"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Room to play

As I mentioned before, we were blessed a few months ago to purchase a new home with some non-toxic upgrades. The builder for our neighborhood had the creative idea to build two-story homes with the downstairs finished and the second level unfinished (for the dreamer who wants to have a blank slate to do whatever he or she desires!). We really liked the concept, particularly because Bill was not feeling well when we moved in and we wanted all the bedrooms on the main floor.

Now that we are actually moved in (and since two more children will be here soon!), we realize that we need the space upstairs! So, we have started the process of finishing it ourselves and making a large playroom/homeschool area. This both saves money, and ensures that we use non-toxic products throughout!

We painted with Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex Paint (zero VOC formula) from Sherwin Williams. We used MB Global Quiet Walk as the underlayment and Kahrs Landobond Adhesive for gluing the wood pieces together (both non-toxic). 

We decided to go with Lumber Liquidators for the flooring and get unfinished wood for about $1.69 a square foot. The comments on this flooring said to get 50% extra because there were so many major knots and dings, so we ordered the extra. We are so glad that we did! As you can see in the below picture, Bill was able to make a temporary table for his saw out of the spare pieces!

We'll be finishing with Rubio Monocoat sealant (clear) once it is finished, since that is also non-toxic and will strengthen the wood.

It's been a big job, but overall should only be about $3,000 for the 900 sqft space. The lowest quote that we could get to have it professionally done with non-toxic flooring was $8,000, so we have saved a bundle doing it ourselves! I'll post pictures when it is completed!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Therapy options for CP

Since receiving the pre-approval for Yana, Bill and I have been busy preparing physically, mentally and emotionally for all the exciting and challenging things to come this year. We've been reading books on cerebral palsy, started learning Chinese (I'll share more about that later!), and researching Yana's specific form of cerebral palsy, athetoid, which represents just 10% of the individuals with CP. I wanted to share some of the things that we have found in our research, in case it will help others. Most of the information is very encouraging, while some has been a bit intimidating!

In doing research, I came across three books written by adults who have CP. They all had similar stories, such as being told that they were non-verbal or mentally delayed (and later learning that this is not true), experiencing the traumatizing and agonizing therapies that were attempted to correct their symptoms (forceful movements that resulted in severe pain, as well as some useless surgeries), and harsh bullying that they went through. They also shared what helped them most physically and emotionally in dealing some of the challenges with CP. Out of the three books, the one that drew me in the most is called, "Ways out of cerebral palsy during infancy and early childhood with the Feldenkrais Method," by Paul Doron Doroftei.

In his book, Mr. Doroftei shares the incredible testimonial of a method that helped him get out of a wheelchair, increase mobility and reduce most of his CP symptoms over many months and years. At age 60, he says that he now walks better than most people his age because of the techniques that he learned through the Feldenkrais method! He explains that, when someone has CP, it is only the brain that is damaged- not the muscles or nerves in the limbs. Various cells of the brain that would normally communicate slow and steady movements to the extremities are deadened (often through a trauma at the child's birth), which results in spastic, or competing, muscular movements. This is a result of opposing expanding and contracting muscular signals (parasitic messages) being sent at the same time- resulting in hypertonicity or paralysis in the majority of people with CP. (Yana's form, athetoid, sometimes does not have this spasticity, but, rather, flailing, repetitive movements.)

The Feldenkrais Method suggests that, if you can restore proper communication between the brain and these muscles/nerves, eliminating the parasitic messages that are being sent, then more fluid movement and muscle relaxation can occur. I think of it like the "Oregon Trail" game that we all played in elementary school. Imagine that an enormous boulder has suddenly blocked the trail that leads to your destination. You must blaze a new trail to get around this obstacle, which will likely forever be used by future travelers. Similarly, once these correct paths are created in the brain, they are available permanently!

I went on to research the Feldenkrais Method further and frequently came across a related method called the Anat Baniel Method (ABM). Anat Baniel was a student of Dr. Feldenkrais (now deceased) and adapted his technique to improve the outcomes of children and adults using this therapy. She uses it for autism, CP, chronic pain, and even improving flexibility for ballet dancers! The treatments can be very costly and time consuming (I have looked locally and it is $75 for a 45-minute session), but the movements are simple enough for parents to learn and apply to their own special needs kids. In fact, Mr. Doroftei recommends this!

I ordered the ABM training video for special needs kids and am excited to start learning the techniques in the coming weeks. They are very gentle movements and the children remain calm and relaxed throughout the process (some even fall asleep). There are numerous YouTube videos online that show this, but this one is my favorite- since the child has Yana's form of CP and begins walking after just 6 sessions!

As I researched more about therapies for CP, I came across another simple option for children with CP. This involves using a compression garment called the SPIO garment. The clinic in the video below uses this garment, along with a number of therapeutic techniques, and you can see amazing results in this girl (also with Athetoid CP) in just 5 days!

I hesitated to share the below picture of Yana before because it clearly shows drool, so it is not the most flattering picture of our sweet girl. Drooling occurs in about 30% of individuals with CP, indicating an inability to swallow the normal amount of saliva the body produces. I share this now because I have learned that the Feldenkrais Method can even be used to restore connections between the brain and the swallowing muscles, so that she can learn to swallow normally! (You can read about it in the book by Mr. Doroftei.)

With a combination of therapy, and lots of love and prayer, we are very hopeful about Yana's future. Plus, she will have her big brother, Payton, encouraging her along the way. (Payton was not walking at 8 years old and now runs and even likes to play soccer!)  

We can't wait to see Yana freed from her stroller and out exploring the world around her! Please keep her and Payton in your prayers. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Meeting the Requirements for Adoption

When we started the adoption journey with Payton and Yana, we were concerned about possible rejection by the agency, or China, because of Bill's ongoing health issues. For those who don't know, Bill started having unusual physical symptoms immediately upon returning from Afghanistan. These worsened three years ago. He has had hundreds of tests done, and we spent three weeks at the Mayo Clinic, but we were only recently able to get any real information about the cause of his ailments. In any case, it was a real concern whether or not we would get approval to move forward.

Over the course of the past three years, we have done a lot of investigating about his condition- both online and in our own home. I utilized my chemistry education, and years of experience in the field, to understand the toxic chemicals that he was likely exposed to during his deployment to Afghanistan. 

During his year in-country, he traveled over 8,500 miles and visited more than 25 bases. He was frequently living only feet from toxic burn pits, and was constantly breathing in air that was full of pesticides and herbicides. Needless to say, we knew that toxic exposure was likely the cause of his health issues. Thankfully, a vascular neurosurgeon recently confirmed this with us.

In researching toxins, we came to realize that Bill has also developed severe chemical sensitivities. This was first noticed when he came home from Afghanistan and was immediately allergic to our bulldog (Buddy), dairy, eggs, wheat and soy. Thankfully, some of these allergies have lessened, though we did have to pass Buddy on to a loving owner. 

In particular, we believe that our previous two homes since Afghanistan were off-gassing heavy amounts of toxins, significantly accelerating Bill's health decline. Both were new homes, which are known to release heavy toxins in the first few weeks, months and even years. In the last few months, though, we were blessed to purchase a new home with numerous non-toxic upgrades. It has non-toxic hardwood flooring and is painted with zero VOC paint. We also have put up low-emission blinds with non-toxic drapes. In addition, we have also eliminated harsh cleaning chemicals, and rely on baking soda and vinegar (except for dish detergent- we have yet to find a healthy detergent that will actually remove stains- Bill just gives his dishes an extra rinse post wash). 

Since moving to our new home 4.5 months ago, Bill's health has gradually improved. He has started taking organic vitamins in the last two months, which includes two detox formulas, and we find that these are accelerating his improvement (http://teamrobinson.mytouchstoneessentials.com). 

In spite of these issues, we felt God's leading in the adoptions. We know that God calls us to rely on His strength in challenging times, and we felt His heart for Payton and Yana. As I mentioned, we were nervous that China would not accept our application because they originally had required that both parents be in "good health" at the time of adoption. When we got Bill's medical evaluation done for the home study, his doctor truthfully wrote down that he is in "fair health." 

An amazing thing has happened in the past month, though. It was announced on December 5th that China was lowering their adoption qualifications for Waiting Children! (I should mention that December 5th was the same day that we announced publicly that we were adopting!) What a blessing! My hope is that they have realized that it is more important to get these kids in loving families, than to have the "perfect" families step up to adopt (which leads to fewer children ever being adopted). China's new health requirements for Waiting Children are:

   Applicants must be in good physical and mental condition necessary to provide responsible care for an adopted child: 
                     If diagnosed with anxiety, depression, mania, phobia, or OCD, must be under good control with a small dose of medication (couples only)
                     If one parent has (or has had) cancer, lupus, nephrosis, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, hearing or language function impairment, or organ transplant within the last ten years, etc., must be under good control AND the other parent healthy
                     Must not have significant vision loss, limb impairment or paralysis, schizophrenia, or infectious diseases (such as HIV). 
   Body Mass Index (BMI) must be under 40

Bill easily falls within these requirements, which is why we were able to get pre-approval for Payton and Yana!

Please pray for Bill's continued health improvements. None of us knows what day will be our last, but our prayer is that he would live a long and fruitful life with his family, serving God.

If you would like to join with us on this journey, your prayers and financial support are coveted. Please give via the links at the right. Thank you from all of the Robinsons!


Here's a cool video that Bill made after his 2007-2008 deployment:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Care Packages!

Update: We finished our home study interviews and are now waiting for the home study packet to be finalized. Once that is complete, we can send it with an official form to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (we will be including a cover letter requesting that the approval is expedited since both children are in a dire situation). Once we receive approval, we submit the full dossier to China and wait for it to be "logged-in." From the official Log-in Date (LID), it may be only 2 months before we receive Travel Approval to go to China!

Once we received pre-approval for Yana, we started putting together our care packages for both kids. Typically, orphanages are not "officially" notified that the child has a family until after Travel Approval is issued. Sending a care package before that gives the orphanage (and our children!) a heads-up that we are coming!

It was such a huge thing to pick out items for both kids! For Yana, we decided on a long-sleeved shirt and pants, two pairs of socks, some warm booties, a digital camera (so her care-givers can take photos of where she lives and her friends), a plush owl with rattle, a stuffed toy lamb, and four Lara bars. It all fit just perfectly in the shoe box, which is the size needed to avoid customs issues!

For Payton, we decided on an Under Armour hoodie, two pairs of socks, two matchbox cars, a digital camera (the same one Bill took to Afghanistan 6 years ago- it is rugged!), a recorder (since he loves music) and four Lara bars.

We are also including laminated photos of our family and the kids' rooms.  We can't wait to get Travel Approval and bring them home!

Not everyone can adopt, but everyone can support adoption. Please help bring Payton and Yana home by giving via the links at the right. Even $5 or $10 helps meet our goals and makes the adoptions possible. Thank you!!!