Jason and Adrianne Stewart adopted Maria a year and a half ago from the Philippines. She was born without limbs. It’s a condition called congenital limb difference. However, what 3-year-old Maria lacks in limbs, she more than makes up for in personality.
"She's full of joy," Adrianne Stewart told KSTU. "She's full of light and joy. We wake up every day with a smile on our face because of her."
Maria is the second child the Stewarts adopted from the Philippines, after delivering two biological children.
"We chose the Philippines because I had served my mission there and I knew the culture, I knew the people," Jason Stewart said.
After adopting their son Joshua, Adrianne had a feeling there was another girl waiting for them.
"I just had the feeling that there was someone missing from our family," Adrianne Stewart said.
They had never planned to adopt a child with special needs, but when they saw Maria's picture for the first time, they instantly fell in love.
She's come a long way in the past year and a half. When they first picked her up from the Philippines she couldn't hold her head up. Now she's learning how to eat by herself, draw, and she's going to preschool two times a week.
"She's in a class with some disabled kids and then regular kids also, and they all love her," Adrianne Stewart said. "They fight over who gets to play with her."
The Stewarts have found the easiest way to make Maria smile is with movement.
"A lot of times when she's fussy, we'll do that and she'll go from being fussy to cracking up," Jason Stewart said.
They're finding all kinds of ways to do it, whether it's swinging in a hammock or lying in a ball pit.
The Stewarts have become Maria "MacGyvers," learning what works for her by trial and error, but rarely thinking of her as different.
"She doesn't even know she has a disability," Adrianne Stewart said. "It's all she's ever known."
The Stewarts have also learned a lot from social media, which is connecting them to other parents in the same situation. That's how they recently figured out why Maria is always so warm when they hold her. It's because, for most of us, blood circulates through our arms and legs to cool us down but that isn't possible in Maria's case.