(31 for 21 Challenge: Entry #4. This blog is for my family and friends, near and far!)

Few people asked me, "so, what does it mean for you, Tiana and your family?" when talking about Down Syndrome. I understand why people ask me this and I feel no offense as long it is asked out of genuine curiosity. I share a lot about my family because I see many things about my family that should be celebrated and life will be better for my children if there is more awareness about adoption, Down Syndrome and so on. Down Syndrome is something many people know about at glance but do not understand at depth. Many know what people with Down Syndrome might look like. But do many people truly understand the daily lives of people with Down Syndrome and their families? Not really.

So, what does Down Syndrome mean for Tiana and us? Although James and I have had the honour of befriending with several people who have Down Syndrome, living with and loving someone who have Down Syndrome brings us to a whole new level. Before I even go further, I want to make an important point for you to keep in mind. Tiana is Tiana first. Tiana is a baby girl who has her own personality, likes, dislikes, temperament, appearance and so on. Down Syndrome is most definitely a part of Tiana but Tiana is still Tiana first. Now, I can begin! :)

Tiana in the Present

* Tiana is more "floppy" due to low muscle tone. The bonus? Her cuddles are the best! You'll only understand if you hold her!
* Tiana is small in stature and looks younger than her actual age.
* Tiana will reach many milestones as any other baby. It only might take a bit longer. We use OT/PT and other services to help Tiana develop from one skill to other.
* There are several health issues associated with Down Syndrome. As preventive measures, Tiana is being monitored by several specialists.
* As her parents, we are learning to be patient, to celebrate each milestone and to just enjoy her as a baby. It can be tough watching other babies meet milestones quickly but as long we remind ourselves that she WILL get there, we let it go and enjoy being with her.

Tiana in the Future

* Tiana may or may not speak. We do not know as of yet just how much she does hear but we are giving her the tools now to help her develop in this area if it is something that she can do. (She does have severe hearing loss in one ear but we do not know if she has any hearing loss in other ear. For sure, she does hear some.) If she DOES hear quite a bit, there is also a question of whether she would be "non-verbal" or not. (This is a whole other blog.)
* Tiana will communicate in ASL, regardless of how much she hears. James, Jada and I are all deaf and use ASL as our first language. Tiana will be part of that.
* Tiana will continue to reach various milestones but again, it'll take some more time. With time, we will learn more about her talents, her interests and what we can do to encourage her in those areas. There will be some struggles in other areas and we will have to advocate for her to ensure she gets services she needs.
* Again, we will make sure her health is closely watched by specialists.
* She may or may not be living independently when she turns into an adult. We cannot know this for sure at this point. Regardless of what happens, she will have a full life doing what she loves and being with people who loves her.

This is pretty broad but it touches on some things that people often wonder about. Of course, Tiana is only 10 months old and it is too soon to really know what the future looks like. The most important thing I can tell you is that we KNOW she will thrive. We just don't know which path she will be on but regardless of which path, I know we will be proud of her!

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(This is entry # 3 of 31 for 21 Challenge)

It's Tiana's morning nap time! So, I have approximately an hour to blog, read, reply, and so on! :) This morning, I'll like to talk about people's comments about our family. This was inspired by a conversation I had with someone yesterday. Even though we cannot really be bothered by how people feel or think about our family (unless it's positive, of course!), I think it is important to share a little bit of our experience and what it sounded like from our perspective. You might've said some of those things and did not realize how insensitive it may be but everybody could learn something new everyday.
Our Multicultural Family

I love my family. I truly do. I love them because of who each of them are. Each one of them are amazing. Our culture, our history, our race are all big parts of who we are and we all celebrate each other in many different ways. That is extremely important. But what is also extremely important is who we are as individuals, to our core, our unique personalities and identities that make us uniquely us. That is important for people to understand, that although we are seen as this and that, we are a family and we love each other because we are James, Rose, Jada and Tiana.

Insensitive Comments:

"Oh! Your husband is black? Wow..."
"Once you go black, you don't go back! Ha!" (Stupid.)
"I think it is nice that Jada looks like James, so people won't think she is adopted."
"Tiana looks sorta white, so that's nice for you!" (What?!?!?!)
"You should adopt a white child to even things out!"

We adopt because this is how we want to create our family. If we could get pregnant naturally, we would be thrilled but this does not change the fact that we would continue to adopt children. This is the natural choice for us. Adopting our children has been nothing but a blessing and we would never choose to build our family any other way. We want children and we have two. This is really what is the most important.

Insensitive Comments:

"Aw, why not get your own?" (Jada and Tiana are my own, thankyouverymuch.)
"So, you can't get pregnant?" (This is assuming adoption is our second choice. Regardless if we can or can't get pregnant is none of your business. Be happy for us regardless.)
"I couldn't do it. It is so nice you could but I prefer to have my own." (Insensitive.)
"I heard they usually end up with this or that."
"Poor James, I bet he would've loved to have his own?" (Um. Yeah, blame it on the mom.)
Jada Rose

Our beautiful Jada Rose. She's an extremely strong survivor who beat many odds and proven many people wrong. She's spunky, full of life, has a big heart and whoever met her, fell in love with her. She is truly special and I am not just saying this because she is mine. She truly is. We adopted her when she was almost 4 years old. Past four years has been nothing but a wonderful adventure with her!

Insensitive Comments:

"Couldn't you find a baby? That'll be easier."
"You missed four years. You couldn't possibly bond in the same way with a baby."
"Couldn't you just find a child who is only Deaf. Not with all those problems?"
"Wow, I don't know anybody who could do it. Kudos to you." (IN FRONT OF JADA!)
"If you had her earlier, she wouldn't have this or that."
Tiana Joy

Our beautiful Tiana Joy. She is the newest bundle of joy and we are still learning more about her every single day. She's very laid back, very joyful, loves to be cuddled and she would never say no to any attention! She brings so much gentleness to our family and she really taught us to slow down, enjoy each single moment and just be together as a family. We've only had her for two months now but it's been nothing but amazing and we look forward to more!

Insensitive Comments:

"Finally, a baby! Aww, this is so special for you!" (Jada is very special too.)
"Down Syndrome? I guess this means you'll never have an empty nest!" (Hello? In what century do you live in?)
"Native and Korean? She doesn't look like it!" (Disrespectful to her and her people.)
"Why would you make your life harder? She'll be so much work."
"Her birth parents must be evil." (You do not know the story. And come on?)

So this wraps the long blog! I know this probably is a hot button topic for some of you but I thought it was important to share so you can understand it from the other perspective. I promise there will be more happy blogs coming up! :) Til then!

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(This is the second blog of 31 for 21 Challenge!)

I've not blogged for two months and I wish I did because how do I explain in one blog how amazing past two months have been?! But let me tell you... It has been amazingly wonderful and I could not imagine it being any other way. Sure, there were few bumps down the road but that's to be expected for any family who have a new little one in the household!

Highlights and lowlights of past two months.

* The first couple of weeks flew faster than any other weeks in past two months! We quickly learned that we would not be getting full night of sleep for a while, that getting two girls ready to go takes more time, and that it is hard to get anything done when Tiana smiles and coos to you! First two weeks was definitely an immersion course on all things Tiana!

*We were all able to form a strong bond between four of us. It is so special to see just how much Jada and Tiana loves each other. Tiana's face lights up when Jada gets home from school and when daddy comes home from work. It is always the special time of the day.

*Tiana got to meet most of her new family and friends. They are very much in love and Tiana really enjoyed the attention!

*Tiana got pneumonia. :( This was scary for us and we did have to go to the ER. It took her a while to get better but she is feeling 100% these days!

* We were able to meet some of her birth family members and it's just a blessing to know them, to get some pictures and to develop life-long relationships.

* We learned that Tiana LOVES the swing, swimming, toys that vibrate or make noises, playing with her toys on the floor, being held, Mozart, Beethoven, and baths!

* We learned that Tiana does not like the sun, waiting for her bottle, being in the bumper seat for too long, long days away from home, sudden loud noises, and socks!

* It has been extremely busy juggling 20 specialists between two girls and I learned that this require super-organization skills! 90% of the time, I enjoy it. Other 10% of time, when the day is too long or we weren't organized, it is ehhhhh....

* In the span of two months, Tiana reached few milestones. Holding her head up, sitting with assistance, understand "milk", "bath", "eat", "play", began to eat solids (still in the exploring phase), recognize faces, say "dadada, aaaaa, doo doo doo", hold items from one hand to other hand, sleep longer, and the list goes on!

* We've been working daily on rolling (she can go from back to front then gets stuck), sitting up without assistance and signing as well making more vocal noises.

So that's been our two months with Baby T! <3

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I will try to blog once every single day of this month to raise awareness about Down Syndrome and at the same time, to introduce you to our newest addition, Tiana Joy! I know I've already announced her arrival but now that we've had her home for two months, we know so much more about her and would love to share what we know! (This is for you, family and friends faraway! And of course, for everybody else who is curious too! :))

This year, the 31 for 21 challenge is celebrating its' 7th birthday and I'm so thrilled to be able to participate this year! You can find out more information from http://mdbeau.blogspot.ca/2013/09/7th-annual-31-for-21-blog-challenge.html?showComment=1380593464115. I only found out today, so I will blog twice today to get caught up! :)

So... Two beautiful months with Tiana flew by so quickly! We actually met her at end of May but were not able to start visiting her on regular basis til July. Before July, we only had her "stats". Girl. 6 months old (at the time). Deaf in one ear. Inconclusive hearing test from other ear. Down Syndrome. Native and Korean. Birth name (we cannot share). Born early. Heart condition. Nygastamus. Low muscle tone. etc etc... It was frustrating for us because we really wanted to know more about her. What was her personality? What was her likes and dislikes? What facial expressions does she make? What is her disposition? How does she really look like in real life? What would it be like to take care of her, to raise her every hour of the day for rest of her childhood?

Finally, in July, we had the opportunity to do just that! We were able to stay in a hotel nearby and visit her at her foster home. We were able to take her out for the day and return her to the foster home at end of the day. Most weekends, we were there. Sometimes through the week, we would make a day trip. We really gobbled up every moment with her, we spent each single second getting to know her, enjoying her, and showering her with love. Throughout the month of July, we were able to introduce her to her new big sister, Jada. They were instantly in love and their faces just glow when they see each other! Jada really enjoyed playing with her, feeding with her, cuddling with her and just looking at her. It was a match made in heaven! For James and I, of course, we were immediately in love! We knew it would be so natural, just as it was with Jada four years ago. It was no different this time, we knew in our hearts, souls and minds that Tiana is our daughter in every way.

Then finally, finally, finally! On August 1st of 2013, we finally went to pick her up and bring her home! Driving away from the town she was from, James and I looked at each other and said "wow, they are letting us just take her home?!". It was surreal, just three of us (Jada was at camp) driving together on way home and nobody driving by us would ever know that the baby in back was only "few minutes old" to our family!

Two months with her at home is just a joy. Simply, purely, amazingly a joy. I'll blog more about that today! :)
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Finally, finally, finally, she is here!

Meet the newest addition to our clan! Our new daughter, Tiana Joy is 8 months old, Anishinaabe, Korean, Deaf and has Down Syndrome. She is the cutest, the cuddliest and the happiest baby we have ever known! We couldn't be more thrilled and look forward to creating memories as family of four!

Adopting, for me, has been a healing process. I was in and out of a foster home from birth to age of 11. I finally had my forever family at 11 but unfortunately, I came with 11 years of baggage. Part of my baggage was wondering if I am actually loved by my family as much as they love other children who they gave birth to. Part of my baggage was wondering if they adopted me because "they had to" or because "it was their duty". Part of my baggage was how people see me, knowing a large part of my story. I've had millions of conversations with mom and little by little, my baggage became smaller in size but it was still there. Even to this day, I still have some things I struggle with as result of my childhood. But...

Adopting Jada and baby girl (name to be revealed soon!) has done wonders to my healing process. Knowing how deeply I love them, knowing how far I would go for them, knowing how natural it feels to be their mama really helped me understand how my own mom felt. Over and over again, my mom would say she loves us all equally. I get it now, I really do. I love both of my girls.

I couldn't love them more if they grew in my belly. I really couldn't. I already love my girls with so much intensity, so much depth, and there is no end to this love. It grows, expands, overflows, over and over again.

Girls, I love you both so much, forever and forever.
I don't even know where to begin. Many of you know we are adopting again and we're expecting a baby girl to join our family soon. We've been trying to expand our family through adoption and through birth for four years with no success, then this little baby came into the picture. As soon as we found out about her, we worked very hard to do everything needed to be considered as a family for her and we jumped through every hoop to get us approved. In May, we were chosen as her family.


I can't reveal too much information (due to confidentiality agreement) but I can say this, it has been a journey filled with plenty of downs and few ups. Yes, we were chosen for this baby. Yes, we were approved to adopt this baby. Yes, we have seen her few times and will continue to visit her over next few days (or weeks?). Jada has met her. Our pets met her. She has been at our home. We have been at her foster home. We have done many things together (with many "firsts" for her and for us!). However... due to legalities, paperwork and disagreements between agencies in regards to the process, the placement date has been postponed several times. We were supposed to bring her home in June. We were supposed to bring her home first week of July. We were supposed to bring her home last week. We were supposed to bring her home on Monday. And so on... You get the picture.

We still do not know when we will bring her home. In the meanwhile, please pray for us. It has been difficult for all of us and I've decided to share today because we really do need more support and a million more prayers. Thank you.

Last Christmas, James bought me a new camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T4i. I admit, I have not been using it enough but I've begun playing around with different features and hope to take more pictures through the summer. Below are some of my favourites from our Christmas break! :)
The story of Mack.

James had always wanted a black lab. Growing up, he often went to a friend's house to play and they had black labs. James would spend hours and hours playing with them, then go home to beg his mother for a dog. Unfortunately, with James being in the dorm during the week and his mother working two jobs, it would not be wise to get a dog. So, he grew up never having a dog (or any other pet).

After James and I married, brought Jada home and moved to Milton, we began talking about getting a dog after we settle into our new house. Not too soon, though. Maybe in a year or so. That's what we said.

One day last spring, my niece sent an email to everyone in our family about a black, male, 9 weeks old, Black Lab and German Shepherd mix puppy. Her friend's dog had puppies and all except one were adopted out. Her friend really needed the puppy to find a home because she already had her hands full with two (or three) grown dogs. She was asking if anyone of us wanted a puppy, that it would be free and he would come with things we will need to raise a puppy.

I remember very clearly that day, all three of us were chatting on the couch and we read the e-mail together. Jada immediately begged us to get him home then James and I looked at eachother and said "why not?". Few hours later, my niece and her friend brought him to us.

He was very timid, very shy, very quiet. We thought "maybe that's why nobody picked him" because he really was very shy, very adamant to stay with the friend and would not approach us. When we held him, he would stay very quiet and look away. I admit, we were kind of worried that he would not grow to be a friendly dog.

We couldn't be more wrong. Today, he is the most affectionate, most gentle and most friendly dog. He is very good with kids. He listens well (most of the time). He really does act like a human sometimes! He blended into this family effortlessly and we cannot imagine life without him!

Mack, we love you oh so very much!

What tough 6 days it has been! Every few months, we go through this phase of Jada not sleeping well, eating less, constantly moving around, not listening (more than the usual) and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk every second, minute, hour of the day along with constantly tapping our shoulder, legs, arms, head, etc... You get the picture.

Jada does have ADHD: hyperactivity. She takes medicine for it. She is on a behavioral program. She does really well most of the time. I find her to be responsible, obedient, gentle and kind most of the time. But...

When she goes through this phase, I want to pull my hair out and scream! I have to give myself "time outs" and tell myself "it is not her fault, it is ADHD, it is not her fault, it is ADHD" over and over again. It works... most of the time. I cannot imagine how this is for Jada though. It must be frustrating for her not to be able to sleep, to sit still, to think, to successfully complete an activity and so on.

I guess her body goes through changes every few months and it takes time for her to adjust. It could be changes in her life. It could be chemical imbalance. It could be that she is growing and the medicine has to be adjusted. Whatever it is, I take comfort in knowing it is not permanent. This happens approximately twice a year at different months and at different length of times.

Our mantra for the meanwhile... This, too, shall pass.