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....