light up when she sees her "ma" or her "pa" and her little arms reaching out to us with exuberance and the joy of telling her Bible stories and praying with her is phenomenal. No news to you who are parents, but delightful nonetheless!

Please pray for her health, her development, our wisdom, and God's providence as we endeavor to change the world for this one child day by day, to bring her up to the glory of God, and teach her of God's grace in her daily life.

We are also diving right into work here - there is work to be done and no time to waste! I'll be doing some medical evals on some special needs children and lots of teaching to various members of the orphange team to start with. We'll keep you updated!

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