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!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trying again

Since Axel and I never made it to his check up in Philly last week, we're going to try again today! LOL Maybe THIS plane will have functional landing gear? I'm anxious to see how his neck xray looks, and hear what the surgeon has to say about his once beautiful but now very funky looking hip scar (from where they took the bone graft.)

And Axel has a new skill now: Banging his head while sleeping face down! UGH! I can't even explain how he's doing this. He used to do it before his surgery, but we didn't think it would be possible with the halo on (and were secretly hoping the halo would break the habit!) But twice in one night we heard the strange noise coming from his room, only to go in and find him arching his back at the waist to slam his face into the mattress. Can you imagine???? UGH! He's going to really mess up his head! My friend's little guy was also a head banger and had MOVED his halo (pins and all!) in his head! OMG I can't even imagine.

So, off to Philly we go!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear 16 year old me

The only way this can be more real for me, is if I have someone tell me I have Malignant Melanoma. My dad has had it for 25 years and has basically had his nose rebuilt. You're at significantly higher risk if you have more than 50 moles. HA! I have that many on ONE arm! Combine that with family history, and the fact people didn't use sunscreen when I was a kid (and oh how I remember those blistering burns!) and I'm right up there. So I take the job of checking my skin seriously.

How about you? Do you check your skin? When you think about the 16 year old you, and your sun exposure at that time, what do you want to tell yourself? I see teens now that are obviously spending a lot of time in the tanning booth. How very scary that is! If you're a teen now, take it seriously. Stop, check, and make sure your doctor is aware of any changes in your skin.

Happy Birthday to Me, Debbie Downer

Today is my birthday. It is not a milestone birthday. It does not have a zero in it. I'm just 44. Usually on my birthday I'm a pretty happy person. I have plenty of reasons to be happy! I have the most amazing man ever, I have wonderful children, we are "comfortable". I am comfortable. My life is good, and I have nothing to complain about. It is an absolutely beautiful day outside, one of the few we've had so far this summer.

So why am I not happy? Why do I feel like I have a hole in me? In the last couple of weeks there have been some really hurtful things said and done. Some of them intentional, some not, and some I'll never know. Most people who know me know that I'm not a grudge holder. I'm pretty quick to pick myself up and move on. There is a life to live, and I'll be darned if someone else's poor ability to be human is going to hold me back. But these events have shaken me. Even though it's all been emotional, I feel like I've been stomped on, spit upon, and thrown in a street gutter...forgotten. Some of those involved don't even realize what they've done, which speaks volumes about their true character, I think. No, I'm not going to address the issue with them. I'm not going to waste my time. It is pointless. It has been going on for years and I guess I've just finally hit my limit in dealing with it. I'm just going to be done with it. I will do what I HAVE to do, when I have to do it, but I will not do any more than that. I will not expend any extra effort in that area. My circle has just gotten a little bit smaller.

So lets splash some cold water on my face and move on, shall we?  I'm going to focus on this weekend.  It's Noah's 24th birthday on the 3rd, and the 4th of July. Axel's first 4th of July, Angela home to celebrate with us (I think she's been with her dad nearly every 4th of July) and fun stuff going on around here. Carnivals, and corn dogs, fireworks and parades. Let's sing Happy Birthday to America instead!

Special Olympics Minnesota Summer Games

As the World Games are going on in Athen's Greece, the Minnesota Summer Games are happening here at home. This is one of our favorite events of the entire year!

Special Olympics is more than just running around the track, or throwing the shot put. It is about learning about yourself, learning that "different" doesn't mean can't. It is about 100% acceptance. It is about being around those who TRULY understand you, and who don't care if you walk funny, talk funny, or make unusual noises. It is about celebrating how far you've come. It is about being able to openly laugh in the face of doctors who tried to tell your parents that you never be able to do x, y, or z. It is about hopes, and dreams come true.

 For Angela, "loosing" is not part of her vocabulary. For Angela, Special Olympics is all about cheering; cheering for her friends, congratulating her team mates, cheering for herself! Here are just some of the pictures I took during the Minnesota Special Olympics Summer Games.

Lining up for her first event: 50 meter run.

Runners on your mark!

Smiling and laughing. Angela is ALWAYS smiling! She laughs so hard when she's running it slows her down. LOL

And she takes the silver!

She found Madonna, one of her favorite mascots! (from the Minnesota Saints baseball team)

Then she remembered she had a little brother along and included him in the hug. LOL

There was a DJ, which means lots of dancing. Even break dancing. (am I in trouble!) 

100 meter run. This was a much bigger division than her previous race. 

This is what Angela does when she realizes she made a mistake. She had just stood on the podium to receive an award for an event she didn't compete in. (not her fault, she was told to stand there.) 

But she took it all in stride, because really it meant she could get back in line for another go. LOL

Angela can't "just stand still" when in front of a group of people. She always has to be doing SOMETHING while she waits. The spotlight is her friend. 

Taking a bow with her 6th place ribbon. Always a bow......Always.

Don't let her fool you. This is fake shy. 

Gold medal for standing long jump. Notice she's the only one in her division, which is "6 inches or less". NO....really...she jumps about 6 inches. Does it look like she cares? NOT AT ALL!

We love you Angela. You amaze us. Your ability to get past every hurdle put before you makes you an inspiration to many.

Special Olympics World Games 2011

Some of you may remember that last summer we found out Angela qualified for the World Games in Athens, Greece. She was among the last 15 in the pool of accepted athletes, but there were only eight spots for MN. All the other athletes who were chosen were over 18 so the committee decided it would be better if Angela didn't go this time.

The opening ceremony for the world games was last week too. Here are a few video clips. We spent our weekend at the State Summer games thinking about our MN athletes, and hoping they were doing well, and having the time of their lives, representing the Team USA. Here's a link to the Team USA Journal if you'd like to keep track of how they're doing!

Here are a couple videos from the Opening Ceremonies

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Problems Commenting?

I've seen a few people around facebook asking "What's up with Blogger? Why can't I comment?" I never had that problem so didn't know anything about it. I guess it has to do with your browser. I'm on a Mac, which is why I haven't had an issue, but if you're running Internet Explorer, you might be having that problem. (which would account for the fact I've hardly had any blog comments lately!)

If you've encountered this problem, and fixed it, can you comment here with details how you fixed it? THANKS!

On keeping quiet

So you're in the process of an international adoption, and you've been told you can't post the name of the country you're adopting from. Why is that? Do you know? Have you asked? What were you told?

Did you know it's OK to share the name of the country you're adopting from? It is NO SECRET that people are adopting children from countries like Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria, and many others. Those countries have agreements with the US to allow their children to be adopted by families here. So why the secrecy?

Here is what happened with our adoption, and what I suspect is probably the issue with other countries as well:

Our facilitator regularly checked in on our blog. A couple of times she asked me to change some information; like asking me to change "facilitator fee" to "country fees". Another time I had a news article posted from a public news site that mentioned the country name. She asked me to remove it. (I refused. It was a public newspaper made available online, there was no reason for me to remove it. ) I was also told by Reece's Rainbow that "Serbia" should not appear anywhere on my blog until my adoption was final.

Then, a few months ago an article came out about some issues in Ukraine institutions and orphanages. Many adoptive families posted that article on their blogs, then were asked by Reece's Rainbow representatives to remove them, myself included. I was told they didn't want to call attention to all the blogs by families adopting from Ukraine. They don't want the name "Ukraine" to appear on ANY of those blogs until the that family's adoption is final.  That doesn't even make sense! "You can't post the name of the country your'e adopting from, because we don't want to......" What? You don't want to bring embasrassment to the country? (That was one of the things said to me.) Seriously? But wouldn't it bring the same embarrassment posting the same information AFTER the adoption? Yeah, it might not affect THAT family's adoption, but surely if it were an issue it could affect the NEXT family, right?

This all seemed very odd to me, and didn't make sense. But "everyone" was following the rule. Surely there was a reason.

Later, once the investigation of our facilitator became public knowledge,  I found she didn't want me to list Serbia because what she was doing was illegal! She wanted "facilitator fee" removed from my blog because she didn't want government officials asking me who I was paying, because what she was doing was illegal. She was handing out private information about the children  in the country, (pictures, names, birth dates, diagnosis, etc.) some of whom were not even legally available for adoption! So the secrecy was all about SECRETS. Not letting government officials know that PRIVATE information about their children was being posted all over the net. As a state employee it is illegal for her to be making money off the adoptions of children for whose medical care she was responsible. She sure didn't want the government officials finding out who I was paying!

Guess what? I am PROUD of the fact my child is from Serbia. Guess what else? The Government of Serbia has NO PROBLEM with my talking about the fact we've not only adopted from Serbia, but are hoping to adopt from Serbia again.  What they DO NOT want shared is pictures of the child I'm adopting, nor the child's real name until that child is legally mine. I can talk about where I'm traveling to, what city I'm in, EVERYTHING!!!!

Serbia, Serbia, Serbia.

Now let me ask you this: Suppose I went to your blog, lifted a picture of one your biological children, and posted on my blog saying, "This is the child we're going to bring home!" I'm thinking if you discovered this, you would probably flip out a bit. The same is true with your adoption. Those children belong to the government responsible for their care (the fact the care their getting may not be the greatest is not a factor) These children are NOT yours and unless GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS gave you permission (not facilitators, not a US based organization, THEY have NO SAY in the matter) then you SHOULDN'T share the child's picture on your blog.

And, if you're new in this community of international special needs adoption, you may not know that quite frequently it has happened that a family makes a horrible discovery, sometimes not until they've arrived in country. OOPS! That child isn't legally available for adoption! Really? You mean Reece's Rainbow or another organizations had pictures of children listed who were not adoptable? Really? And they've allowed families to collect money for those children? OOPS!

Yes, it's fun to have the cute buttons with your child's face. It helps draw people into your blog, and helps you with your fundraising efforts. So many people compare their adoption process to a paper pregnancy. So, with a real pregnancy you can share details like your due date, how you're feeling, the doctor you've chosen, etc, but you don't get to see the baby's face until the day that baby is born. Think of your adoption the same way: It's a process, that you can share the details of, including the "due date", where its' going to happen, etc, but you can't share the child's face until it is yours to share.

Go ahead....say can do it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Calling AirTran!

Are you an AirTran crew member, or do you know one? There is a group of 200 orphans from Latvia and Ukraine who are coming for a hosting trip the month of August. There is need for an AirTran crew member who could use their pass to get six of the children (ages 8-13)  from Atlanta to New Orleans on June 28th. The crew member could do a turn around in New Orleans and head right back to Atlanta. If you can do this, please contact Margaret Whitehead.

PLEASE can you do me a favor and blog and facebook this? THANK  YOU!

Philly or bust? BUST! Pt 1

At this moment, Axel and I are supposed to be in Philadelphia, sitting in the office of his spine surgeon. We're not. We're sitting in my bed at home, him watching Nickelodeon, me dealing with the airlines.

Let me back up a bit. When this appointment date was set and I had flights scheduled, the ended up not allowing for much time at the clinic! We were flying in Weds evening, Thursday had an 8:00 a.m appointment, then would need to leave the clinic by noon to make our flight home. (I didn't book the flights, by the way.) But guess what? The clinic was going to accommodate that! We'd have the check up, and new xrays taken, go over the xrays then get the run for the airport. NO.ROOM.FOR.ERROR, but we would make it work.

Then, a few days ago, the incision on Axel's hip where the bone graft was taken started looking funny. What had been a beautifully healed incision, 100% closed and looking like a much older scar, started to open at one end. It's just a very small area which has gotten a little bigger each day. There is also a large lump under the area. Angela did something similar years ago when she reacted to sutures. (and it wasn't pretty, nor easy to deal with!) So..hmmm...this was going to take more time at the clinic, I just knew it. Not sure how that's gonna happen!

So yesterday morning I'm running around getting a few things done, putting a bag together for us (only need a carry on. YES!) etc. I also have to bring a wheelchair and walker back to shriners, so I went to load those in the car. That's when I discovered the wheelchair was missing a critical part! It's the seat pad. UGH! Where could it BE? The chair doesn't stay OPEN without this! Dean was the last one to load the chair in the car after one of Angela's softball games, he must have left the cushion on the ground or something. Yes. Dean was at fault. I called him and asked if he knew where it was. He had no idea. I had a small tantrum on the phone, "I have to bring this back, without a PART! How do I explain THAT? It had to be you who left it, because you loaded the chair, I loaded the kids." 

And HOUR was spent looking for that cushion. To top it off, Dean was supposed to be home at 1:00 to get us to the airport by 1:30. I needed to exchange some leftover Euros because I am flat broke at the moment and needed whatever cash I could pull together, so needed some extra time to stop at the airport currency exchange. 

At 1:30 Dean still wasn't home. In fact, he had a ways to go. I wasn't happy, and I made sure he knew it. It was not one of my better wifely attitudes that was displayed. 

About 5 minutes before Dean walked in the door, (at 1:50! GAH!)  I had a realization. THIS wheelchair doesn't have that cushion. OUR wheelchair, which was left at Shriners, has the cushion! THIS chair was just fine, with all pieces accounted for. OMG! When Dean came home the first thing I said was, "I owe you an apology. The chair is fine. The cushion is at Shriners." I should have added, "And I suck as a wife."

To be continued......

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What a waste of stage time

There was probably a time when Amy Winehouse had some talent. Sadly, she's drinking it away. She was booed off the stage during her performance Belgrade, Serbia. Apparently the fans didn't appreciate spending up to $60 a ticket to see a drunken Winehouse staggering around the stage.

What can you do with a halo on?

Axel's halo causes him to be very hot! The vest portion, which covers his torso from his shoulders to his hips, is lined with lambs wool. It never comes off, and he cannot take a bath or anything until the entire halo comes up. We have had some very hot days here, which means no going outside for him because he would absolutely miserable!

On the more average days (and we've only had a handful of them!) we pretty much stay inside until around 5:00 or so when the temperature is starting to drop a little bit. The evenings are PERFECT for him to be out. It's been a challenge to find things to keep him occupied, and moving, without encouraging him to run. He *really* wants to run. The poor kid, he's been on limited activities since shortly after arriving home in December, so we really don't know EXACTLY where his motor skills are.

What we DO know is that the halo doesn't hold him back as much as we'd like! A fall with this thing can be horrible. It sure doesn't seem to bother Axel though. What do you think?

He can vaccuum the car for me. (he LOVES doing this!) 

He can play some soccer. (no running is involved in this version of soccer!)

And even some Lacrosse! 

And he can help Papa pull some weeds.

So I guess life with the halo is bothering Dean and I more than it is Axel. I have a post in progress about the halo questions so many of you have asked. Stay tuned!

The Man

Once there was a man, a single man.  He had a son who was nearly grown who had a life of his own. The man was alone, innocently enjoying his life; doing what he wanted to do, whenever he wanted to do it. He was having FUN, but he was lonely.

Then he met a woman. She wasn't quite so free. She had responsibilities that came in the form of three children. The two boy children were almost grown and independent. The girl child, the youngest of the bunch was a different story. She was only 7, but she was different. She required more care and attention than most kids. Still, the man fell in love with the woman, and the little girl.

Soon he became the father to the little girl. A wonderful father. Reliable, consistent, loving. He was everything to the little girl.

Sometimes he missed the freedom he had before, but his dedication never wavered, even when times were difficult. He still had fun times. And with only one child in the house, there was still a lot of freedom.

One day, when the girl was 13, the woman showed the man a picture. It was of a child in another country. An orphan. The man said, "No. I like my life. My life is perfect. Let someone else do it." The woman continued to show the man pictures, and tell him stories about the conditions the orphan children were living in, but his answer was always the same. "No."

The woman took a trip. She traveled to one of those other countries to see the orphan children for herself. The man was upset. He did not want her to go. He knew it would be hard on her heart and spirit, and that he would have to say it again. "No."

What the man did not know was that God was gently digging a hole in his heart, and placing a seed there. That seed came in the form of a picture of another little girl. She was in the country the woman had traveled to. In the picture the child was being held by the woman. The child was smiling. The woman was smiling. God told him, "This is your daughter." and the man knew he could not question God. He knew that God had sent the woman for a purpose, and he should not interfere.

The woman returned home, and together they scraped together the money required to start an adoption. The man and woman were devastated when they learned the orphan girl could not be adopted. But the man knew what God had told him. That even if he brought another child into their home, the man would still like his life. It would be different than he was used to, but he would like it. So the man and woman agreed to adopt a different child. Another child in a far away place, being held by the woman, smiling. A boy.

Soon the time came to bring home this new child. The man, woman and the girl were very excited! The woman boarded a plan and flew to the other side of the word, to Serbia, to get the boy, and before long they returned home. The man and girl waited and waited at the airport, excited to see the woman and boy come through the doors.

And then the man hugged the boy. The man cried tears of joy he never knew were inside him.

The man's life has changed. The man who met the woman and her children years ago is gone. The man is now father to the girl and the boy. He is an amazing father. Full of love and compassion. Always there when the girl, the boy, or the woman need him. Even though his life is different, and some of the freedoms are gone, he still hopes that someday he can be father to that little orphan girl who smiled at him in the picture.

I am the woman. Every day I thank God for bringing this man into our lives.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guess who's home?

One of my favorite children from Serbia, who I would have snatched up in a heartbeat if he wasn't already spoken for, came home last night. Srecko (pronunced Shrechko) boarded a plane with his new mama and tata, and flew to the other side of the world, where he was able to meet his new brother and sister in real life (as apposed to Skype! LOL) 

Maybe you could drop by his mom Tammy's blog and welcome him home?

Welcome home Srecko! I couldn't be happier!

What I saw, what you should know

I have a lot of new readers here who may not have gone back and read my posts from April 2010. (If that's you, go have a read, and you'll understand a lot more about me!)

Now, before going any further, watch this video. (it's not long)

Because of the issues surrounding Serbian adoption the past few months, I get several emails per week from people asking if there are "healthy" children available in Serbia.

First of all, "healthy" is a relative term. A child can have a disability, and still be healthy, not needing ongoing medical care for anything. Axel, although he has Down syndrome, is "healthy". He had a problem with his spine, which we fixed, and when that recovery is done we'll be moving on with life! He does not have the medical issues often associated with DS. (I didn't know that until I adopted him.) But even if he had, it wouldn't have prevented us from adopting him. DS is not a big deal. It's what I know. But Axel is healthy. He hasn't even had so much as a sniffle since we brought him home.

In Serbia, there are 480+ families waiting for healthy "perfect" babies. In the U.S. you might have to wait a very long time for a healthy infant. (or you could get really lucky and be chosen by a birth family very quickly, but since there are THOUSANDS of waiting adoptive families, you have tough competition!) The same is true in Serbia. Those waiting families have turned down all of the special needs children. They are seen as a burden. "Useless Eaters" as they were conditioned to believe thanks to T4.

That video you just watched? All children who were or still are waiting for families. Several of those children are now in loving homes. One little boy, Srecko (striped shirt against a yellow wall) just arrived home last night! Several other children in that video have been transferred to institutions. If you want to know what the conditions are like in Serbian institutions, go here. And then watch this video, produced in 2007. I can tell you with 100% certainty, not much has changed since then.

Serbia is doing their best to fix the social issues for it's people who have disabilities. Change takes time and money. They have the time, they don't have money. It is a society recovering from war and the extreme economic hardships that come with it.

These are the waiting children of Serbia. Children who's parents felt they had no other options. Children with no hope of an education. Axel had never attended a single day of school in his life. This beautiful child was scheduled to be sent back to the institution. Back to conditions you see in that video above. (In fact, he had already spent time in one of the institutions featured in that video, and was headed back!) Our beautiful Axel is a perfect example of the waiting children in Serbia.

It's been a busy week!

When Dean makes a comment about the fact I haven't blogged in several days, then I know there's a problem! We've been pretty busy here this week, trying to get a start on summer and really not doing a very good job at it because there have already been too many interruptions! Well, that at the fact Axel's time outside is pretty limited right now. (more on that later.)

So the last two weeks of school Angela was having what we think were break-through seizures. I say "think" because Angela's seizures do not LOOK like seizures. She has complex-partial seizures that manifest with severe, unprovoked aggression. It is NOT behavioral. She can be sitting there fine, just chatting with her friends, when all of a sudden she grabs someone's hair, or hits (hair is the most common thing for her to grab) grabs someone and pulls them to the ground. She is usually unable to talk during these episodes. If she does, they are not complete words and she doesn't make sense. Usually it's just more sounds than words.

I had spent three years questioning weather or not she was having seizures, and the behavioral specialists at her school were saying, "This doesn't appear to be behavioral, we think it's neurologically based." We did several ambulatory EEG's but never picked up anything other than ONE tiny blip of "abnormal brain waves" but it didn't look like seizure activity. It happened to correlate with when she grabbed someone's hair. She wasn't finally diagnosed until she had an episode while we were sitting in the neurologists office one day. She'd been sitting there talking with us, when all of a sudden she lunged at me, wrapping her hands in my hair and dropping to the floor. The neurologist was able to see the entire episode and said, "THAT's what you've been dealing with? THAT is a seizure!" She was started on seizure meds that very day, and within three days we had our Angela back!!! Oh, how wonderful it was to have our happy Angela back!

So anyway, a couple weeks ago these episodes started again. We saw a couple at home, and there were a couple at school as well. They caught everyone off guard because we hadn't seen this stuff in so long! The neurologist ordered another ambulatory EEG, which I think is a big waste of time since we have never seen he seizures on an EEG, but...whatever.

Tuesday we went to get Angela all wired up. She LOVES doing this. I know..she's warped! She just loves the attention, and hey, if she can't have a halo like Axel, (because seriously, she wants one!) then wires are the next best thing!

Somehow I didn't get a picture of her when she was all done getting hooked up. The pack that the wires are plugged into gets put into a little backpack that she wears for 48 hours. Then a bandana over her head to cover up all the stuff. She loves the backpack, and knew before we arrived that she was going to choose the monkey backpack. LOL I tried to talk her into a more..umm..."teenager" backpack, but her mind was made up!

That first night at dinner, I looked across the table at this, and thought to myself, "Ok..umm...this is SO not normal!" Dean agreed.

It will take awhile for us to get the results of the EEG, but I don't expect it to show anything. Since we get enough stares with Axel in the halo, and I'm starting to loose my patience, I decided to skip going out in public for a couple of days with the two kids together. The worse part about the EEG is getting the glue and cement out of Angela's hair afterwards. But she was a good sport and didn't even complain this time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh, very cool!

This is good news for me, and a few of my friends who go back and forth, both to Beglrade and Zagreb, several times per year. I think I'll like flying out of Chicago better than D.C.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sometimes reality sneaks up on us

*disclaimer* This post is a PUI. Posting Under the Influence....of a migraine. In fact it's one of the worst I've ever had. It's possible that the emotions described in this post were slightly intensified by pain. Just say'in....

And, I think I need to also say that if you read this, then see me in real life, please don't come up and hug me and say things like, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea." 1) if you do that, I will start instantly crying and since we'll probably be in a public know. 2) You don't have to feel sorry for me. This is just junk I need to deal with. I'll get over it right.  I'm already over it.

So today (Sunday) Dean and I took Axel to my niece's championship softball game. (Angela was hanging out with her PCA at the MOA) We love watching all the cousins participate in their various sports. We really do! Angela and Axel love to go and cheer them on as well. You won't find better cheerleaders than these two!

On the way to the game, Dean and I were talking about his family reunion that we'd attended the day before. I mentioned something about how much our nieces and nephews (or their children) have changed in the last couple of years. They're just growing up so fast! This is especially noticeable with the cousins who are right around Angela's age.

Our conversation trailed off, and Dean was busy looking at something out the window. (I was driving).

And then it happened. Tears just started falling out of my eyes. I was having one of those moments we as parents of kids with special needs have sometimes. This moment is called, "Realizing there are some things my kid is never going to do." But I didn't want to be HAVING a moment just then. I quick tried to wipe the tears away before Dean noticed them.

Only the tears kept coming.

I couldn't wipe them away fast enough.

Then Dean turned to help Axel with something in the back seat and realized I was crying. Since he knew I was feeling horrid with my migraine he assumed it was that. "What's wrong? Why are you crying? I'm sorry your head hurts so bad.....Honey?....Is it your head, is that why you're crying?

Sometimes when I cry, and it's something that REALLY hurts, I can't talk. Talking would let the floodgates open and I would go from "just wiping tears off my face" to "the ugly cry".

We were almost to the game, and I didn't want to get there looking like I'd been crying, and yet that's just what I was doing. Dean thought it was all about my head and I couldn't even open my mouth to explain to him how suddenly emotionally painful it was, going to this game. That I had just realized something and it really....really....hurt.

Finally I was able to answer that I wasn't crying because of my head, which confused Dean even more because we were just sitting here having a nice conversation and now I was CRYING in the car. I'm sure he was trying to figure out what he could have possibly said that would have caused this sudden meltdown. That, and I'm sure he was feeling trapped, "OMG I have do deal with a crying wife in the car! UGH!"

All of this happening while driving and trying to find our turns.


Finally I was able to say just a little bit.

"This is really hard for me today. Angela just turned 15. She is older than these kids and yet she is so much younger than them."

(wiping more tears, catching my breath here again.)

"There will never be a championship softball game for her. There will never be drivers ed. or behind the wheel for her. There will never be some of the milestones...the BIG milestones that all her cousins are having. She is going to watch them do all these things and she is being left in the dust, and there's nothing I can do about it."

Dean didn't really know what to say to all of that.

As much as Dean loves Angela, and he is an amazing dad to her, she is not his biological daughter. He is not going to feel the same things I do about this stuff. His perspective is different. I have already watched Angela be passed by many times by her "typical" friends in school. I can't tell you the last time she was invited to a party by one of them. Surely not since we've lived here, which would have put her in 2nd grade. Her typical friends have their own busy lives. At 15 they are hanging out at the mall with their friends, and not within arms reach of their mothers. They are taking driver's training. They have boyfriends. Cousins who are years younger than her are now like her babysitters at family gatherings. This hurts MY heart, imagine how Angela must feel.

And then I thought about how different our lives are when we go somewhere compared to other parents of 15 year old girls. When we go somewhere, before getting out of the car we have to make sure she doesn't have snot all over her face, or that her pants are pulled up all the way...and zipped. We have to  help her put on a bra, and find clothes the are easy for her to get in/out of without our help, something that is very difficult to find without dressing her like she's 5.

And then I thought it. The "taboo thought".

I wanted just one day that was normal.

And then I hated myself for a few minutes. I am always the one giving the pep talk. "Down syndrome is no big deal. Your kid will do things in their own time. Yes, it is hard to watch them be bypassed by their peers, but there will be things they excel in too. Just help them be the best they can be."

I am the strong mom. The one who can meet any challenge head on, the one others call for support, and yet here I was sobbing in the car. (because now I was sobbing) and could barely put into words what hurt so bad, mostly because it caught me completely off guard. I didn't even know these feelings were THERE!

We arrived at the softball game, and I busied myself at the trunk of the car while I tried to compose myself, at the same time hoping that my eyes weren't all red and puffy. (they were.) I know there will be times in life when reality resurfaces, and it will probably catch me off guard again. But for now, I picked up reality in the palm of my hand, squished it up in a tight wad, and stuffed it back down deep inside where it belongs.

And then I was fine (see, I told ya!) and we had a great time watching my niece's game.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Follow your dreams

If you haven't seen this yet, please watch it. Everyone....EVERYONE  has a dream. Follow it. But this young man's story holds very special meaning to me. What he has endured and overcome. He is amazing.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Moving Up

Today is Angela's very last day as an 8th grader. Today is the 8th grade field trip, which she has waited three full years to be able to attend, and I have heard about it at least 4 days a week since she started 6th grade!

The staff at Angela's school has been amazing! It's going to be tough to say goodbye to them. Each and every one of them holds a special place in Angela's heart, and they know it by the hugs I'm sure they will get from her today.

My girl is growing up! When she gets off the bus today, she will officially be a high school Freshman! I am SO proud of her, and how far she's come in the last three years.

Six Months Today

Six months ago, I dressed this little boy in very special clothes. It was the day of our adoption ceremony to finalize our adoption! While he really liked his new clothes, he was a little confused as to why this woman who didn't know how to talk right ,was hiding behind the camera wiping tears off her cheeks. This woman who called herself Mama.

Six months ago today, I signed the papers that said, from this day forward, Axel Djordje Spring would forever be my son. Forever. My son.

At the Social Center in Kragujevac, Serbia, Axel stood before a crowd of people who cheered for him. Excited that he had found a forever family. That he was going to America, where his future has no limits. Where he could go to school, make friends, and reach his full potential. In a family. OUR family.

He delighted in everything he saw. He didn't understand the long car ride to the big city, nor the significance of that event. He only knew that things had changed. Some people were gone, and now there was this new woman, and we were living in a beautiful apartment. This must be home!

It was a busy week, chasing papers around the city of Belgrade. A few days later I woke him up at 3:30 a.m to drive to the airport. I watched this video today for the first time since coming home. Axel is SO different now. Clearly not the same little boy.

After being AWAKE for 30+ hours, Axel came through the doors at the Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport where he met his Papa and Angela for the first time.

Our lives are so different now. We had fun before Axel joined us, but now Angela has a partner in crime!

Angela takes VERY good care of her little brother, and is proud of the fact she is the "big sister". She waited a long time for this! She loves to make lunch for him....

Or teach him new things, like how to shovel snow...

Or how to brush hair without pulling...

And how to bake cookies!

She really loves her little brother.

She felt terrible for him when he got his neck brace. (even though she secretly wanted one for herself!)

She makes sure he has everything she does, like sunglasses.

Axel has had so many "firsts" since coming home. Every day we get to see the pure joy that explodes out of him!

We were all worried sick for him when he had his spinal fusion done just 3 1/2 weeks ago. 

He was treated like the Serbian prince that he is. Royalty who our family is allowed to rub shoulders with.

So even though we have to deal with this little speed bump in life, we know it will give us many more years with Axel. Years that we get to wake up to this smiling, handsome young man. No longer the shy little boy I met in Serbia. Instead a confident, smart, capable young man who has the world at his finger tips.