CP Connection #1

Stumbo Family Story

We load up the girls in the van, then I fold Nina’s walker while Andy folds her “pixie-dust” blue wheelchair. Once we are all packed in the vehicle, Andy reaches for the glove compartment to make sure we have the handicap tag.

“I never thought I would be one of those parents.” He says looking through the rearview mirror as we back up the driveway.

“What do you mean?” I ask puzzled.

“You know, the parent that has a wheelchair in the trunk and the kid with a disability…Two kids with a disability!”

“Ha! Yeah, me neither.”

“Now it is just part of life.” He adds.

“I cannot even imagine what our life would be like if we were…normal!”

We laugh. We have come a long way as we learn to do life with special needs. Down syndrome has been enjoyable, almost easy compared to Cerebral Palsy. The equipment and physical strength can take a toll on our bodies sometimes. The simple tasks now mastered by Nichole, who has Down syndrome, are difficult still for Nina, who has Cerebral Palsy and is 5 years old.

Two years ago, when Nina joined our family through international adoption, all we knew about Cerebral Palsy came from books. We thought we were ready, prepared to tackle her special needs. Yet, actually parenting a child with Cerebral Palsy is not something you learn in a book, it is something you do. For example, I knew all the stretches I needed to do with her, but finding enough time became a challenge, along with the reality of the painful experience stretching is, and how against it Nina would be.

Spastic Diplegia were words I did not have in my vocabulary before I had Nina. Now, those words feel so intimate, so personal. I care about what color Nina’s forearms crutches will be. I push for her to take some independent steps, and try not to be frustrated when she gives up. But we keep working at it, we press on.
No, we never thought we would be one of “those parents.” Although it can be hard, it can be so good! The celebration of milestones cannot be compared. The pride of seeing your child achieve something they have worked so hard on is joyfully intoxicating. 

And we like being one of “those parents.” The flashes of color we experience because of our girls are better than being "normal." We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 Now it is your turn, if you blog about Cerebral Palsy, link up! 
But don't forget to copy the "CP Connection" button and add it to your blog post!
You can read more about the linking on this post.

Missing Limbs, Empty Boxes

Zoe's class did a project about family in their Religion workbooks yesterday.  They were to fill out a family tree form -- mother's side, father's side.  And then there were boxes in which they were asked to put traits they had inherited from their parents.  Great.  THIS again.

Zoe filled out the mother's side of the family tree, and left the father's side blank. She showed her tree to the boy sitting next to her, and complained to him that her family tree was dull since she didn't have a dad.  He was puzzled:  "You don't have a dad?"  Nope.  He didn't get it:  "How can you not have a dad?!"  Zoe didn't really explain it, saying, "I just don't."

Then Zoe went to talk to her teacher, asking what she should do about the boxes for inherited traits, since "I wasn't born from my mom."  Now, this is something her teacher knows, that Zoe's adopted.  How could he not know, right, since she's Chinese and I'm not?!  He told her to fill in the boxes based on "ancestors she knows."  I think he might have been trying to tell her to fill it in based on her adopted family, but I'm not sure.  Zoe didn't take it that way, explaining that she didn't know anything about her ancestors.  Next her teacher told her to just "do what you know."  Zoe left the boxes blank, since what she knows about her biological family is nothing.

Why do schools keep having these projects????  This one isn't even a science lesson, isn't really teaching genetics or biological inheritance!  It's RELIGION, for God's sake!!!!  And of course there's no warning for the parents that this is coming up, no way to give the teacher a head's up that maybe this project is problematic for adopted kids who have no information about their biological parents. Like they need a head's up to avoid projects that make any child in the classroom feel excluded, abnormal, less than.

Did it bother Zoe?  She says no, but I don't believe her.  The first thing she did after school yesterday?  She pulled out a big piece of paper and markers, and made an elaborate family tree, including every relative she could think of, including her birth parents.  And she filled the entire page with family and color and design.  No more dull family tree for her.  No more missing limbs. No more empty boxes.

Calling All Cerebral Palsy Bloggers!

Tomorrow is the day we will all link up and connect with one another. I shared before that it has been in my heart to create a "Cerebral Palsy Connection" or community. This connection will allow us to support, encourage, and learn from each other.

So here is the scoop...

1. Write a blog post that relates in some way to Cerebral Palsy. Not sure what you should write about? Here are some ideas.
  • Introduce yourself, or your child. What type of Cerebral Palsy do you/your child have?
  • What was it like to recieve your child's diagnosis?
  • If you are an adult, what advice would you give to us moms?
  • What has helped the most in this journey? Therapy? Surgery? Emotional support?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
2. Once you have your blog post finished, make sure to include this image at the bottom of your post.

All you have to do is copy the code (the code is all the "writing" in the box underneath the image) and then paste the code into the body of the post.

3. Publish your post and come back here. You will see a blog post titled "CP Connection #1." At the bottom of that post, you will see a "Simply Linked" widget. It will ask for 3 things.
  1. Link Title: This is where you post the title of your blog post.
  2. E-mail address. It will not be displayed!
  3. URL: Here is where you post the link to your blog post. Be sure you are linking to the specific post, and not to your general blog.
Submit your link and you should see it appear in the widget.

4. Once you are linked, take the time and visit the other blogs. Make sure you leave a comment too, so they know you stopped by and visited.

There are so many adults with Cerebral Palsy out there that have much to share with us moms, I value their insight tremendously. These adults help me understand what Cerebral Palsy might look like for us in the future, and how much Nina will be able to accomplish. They inspire me, really. And as moms, it is nice to hear what other moms deal with. It is nice to know someone else "gets it" and understands our challenges and struggles. Some of my closest friends are those that have children with special needs, we just have a special connection.

Spread the word, and I cannot wait to visit all your wonderful blogs together so that we can connect and learn from each other!

Rosary Cupcakes (lesson plan)

I've been working with junior high and high school youth on and off for ten years now. By and large, the teens are not huge fans of the Rosary. Don't get me wrong, they love Mary and like memorized prayers (many are not comfortable making up their own prayers in front of groups, esp their peers) but 50 Hail Mary's? Not unless it's in football!

Thanks to a great post on Catholic Cuisine and a tip from a forum friend, I decided to make a cupcake Rosary to encourage (and take the grumbling out of!) my 8th grade Confirmation class to pray the Rosary.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was October 7th but due to schedualing conflicts, we were unable to have a "normal" class until today. No matter. I have a feeling Mary wouldn't mind us praying the Rosary (or a part of it) not exactly on her Feast Day. Plus, October is Pro-Life Month and the students had just been to a forum about Pro-Life issues, so this would be a perfect (sweet) follow up.

Due to our class size (15 people total), I chose to make a finger Rosary. I love the look of the bigger Rosaries made with cupcakes or mini muffins but that would be too much sugar for just 15 people. With a large group (families, the entire junior high program and so on) I wouldn't hesitate to  make a full Rosary. But for our time, class size and the issue with transportation, a finger Rosary would have to do.

Here's what you do:
1. Make enough cupcakes for everyone in your group to have one. Use any recipe you like or use store bought. I used the Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe under the deep theological knowledge that Mary is a woman and women like chocolate. :)
(Hint: If you have food allergies in your class, there is a brand called "enjoy life" that makes mini cupcakes that are free of the top 8 allergens. They can be pricey but are worth it if it means everyone can have a treat.)
2. You will want to make the different "beads" different colors. I used white buttercream for the cross and blue for the Hail Mary's, since blue is Mary's color. You could also use sprinkles for the different colors.
3. You don't have to make a cross from cake but I thought it worked better, and gave us more treats, for the finger Rosary.
4. Type out the prayers, in order, and give them to the students. Some kids get very nervous being put on the stop and allowing them to read the prayers makes it easier for them. Comfort and memorization will come with time.

I used this:

Sign of the Cross

Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Sprit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

Then say 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Marys (for the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity) and then 1 Glory Be:

(student lead) Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

(Teacher, student, teacher) (3x) Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

(teacher) GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Hail Mary’s (10x- one per student)

State intention and read the Hail Mary with the group

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

At the end (one student)

GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy

Hail Holy Queen (teacher)

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.(Verse) Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. (Response) That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


1. For the unborn children, that all may grow up to live healthy, happy lives. Hail Mary…

2. For people who do not have enough to eat or a place to sleep, that they may be blessed with material and spiritual goods. Hail Mary…

3. For people who are tempted by the media to have immoral thoughts or actions, we pray that the Holy Spirit will help guide them and resist temptation. Hail Mary…

4. For the clergy and lay people who work within the Church, that they will help guide their flock to the fullest of their potential. Hail Mary…

5. That life from the very beginning to natural death may be respected. Hail Mary…

6. For everyone traveling this holiday season, that they may be kept safe and well. Hail Mary…

7. For people discerning the priesthood or religious life, that they may be directed to the life God has for them. Hail Mary…

8. For the intentions of our parish. Hail Mary…

9. For the intentions of our group, both spoken and unspoken. Hail Mary…

10. For the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict. Hail Mary…

5.Each student had a copy of the prayers and I cut the intentions into strips. While I told the students what we were going to do, my co teacher set up the Rosary and placed each intention upside down under a Hail Mary cupcake.

6. In a small bag, I placed the name of the prayers that were to be student led and a number. The children pulled a card out of the hat. If they got a name, that was the name of the prayer they were to lead. A number was the number of the Hail Mary they were to lead. The kids liked this.

7. We prayed the Rosary. The kids saved their cupcakes for the end.

They did a great job. They really liked that I had everything typed out, step by step, for them. It took away some of the anxiety about praying in front of their peers. The cupcakes were a nice reward for a job well done and made something they had done before more novel.

Why Moms Need Friends

Moving to a new town and having no friends can be pretty lonely. At the beginning of the school year, I joined a MOPS group because I desperately needed friends that are at the same stage in life I am in. Last night, I hung out with some of these new friends from my MOPS group. Time flew by. A little get-together that meant so much. 

So in “top 10” style, I will tell you why moms need friends.

1. Because loneliness among moms is too common, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

2. Because it is nice to know that other moms make ramen noodles for lunch too, are lucky to get a shower before noon, and that ponytails are in style.

3. Because we like play-dates just as much as our kids do. 

4. Because we need adult conversation where we don’t have to ask, “Do you need to go poopy?”

5. Because our husbands cannot provide the chatter that comes along with “woman territory.”

6. Because you can indulge in tasty treats when you are together and not feel guilty for the calories you consume since “everyone else is doing it.”

7. Because it is nice to have someone understand how exhausting it is to care for little people, while at the same time, it is a precious time in life that only lasts so long

8. Because we need heart to heart connections with other people that get it.

9. Because we want to be known, and accepted, regardless of our flaws.

10. Because God created us as relational beings, we are not meant to do life alone.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Little Dragon Tales: Chinese Children's Songs

Shanghai Restoration Project has a new album, downloadable from iTunes and Amazon, Little Dragon Tales:  Chinese Children's Songs.  It's billed as classic Chinese children's songs with a modern twist, and you can see from the video above that the children singing in it are as cute as their voices! I recognize most of the songs on the album from my kids' oh-so-many years in Chinese School, so I suppose it really is CLASSIC Chinese children's songs!

h/t Angry Asian Man

This is What National Adoption Month is Really About

It isn't about getting a healthy, white newborn as quickly as you can, or about adopting from China or Ethiopia or Haiti or Russia. Not saying anything's wrong with that, it's just not what National Adoption Month is about. National Adoption Month was conceived to highlight the outrageously high number of children in foster care who need permanent families.  And the centerpiece of National Adoption Month is National Adoption Day:
National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 107,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. This one day has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by working with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and find permanent, loving homes for children in foster care. In total, more than 35,000 children have been adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day.
And I am proud to say that students at my law school volunteer each year to help finalize adoptions from foster care during National Adoption Day:
Teddy bears, children’s books and balloons filled the courtrooms of the Tarrant County Family Law Center during National Adoption Day. Fifteen Texas Wesleyan School of Law students participated in the event, held on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Family Law Center in downtown Fort Worth. Forty-one children in Tarrant County were adopted by 30 families. Since 2000, more than 35,000 children nationwide have had their adoptions finalized on National Adoption Day. . . . [Judge] Boyd also recognized the contributions of the students at Texas Wesleyan School of Law who volunteer their time to assist the lawyers. “Every year [the students] have worked with National Adoption Day, and this is a wonderful opportunity for students who will become new lawyers to get their first experience in a courthouse.” The law school students, who worked with mentor lawyers throughout the fall semester to prepare the adoptions, stood with the children and their new families as the adoptions were finalized before a judge.
Gotta love feel-good stories about lawyers and law students! (Um. And maybe this is a good time to mention that the views expressed at this blog are solely my own and not those of my employer!)

Their Hope and Their Future

It fills me with awe when I see Nina and Oksana together. Two little girls with Cerebral Palsy that had no hope and no future tucked away in an orphanage in Ukraine. In the confinement of those walls, they at least had each other. They played together, talked, and giggled. Somehow, they were the only family they had.

God, who loves them intensely, called us to adopt Nina, and the Loraines to adopt Oksana. Our families, strangers to each other, adopting 2 little girls that were like sisters.

There were a couple of times when I visited Nina at the orphanage and Oksana cried asking to be with us. I then asked for her to join us, I did not mind having her around. Little did I know, the day I visited with Nina while holding Oksana in my arms, that I would give her a hug once more in my own home. I never imagined that her family would become so dear to our family, and that this friendship would be a treasure to last a  lifetime.

While we know nothing about Nina's birth family, and Loraines know nothing about Oksana's birth family, we do know that they will always have each other. And in this new life with a family, they have hope and they have a bright future. And through these little girls, our entire families are blessed!

This Thanksgiving, the Loraines come to our home, and we enjoyed our time together immensely! The days were full of talking, playing, thankfulness, and joy.

You can visit the Loraine's blog, since they have much better pictures, but I will copy Erin and give you a little summary by day, along with some snapshots.

Loraines arrived and it was fun just hanging out, getting settled, and talking. They brought lots of very yummy treats so we were looking forward to dessert!

We had an easy morning and Nichole willingly shared her iPad with Oksana and her family.
Later that day, the dads took the kids out to jump in our monster pile of leaves while Erin and I worked on the food and Nichole took a nap.

We had the 3 big girls wear matching outfits, hoping for a nice picture of Nina and Oksana to send to their orphanage and to frame for their rooms. These 2 girls had serious problems posing and smiling!
But they were all so cute together so we did get some nice shots of the girls.

Thanksgiving dinner turned out pretty good if you ask me! Although my mashed sweet potatoes turned out the consistency of baby food,  the rest of the meal was good!

We went to Legoland in Chicago, and it was a lot of fun!

The girls loved riding in the giant swing. They rode this thing over and over! Ellie and Nina both wanted to ride with Oksana every time!

Nichole had fun, although I think her favorite part of the day was eating a bag of chips!


On the way out, the girls had to have their picture taken with Sponge Bob, who happens to be a celebrity at our house. Don't judge me, as a parent, you have to pick your battles, and I would rather have Sponge Bob than Hannah Montana or iCarly at this time in life.


And, even Legoland was happy to see me!

We ventured into the world of bounce houses and craziness! And let me tell you, helping a child with mobility issues is quite the workout! But we all had fun!

Loraines came to church with us and got to be a part of the service. It was such a blessing! Larry played the guitar and Erin and I shared how God worked in our lives through our adoptions. It was so good to have them here at our church. 

Where would our girls be if we had not adopted them? Where would we be? God's blessings are many, and He showers us with His love as we live life thriving to honor and serve Him. This weekend, we got to experience some of those blessings throw this friendships that have come to us thanks to our girls. We really had so much to be thankful for!