Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Meet "Nate"

Meet "Nate". (not his real name)

In 2007, Mental Disability Rights International did an investigation into the treatment of individuals with disabilities in the institutions of Serbia. Ianna, Nate and several other children were removed from the facility at that time. They were moved to the orphanage where Asher spent his entire life.

In April of 2010 I  met Nate. Or maybe Nate met me! As you can see by Nate's eyes above, he looked right through me and into my soul. He spoke to me without uttering a sound. He told me with his eyes of the horrors he'd seen and heard. As he sat eating his lunch, the caregivers told us through a translator of all the things Nate could not do. As they spoke, Nate sat with a smirk on his face. When he was done eating he stood up and proceeded to do all the things the caregivers had just said he was unable to do.

Nate climbed into my heart and he stayed there. I've never stopped praying for him, and wondering what happened to him. He's one of the children I vowed to get out. Somehow...somehow I would get him out.

When I returned to Serbia in December 2010 I asked to see Ianna, and was told she'd been moved. I asked to see Nate and was told he'd been moved as well. My heart was broken knowing the two children I'd worried about most had been moved to Hell on Earth.

In May 2010, my third trip to Serbia in just one year, I was able to find out where Ianna had been moved to, but wasn't able to find out anything about Nate. My heart ached for him. I wish I could show you his'd understand. You'd be able to see what I saw. What I still see and feel.

Just one month ago I returned to Serbia yet again, this time to bring Asher home. Asher was in the same facility where I'd met both Ianna and Nate. During my visits with Asher I was very limited what areas I could go to, though I did accidentally find myself on the wrong floor once. (the power had gone out and I had to take the stairs instead of the elevator...THAT was interesting!) When I walked onto the floor I looked at every face, trying to find those I recognized, particularly those who I know have families coming for them very soon. I just wanted to see them, and if I was really lucky, to put my hands on them. To tell them "Soon...soon your mama will be here for you."

Two days after I arrived home with Asher I received an email. It was from Kai's family. They'd found him! Nate was THERE. He called her "Mama" and took her hand. He knew that she was Kai's mama, and he understood. He understood that that Kai was one of the lucky ones. He, himself, would be left behind again.

Nate, a child with mild cp who walks, is in one of the "laying down rooms", a place where the non-ambulatory children are kept. Just as he was when I first met him, he is still skin and bones. During the days he is brought out to the hall to watch the world go by. There he sits, all day long. (updated to add: Kai's mom commented on this blog post. Please be sure to read her comment!)

Nate is either turning or just turned 12 years old. Twelve. He has spent 12 years waiting for his Mama to find him.

Who will be Nate's Mama?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Yet another update: Teeth

Ok so I should update on my teeth since I left you all hanging and several people have either called or emailed!

On Tuesday I went back to my dentist to say FIX THIS TOOTH!! That and give me more drugs. On Friday they'd given me 16 Vicodin pills that were supposed to get me until I could get to an endodontist on Weds. Yeah..NOT happening! So I told them I couldn't find an endodontist who would take my insurance AND everyone was still closed from the Christmas holiday. By this time I was in excruciating pain and although the Vicodin wasn't doing much, it was at least taking the very edge off. By evening there were times the pain was bringing me right to my knees, feeling like someone was jabbing a hot poker through my teeth, and every single tooth on that side of my face hurt.

Weds morning I woke up with that side of my face swollen twice it's size, my eye nearly closed, and my nasal septum pushed way over to one side. I was actually contemplating taking a picture of myself in this grotesque state just for the sake of a blog-worthy picture, but decided that would be...well..bad.

As soon as office hours rolled around I called the University of Minnesota Dental Dept of Endodontics and Oral Surgery. They told me I could come in at 1:00. I arrived and sat in an exam room trying not to cry for a good 30 minutes before someone finally came in. This guy told me all he could do is pull the tooth because they're not endodontists. What??? The clinic I walked into said, "Endodontics" on the sign! Turns out that's who I'd called, but the receptionist scheduled me with a dentist. UGH! Anyway, he walked me upstairs to another clinic.

When I arrived there this dentist comes out and says, "Lets rock and roll!" I mumbled through my swelling if I should be worried because "Rocking and Rolling" was not really in my plan at the moment, but a morphine drip sounded great.

Before we even really started talking about the history, he gave me one quick shot of anesthetic to take the edge off the pain. (the decision to do this might have had something to do with the tears constantly flowing down my face.) Finally it was time to get to work. The biggest problem was there was so much swelling in my face there wasn't really any room to introduce more fluid in the form of anesthetic. Eventually it took a nerve block and enough anesthetic to knock down a horse before they could even touch the tooth without it causing more tears to fall. The dentist was incredibly nice and caring, and told me several times we were just going to take our time getting me good and numb. You see, I've had a root canal on the same tooth on the other side of my face without any anesthetic. That was the last time I was in a dentist's chair....15 years ago!

Yesterday I was feeling much better. I still woke up with my whole face and eye swollen, but it wasn't quite as bad as the day before, and not nearly as painful. Today I'm still in a tiny bit of pain (totally manageable with Ibuprofin) with a little bit of swelling, but feeling semi human. Looking back I realized I've been sick for two weeks. During this time my tooth was dying AND I had strep. It's been a long couple of weeks! The week before my tooth went bad was spent in a state of Jet lag, so I've basically been down since Asher and I arrived home. It's time to get this show on the road!

So, back to the real world now. They kids' Christmas vacation has been a lot of mom laying around not being very useful. Well, that an Angela spent much of the week sick as well. Hopefully this weekend I can make up for it a bit by doing some fun stuff with them before they go back to school next week!

Oh, and just so you know, I was able to keep the tooth AND the brand new crown that I had put on in Serbia.

Meet Kai

Do you remember this little guy?
Well I promised to show you his WHOLE face once he came home, especially since many of you helped to get him there! Meet Malakai!
 One of the first days out of the orphanage.

In  his Christmas duds!

I had the pleasure of rooming with Kai's mom and dad Brianne and Jay in Serbia. They even got to meet Asher. Kai came home just two days before Christmas and they're just now recovering a bit. Their blog went  private while they were in Serbia but I've heard a rumor they're going to start blogging again! YAY!

Anyway, feel free to comment here and welcome Kai home!

3 weeks home: Asher's Update

Wow, where do I start with this? How about a couple cute pictures?

Let's tackle the medical first, shall we?

Eyes: Asher can't see much. We don't know how much is "not much" but we know it's not a lot! He LOVES shows like Sesame Street or Sid the Science Kid because they have super bright colors. But, he only likes them if he's within three feet of the tv. He will laugh like crazy at the characters moving around on the screen but if he's any further away you can tell he can't focus enough on them. Also, see how his head its tilted in the picture above, and one eye is focused and the other is not? That's because he needs to tip his head to focus one eye, while the other is basically non-functioning. When he walks his very toddler-ish walk with hands in the air its not for balance but a protective reflex so he can kind of feel his way around. All three kids have eye exams together on the 13th. They told me to plan on being there 4-5 hours! Dean will be taking off work that afternoon to join us. ;-)

Tonsils and Adenoids: OMG I have never seen tonsils so huge!!! These are not Asher's, but they look similar:

The difference is that Asher's are BIGGER! So big, in fact, that they're overlapping instead of pushing against one another. This would be why Asher cannot eat solid food. There is nowhere for it to go. It's also why he has to create an odd sucking system between his palate and tongue because the food has to move ABOVE his tonsils, which is the only place for it to go since his tonsils are too large for the food to move below them. So my attempts to get him to chew solid food have been put on hold and he's left with applesauce consistency until we can get these removed! Obviously the thrashing around in his sleep is what I suspected...obstructive sleep apnea. Asher also came home with strep, and now everyone on the house has it. Yay us!  Asher and Axel will be seeing the ENT together. (and yes, kids can get strep without tonsils. Angela has it, and she had her tonsils removed when she was 9.)

Urology: I wasn't going to talk about this on the blog, but its relatively common among little boys with DS, and there are a lot of parents of new babies or soon-to-be adoptive parents of kids with DS here. Little boys with DS have a high incidence of urological issues. Nuff said!

Hearing: Asher's hearing appears to be 100% fine! Even so, we'll be doing an ABR in combination with the procedures above. Because we can.

GI: Asher will also need to have a colon biopsy done. He has many of the symptoms of Hirshsprung Disease  Hopefully we can combine this with the other surgeries mentioned above. (We call these "Tune-ups" by the way. With Angela we often did several procedures at once to decrease the number of times she's under general anesthesia. Even with combining things she's been under more than 30 times!) His appointment with the GI doctor is coming up soon!

Speech/communication: Asher is not talking at all, and still just playing around with making sounds. He was largely silent in the orphanage, and I would put my money on him  having been medicated while he was there. Now he is making all kinds of silly sounds. Our personal favorite is his loon laugh! (Sounds just like a Minnesota Loon!) He is signing quite a bit, though now I realize his funny handshakes are because he can't really see us! Still he can sign more, all done, bath, eat, milk, hot, mom, daddy, milk, bye bye and hi. He's doing GREAT! Can't wait to get some glasses on him so he can SEE Signing time! I think he'll really like it. He tries to imitate now but he cannot see what they're doing on the screen. Here's a video of our own personal Loon!

Dogs: Asher loves the dogs now. Let me rephrase that...Asher loves to use the dogs now! LOL One day shortly after we came home he was standing in the kitchen with a dangly toy. He hadn't really noticed the dogs at that point. Dudley happened to stand next o him, wagging his tail, only his tail was bumping Asher's dangly thing. Asher thought this was pretty funny and started laughing. Dudley moved a bit and Asher moved with him so he could keep using his tail. From then on the dogs have been under Asher's constant surveillance! He has discovered that when you're tired, dogs make a great place to stop for a rest.

Sometimes when you need to get a good look at the dog, it helps to get underneath him.

All in all, Asher seems to be adjusting quite well to being in a family. He is loving moving about the house at will. At first he didn't acknowledge the other kids unless he wanted to be picked up. Now he seeks them out and will hold a dangly toy while he watches them play, often laughing hysterically at their antics. He loves when Axel takes out an easier toy and shows him what to do with it. We think part of the reason he doesn't play with toys much on his own his because he can't see them. There is the whole issue about never having learned HOW to play with toys, but we suspect there is more to it than that.

So there's your Asher update at three weeks home!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Axel's Update

Lots of people have been asking how Axel is doing with a new brother in the house, and even more have been asking how is neck is doing.

Axel needs to go back to see his surgeon at Shriners in Philadelphia, but I was waiting to get Asher's neck X-rays done first. Now that those are done and his (hooray!) clear of AAI, we get get scheduled for a little trip to Philly. I just need to come up with the money for Asher's plane ticket since he'll need to come along. Might be a little tight since I have to pay for a root canal first AND we need to get a van because HELLO! Three kids, one in a booster and one a full-sized car seat do NOT fit in the backseat of my car! LOL

Ok, so Axel's neck is still bothering him and sometimes he asks to wear his brace. We'll be in Philly soon.

Before I left for Serbia to get Asher, Axel was doing great in school. With some intensive behavioral interventions (read, "Mom going to school a lot!) he was having more good days than bad. Actually, he was having very few bad days, and was starting to spend more time with his mainstream peers. We even talked about moving him into the d/hoh (deaf/hard of hearing) regular ed K-2 grade classroom since he has so much more language now and is feeding off some a lot of some of the negative behavior of some kids in his DCD classroom. When he's with the regular ed. kids he behaves so much better.

And then I left. For three whole weeks! Axel was one very naughty boy the whole time I was gone, with his behavior regressing to where it was when I was in Serbia with him a year ago. He was also pretty naughty for Dean even though Dean stuck to his guns and made it clear he wasn't going to put up with the crap. Obviously there were many reasons for the change, all of which were expected, we just hoped we wouldn't see them. (one can hope, right?) It's going to take several weeks for him to get with the program again, but we have several plans that will be put to action when the kids go back to school next week.

There are times when it's very clear that Axel is jealous of the very baby-like Asher. It is all very normal, and we're going overboard to make sure Axel understands that we still love HIM, and that he has not lost his place in our family just because Asher is here. Again, it's all very normal reactions to change in the family structure, but some of his behaviors have been a bit tricky to address. We'll get there, eventually!

Axel DOES seem to enjoy Asher's presence at times, particularly if it means Asher is following him around like a puppy. He really does like being the big brother, and being helpful with Asher. He gets annoyed when Asher sits too close to him on the couch because it means Asher is gong to put his head on whatever Axel has on his lap. LOL I think Axel really does understand where Asher came from, and how he got here, and why. He has been very loving to Asher and concerned for him the few times Asher has cried, etc.  As we've sought to find our routine here, so has Axel slowly been figuring out that his place in our family has not changed.

As far as school goes, Axel is learning to read, he knows the months of the year and the days of the week. he knows the months of his classmates birthdays, and that he is 11 years old. When we got him his vocabulary was below 12 months, and he's now at a 4-6 year level. Thats as much as a 6 year gain in just 12 months. Incredible! He's very much at a kindergarten level of knowledge where school is concerned, and every single day he makes gains. It's been very fun to watch!!!

An Answer to Prayer

Many of you reading here are also readers on our adoption blog, and know that for almost two years we've been praying for a little girl we call "Ianna".  (hint, there's a picture on that link.)

I met Axel on the same trip I met Ianna. It is because of Ianna that Dean's heart was opened to adoption. It is because we adopted Axel that we knew "we can do this" and Asher joined our family.

We have one open bed left in our house. We have approval to adopt one more child. That spot has been reserved for Ianna, who sits in a horrible mental institution in Serbia. When you watch the video of Serbian institutions  That is where Ianna spent her first 7 years, and last year the place she was transferred to is much the same! Can you imagine, she was moved from one horrible place into a fairly good facility, only to be moved BACK to a place just like the first? Can you imagine the horror going through her little mind?

I'm sure you can understand it is for this reason we begged and pleaded to God to get her out of there. Get her to our home, or to any home. Just get her out.

Yesterday we received an answer to our prayers! We were informed by the Serbian ministry that she has been moved to a foster home!!!! PRAISE GOD!!!!!

You see, international adoption should be a last resort, when there are no other options available. Most of the time in Serbia children in foster care stay in the same foster family for many years. We hope the same is true for Ianna. It could still happen that someday she'll be made available for adoption but it appears now that at nearly 12 years old she'll stay where she is until she ages out.

Thank you God, for hearing our plea for Ianna and getting her safely into a family. Thank you God, for using Ianna to bring two new children into our home.

Will we adopt again? Only God knows!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh the face

This post is not about the face of adoption, but MY face.

Many years ago....15 to be exact... I had what the dentist thought was an abscessed tooth. When he went to do the root canal he didn't use novocaine because according to the X-rays that tooth was dead. it wasn't. I had a root canal with NO anesthetic.

I didn't go back to a dentist again for a very long time. That was this past September to get estimates on new crowns for my four front teeth. I had two crowns which were 25 years old and totally WRONG, and two other teeth that needed crowns, which came to just under $6,000.

Well, my good friend Zoran in Serbia is a cosmetic dentist, and he did the same work for $1300! My new crowns are beautiful, and I love smiling now.

Then a week and a half ago my mouth started hurting. Bad. Really really bad. The tooth that hurt worst was the one live tooth that had just gotten a new crown, so I was really worried something had happened to it.  On Friday last week I went into the dentist. It was not what I expected to hear. The dentist cannot touch me because there is "some kind of mass or old access" that is in the maxillary sinus just above my teeth, which is pushing my teeth down/out.  It could be the 25 year old root canals that have failed, or it could be something else. Whatever it is, it was clearly aggravated by the work I'd just had done. She wanted me to go see an endodontist or maxillofacial surgeon. But that was on Friday of a holiday weekend. She sent me home with antibiotics and pain killers to get me through the weekend.

I didn't do so well over the weekend.

Yesterday I started calling around and cannot find an endodontist who takes my insurance. At one point I was in so much pain I couldn't talk without crying so put Dean on the phone to talk for me. Last night I started doubling the vicadin.

I have another appointment with the dentist in about 45 minutes. I am in excruciating pain and this morning woke up with one side of my face and lips hugely swollen. I'm about ready to just say &^%$ it and go to the ER. And, I still can't find anyone besides the dentist who takes my insurance.

I probably will not be writing for a couple of days since I will be demanding pain drugs that knock me OUT!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Angela Update

I think it's about time I do an update post for each of the kids. Don't you? Lets go oldest to youngest!

First, here are Homecoming pictures that I never got around to posting! Let me just say, Homecoming is an eye opener and Angela will probably never go to another Homecoming dance again! For those in our area who's kids go, you might want to make an appearance yourself. I promise you will be enlightened! Anyway, it was tough to find Angela a dress that was not only stylish, but fit her without looking like a little girl's dress. At just 4 ft 8 1/2 inches, Angela is the size of a 4th or 5th grader. Shopping in the petite section was not the answer either since those clothes are are too "mature" for her to wear. I need to find a good petite junior store! In any case, Angela had a blast at homecoming (and during the homecoming game managed to get herself down on the field which is something else I never blogged about!)

Angela is adjusting very well to her new little brother. In fact, she adjusted very well to Axel too, but I would say she's adjusting even better to Asher. Probably because when Axel came, Angela went from being an "only" in the house to having to share our attention. Asher just kind of slid right in! LOL

Angela is developmentally very much around 9-ish. Do you know what girls that age like to do? They like to mother everyone! Angela LOVES that Asher often comes to her to be picked up. (though she can barely manage this.) and he likes to snuggle with her on the couch. He also likes to play with her hair which she isn't as fond of. ;-)

In school Angela is doing great. You may remember some of my posts (like this one ) where I talked about the problems going on with staff at Angela's school. We had another meeting right before I left for Serbia to add some additional mainstream classes to her schedule for second trimester. She's now in 3 mainstream classes, plus lunch, then adaptive P.E. So she only has 2 hours out of her day that are spent in the special ed. classroom. However, at that meeting there was still a problem with  her case manager and I said again, I wanted to see changes in that area. Then...I think it was the day before I left...I got an email from the case manager that just frustrated me to no end. I contracted the administrators involved and informed then that when I returned from Serbia, if that case manager was still in place, I would be removing Angela from school and homeschooling her. I wasn't doing this as a threat, just a statement so that when I got home and did this nobody would be surprised. I knew that admin. was doing all they could with the situation. They really were trying hard. The problem was this was a tenured teacher and there are laws. Unfortunately (and this is NOT the fault of the district, but the system in general!) sometimes tenured teachers have too many rights.

There were a couple more emails exchanged at the beginning of my Serbia trip that just made me shake my head. Fortunately admin. was cc'd on each of them so they were able to see the for themselves what was going on. Finally, one week before I came home, I received an email that stated "Effective immediately (case manager) has accepted another position." In other words, effective immediately that person would no longer be Angela's teacher!!! Oh how I did the snoopy happy dance when I got that email!!! I was practically giddy! Not only was Angela going to get a new, highly qualified teacher, but I wasn't going to have to homeschool her! (while I'm perfectly capable of homeschooling Angela, she would NOT like being out of school and away from her friends!)

In the meantime, the other DCD teacher was there (she's awesome!) along with a long-term sub who was also great. Then the week we came home it was announced a new teacher had been hired to fill the position and she will be starting after Christmas break.

So, Angela is loving school right now. Well really she's loved it all year and was oblivious to the things that were not happening for her. She has no idea the education she wasn't getting. Now all the modifications and adaptations that were in the IEP are in place and she's thriving in all her classes. She just had her second choir concert last week and it was so fun to see her up there with all her mainstream peers, not to mention hilarious! Angela is hard of hearing, and she cannot carry a tune! Her choir instructor is very patient with her, but she does NOT stand near any microphones during the concert. LOL Also, because she's 1/2 the height of everyone else, she stands at the very top bleacher, one row higher than everyone else. This puts her head height even with the other girls so she can see the director. (not that she watches him at all. She tends to sing with all her might, and with her eyes closed. LOL)

Angela is also taking a mainstream cooking class again this trimester, which she really enjoys. She is so proud of the things she makes and brings home to share. Her teacher gives her all tests and quizzes orally and Angela is doing very well with them.

This trimester we added a "Wellness" class. It's a mainstream elective that focuses on making healthy choices in all areas of life. Things like choosing a college, stress management, strategies for studying, etc. It's a pretty difficult class, (her work is modified to her ability level) but Angela seems to like it.

For fun Angela is on the adaptive floor hockey league (this is a high school league sport). They normally practice four days a week after school but Angela has speech and OT two days a week so her practices are a bit limited. Her first game is coming up soon and we always have a lot of fun watching.

Angela decided she didn't want to swim for Special Olympics this year. She's always had to choose between swimming and basketball. Well basketball starts up after the new year and both Angela and Axel will be playing this year so that will be fun!

Next up: Axel

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa's Coming!

At 4:00 pm Angela stood up from the couch, stretched dramatically - complete with a yawn while patting her mouth - and announced, "Wow. I'm so tired. I think it's time for my pajamas."

I assured her it was a little early to head to bed, and that Santa would not be here for many hours yet!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pictures: Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover

Disclaimer: this could be a long post.

When we were in the process of Asher's adoption and getting information on him, we were slightly frustrated about not having seen a picture of him, but only slightly. I think some of my blog readers might have been more frustrated than we were. ; -) This was, according to the Serbian ministry, the first adoption to a US family that was a 100% blind referral. We weren't getting information about Asher from any source other than government officials, I hadn't met him during previous visits, and we had no pictures. There are certain things we know we can't deal with and some things we have dealt with and know we don't have it in us to do again. Our criteria was any child, boy or girl, between the ages of 6-11 with any special needs, but we cannot take a child with known aggression issues. That's a pretty broad criteria. One thing we knew...we did NOT want a child younger than 6 because, given the delays that go along with an institutionalized child with Down syndrome, we didn't feel able to parent a toddler again at this point in our lives. (Can you hear God laughing?)

Here is the exact information we received from the Serbian ministry about Asher:
Boy L, age of 7, born in October 2004, with Down syndrome; first marriage child; protected within institution; have stable developmental progress, apart from speech development which is regressing; able to walk without grownups support on flat surface; with grownups support able to walk up and down the stairs; able to sit on the chair while feeding; passive while eating; does not make difference between sweet and salty food; he does not chew; unable to hold a cup himself; feed with the spoon by grownups; mostly repeating activities he is engaged in.

Although we knew that we could turn down Asher's referral upon meeting him, or any time during the visitation process, really, Dean and I decided that we would take the child God had matched us with, and be accepting of his needs no matter what they were. This was a huge leap of faith for both of us, on many different levels.

Let me tell you what I know now....

I know in those first weeks after meeting Asher how difficult it was to get a decent picture of him. For every one picture that was decent enough to post, I took 30 that were not. Most of the people I know who have adopted children internationally in the past couple of years did so based on a photo posted at Reece's Rainbow or other photo listing site. There is something that happens to many people who have made their decision based on a photo. 

We didn't have a picture making it a bit more difficult to create an imaginary child. We had a loose description of some of his skills, much of which we later learned was either inaccurate or outdated. What we KNEW is that we had no idea the child we were getting until I GOT there and saw him in person. It was a lot like being pregnant with a prenatal diagnosis. We knew he had Down syndrome and that's about it!

I am SO GLAD we never had that picture. I'm being completely honest here...I know that if we had seen a picture of Asher prior to adopting him, we would likely have turned him down. At two weeks home we can't imagine Asher not being here. No, our adjustment has not been "easy", but it also hasn't been anything we weren't ready for. Yes, there have been surprises. Like the fact Dean and I did not want to adopt a toddler because we feel we had it in us to parent a toddler again. Hey, going back to age SIX seemed very young to us! And now we are doing just that: parenting a child who, although he is 7, he is a toddler in every sense of the word. He is a brand new walker, he is exploring the world like a toddler would, he is eating babyhood and on a bottle. And yes we can hear God laughing at the parameters we set, knowing we absolutely WERE able to parent a toddler again, we just had to be pushed into it.

And now, I'll leave you with two videos. The first of Asher taken on day 2 of visits to the orphanage.

And this video, taken last week, of Axel teaching Asher how to play with a toy. Sorry it's so dark!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Days

I took Angela until she was 11 to be able to open the dog kennels, and then only 3 of them. (the fourth requires significantly more hand strength than she can muster.) When we ask her to let the dogs out it is with a groan befitting most teenagers I know.

It took Axel about 6 months to figure out how to open the kennels, and he can open the difficult one too.

With the exception of the difficult one, it took Asher 12 days to figure out how to open the kennels.

We're in trouble.


Here's a picture of Asher the day I met him one month ago. It was very difficult to get him to look at me, and eye contact was accidental. Circles under his eyes, skinny face (his temples were sunken in) and no affect. Then one of the pictures I took the other day after two weeks in my care.  Wow....what a difference.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Developmental Milestone

Asher reached a developmental milestone least in the world of newly-adopted, post-institutional care children. Today he not only initiated play with a toy, but he played with it appropriately for several minutes!

Loving Sisters

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Asher Signing (video)

Asher has been in my custody for two weeks now, and here in the U.S. for just over a week. One of my firsts tasks was to give him the ability to communicate.

14 days with me and he can now sign:

all done
bye bye

I usually start with the sign for "more". Asher was pretty funny because while we were still in Serbia,  this crazy talking woman (meaning I was speaking English so he had NO CLUE what I was saying!) tried to do hand motions with him and he would squeeze his eyes shut tight and turn away. LOL

Then, the middle of last week things "clicked" with him. Now that he's learned these movements have purpose he will imitate nearly everything I show him. This video was taken the day he learned to sign "more". As you can see, he'd already added "milk" to his list! He still needed a little prompting at this point, but by the next day he was initiating on his own. (See that stack of mail behind him? Yep, still have to go through all that stuff! Oh, and this video of him eating reminds me he's gained FIVE POUNDS in two weeks!

Monkey See, Monkey Do!

Light Switches

Just trying to get caught up on some of the pictures and videos I took while in Serbia. Here's a really short one of Asher discovering light switches.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

When you're in a tight spot

When you're in Belgrade, or other parts of Europe where parking spots are very tight, don't park illegally! Your car can disappear in the blink of an eye.

We were driving around looking for a parking spot when we came around a corner to see the strangest thing I've ever seen. We were behind a flatbed truck that suddenly stopped. A guy jumped out of the passenger side and ran over to a car that was parked on the side of the street. Suddenly a small hoist thingy lifted off the truck and swung over, coming to a stop above the car. Four "tentacles" came snaking down and the guy who had come out of the truck quickly hooked them underneath the car. The car was then lifted right out of it's very tight parking spot, swung over and set on the flatbed, and driven away. The whole process took less than one minute! Here's a picture of a similar truck that was taken in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

To all our family and friends

Dear friends and family. I have a new favorite blog to read, her name is Jen Hatmaker and she is way smarter than me. She has also adopted a bunch more times than us and knows how to put into words all the things I want to say but can't. If you read NOTHING else online today, please go read this ONE post. Just one, I promise. (but please don't hesitate to click on her link for her"After the Airport" post.) Pretty pretty please, I'm begging you to read it. B.E.G.G.I.N.G. Especially the cooking part. With what we have ahead of us when we get home, (that has nothing to do with Asher!) we're going to really appreciate the cooking part.


Tyler  and Noah, 
July 4th 2011

23 years ago today, I welcomed my second son into the world. Tyler was NOT an easy baby by any stretch of the word. In fact, it could have been said that because of Tyler that I waited 7 years to have another baby! Tyler came out screaming and he screamed until he was 4. Tyler was a chubby, olive skinned toddler. With his Bohemian blood just a few minutes outside and he'd get so dark! I remember my mom jokingly asking once if I was putting tanning accelerator on him. LOL

Tyler was also my daredevil. He would try pretty much any stunt his brothers put him up to. He still tells me stories of things I didn't know about, and I have to remind him, "Some things are better for the Mom to not know!"

Here we are years later. Tyler has proven himself to be an intelligent young man, still trying to find his way in this big world. We're thankful that we get to see quite a bit of Tyler, and when he's not around Axel is always asking for him.

I was chatting with Tyler on Skype a few days ago; me in Serbia, him in Minnesota, and I told him I was sorry I would be gone a second year in a row on his birthday, instead completing another adoption. "That's ok Mom. My friends think it's cool that instead of meaningless gifts for my birthday, I get brothers!"

We sure love you Tyler!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Pt 2: On This Day One Year Ago

One year ago today I was having my second visit with Axel. We were having fun, just enjoying each other's com pay, all the other adults speaking Serbian so I was oblivious as to what was being said. Go have a read on my adoption blog post from that day.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Neck Update

As you know, before I left for Serbia Axel's neck had been bothering him. We waited for the orders from his surgeon for a CT scan but they never arrived. Then he seemed to be doing a little better so we decided to do a "wait and see" approach and I would deal with it as soon as I got home.

Well, Axel's been having some problems with school, and he's also started rubbing the back of his neck again.  We have no idea if the behavioral problems are related to pain or my being gone or what, but we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Axel needs to have a sedated CT scan so yesterday Dean took him in for a pre-op exam and tomorrow (Friday) they'll head down to St Paul Children's for the test. A ct scan only takes a few minutes, and most kids his age would be able to lay there still for those minutes. But Axel is very claustrophobic, not to mention scared to death of doctors. Rather than try it without sedation only to have Dean end up taking yet another day off work to reschedule a sedated test, we're just going straight for that IV and a nice little nap!

Dean is really nervous about taking Axel for this test. While it's very routine for me to run kids through these things, getting to IV's, knowing my way around the buildings and all of those things, it's very new for Dean. The few times he's been along for something he just followed me. Dean is a great dad and I know he'll do just fine.

Once the test is done Dean will be taking the CD straight to the post office to have it sent to Axel's surgeon in Philadelphia to have a look at. Sometime next week we should know what's going on in there.

Pt 1: On This Day One Year Ago

One year ago today I walked into a conference room full of people. Some of who I'd met before, others were new to me. This was like no other meeting I'd ever attended. First of all, I had to fly to the other side of the world, from Minneapolis to Belgrade, Serbia in order to attend. Secondly, this meeting was to learn all the important details of a child named Djordje S., age 10. I'd met Djordje a few months before during a previous trip and Dean and I decided he would fit into our family.

After going over Djordje's records, the group of us piled into cars and headed south to the town of Kragujevac, Serbia. It's about a 90 minute drive and I was SO nervous!

When we got there, I was quickly reaquinted with the humble little home owned by the foster family. We came around the corner of the little front porch and there stood Djordje, the tiniest 10 1/2 year old I'd ever seen. He was excited to have people coming to visit, and he led us all into the house. I couldn't talk. If I'd opened my mouth I would have started bawling and I didn't want to scare him.

He sat down to the table where he was just finishing his lunch. See the phone in his hand? He'd had it for two years. It had a string on it to go around his neck and it went everywhere with him. It made it to the US still on his neck and we haven't seen it since the moment he walked in our front door. :-(

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My View from Serbia

Almost every day I get to say good morning to the kids as they get ready for school. What would we do without things like Skype or FaceTime!!! Here was my view from Serbia yesterday.

Angela ready to catch the bus. 

Axel still in his jambes because Papa is trying to mess up the routine before I get back. 

Then, when it's almost bedtime for me, it's time for the kids to come home! I usually get a shot of Axel, but Angela is usually off and running. LOL

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Repost Pt11: The Marathon

Just the thought of this day makes me feel cold.

We started the morning in our tiny hotel room in Grand Marais.  It was cool, foggy and damp when we were getting ready to leave. Chaps were definitely in order! If you're not a rider, chaps are WORK do get on! Not only that, but when I started wearing chaps I also discovered that, like a lot of people, my dominant leg (right) which makes my chaps tighter on that leg, which feels funny and bothers me.

We loaded up the bikes and headed into town for breakfast at a nice little cafe, and asked the local fisherman what then knew of the day's weather report. No better people to ask than fisherman!

We were headed to Marathon, Ontario, Canada. We only had a 245 mile ride ahead of us, but we knew it just might possibly get chilly. What we didn't know is it would be the longest 245 miles we'd ever ridden! We stopped at a store in town so Bev could buy some better (read warmer) gloves and some neck thingies, mailed all the post cards that needed mailing, and donned the riding gear we thought most appropriate for the day ahead. We waved goodbye to Sven and Ole's, and hit the road.

We passed through Grand Portage and visited the Witch Tree, and arrived at the border. That's where we learned that "Pepper Spray" needs to be labeled as "Animal Repellant" and Canadian vending machines don't take American coins. Go figure!

It had warmed up a bit, so after taking a break at the visitor center (and an FYI for you bikers crossing the border, there is a helmet law in Canada.) we were able to shed a couple layers, and switch to lighter weight loves. However, over the course of the morning it became apparent that Ontario is a lot like Minnesota, in that the weather can change very quickly. Well some of it has to do with the lake effect. Remember, we're on the shores of Lake Superior.

We stopped for lunch in a tiny little town who's name escapes me, and had lunch at a little diner where the waitress/cook/cashier looked to be about 14 years old, AND you paid extra for each item you ordered. Example: I ordered a burger w/fries. The fries were extra. The mayo was extra. The lettuce and tomato were extra. Tink asked if I had to pay for the plate and the ketchup too.

Shortly after leaving that town we hit the first road construction we'd seen. They were ripping up the pavement so the road had those really nasty grooves in it. In a car, they're not a big deal. On a bike, it makes you wobble all over and feel like you're going to either be pulled into the oncoming traffic on your left, or over the cliff on your right. The way to ride this stuff is to just let the bike go which way it needs to go and not fight it. It's a constant mind game between you, the road, and the bike...10 miles of the mind game. I can ride on gravel and it doesn't bother me. I can ride in the rain, and I'm only slightly annoyed, but give me these grooves and I'm white knuckling it!  Unfortunately we hit this several times during the day for a total of about 75 miles of grooves.

During the day it was drizzling off/on, but never enough to actually need our rain gear, just enough to be a nuisance. And as we climbed higher into the mountains the temperature was dropping.

There's also this funny thing about the metric system there. Speed limits are all listed metrically. Now, I have metric numbers on my speedometer, but Tink, who was always very careful to have us following the speed limits, DID NOT! When it says 70 kmh, that's like doing 45 mph...only Tink was doing more like 60 mph and we were following her. LOL

Finally, with 50 miles left to go, Tink stopped to change to warmer gloves yet again. I asked her, "Do you know how fast you were going through those towns, and do you know what the speed limits were?" She'd had no idea she was doing somtimes 25 mph over the limit! I can't believe we never got pulled over. Anyway, Tink changed gloves. I decided, "Ach! Another 50 miles, I'm fine in what I have on."

10 miles down the road the temperature started dropping dramatically, and it started drizzling. And then the fog rolled in. We kept seeing signs like, "Marathon 60 km". I could look down at my speedometer and figure out how many miles that was, giving me an idea how much torture time we'd had left.

The drizzle got heaver, and turned to 'almost rain", and at one point I swear it was snowing. "Marathon 30 km". OMG...I wished I'd put my warmer gloves on back there!

The highway happened to be a great ride, nice long turns around the mountain's rock walls, and if I wasn't getting so flipping cold I would've been able to really enjoy them!

"Marathon 25 km". Here comes the fog, and more moose crossing signs. I'm starting to have visions of us meeting one of these guys as we come around every corner.

"Marathon 10 km". Oh thank God we we're getting closer! I can't really feel my fingers anymore, and my toes are starting to hurt. I feel dry though. Yes...I do feel dry. My ass is killing me, and I'm shivering, but I am dry. We see a sign that says, "Welcome to Marathon."

"Marathon 5 km". Good grief, will they stop teasing me with those signs? Thank God I brought my full-face helmet. I'd have had to stop 20 times by now to warm up my ears. The air temperature is probably about 40 degrees, which makes it about 30 degrees in the wind on the bike. My teeth are starting to chatter. I swear there was a "Welcome to Marathon" sign back there. Where the HELL is the flipping town already????

FINALLY Tink turns on her right turn signal, and I see we're pulling into a hotel parking lot. I want to kiss the ground, but I have to stop my bike first now, don't I? Tink, in the lead, pulls into a parking spot. As I pull into the lot, I realize I can't feel my brake lever as my fingers are too numb. I downshift to slow down, and my feet hit the pavement, dragging...all the way to through the lot. As I pull into my spot, I'm sort of 1/2 laying over the tank, and I see Tink is laying BACKWARDS over her bags. I see there is a curb ahead of me, and my bike bump against it to stop.

By this point in my delirium I'm laughing hysterically. Tink is flopped own way, and I am flopped another. I look at her and said, "Who's *#@$ idea was this trip, anyway?" She can hardly speak as she says, "Don't you have BRAKES? All I hear coming behind me is cccccrrrrrrrrrrr" and I'm thinking I'm loosing parts or something. (I know this isn't funny reading, guess it was one of those "had to be there" moments."

I had parked in a way that Bev, who was behind me, can pull into the same spot, but instead she parks in the NEXT spot over. Four bikes taking up four parking places is a bit silly. We should be able to get all four bikes into 2 spots. (remember one is a trike) Bev takes one look at me and says, "Are you kidding me? Park next to you??? Who can't even STOP? I don't want you tipping over on my trike!"

Here's where we parked the four bikes (w'e already unloaded them by this time.) If you look really close, you'll notice Scharlett's bike on the far right has a flat tire, but that's another post. ;-)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's open!

My adoption blog has now been reopened. Hope you enjoy reading over there!

Repost Pt10: Name that household item

Have you ever seen the show, "Who's Line is it Anyway"? They have a segment where they bring out strange items and the comedians have to come up with ways to use them.

Well, here is our version of that show. We were in the little motel in Grand Marais (if you're in a corner room you're good to go, if you're not...well...SQUEEZE!) and it just might be possible we'd had a little bit to drink.

Tink came out of the bathroom carrying this thing. Give something like this to a bunch of drunk women, and all kinds of things happen! We ASSUME it's some kind of toilet plunger, but you know what they say about the word "ASSUME"!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Repost Pt9: Sandy/Crystal

Here we are, in Grand Marais, resting as we watch the traffic go by on the highway. 3o seconds after taking this picture I was snoring in my chair. Getting this picture was a major undertaking, as it involved teaching Tink how to use the timer on her camera. What you can't see is the camera is sitting on the cover of the sewer drain. (click on the picture to make it bigger.)

Then we headed for dinner at Sven and Ole's Pizza.

For some reason, whenever the four of us walked into an establishment we attracted a lot of attention. It could have been the fact that four biker chicks just walked in, in full biker gear (including helmet hair.) and these small towns had never seen anything like that before. Or, it could have been that we tended to be loud and giggly and nearly hyperventilating with laughter. We'd like to think it was our great humor, but more than likely it was because we were annoying people. At Sven and Ole's one man came to sit right next to us even though there were 20 empty tables, just so he could watch the show.

It was here that we met Sandy/Crystal. No...really, she told us, "My name is Sandy, unless I'm in Arizona, then it's Crystal." Yeah, our eyebrows went up on that one! Sandy/Crystal is in her mid 60's..maybe 70. Like people often would, Sandy/Crystal came over to our table to say hello. I sooo wish I had a video, because this was the "Fargo" movie at it's finest! Sandy could be a call in to a radio show and get paid because she speaks true Minnesotan!

Anyway, Sandy/Crystal told us about a group of 4 wheel'in women in town who have quite a reputation, and "Oh how much fun they have together. I wish I could join them donchya know." We encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, just like we had to come on this trip, and join their group. That we were sure she'd be welcomed with open arms. Honestly, Sandy/Crystal appears to be a very active lady, so I'm sure she'd be able to keep up. We told her about our tattoos, and she promptly showed us ALL OF HERS! One of us took a picture of Sandy/Crystal, that I'm trying to track down. You'll just die when you see her. I swear, her white permed hair had a blue hint to it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Our family has much to be thankful for this year. Angela is growing into a lovely young lady full of talk of boys and her social life. It's Axel's first Thanksgiving with our family, and Asher will be joining us in tim for Christmas. God has certainly brought us on a whirlwind kind of trip this year, guiding us through changes we would have never dreamed about even three years ago. We are thankful for every single one of them!

Repost Pt8: Moose!

Ok, here in the Midwest we have lots of "Deer Crossing" signs. Just a yellow sign with a picture of dear taking a lovely leap, presumably over a road.

In Canada they have "MOOSE CROSSING" signs, only they have them like every 1/2 mile! Not only do they have these signs all over, but they're not just pictures of a lazy moose moving across the road. No, instead they have a picture of a RAMPAGING moose, who you just know, when you come around the next foggy bend in the road, will be standing in the middle of it just waiting for you to crash your motorcycle into it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Repost Pt7: 12 year olds in a hotel

Well, you would have THOUGHT there were 12 year olds in the hotel, but I'm going to say it's all Tink's fault. If she hadn't told us that Scharlett snores like a mouse, things would've been just fine!

We were at an impromptu stay at a very cool lodge in Wawa Ontario. We had originally stopped in town for coffee and donuts, but when we came out of the shop the weather had worsened. We began another event that Tink dubbed "triathalons" (more on that later). As we zipped up the last of our rain gear, and donned our warmest gloves, a guy in the drive-through lane asked in pure Canadian, "Where ya headed eh?"
I told him we were headed south to Sault Ste. Marie. "Really eh? You might just want to hang out here a bit eh. The weather is worse to the south. I just came through there."

We looked at each other, not knowing weather to laugh or cry. The laughter would be because of insanity, and the tears would be because of the weather report. One of us made the executive decision that we'd be getting a room and staying put. It was only 2:00 pm, but if things were slow going on the highway due to weather it would make us tired (and possibly crabby) and with poor reaction time should we meet up with any wildlife or other "think quick" situations. (sounds like a good reason to throw in the towel for the day, doesn't it?)

We looked around us, and a few hundred yards away saw a giant goose. Not a real one, a big statue one. It belongs to the Wawa Motor Inn. If you're even in Wawa, this is an AWESOME place to stay, and VERY reasonably priced! If there is a group of you, you can get a FANTASTIC two bedroom chalet for $175/night, that includes a full kitchen, fireplace, two bedrooms (each with two double beds and it's own sink) and a large bathroom. For us, split four ways this was a great deal. They also have a regular hotel with your typical hotel room, at reasonable rates. gAnd, across the road is a very cool Trading Post where you can spend your hard earned cash! No, really, there is some way cool stuff in there! Here's a video of the chalet we stayed in.

Oh, yeah...the 12 year olds.

We were grateful for the fact God had found a way, on our very last night together as a group, to put us all in the same room in such a nice place. We were supposed to be scattered between different rooms in a totally different town. Instead, here we were. As we sat around a crackling fire, we had a deep discussion about what we'd be bringing home from this trip. It was clear that none of us were going home the same person we had left.

Somewhere during our deep discussion, Scharlett fell asleep, which prompted Tink to tell us about Scharlett the snoring mouse. Soon Scharlett headed to bed, with Bev not far behind her. Tink and I continued our chat, unwilling to let our last night together end. After a few minutes I heard a noise. Tink squealed "That's Scharlett! That's her SNORING!" We giggled at each cute little snore. But, being the 12 year old adults that we are, we couldn't leave it at just that. No, we had to drag out the camera. What happened is that the video turned out different than we expected. Sure, the sound of Scharlett snoring is cute, but what is funnier is US in the background. Every time you see the camera jiggle it's because we're giggling so bad we have to cross our legs to avoid leaving a puddle on the floor. It's possible this video won't be funny to you the reader, but for get the picture.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Repost Pt6: The Witch Tree

While we were in Grand Marais, we ran into a stand with with a bunch stumbled upon a post card with a silhouette of a twisted old tree on it. It's called The Witch Tree. (but also goes by the name "Little Spirit Cedar Tree". ) The Witch Tree, located in Grand Portage, MN is sacred among the Chippewa tribe. The earliest documentation of the tree dates back to the year 1731. It is a small, gnarled and twisted tree growing out of a rock, sitting alone on a small cliff above the water's edge. Tribal members would visit the tree to have their fishing and hunting expeditions on the lake blessed with safety. They would offer tobacco to the four winds.

Nobody knows for sure what type of tree this is, or exactly how old it is, as they don't want to damage it by taking bore samples. Several years ago the land around the tree was purchased for the tribe, and walking within 20 feet of the tree was prohibited.

And so we continued on our way up to Grand Portage. Scharlett felt that, given our previous day that included falling down and a couple other minor events, AND that we were in the Chippewa nation, AND the entire area just feels wouldn't be a bad idea to have the rest of our trip blessed by the tree. When we got to the old fort, Scharlett and Bev went into the visitor center to find out how to get to the Witch Tree.

While she was doing that, Tink and I went look'in around. (we're not much for standing around asking questions. We're more the "Lets go find it!" type. LOL) As we'd been riding up to the fort, you could see this WEIRD fog moving in off the lake. Well, it probably isn't weird to those that live there, but to me, it was almost eerie. I tried to get a video of it, but it just doesn't capture how it felt OR how the fog was moving. I went and stood on this v-e-r-y long dock and shot video.

At the very end of the video, what you don't see when I come back around to the shoreline is that Tink is there and scared the crap out of me. LOL

Then we went inside the old fort and saw...well...old fort stuff. It was very interesting, and the people were dressed in period clothes and "living the part".

Some of the tents, just outside the fort. I didn't get to ask who stayed in them, but I think mostly traders and stuff.
There is an Indian woman sitting inside this lean to, cooking fish on the fire.

She didn't actually HAVE a baby with her, but here's a papoose thingy that a baby would be carried in. The Chippewa have a specific name, but I don't remember what she said it was.
The guy on the right is getting ready to leave in his birch bark canoe. He's a trader, and has just brought in all of his furs to trade for staples and more pine tar which is used to waterproof the canoes. (the woman on the left is a tourist.)

I stuck my head inside a teepee, but it was so bright outside, and so dark inside that I couldn't see a thing. So, I stuck my camera in and this is the picture it snapped. There is a sleeping mat in back, a red blanket to the left of it, and some firewood to the right.
I wanted to ask more questions, but Tink was thinking we needed to get back to Scharlett.

When we were coming to the end of the trail, there was Scharlett, flagging us down. She was so excited, and in SUCH a hurry! Here's what she told us:

I went inside and asked the woman behind the counter how to get to the Witch Tree. She said, "Nobody goes to the Witch Tree. It's a sacred place, and only those who've been approved by the Tribal Council are allowed to go there. " I explained to her WHY we wanted to go there, but I understood why we couldn't. I'm sure my disappointment showed, so she said, "We do have pictures of it over there, if that helps." I told her thanks, thinking the picture just wasn't the same thing. Oh well... And then a young woman came to the desk and asked, "You wanted to see the Witch Tree?" I told her yes, and why. She said, "I'll be right back" and disappeared. She came back a few minutes later and said, "I'll take you there. We'll have to go by car so you'll need to follow me." It seems her mother's land adjoins the tree, and after hearing WHY we wanted to visit the tree, she made a phone call and got our visit approved.

And so we made a run for our bikes so we could follow Terri to the tree. The ride out there was SURREAL! It's a couple mile drive, and as we neared the area where the tree stands (only we didn't know how close we were) this fog swept over us. Almost sucking us in. The moisture from it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was almost as if the Indian Spirits were guiding us in...welcoming us...that's the only way I know how to explain it. We drove down what felt like a deserted road, with the lake to our right and dense woods to our left, then pulled into what looked like an small gravel rest area that hadn't been used in years. We dismounted our bikes, and headed down the trail.

we stopped to read this sign:

Then continued on...

Terri had brought along tobacco (I was really tempted to ask what KIND of tobacco it was, but figured that would be kinda rude. LOL) As Tink was blowing her tobacco to the four winds, she became very emotional. As a little girl she and her dad would sail along the north shore, and would stop here so her dad could visit the tree while she played on the shoreline. As a child she never understood the significance of the tree. But now, as a grown woman, making her own journey, the image of her dad leaning on the tree (because you could do that 40 years ago) was a very moving experience for her.

Here's the picture I got of the Witch Tree, which doesn't do it justice at all.

Here is Terri, our guide. What a lovely young lady she is.

And Terri took this, which is one of only a couple pictures of all four of us together. Notice the Witch Tree is right in the middle of us! (and don't we look lovely with all our gear and helmet hair! LOL)

When we'd walked back to our bikes, and said goodbye to Terri, we all agreed this was a sidetrack well made. Next stop: Marathon, Ontario Canada!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Repost Pt5: Agates

I don't know if it's still true, but for many decades Lake Superior was the best place in the country to search for agates. The beaches are all picked over now, but you can still find small ones here and there. My ex husband used to spend a lot of time on the shores of Lake Superior picking rocks, then would bring them home and put them in a rock polisher for like a month, turning them into beautiful stones.

So, Scharlett had never seen an agate before (at least not to her knowledge) so we got her on the shore and started teaching her. (Ok, Tink taught her while I orbited around on my own search.)

First, it's necessary to remove your shoes and socks for the full experience. Tink removed hers, but it was like a bazillion degrees out and I was wearing my motorcycle boots, and felt like if I took them off I'd never get them back on again. Besides, it would mean bending over...too much work.
Then Tink went searching...and searching....
And when she found what she was looking for, she drew a circle in the rocks and told Scharlett, it's right here...right in this area.
No, really's right there in front of you!
While they were doing that, I was busy looking "reflective". This is me, looking "reflective".
From there we went to see the Glensheen mansion. I'll post about that later, right now it's lightning outside so I have to shut down!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Repost Pt4: Split Rock Sisters (or Falling Down)

We left Duluth on Monday, July 8th, and headed north. Tink and I, who are familiar with the area, thought it was important for Scharlett (who is not) to see the Split Rock Lighthouse. If you're not familiar with the area, this is only about a 20 minute ride outside of Duluth, and is on the road that runs along the north shore of Lake Superior.

We arrive in the parking lot, but nobody seemed to know exactly where to park although there were lots of empty spaces. This is called "female confusion" when faced with a new situation AND your decision is based on the decision of the person in front of you who may or may not have trouble making a decision. I'm not sure exactly what was going on since I was in back, but I finally pulled myself into a spot and got off my bike, with Triker Bev pulling in along side me. Tink and Scharlett pulled around to the other side of the lot, which was nearly empty.

We all walked up to the door of the gift shop/office place and discovered we really didn't want to pay $8.00 to see a lighthouse, so we headed back to our bikes. I got mine started, and pulled around to where Tink and Scharlett were parked. I watched them get their gear situated before they mounted, and waited for Bev to come around. I don't know what I was looking at, but all of a sudden Scharlett yelled, "It's going over!" and....clunk....went her bike. Apparently, because of the slope, she really had to hoist it to get it upright, but...because of the slope, it went too far and over the other side. I ran over, and the three of us grunted the 900lb bike back on two wheels, and insisted the Scharlett take a moment to regain her wits.

That's when I announced, "Hey! We need a falling down pin!"

This was met with blank stares.

"Every group that goes on a big ride, or rides together regularly needs to have a falling down pin. When someone's bike falls down, they have to wear the pin AND BE NICE TO IT until the next person falls down, at which time it is then pinned on the new fallee."

*Note* "Falling down" is not the same as "going down".  "Falling down happens when the bike tips over for silly reasons.  For example, you get gas and you forget to put your kickstand down and try to walk away from your bike. "Going down" is a bad thing and something no rider wants to talk about because it happens when you get hit by something or you hit something while moving down the road, and usually requires an ambulance trip and sometimes helicopters.

Tink, Bev and I all agreed this was a fantastic idea. Scharlett kind of groaned but went along with it. We marched ourselves back to the gift shop and searched every shelf for just the right pin. Finally we found it, a pin with the Split Rock Lighthouse on it. Tink paid for the pin and we had a ceremony right there in the middle of the store. As a crowd gathered to watch our ceremony, much to the disgrace of Scharlett, we used our formal words to describe the purpose of the pin for the spectators. What you have to imagine though, is Tink and I laughing hysterically as we did it! LOL

With Scharlett pinned, we went back to the lot, mounted our bikes, and headed north. We were only about 30 miles down the road when I had reason to move out of my position of bringing up the rear, and pass Scharlett. Not knowing how much group riding experience Scharlett had, I thought about this for several miles before doing so. I didn't want her to panic when I went past her. Finally, with no oncoming traffic, I moved over to the other lane and went past. What I didn't count on was TINK (who was leading) seeing me in her mirror, freaking out that there was something wrong and SUDDENLY pulling over...on the road with really no shoulder. Everyone pulled up behind her (because they had time to do so) but I came to a stop just ahead of her. In my mirror I saw her get off her bike, and when I looked back...she and her bike were gone.

Because they were on the ground.

Ok, here's how it went. Tink stopped..on the road with not much of a shoulder...and when she put her feet down, there was no pavement under her right foot. Instead there was a 2 inch drop to gravel. Being the short-legged person that she is, this put her way off balance. Her bike SPIT her off, and....are you ready for it? She rolled head over heels down the embankment! She stood up and hollered, "Give me that *&#@ pin!!!!" You have to remember that she'd just rolled in all her gear and helmet down about a 5 foot drop, which makes one very top heavy, AND makes you look quite silly climbing back up!

We picked up our second bike for the day, and pinned Tink right there on the side of the road. Poor Tink! But, if you were following my twitter, you know that I could hardly text fast enough to tell about this! LOL

Later that same day we were in Grand Marais. We had done some shopping downtown and were headed back to our hotel when we came to an intersection that was uphill AND we had to make a right turn at the light. My bike has been having trouble going into first gear lately, but I didn't know I was still in second. I was at the head of the group when I went to make the turn, and killed the bike mid-turn. This is every bikers nightmare as this heavy piece of machinery suddenly STOPS mid-lean! This is where on would fall down, only I didn't. I could, however, FEEL Tink behind me WILLING me to fall down so she could get rid of that damn pin! When I turned to look, she could hardly stay upright because she was laughing too hard about the fact that yes, indeed, she'd been doing just that!

We went on to call ourselves the Split Rock Sisters, and there was much joking about "Pulling a Split Rock" and stuff like that. I spent the entire trip being so hyper-aware of everything I did getting on/off my bike! The best part though, is I never did get that pin!