Anika & Adelaine January 2009
Adelaine & Anika June 2009
Part of our new “Adoption Day tradition” will be to watch Anika’s video with her each year. After we finished the foster classes, but before we met Anika we waited for that special call, the call that never seemed to come. It felt like forever between the time we graduated from class and the time we met her (which was really only 2 ½ months). The wait was difficult I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t fast like all the other stories we’d heard. I began to question if we were supposed to get a child with special needs. Some of our friends kept suggesting it so I began thinking. Sure we made it through cancer, but we didn’t have any choice but to battle that beast. There was so much pain and heart-ache involved with having a sick child, why in the world would we choose to do that again. But then I thought maybe if it were something less severe, maybe we could do that!
Then we found out about Anika. She was just about to turn 4, we knew she was extremely overweight. I’m not sure if I should share exactly what her weight was, so I’ll just let you figure it out… Anyway, we found out about Anika through Kat Evers. So, instead of them calling us with a child, we called them! (Realizing that the things in my life aren’t usually straight forward, I’ve come to expect and even embrace the unexpected). Instead of being placed by the foster division, Anika was placed through the adoption division (because she was already available for adoption). After Anika stayed in our home for a week, I called the foster division to let them know about Anika and our desire to permanently place her in our home.
Then it happened…
The person in charge of the foster care placement did her research on the child in question (Anika) and called me back. Her exact words were, “WHY DO YOU WANT HER?” (You have to remember that Anika had already spent six days in our home.) All I could think was, “Oh no, what have they not told me about her, what were they hiding. Then I asked, “What do you mean?” She replied, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH SHE WEIGHS? “IF YOU WAIT A LITTLE LONGER WE CAN GET YOU…”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This lady, who was in charge of placing these poor, unfortunate, neglected children into homes was telling me that because she was overweight that I didn’t want her. I was stunned I didn’t even know what to say. I had met this child. She had the disposition of an angel, she was as smart as any child I’d ever met. She was sweet, she was kind, and yes she was overweight. What kind of reason is that for not wanting her? We have mastered health and nutrition. If it weren’t for Adelaine’s cancer, we wouldn’t have had a clue about how to help Anika loose all that weight. But now, now we live for health and wellness!!!!! I really felt that we could do this.
So what exactly were we up against? At that point it didn’t matter. I had fallen in love. I knew that we were supposed to care for her, and that she needed us. It had been a while since the state had taken her to the doctor. In fact her weight had increased by 23 pounds since her last visit!
I made her an appointment with the doctor as soon as I could. Luckily, her lab work came back normal, but she was considered Morbidly Obese and her blood pressure was slightly elevated. She was at a high risk of developing any or all of the following: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, triglycerides, orthopedic problems, asthma and sleep apnea. Her BMI was at 30 ¼. (By the time we were able to make an appointment, she had already lost 7 pounds).
Basically she hadn’t developed anything yet but her weight was like a ticking time bomb. One doctor told me that it wasn’t likely that she would be able to loose the weight. More likely she would have to “grow” into it. She would probably always have a weight problem and be at a high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. What did she need to loose? Exactly ½ of her body weight- that’s 51 1/2 pounds! Yes it was like she was caring around a whole extra person. Even with all that extra weight I saw a very beautiful person. She was beautiful through and through. I knew weI could help her get healthy again.
Shortly after our doctors visit I shared the news with a good friend, Rachel, Rachel’s reply was, “With you, that weight won’t last”. It’s amazing what an encouraging word at the right time can do! Most people were encouraging. There were only about 4 people who were not. There’s nothing like having someone turn their nose up at you, or make a rude comment. It can either discourage or further motivate. No matter what, critical people will always be out their, it is a choice to ignore the negativity and continue on.
Luckily Anika had her height to help her carry the extra weight. At 4’1” she has the height of a 7 year old! So even though she weighed so much , it was more like a 7 year old weighing that much verses a 4 year old. Still it was a lot of extra weight to carry around. How far has she come? She has lost 43 pounds! She weighs 60 pounds and only has 7 pounds left to loose!
She looks and feels like a whole new person! When we first went to the park, she would just sit there. She didn’t run or climb, she didn’t even have the energy to play. Now she plays Freeze Tag and Chase with all the other children! She can even climb to the top of the Monkey Bars!
How did she loose it? We make exercise a part of daily life. We ride bikes, swim, go for walks, and even run and the children take Tae Kwon Do (we took some time off but start back this Thursday). While Adelaine and the boys were at school, Anika and I were working on getting healthy. We did light to moderate daily exercise and adhered to a special diet. We had a doctor oversee Anika’s progress. I knew in my heart she could do it, I just didn’t want to do it too fast. Can a person go from eating all junk food to all healthy food without their body completely freaking out? Apparently yes!
Anika remembers all those bad-for-you tasty treats she used to eat and still speaks fondly of them. She has since learned that although those foods taste really great, they make our bodies very unhealthy. Those foods are “sometimes” foods that we only eat occasionally. She was so young that she had no idea that she was even overweight. We were careful how we approached the topic. We only told her that she needed to get her body healthy. She eats mainly fresh organic fruits and vegetables, organic cereal (with Almond milk) and yogurt, usually no starches (pasta, bread, rice, or white potatoes) no sugar, and no meat. That plus exercise is how she lost it, pretty simple really!!!
So how did she gain all that weight in the first place? She basically stayed inside and watched television and ate – all day, every day. No seriously she ate all day long. She was being cared for by her great-grandparents who wanted to spoil her. I guess grand parents and great-grandparents are for spoiling children, not raising them! Anika requested bacon, eggs, sausage and pancakes for breakfast every single morning and that’s what she got. She ate candy everyday and drank chocolate milk (from a bottle). Plus a gallon of milk every day to every other day- that’s a lot of milk. She speaks fondly of Honey Buns, Ice Cream, and Marshmallow Cake (whatever that is) and especially Nanny’s Home Made Apple Pie. Her lunches were like a Thanksgiving feast, pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, the works and desert, every single day. Anika is such a slow eater, I imagine that she must have grazed all day long. None of which was her fault, but that’s how it happened.
Now she understands making healthy choices. She loves salad. Her taste for food has really changed. She loves to munch on raw carrots and broccoli. I was afraid that she would be sneaking into the kitchen trying to take food, but it wasn’t like that at all. She is so young that she just eats what we give her and that’s that. We buy no junk food, so there is no junk food. One day when she first came to us she sat on the sofa while I was in the room cleaning up. She must have talked about ice-cream for about 20 minutes. How cold it is, how good it tastes what flavors she likes, on and on and on. I just listened and agreed about how yummy it is. Then she finally stopped and was quiet for a minute and said, “Ice cream is not a healthy choice, is it?” It was at that moment that I knew she got it, she truly understood what we were teaching her. It all clicked. Now she worries that Nanny doesn’t make healthy choices. Anika is so smart and teachable! She truly wants to have a healthy body! Her body transformation has been incredible.
When she first came to us, she didn’t really have any clothes, mostly just old stained t-shirts. In fact, they didn’t even make clothes in her size. I had to buy crop pants from the ladies department for her to wear. It was so sad that this little girl couldn’t even wear little girl clothes. No pretty panties with lace or flowers, no little girlie princess shirts, nothing. I couldn’t even find shoes that would fit. I was able to wedge and cram her foot into a pair of Crocs. It wasn’t until much later that she could even squeeze into a pair of flip flops, then finally a pair of Easter shoes.
Also, when she first came to us, she was still in diapers. I believe that being so overweight she had little muscle control. Plus she has a mild bladder infection. After she finished the antibiotics, she was quick to learn and only had a few accidents. I explained that I was not in the business of cleaning up pants from a four year old and what ever clothes she had on when she didn’t make it to the potty, were going into the trash – and I did just that. She did not appreciate having to say good-bye to her Sponge Bob underwear. (I was secretly happy to see them go). She wet the bed a few times but it’s been about 6 weeks since her last accident so I think it’s safe to say she’s completely potty trained now!
No car seat either! She just wouldn’t fit, not even in a booster seat. Now she and Adelaine sit safely side by side in their booster seats, in our new minivan, Georgette! (Doug drives Pearl now). Could I even pick her up? Not a chance. How sad was that I couldn’t even hold my child. In fact the first time I picked her up I surprised us both. We were in the driveway and Anika decided to through a colossal fit. She threw herself on the ground and began to kick and scream. (Yes this perfect angel does have a temper after all). With her height and her weight when she did decide to throw one, it is magnified, like a fit on steroids. I picked her up, carried her through the house and plopped her down in her room and closed the door. She screamed and whaled I’m sure the neighbors thought someone was being murdered! After it was all over she came and said, “You picked me up. I didn’t know you could pick me up!” I guess she was as surprised as I was!
She now looks in the mirror and admires herself. She loves wearing all her new clothes that look so girly and pretty. I was the first person to take her out shopping and she loved it. She says, “Remember when just you and me went shopping and you bought me all those new clothes, can we do that again?” Seeing her loose all that weight has been an amazing transformation and we are so proud of her. After she looses 7 more pounds she will be completely done. We are celebrating with a cheeseburger and apple pie party, and she gets to get her ears pierced!!! She is so excited and we are so proud!