Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Its amazing to think a year ago, we clung to our three photos of our daughter dreaming of the day we would hold her forever, Christmas last year just didn't seem quite right.  What a difference a year makes.  The Grinch got it right, Christmas doesn't come from a store, its about family.  This year we decided not to exchange gifts, we donated to our favorite charities instead, this year we didn't plan any fancy vacations or expensive dinners, we just decided to stay at home and cook together.  It was by far my most beloved Christmas, for so many reasons, but having my daughter here after years of wishing and hoping seemed so surreal.

What a magical time of year, Lottie's first Christmas home was celebrated with her grandparents Lola & GrandT, CeCe, PopPop, Aunt Kelley and Uncle Dan. It was wonderful watching her see the look on her face opening all of her gifts.  Santa was so good to Lottie, she was opening gifts days after Christmas.  Although she is still recovering form her palate surgery a few days ago, it was a wonderful day, and we are so grateful to be surrounded by family holding our daughter in our arms this year. Wishing you and yours the joys of the season.  Merry Christmas to all. 


The Castagnos & Fogartys

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Twas the night before surgery

We made it to Dallas, and checked into our hotel room.  Lottie is definitely aware that something big is going to happen.  Sadly, she was very clingy and emotional in the hotel room.  But given some time she was more comfortable and began to play.  We wanted to keep her up as last as possible, since surgery was scheduled for 11:30am the next day and Lottie couldn't eat or drink past 2 am.  We knew she wouldn't understand and how heartbreaking it would be if she signed or requested food.  We were hoping a late hotel room party would equal sleeping in until 10-10:30am.  We also had bags full of distractions- mostly Elmo toys. 

It was a great football night, as our beloved Ravens were playing the Detroit Lions.  And the game didn't disappoint.  We ate room service and cheered on our team.  Lottie really loves to watch football so it was a great distraction and kept our minds off of the surgery.  Our plan unfolded seamlessly, Lottie stayed up until 2 am playing in our bed and eventually dosed off shortly after her last official feeding. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Month 9

Wow 9 months!  we are getting closer and closer to our 1 year anniversary of becoming a forever family. We could not love this little girl any more, she is our world!  Lottie continues to blossom in front of our eyes, she is talking more and loves playing with various toys.  She is really starting to imitate us, answering play phones and pretending to eat play food.  She continues to love Elmo and is beginning to sing the Elmo song, that goes "La, La, La, Elmo's world"  Lottie is starting to have a preference to toys she plays with, besides Elmo some of her favorites are balls,  small books, and small miniature items-think little gadgets you get in a goodie bag.  Lottie also loves cars and trains. Lately she has been fascinated with birds, and living in central TX, when they say birds fly south for the winter they aren't kidding...she is finding it so fun to see all the birds and signs bird with her tiny is priceless. She has a new fascination with the moon, and enjoys looking out the window each night to point it out for us, of course we are reading Goodnight Moon and this is also becoming a quick favorite, a must read every night.

This month was somewhat uneventful, Lottie is staying cooped up at home to prevent exposure to germs, in preparation for her upcoming palate surgery.  She is starting to miss school and we can tell desperately wants to go "bye-bye" but with cold and flu season being at the peak, we are really trying to keep her in a little bubble.  Literally a bubble- she hasn't left the house in weeks.  If we need to run errands one of us stays home.  Its hard for her now, but in the long run it will pay off as we need a healthy little girl for surgery on 12/17/13.

Lottie is enjoying the holidays and really loves our Christmas tree, she loves to pull some of the ornaments off and hand them herself (thank goodness for plastic holiday ornaments that actually look pretty) She is very gentle with them and so far has only rearranged the ornaments with our permission.  She looks at the tree and will say "wow" over and over again.  We know she doesn't understand the meaning behind the decorations or the season itself, but it is wonderful to see the joy in her eyes over the little things like sparkly ornaments, bright lights, and wrapped packages. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Homebound for December

In preparation for surgery, we decided to keep Lottie home a full 20 days before surgery to avoid any illness.  Unfortunately, if she was to get sick, we would need to cancel her surgery and this isn't an option for our growing family.  It was quite the juggling act as we both work fulltime and trying to adjust our schedules and work from home with an active 2 year old was a challenge!  But we did survive- looking back we joke and wonder how we did it!  One day we both had important meetings and needed some help!  Thanks to our friend Brandi, she offered to help watch Lottie and took some real cute Christmas photos!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are you READY?

Since we are gearing up for Lottie's big cleft palate surgery in 2 weeks, we are keeping her home bound for next two weeks to limit exposure to the cold and flu virus.  Therefore we will have LOTS of free time to update the BLOG!  We are making some BIG changes to our blog as we transition our Lottie Lee Blog into our updated Castagno Family Blog!  So in preparation I am finally getting to all my old posts (that I never posted, for some reason these posts needed to be edited or add photos)- so be ready to see 15-20 old posts!
And of course we will be updating surgery information and sharing some of our holiday traditions throughout the month of December!
This PHOTO may be my all time favorite photo of Lottie Lee

Meeting Santa Claus

Today Lottie met Santa Claus for the very first time, She was extremely shy which we expected, we tried to sit her next to the jolly old elf but she became terrified and began to cry.  We opted for a family photo with Santa. We were the last in line right before the end of the day, so Santa had some time to chat, we told him this was Lottie's first Christmas with us, how we adopted her from China 9 months ago.  Santa looked at me with tears in his eyes, and whispered....that he adopted his three children. It's amazing how adoption surrounds us and God reminds us daily of HIS plan.  I sat there with Santa, silently because no words were needed, we hugged & I thought this is the true meaning of Christmas.  It was magical!
And we told Santa Lottie LOVES ELMO and she showed Santa her Elmo Book, I am sure he will be bringing tons of Elmo gifts for our sweet girl this year.

Wishing you and yours an amazing Holiday Season!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Waiting on Baby # 2


Just a couple photos from our mini photo shoot this past weekend at Elgin tree Farm.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving TUESDAY

Happy December! 23 days until Christmas!   We wanted to share two charities that have special meaning to us this year, for those who may not have a charity in mind.
The first charity is a team of surgeons similar to Smile Train who perform surgeries for craniofacial anomalies in 3rd world countries.  The founder Dr. Hobar, is Lottie's talented surgeon and he is a wonderful and Godly man who dedicates his time to those in need.  It is a wonderful foundation! 
The second is from Children's Hope International and the funds are to help the orphanage in Weinan, China where Lottie spent her first 18 months of life.  The orphanage needs more therapy supplies for the children who reside there.  Currently 8 children have been adopted from Weinan in 2012-2013, hoping 14 more children will be joined with their forever families in 2014! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sharing the Joys of Adoption

    "Our words are like seeds dropped along the road.  We may never know what beautiful things will take root and blossom because we were there. But we can be sure that something good will grow"

Recently we were asked to share our story with our Adoption Agency, Children's Hope International, and have been thinking long and hard about how we might put into words such an emotional and powerful experience.  We have so much to tell others who ask us about adoption- it's hard to describe in words alone- but here it goes.  We always knew we would adopt, and it mostly came down to timing.  After a sudden death in the family we realized life was too short to postpone our dreams.  Three months later we applied for the China Special Needs program through Children's Hope International.  Looking back it seems so long ago, we were so excited and so very na├»ve. Oh, but what a wonderful time and part of our story that we will cherish. First time parents- dreaming about the day we would meet our daughter, knee deep in paperwork and wondering how we could afford the cost.  We remained determined and focused.  Although it wasn't easy and delays were inevitable, looking back this was the easiest part of our journey.

After seeing our daughters face for the first time, life changed forever.  It would never be the same. We waited 5 months before we could travel to meet her, and we only had 3 photos.  This was when it became HARD.  How do you wait patiently to get your child?  I am sorry, but only others who have been there done that- truly can understand this period of adoption.  IT IS HARD.  All your thoughts are consumed in wondering and praying if your child is being loved, fed, and taken care of while you wait to travel.  It is heart wrenching to wait and know they are growing older, they are alone without a mother and father, in an orphanage across the world.  There is nothing we could do but TRUST.  Those 5 months were challenging but gave us many life lessons.  This is a standard with international adoption - after a referral, the paperwork in both countries takes some time.  For us this stage was the HARDEST.  But like many of life's challenging experiences- looking back we think it wasn't that bad- we could do it again in a heartbeat.

The most joyous part of adoption...holding our baby for the first time. That day will forever be engrained in my memory- like any mother meeting their child for the first time.  There are no words to describe the overwhelming feeling of love. Our story has been easy ever since, Lottie was able to adapt to her new lifestyle immediately.  She was strong and obviously well loved in her orphanage.  We experienced attachment and bonding almost immediately.  She was healthy and happy, and with our love began thriving even faster.  She has been a joy to be around even on her toughest days, whether it be recovering from surgery, or sick with a double ear infection.  Yes, we are biased, but she is one amazing child.  We are so blessed to be her parents, and not a day goes by that we don't think about the gift we have been given.

One story that comes to mind, was after her lip repair about 4 months home from China we had been using signs to help Lottie communicate, one sign we were using constantly was I love you, we said it all the time and always showed her the sign.  Even after 36 hours whirlwind of surgery and recovery, driving 4 hours home, Lottie was so happy to be home.  She was exhausted, heavily medicated, and weak as she hadn't eaten much in the past few days.  We laid her in her crib and hovered over as she smiled at us, we were admiring her new look.  We told her how brave she was and how happy we were to be home, we said I love you.  Honestly, like a scene from a movie, this tiny hand reached up and signed  I love you,  then closed her eyes as was fast asleep.  It took our breath away- like that moment you can't feel your legs, might pass out, overwhelmed by love, this can't be happening moment.  This tiny being reached out to us told us she loved us, never in my life will I ever forget that moment, EVER.

Although, our story has been seamless after meeting Lottie we cannot simply forget about her past or the millions of other children who remain in orphanages around the world.   Adoption changes your life, it touches your soul to realize the depth of raising someone else's child as your own,  and we are so grateful we were chosen to raise Charlotte Lee.  Our lives will forever be changed by our adoption, as it has made us more thoughtful, gracious and giving individuals.  So many people tell us how lucky Charlotte is to have us as parents, to become a US citizen, and to have proper medical care, but honestly we are the LUCKY ones to be blessed with this precious, strong, and loving child.  We are confident she is going to change this world for the better, we look forward to the honor of being her parents and watching her grow into an amazing woman.  We are so very lucky.  In the end, we would do this a million times over again, the reward is so much greater than the struggles.  We WILL adopt again and again.  We will spend our lifetime trying to make a difference in the orphans lives around the world, most important teaching our children about God's love and compassion for those in need.  We will continue to share our story, in hopes it will inspire others to choose adoption to build their families. 


This year has been our best one yet!  We have so many things to be THANKFUL for, and decided to dedicate a post of 30 things we are thankful for in 2013!

We are Thankful for

1) our blessing Lottie Lee, she is a gift from God and we treasure every moment
2) the love & support from our family & friends we received throughout our entire adoption
3) Lottie's surgical team in Dallas, especially the talented Dr. Hobar 
4) Lottie's health and development since arriving home
5) our health, given our new allergies, we are grateful for good medical care & epi-pens
6) a healthy and uneventful pregnancy
7) the soon to be arrival of our second child
8) our exciting and stable careers- we both love what we do
9) life in the USA- visiting a Communist Country makes you realize how lucky we are
10) our beautiful house, which has truly become a home
11) our parents- not sure what we would do without them! they are the BEST Grandparents!
12) the simple unscripted moments of parenthood
13) Lottie's happy, and charming personality- she is a joy
14) all those who have prayed for our family this year and throughout our adoption process
15) holiday traditions
16) Lottie's healthy blood drawls and vaccinations
17) our pediatrician Dr. Enders, whom we adore
18) our neighborhood- Teravista, and all the yearly child friendly activities
19) our strong marriage- we have learned form the best-70 years of marriage combined
20) Elmo- watching Lottie fall in love with this fuzzy red character makes life sweeter
21) all those who helped us financially throughout our adoption
22) completing a debt free adoption
23) our adoption agency Children's Hope International
24) friends who are like family
25) life in Texas, and the wonderful Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons we had this year
26) our crazy dogs Benton & Crawford who are adapting to life with Lottie
27) the adoption community, we have gained so many wonderful new friends
28) baby belly kicks
29) laughter with a two year old- priceless
30) experiencing firsts with Lottie- first steps, first time to the beach, first words

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving, we are looking forward to spending the weekend with family, taking in the simple moments and just enjoying the present.  We have so much to be grateful for this year!  Thank you to everyone!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Month Eight

This month we have witness an explosion of language which makes this Speech Therapist Mama proud!  Lottie uses signs to communicate with us, she signs 20-30 different signs regularly but knows at least 50 signs (mostly nouns- animals are her favorite). She understands most simple directions-"like get your shoes, where's Elmo? and let's go bye-bye" but until lately her only words were Elmo and Lola ( her grandma- although for the longest time she uses Lola to refer to phone- ha! tells you who Mama talks to all the time). 

Honestly, I was torn the Mama side of me felt she was making good progress and I didn't want to push her, but the Speech Therapist side of me was getting extremely nervous knowing her receptive language was improving but her expressive was severely delayed  
(like age appropriate of a 9-12 month old baby).  Of course we would expect a delay due to her cleft palate but we still would expect more babbling and attempts to use more verbal language.  We had heard her make sounds but she was not making the connection to use as speech.  All of these speech milestones are so important as little ones develop speech and language skills.

I am glad I followed my Mama instincts to give her some time, because sure enough it did come!  Lottie is now imitating and babbling many new sounds.  She is saying Elmo, Mama, Dada, Hello, Bye,  No, and More.  She is making more animal sounds- which is an important speech skills as well!  I am so proud of her! Hearing her use words especially hello and bye just makes my day!  I cannot wait until her palate is finally repaired and she will really be able to talk!  Something tells me given her outgoing, happy, and funny personality we are going to be hearing many funny stories in our future.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Orphan Sunday 11/03/13

"I always questioned if I was ready to adopt and then realized no child was ready to be an orphan" ~Unknown

Many churches and organizations have hosted “Orphan Sundays” over the years, and thousands of churches across the country are observing Orphan Sunday this weekend. It's a day meant to encourage Christians to consider adopting.  Today on November 3rd is an opportunity for believers all across America to speak for those unspoken for; those the world has forgotten. There are millions of orphans in the world.  It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 orphans worldwide.  

Adoption is not for everyone, and never would we want to portray that everyone should adopt because that is not the solution.  Adoption is a miracle. but it is not easy.  If adoption is not an option for your family there are things you can do! We love the saying... "Adopt..if you can't adopt, Foster...if you can't foster, Sponsor...if you can't sponsor, Volunteer...if you can't volunteer, Donate...if you can't donate, Educate"  There are so many ways to lend in the orphan crisis and trust your commitment is valued no matter how you may be able to help.  If you want more information about international adoption-we will be happy to answer your questions and tell you the facts, or interested in fostering- we'd love to direct you to friends who have been there done that, or if you are interested in supporting reputable organizations that care for orphans-we can share some of our favorites, if you would like to support families currently in the adoption process-we'd love to connect you. 

We knew our lives would be touched by adoption, but we never truly understood the depth of this statement.  Adoption has changed how we view the world, others, and how we can give back to those in need.  There is not much else we can put into words...we will let these photos tell our story.

"When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING for you to get them.  I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to the hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance  through every unforeseen discouragement and delay."
 -Jen Hatmaker

BUT YES we can promise you IT IS WORTH EVERY MOMENT!  IF you are thinking about adoption in any way, feel free to reach out to us!  We would love to share our knowledge and support!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013:The year of eLLmo

Oh, Halloween and making memories!  As a child it was one of my favorite times of the year- the big kickoff to the holiday season!  I was so excited to make this a great day for Lottie, trying my best to spend the day filling it with great and fun surprises.  Little did I know she would surprise me and make my day so very special.  We were not sure how Lottie would react to Halloween- dressing up, scary costumes, and all the candy.  We figured she wouldn't pay much attention to it wither way.  Boy were we wrong.  Lottie had the time of her life!  It was as if she had done this before- she is such an old soul.

Our dear friend in the adoption community reached out and asked if Lottie would want to borrow her daughter's Elmo costume- we thought sure! it is her absolute favorite thing right now.  Our sweet friend Paige packed up the tutu costume and sent it from FL with love.  Words cannot even express how excited Lottie was when we showed her the costume.  Her little body erupted with a constant Elmo, Elmo, Elmo.  I found an Elmo candy bucket at a second hand store, and Target supplied red tights, hair bow and the glitter shoes which finished off this amazing costume.

On the day of Halloween, Lottie had 2 very sad doctor appointments one with a flu shot and the second a dreaded 4 vile blood drawl.  We had a rough start to our day and even after our nap (yes Mama napped too) I wasn't too sure how Halloween would play out.  Determined to make this day special for Lottie we rushed from Halloween party to home to get ready for our night out trick-or-treating.  Scott was out of town and would be rushing home by 6pm to see Lottie, but the beginning of the evening it was just the two of us (well three if you count baby #2) Lottie beamed when I showed her the dress, I was worried it would be uncomfortable and she would not like it once on- wrong again.  She glowed, she couldn't stand it and ran round the house screaming Elmo at the top of her lungs.  Honestly one of the cutest moments ever.  Before even leaving the house I wiped tears away, watching Lottie was pure joy.  She just radiated in her pretty tutu costume.  It made me realize how far this sweet little girl has come, reminded me how strong she is, what love can do, and well how special this child of mine truly is.

Once outside, Lottie continued to run around and smile ear to ear.  Our neighbors couldn't help but stare at her- I mean yes the costume was beyond adorable but her glow, spirit and smile just took others by surprise.  Again here is 7 month pregnant Mama sporting a cookie monster tee, sweating (it was a hot day in TX), wiping tears streaming down my face.  She was such a joy to watch.  Lottie enjoyed going from house to house and adding candy to her bucket.  At times, she even tried to give candy back to others she was just too sweet to watch.  Daddy made it home right before dusk, and was able to take her to a few more houses.

As we tucked her into bed, kissing her through the slats of her crib (a tradition she started months ago) We just stared in awe of this child who simply amazes us every single day.  Today, will forever be engrained in my memory- all day long I thought I would be making this day, Lottie's first Halloween, so special for her; yet she made the day so very special to me.  Tears, streaming down my face I kissed my sweet girl through the slats of her crib.  My life, will forever be changed by this child.  Boy, am I forever grateful.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Month Seven

20 things about Lottie

1. She LOVES Elmo and says it like elMO putting emphasis on MO too cute
2. She can label 15 different body parts
3. She loves to eat pasta especially penne al vodka
4. Bedtime is her favorite she sleeps with 6 different stuffed animals
5. She loves FaceTime, Skype and talking on the phone
6. She can give great kisses- the sound effect is the best part...MUAH
7. She loves anything with wheels including- cars, buses, trains,- her sound effect is also darling
8. Cats are currently her favorite animal
9. She is fascinated by birds
10. Lottie loves to dance and sing songs
11. She particularly likes hip hop beats
12. When she is tired she rubs her right eye
13. She loves the book Where is Spot?
14. Girl loves football and signs touchdown
15. She is funny and silly all the time
16. Lottie LOVES to be the center of attention
17. She is feisty & strong willed
18. She enjoys car rides
19. She won't drink anything but milk
20. She loves Daddy workouts- consisting of jumping jacks and sit-ups


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Our little Pumpkin

A trip to the Sweet Berry Farms, this past weekend.  Lottie was afraid of the pumpkins at first, but she slowly warmed up to them.  We have dreamed of the day we could share this memory with our daughter, as we have had annual trips to Sweet Berry Farms for years.  What a wonderful day we had as a little family of three.

Monday, September 30, 2013

It's a Girl...Lottie will have a little sister

Last week we found out the exciting news that Lottie will have a little sister! We had a small reveal to find out the gender, our local photographer Sarah from Sincerely, Sarah captured some great photos of us cutting into our cake to see pink or blue.  We saw PINK!