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!"

Monday, December 31, 2012

He's learning

Asher is working hard to learn breath control, particularly how to make the air come out his mouth and not his nose! For years his tonsils were so huge he couldn't make air come out his mouth at all. That means he didn't have a voice either. :-( But those tonsils have been gone for almost a year and it's been a long road learning how to put all these things together. Whistles and horns are a great way to learn this skill! I'd forgotten I purchased all the talk tools horns over the summer. At the time they were too difficult for him but look, he can finally do it!

Ok, we might have to work on technique a bit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


About 2 months ago I took Asher in for a check up with his eye specialist. We're still really concerned about his left eye. After almost a year in glasses it still isn't functioning very well. The doctor said it was time to start patching.

The first time I put a patch on him it was more than I could stand. His little eye turned right to his nose and he couldn't bring it out to center to see at all. (the good eye is patched, forcing the weaker eye muscles to kick in) When his lip stuck out I knew he was truly overwhelmed. I dreaded patching his eye every day. We were supposed to be working up to eight full ours of patching every day. I wasn't very good about following through at all. Then his glasses got broken at school so he was nearly a month with out them.

My other problem is I don't want him only patched at school so that "school" becomes the preferred place because "home" is where the patch is on. I decided to wait until Christmas break so we could work up to the full eight hours.

Right now I have alarms set on my phone to go off at several times through out the day. The patch goes on for 90 minutes, comes off for 2 hours, then back on for 90 minutes. By Weds next week these times will blend together so he's wearing the patch for the prescribed length of time.

My poor Ashie! About every 5 minutes he comes to me signing "Please" then takes my hand and puts it to his eye; his way of asking me to take it off. Then every three minutes he signs "glasses" because he can't see well and he knows his glasses allow him to see. He has his glasses on during the patching times but I'm sure in his head trying to figure out why they're not working.

Still, he maintains his very sunny disposition. He's such a happy boy!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Whew! It is done!

Christmas. Every year I seem to have a little more trouble getting into the spirit than I did the year before. Christmas is so much WORK. You have the tree, and the lights, and the decorations and the cooking and and and and.....

But what this Christmas had, which we've never experienced before, is the opportunity to see Axel "Get it". They whole process. His first Christmas here Axel had been home 10 days. As you can see in this picture, he was as lost as he looked.

Poor baby! In a matter of days he'd been ripped out of his world, dragged to the other side of it, lived among people speaking a language he didn't understand, then driven four hours to meet another group of people who also didn't know how to talk!  Adoption = trauma, there is no doubt about it.

Axel's second Christmas he'd been home one year, but we also added Asher, who had been home just 17 days. Asher spent a lot of time rolling around on the floor dangling stuff. That's pretty much all he did in the orphanage too.

But Axel? He seemed to kind of remember what was going on. He at least knew about the opening presents part, even if he didn't understand anything else. 

So this makes Axel's third Christmas in our home. This year he remembered the process! We talked about the birth of Jesus, God's gift to us. We talked about Santa, and gifts, we left cookies and milk out for Santa, etc. (and Angela got up at 12:30 a.m. , 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. to see if Santa had come yet.)

Although Axel is very meticulous, he really enjoyed opening gifts as well as watching everyone else open theirs. When Axel came to us, he arrived complete with a pair of slippers that NEVER left his feet when he was in the house. In Serbia you never go barefoot or in stocking feet in the house and he cherished his slippers, often chastising us for walking around indecent. LOL Within a couple of weeks of arriving he outgrew those slippers. He's had a couple pair since then but he outgrows them so quickly I've quit buying them. Imagine how thrilled he was to find a new pair of slippers with his Christmas stocking! And hats, which he likes almost as much! Asher, on the other hand, does NOT like the Elmo heads bobbing around on his slippers, nor is he thrilled with the hat!

I was going to have the big kids open a gift before having Asher open one. You know, so he would see  how this whole thing works. Yeah, Axel opened his and Asher was ready to go! It would be nice to think it was to see what was inside, but that would be denying the fact he really just realized there would be pieces of paper for dangling. LOL

 I was a bit shocked this morning to see pictures people had posted of INSANE amounts of gifts for each child. It also seemed to be a bit of a competition, people posting pictures of their kids in front of a huge pile of stuff, talking about "what a haul" their kid made. Is this what Christmas is really about for some? In past years we have been guilty of the excess part. This year we adopted the four gift rule. WOW!!! Am I so glad we did this! Not only did it make my job  so much easier, but the kids are enjoying EVERYTHING they got! There are no forgotten items. There is no over abundance. I don't need to clean out too much in order to fit the new things in. I think once this adoption is done, we're going to put a little money aside for the kids so Christmas they can each choose one family who is in the process of adoption and contribute to their fundraising as part of their giving to others.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Angela is a fan of stripes. Not just ANY stripes! No, there is a stripe criteria and what makes a "good stripe" is known only to her. Often one of the boys will come out of their room dressed for the day and Angela will announce, "Oh! Nice stripes!!!" We take note of the comment for later purchases. Just an FYI, the boys department in clothing stores as MUCH better stripes than the girls.

So, this is Asher's second Christmas. How did HE do? Well...Asher was a bit overwhelmed. He did ok with the opening of gifts, and he even played with them a few minutes, but really, Asher is not happy having his routine disrupted. He signed "school" several times today. When we went to visit with relatives he was pretty out of sorts. He couldn't play with anything other than to dangle it, or ask person after person to pick him up. It's exhausting having to constantly tell him "No", and I know we sound like ogres. He is just so indiscriminate that as much as we'd like to say "Yes, he's been here a year now, pick him up." we won't let them. For one thing, he IS 8 years old. He needs to learn to keep his own feet on the floor. Sometimes it's hard to remember this when he is developmentally very much 2 years old and not much bigger than our nephew who is 2 1/2. When he isn't asking to be picked up he's asking to eat. When he's not asking to be picked up or to eat, he's asking to drink. It is constant. He needs, needs, needs. It is his way of saying he doesn't feel secure in his environment. At home he doesn't do this anymore. But, if we have a house full of people over? That disruption in his routine and environment causes all the behavior to come back. When we bring the new guy home we expect there will be a bit of regression as we reassure him he hasn't lost is place as "baby" of the family, and that just because there is a new kid here, the rules still apply!

All in all, it really was a wonderful Christmas. I even made one batch of cookies with the kids. (I know, right? ME! I did that!) and we're planning on making more later this week while the kids are out of school. (don't fall over, and don't hold me to it if I change my mind!) It really is fun to see the changes in the kids from year to year. Angela is growing up so much, and is an amazing big sister to the boys. She's been talking about her new brother for a couple of days now, really excited for him to get here. (She's actually more excited to be hanging out with our caregiver friends and NOT have Mom and Dad around! LOL)

Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope yours was as blessed as ours.

Monday, December 24, 2012

From our herd to yours

Merry Christmas from our reindeer to yours!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


The day before the loss of Charlotte and her friends at Sandy Hook Elementary, she was riding in the car with her mom when Phil Phillips came on the radio, singing his song "Home".

".... Charlotte declared her love for the song and asked for it to be turned up, then began singing it at the top of her lungs. As they drove down the road with the music blasting, Charlotte said “are you singing Mommy? Sing louder!”  (source

Hold on, to me as we go.
As we roll down this unfamiliar road.
And although this wave is stringing us along.
Just know you’re not alone,
Cause I’m going to make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear.
Don't pay no mind to the demons,
They fill you with fear.
The trouble it might drag you down.
If you get lost, you can always be found.

Just know you’re not alone,
Cause I’m going to make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear.
Don't pay no mind to the demons,
[ From: ]

They fill you with fear.
The trouble it might drag you down.
If you get lost, you can always be found.

Just know you’re not alone,
Cause I’m going to make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear.
Don't pay no mind to the demons.
They fill you with fear.
The trouble it might drag you down,
If you get lost you can always be found.

just know you're not alone,
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlotte Helen Bacon

Charlotte Helen Bacon is the beloved daughter of Joel and JoAnn Bacon and sister of Guy Bacon. She died tragically on December 14, 2012 with her friends and classmates at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ch
arlotte was an extraordinarily gifted six year old who filled her family each day with joy and love. The family will forever remember her beautiful smile, her energy for life, and the unique way she expressed her individuality, usually with the color pink. Charlotte never met an animal she didn’t love and since the age of two wanted to be a veterinarian. She also enjoyed practicing Tae Kwon Do weekly with her dad and brother where she relished kicking and throwing punches!

Charlotte has left a place in her entire extended family’s hearts that will never be replaced. The family is profoundly grateful for the thoughts and prayers of the many friends around the world who have expressed their sympathies. They trust in the depths of God’s grace and with confidence know that Charlotte rests in God’s arms.

The family asks that the media please respect their privacy at this time.

Joel, JoAnn, and Guy Bacon.

Friends may visit with Charlotte’s family on Tuesday, December 18th from 4 p.m. to 7p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church. Her Funeral Service will take place on Wednesday, December 19th at 1:00 p.m. also at the church, followed by her burial in Newtown Village Cemetery. The Honan Funeral Home, 58 Main Street, Newtown, is in care of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Charlotte’s memory may be sent to Christ the King Lutheran Church, 85 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Newtown, CT 06470.

Monday, December 17, 2012

If you haven't been

If you haven't visited our adoption blog lately, you might want to hop on over there.

Dressing for the Weather or the World?

I originally posted this in 2008 when Angela was 11 years old. (she is now 16!) We were in the midst of preparing for her Make A Wish trip. Since the Sandy Hook school shootings, in which a friend of mine lost year 6 year old daughter Charlotte, it takes on a whole new meaning for me. A good reason for a repost. (the grammatical errors in the post are intentional, and reflect Angela's manner of speech)

It's a rare morning when I'm up before Angela. She usually beats the sun and the roosters. Today was one of those rare mornings, but I didn't beat her by much. Minutes at most. All was quiet in the house as I lay in bed enveloped in my cocoon of blankets, and the giant fluff ball next to me that was Zurri.

And then I heard it. The smallest voice, rehearsing her day, naming all her friends. I got up and stood quietly, motionless, outside her bedroom door. Peeking around the corner I could see her head was under the blankets. In her quiet croaky morning voice she chanted, "All my friends. Yep, all my friends be there. A party for me. Drew, Monica, Daddy, Desi, Grandma Spring, Mom, Dean, Noah, Tyler, Bryon, Mrs. Hubbard. Yep...all there...for party...It's a fun time my party. Should I wear a dress? No. Should I wear a fancy shoes? No. Stripes. Yep, that's right. I'll wear my stripes. My Florida stripes. My party. All my special people will come."

She got herself up and dressed, then came to find me for some breakfast. "Mom? What I wearing to my party?"

As I envisioned the mountain of striped shirts in her dresser, I answered "I don't know Angela. I hadn't really thought about it. But, since stripes are your favorite I bet that would be a good choice, and certainly one we have many options for."

Time to get dressed for the bus. We're having frigid temperatures here in MN, so every possible piece of outdoor clothing is required. She struggled with her snow pants a bit, the ones that are threatening to fall apart before the end of winter when you can't find them in the stores anymore. She pulled on her boots, then her jacket. She's still not able to zip, so I bent down to help with that. I pulled up the zipper, then tied her scarf around her face. She pulled on her mittens as I slipped her "Cars" backpack over her shoulders. (she won't have anything to do with girly backpacks. No she wanted Spiderman or Cars!)

I opened the door to send the pink puffball out into the biting wind, but at the last second she turned, "You forgot my kiss mom!" and turned to face me with an exaggerated pucker, complete with crusted toothpaste on the corners of her mouth.

As I watched her waddle down our long, steep and icy driveway it occurred to me I wasn't just dressing her for the weather. I was dressing her to protect her against the elements of the world. I did it with all my kids, just as all parents do. But with Angela, there are some things in the world that she's a bit more vulnerable to.  I prepare her for them as best I can, giving her the protective layers to shield her from the bitter cold that the world can sometimes dish out to kids like her. Those who are different from everyone else, who struggle to learn what might come easy to most. I have spent 11 1/2 years praying over her, that the Lord will show her the right way, to the parts of the world that will welcome her, and love her for who she is.

She stands there in the wind, independent of me, well out of my protective reach, singing the songs of girlhood, ready to jump into the world with both feet. Her spirit screams "I'm READY! I can do it!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two Years Ago

With the tragedy that happened in Newtown CT I missed posting about Axel's 2 year anniversary with us.

Adopting a 10 year old child into your home, particularly a child who has spent the majority of his life living behind the walls of a Serbian mental institution, and throwing in Down syndrome for some added excitement, is not an easy task. Dean and I felt we were up to the challenge.

Axel was, for lack of a better description, a feral child when I took custody of him on December 9th 2010. It was a very rough day. Oh yes it was! Because this was my first adoption, I only only had half a clue what was going on. But, because of the most amazing training Dean and I have received from the behavioral staff from Courage Center, I had enough tools in my behavioral arsenal to effectively deal with what was happening. I was also very quick to discover Axel's love language: touch. I paid very close attention to the kinds of sensory input he was seeking, as well as what he chose that caused  him to become overstimulated. (this is behavioral code for "wound like a top!") Always in my mind was the fact I had only a few days to get his behavior manageable enough to be dragging him through airports and sitting on planes for 20 hours.

We did finally get home on December 15th, 2010. We said goodbye to that feral little boy soon after getting him home and he has continued to grow and mature into the happy, content 12 year old he is today.

So what's he doing now? Well, he's reading many sight words, he's become even more fluent in ASL and he's doing fantastic in school behaviorally. (many will remember that his 2nd day of school one year ago his teacher went home with a black eye!) So far this year he has only had one day in which I needed to get involved. Mostly he just needed a reminder that the rules still apply!

Axel has learned to participate in Special Olympics and he's working on learning to swim. Although he absolutely LOVES the water, just entering the pool causes extreme sensory overload for him - his response is manic laughter and splashing. It's not cute, it's at a manic level. But it's getting better and I'm hopeful by spring he's able to swim on his own.

Axel is a wonderful brother to both Angela and Asher. He can often be found helping one of them with a task they're not able to do but he has mastered, like zipping jackets or tying shoes. His play is becoming more and more appropriate and he enjoyed taking over teaching Asher how to play with toys.

We can't imagine not having Axel in our family. It's clear he was part of our destiny. Every day with him is a blessing and we're so thankful God chose us to be  his parents. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

For Charlotte

Today, a senseless tragedy happened in America. A young man, who must have carried more anger than any of us can ever imagine, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in search of his mother''s kindergarten classroom. He walked into the room and without saying a word he shot the teacher dead. (his mother was later murdered at a Newtown residence.) He then turned and started shooting the children. In all 26 people, most of them children, were slain before he turned the gun on himself.

A few of the children in that classroom were able to escape. Just a few. Several other adults lost their lives in hopes of saving the children. Many are heroes who were able to quickly move children to safety.

This is Charlotte. 

My friend JoAnn (Jo Jo) from high school and her husband Joel lost their precious Charlotte today. Their son Guy has lost his sister. A senseless act with so many broken hearts left behind.

Words cannot express the sadness we feel for the Bacon family. You will forever be in our hearts and prayers.

Tragedy in CT

Please..please stop asking the surviving children questions!  Leave the parents alone who just want to hug their kids and can hardly think straight right now. Kids who don't understand what happened or are traumatized by what they saw. Leave them alone!

No other words right now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gift Rule

Every year I struggle to buy gifts for the kids.

Angela: that girl is really tough to buy for. She doesn't care if it is $5 or $50. I just needs to be something she likes but it can be hard to know what she likes.

Axel: Probably the easiest kid ever to buy for. Put some magazines and catalogs in a box and he'll carry them around until next year. Wanna jazz it up a bit? Put some business cards in his stocking.

Asher: Yeah, he's pretty easy too! If it vibrates or is able to be dangled, (and really, anything can be dangled you know!) then life is good.

But, do I really want to buy magazines and danglers for the boys??? Somehow that doesn't seem right. But, I'm getting over that! When we're wanting to spend money on other things it seems like a no-brainer to buy what THEY like, no matter how "little" it seems to us.

So this year we have started buying by "The Four Gift Rule" which goes like this:

1) Something they want.
2) Something they need.
3) Something to wear.
4) Something to read.

Following this makes buying much easier, and I know each kid with be getting four things. Gotta keep things even Stevan you know! 

Spread the Word

What emergency?

Yesterday morning after the kids left for school I putzed around the house, got lights on the tree (it  might even get ornaments tonight!) , then Asher came home for lunch. When that was done I put the dogs away, started the dishwasher and at 1:00 we headed out the door to pick up Axel for therapy Tuesday.

Angela came home at 2:40, and as she always does she went to the basement and turned on the t.v. A few minutes behind her at 3:00 Dean arrived home. He sat down and thought, "Where do I hear water running? A LOT of water!"  He went to the basement and found a pipe had burst and there was 2 inches of water in the pool table room. As he ran to see what was going on he passed Angela who didn't really seem bothered by the fact she was sitting in water!


When the boys and I came home at 4:30, Dean had sucked up most of the standing water, but the carpet...ugh!!! I used the steam machine to suck up as much of the water as I could.

While doing that it occurred to me that we had missed a step in teaching  Angela about being home alone. She has a cell phone and we have talked about "emergencies" and what kinds of things she should call mom for. Angela is very literal, and I am pretty sure that "flooded basement" was  not on the list of emergencies we discussed.  I just didn't think to include that in our discussion! What was I thinking???

Then I started to think of the "what if's". What if the cord for the TV had been in the water...and Angela had walked in it? I started to think of all the other things that could have happened, or could happen in the future, and got a bit freaked out. Mostly when Angela is home alone she either watches T.V. or watches videos of her youtube playlist. She knows not to answer the door (won't even let Dean or I in if we come home unexpectedly and knock on the door!) She knows if she comes home and for some reason can't get into the house she should call me or go to the neighbors. She knows some other stranger related emergencies which warrant a phone call and other actions. Apparently she does NOT know that just sitting in a puddle of water, all in the name of watching her beloved T.V., isn't really a very good idea.

So, it's time to backtrack a bit and reteach the "home alone" thing, going over all the possible scenarios. I don't want to leave out any possibilities!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

One year ago today

One year ago today, a tiny little 7 year old and I got off a plane at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport. It had been an eventful trip home (which you can read about here, and which will cause you to never use an airplane bathroom again. ) and I was so very glad to give my Dean, Angela and Axel hugs!!! Here's the disclaimer - and then video - I posted on that day not-so-long ago:
#1 Dean is still learning to work his camera
#2 Check back in a bit and the video should be rotated so you can watch it.
#3 Our flight was delayed a couple of times and Dean wasn't exactly sure when we were coming in. He was a little late getting to the airport and barely made it to the magic doors in time.
#4 Dean had to be videographer while also trying to meet his son for the first time.
#5 I was tired and possibly a little crabby.
#6 I was also hungry.
#7 Dean forgot you can't try to record AND interact with everyone at the same time, and that the back of someone's head is not very interesting.
#8 I debated not posting this video.
#9 I am not responsible for Angela's hair.

It has been a pretty incredible year for Asher. Axel had been in a foster home for 18 months before our adoption so there were many "firsts" he experienced with them. Asher...coming straight from an institution, oh my goodness. Where do you start? Seeing food prepared for the first time? Seeing a refrigerator full of food? Having a real tub bath? Having a tub bath with warm water? Riding in a car seat? An airplane? Walking down the street? Being barefoot indoors? All of these things in his first 24 hours out of the institution. 

There was a little boy named Lazar who I carried out of the institution.

That little boy stayed in Serbia. A boy named Asher came home with me....

and hasn't ever looked back.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Lost Elf

Where's the Cat?

At 3:30 this morning I woke up from a sound sleep realizing I hadn't seen the cat in...OMG a long time!

I rushed out to the kitchen. Let me think...God did we put the cat outside and it didn't come back? How many days ago was THAT?

I don't even remember the last time we FED the cat, or bought cat food, for that matter!

I went to wake up Dean. "Honey. Honey have you seen the cat?" But he wouldn't wake up.

I came back to the kitchen. OMG I'm a terrible cat parent. I can't even think what the cat's name is at the moment! What the hell is the cat's name? Think think think!

This went on for a good 10 minutes before I was awake enough to realize: We don't HAVE a cat!!!!! We haven't had a cat in 10 years!!!!!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Two years ago...

Two years ago today, I put on a brave face and walked into Axel's foster home. His foster mother was not there that day. I know it was because she couldn't stand to be there when he left.

We played for just a few minutes when someone asked if we were ready. I removed the clothes I'd brought from the bag and handed them to one of the family members. As she dressed Axel she wiped tears off her cheek.

While I was having a hard time with the emotions behind all of this, I was also taking mental notes of Axel's behavior. All the times he kicked her, pulled her hair, spit at her. Behavior that I hadn't seen during the previous two visits. I also noted that nobody seemed surprised by his behavior, nor did anyone tell him to stop. I was starting to worry just a tiny bit!

At 10 years old Axel was drowning in the size 6 pants that were 5 inches too long! For weeks I had imagined him in the brand new jacket I brought along and now the time was finally here!  I handed it over. He was SO excited about all the new clothes! You could see he felt very grown up.

It was time to go. It was all I could do to hold myself together. Axel walked out the door ahead of me, holding the hand of his foster father. Someone  had told him he was going for a ride in the car and he was very excited. He was getting into a car with a woman who talked crazy talk gibberish (which must have been what English sounded like to him!) He had no idea I was taking him away forever.

The rest of that day was very difficult. Very. Difficult. You can read about it here. 


Tonight's conversation at dinner:

Angela: (never taking her eyes off her plate) "Somebody was in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

Me: "Really? Who was that?"

Angela: "Somebody came upstairs and drank all the pop."

Me: "All what pop?" (seriously? we had pop?)

Angela: "Somebody drank all the orange crush. Threw it away.

Me: "Really! And who did all that?"

Angela: "Somebody got up and ate Oreo cookies."

Me: "Who would have done that? Do you know who did?"

Angela: "Not me."

Me: "Angela. Who came up stairs, drank pop and ate cookies in the middle of the night?"

Angela: (Looking me square in the eye, trying to decide if it was worth it or not.) "I did. I drank the pop  (gesturing toward the fridge.) I ate the cookies (gesturing to the drawer where they're kept.) Then I threw the bottle away and I went to bed."

Me: " Angela, I'm glad you told me about all of this. It's important to tell the truth to mom. But cannot wander around the house in the middle of the night. You cannot eat food in the middle of the night. If you need to get up to get a drink of water you can do that in the bathroom downstairs.

Angela: "Ok mom."

Somehow I have the feeling we'll be having this conversation again very soon!


It's 1:30 a.m. and everyone is sleeping...except me. Apparently the nap I got with Asher today messed me up.

As I sit here in the darkness contemplating life, I just realized some things. I mean, I have known these things and have always been aware of them, but sometimes it just hits me again, the significance of what we've done. What GOD has done. For us. For our children. And I am in awe.

There are three kids in this house, sound asleep in their own beds.

Two years ago Angela was an only child. (well, not technically but she had been the only child at home for several years by that point.) Just think of all the ways her life changed when we brought Axel home! Angela really is a very good big sister. She has her moments when she gets annoyed with her brothers but in general she is very helpful and loving.

Two years ago Axel was living in a foster home in Serbia. He had foster parents and siblings who he loved. Imagine how his life has changed since we brought him home!

One year ago Asher was put to bed for the night in a room full of other children who had no parents. He spent his days avoiding the bully in the room. There was nobody to tuck him in with a kiss each night. Nobody to let him soak in the bat
htub until he was all wrinkled. Nobody to put him on a school bus each morning. Nobody to teach him how to communicate.

Two years ago Dean and I were spending A LOT of time playing. Riding our motorcycles, going to movies and out to dinner. We had every other weekend to ourselves and we used every moment of them for ourselves.

There is a boy sleeping on the top bunk in the boys' bedroom. Two years ago he head banged all night with a spinal cord that was unknowingly compromised. Now he can headband all night long and we don't have to worry.

If I am awake on a night like this two years from now, I wonder what changes will
have happened in our family?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Harland: Day 4

It was a tough search for the kids to find Harland this morning. He left a souvenir of himself.

Because it's beautiful today (40-some degrees in DECEMBER!) I took the boys for a walk around the lake. 

We took some pictures of the geese, sitting in the fog on a sheet of paper-thin ice. 

We came back to discover we'd missed some excitement. I guess Ken lost. 

Two years ago...

Two years ago today I was in the middle of a visit with Axel's foster home. It was my second visit. Here is what I wrote that day:

This morning my facilitator and I walked around the city center for quite some time. I have no clue why I didn't bring my camera. It's a darling area of town! Many many shops, and an area of "no traffic zone" which is kind of like the Nicollet Mall area for those from the Twin Cities. 
When we were done, it was time to go see Axel. I put some different toys in my bag for today, trying to keep things interesting you know! The first toy I brought out was a matchbox motorcycle. Axel and I played with that together with yesterday's cars.

Then his foster mother brought out some pictures from his 9th birthday a year ago. As she did so, I realized just how perfect my gift for them was! They do not have a camera of their own, and the few pictures they have are cherished! The pictures she showed me were the same ones she showed me back in April. There were only a couple of new ones. The gift I got for them was a new digital camera, along with a small tripod, case, and extra memory card. Axel's foster mother was THRILLED! I told her I knew they would want to take pictures of him before he leaves. And, while on our walk earlier I'd spotted a place where they can bring the memory card to have prints made.
Next I brought out the talking photo album. Axel was delighted with it, and his social worker and case manager were intrigued by it! My facilitator, after seeing him play with the iPad yesterday, and this photo album today, said, "You have the most interesting gadgets for him. I love it!"
I saved the toy I somehow knew would be is favorite. I'll be keeping this set aside for moments of desperation in airports, etc! Of course, the toy found in the dollar bin at Walmart is the favorite, right?

He played with this for quite some time. (I'll have to find batteries before we get on that plane! LOL) and showed everyone. In this picture he's sitting with his social workers, and suddenly looked over at his foster mother. I am oblivious, because they're speaking in another language. It wasn't until later I understood the significance of this picture. Someone in the room has just started talking about Axel going home with me.

Still unknown to me what the topic of conversation is, Axel moved to the lap of his foster mother. When I saw her start to tear up, I knew without anyone having to tell me, they were discussing Axel leaving. It is clear that his foster parents care for him very much, and will be sad to let him go.

Just then, I am asked, "Do you think you will be ok with taking him tomorrow?"
Tomorrow! Tomorrow I will take custody of Axel! Just two visits and I am his mother. Yes, I am ready to take him tomorrow, but is his foster mother ready? Is Axel ready? There is a quick conversation about weather or not I need any clothes for him (I have everything he needs, just need to make sure it all fits, but I'm confident I was at least very close in sizing!) I said no, I think I have everything, when I saw the foster mother's face look disappointed. "Unless he has something, like a favorite shirt? I bet he would like if you send that!" I said.

Please pray for me tonight when you go to bed. While you are dreaming of sugar plums, I will be trying to hold myself together so I do not turn into a puddle of tears! Axel is very sensitive to the emotions of others, and it will not be good for him to see both his foster mother and I crying! Oh Lord, please PLEASE give me more strength than you ever have before!!! I thought adopting was hard, but taking Axel away from the people he clearly loves is going to be the most difficult step!!!

Although I will take custody of Axel tomorrow, there is much to be done. I will still be here in this city until approximately Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


It's hard to believe that one year ago we brought home a little boy who had no way to communicate, whether that be in Serbian or English.

Just as I did with Axel, I started signing with Asher immediately. He learned "more" ages ago, quickly followed by "eat". He could sign "bed" and "potty", "shoes" and "socks. Over the course of his first 9-10 months home he acquired a vocabulary of around 100 signs. Unfortunately he wouldn't initiate most of these signs, instead using them only when he heard us say the word or saw us signing them. "Asher, where's your shoes?" and he would sign "shoes", etc.

And then school started. Asher was able to see that kids TALK. And they ask for things and, more importantly, they get the things they ask for! He's spent the first three months of school watching  natural communication happen.

About a month ago it suddenly clicked for Asher. He started trying it out, this communication thing. One morning he went to the pantry, took out a box of cereal and brought it to me, signing "eat" as he placed it in my hands. "Oh are you hungry Asher? Lets go eat!" He laughed out loud, humored by the fact his tactic worked! WOW!!! A week or so later he started requesting drinks. He is now the most thirsty little boy I've ever met, asking for drinks about every 30 minutes, because he can and because we'll respond. He is learning he has some control over his environment.

I have always brought Asher to the bathroom about every 2 hours and he has stayed reliably clean and dry....except on the weekends. On the weekends we have no routine and there have been a lot of potty accidents! I always bring him first thing in the morning, again before he leaves for school, then school brings him every couple of hours. When he comes home he goes potty and every 2 hours until bed time.

About a week ago Asher came home from school, hung up his jacket, put is backpack away, then I got distracted. He came and stared at me. Just standing there, staring. Finally he started slowly walking backward down the hall. I recognize this; it's the walk he does when he doesn't want to be seen. As in , "You can't see me because I'm walking backward." He does it when you've told him "no" about something, or when he's not sure he's allowed to do something on his own. On this day he wasn't sure he was allowed to go to the bathroom on his own. I pretended not to see, watching him out of the corner of my eye. He walked backward all the way down the hall, into the bathroom and to the toilet. Finally I heard him flush the toilet (he flushes BEFORE he pees, silly boy!) then open the toilet and do his thing. I stood at the bathroom door, "Asher! What a big boy! YAY! You went potty by yourself!" I haven't brought him potty since then! But, because he's so small, he isn't able to get up on the toilet by himself in order to poop so at the usual pooping times I was bringing him. That was until Friday when I heard a commotion in the bathroom. I walked into to find him trying to get his potty seat up onto the toilet by himself. YAY!!!!!! He isn't quite able to do it himself, but he's at least attempting. Then yesterday we had another first. He came up to me out of the blue and signed "potty". I told him to go ahead and go, which he did. Five minutes later he came back, signing "potty" again. "Honey, you just went potty." Oh but wait....."Do you need your potty seat? Lets go get it!" Again he laughed as he realized he got his point across.

Tonight I was making a video of Axel reading his sight words. When we were done Asher sat in the same spot and signed his version of "Me!" He made it clear he wanted his turn! I turned on the camera and asked him to sign whatever words I could think of, (his vocabulary is now somewhere around 250-300 signs) but his attention span is short so we only did a few. Also, while he was sitting there next to the heat duct, the furnace kicked in. Anyone who knows Asher knows he is fascinated with airflow, motors and vibration. It was hard to keep his attention with the furnace running. LOL

Friday, November 30, 2012

Harland: Day 3

Apparently Harland is a wee bit warm here in Minnesota and having trouble adjusting to our unseasonably nice weather. This morning he was found hanging out in the freezer drawer with the freeze pops.

And here's the part the kids don't know about: Late last night Dean and I were hearing a lot of rustling around. I thought it was the dogs but every time I looked they were sleeping somewhere, innocent as can be. My friend Nell has some weird stuff going on in her house right now that we've been discussing, and we also have a resident ghost, so I decided to set up my night vision baby monitor. 

Look who I caught coming out of the bathroom with the Victoria's Secret catalog!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harland: Day 2

Disclaimer: Please read through this post before allowing children to see it. They may ask you questions you don't want to answer. Our elf is far more naughty than nice!

I was woken up in the wee hours of the morning by a Facebook message notification on my phone. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. UGH! I couldn't stand not knowing who's trying to get in touch with me and I knew I'd lay there awake for hours if I didn't check.

I went in search of my phone and found THIS!!!! Harland Facebooking Santa! Here we were told he flies back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa when in reality he jumps on the family computer.

 I confiscated my computer and phone and went back to bed. Apparently Harland was feeling a bit vindictive. This is where the kids found him this morning.

Here's a close up in case you can't read it. At least he was prepared to clean up his mess.

My morning was really busy and I didn't have a chance to check my email or anything else on my computer until now. That's when I discovered Harland had never logged out of Facebook, AND he left his conversation with Santa open! Looks like we might have a seriously delinquent elf on our hands. I was a lot slightly mortified by their conversation!

(you may have to click the picture to make it big enough to read.) 

Sometimes in winter

In the springtime, when the hummingbirds return to Minnesota, I spend hours watching them visit our feeders. Once I've identified them and the direction different pairs fly off to, I then start to hang out on the back side of the house, trying to discover their favorite landing places in hopes of finding their nests.

This year I didn't have as much time for bird watching so I wasn't successful in my quest for a nest. I knew one of the pairs was somewhere just above the house, but with the sun always glaring in my eyes I could never find them hidden among the leaves.

Until today. Sometimes in winter I can find them.  When all the leaves are gone and the hummingbirds have long since headed to the warmer temperatures of Central America, their nests jump right out at me, high above the house, like a golfball silhouetted against the late afternoon sky.

It makes me eager for spring, when the birds will return once again to provide me with entertainment as I watch them, and later their babies, buzz around the feeders, battling one another for the longest sip.

Hurry back hummingbirds!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two years ago

Two years ago I boarded a plane for Serbia. (there were a lot of trips to Serbia over the last couple of years, and two of them happened in Nov/Dec. LOL) I was on my way to meet Djorjde for the 2nd time!

The first time we met, April 2010

Harland: Day 1

Our elf's name is Harland. He showed up in the wee hours this morning and wasted no time helping himself.

I told the kids that no, they could not have cookies for breakfast like Harland. At least  he used a napkin!

And THEN, the kids left for school and I headed to the shower. Yeah, I learned this elf CANNOT be left alone! I just knew it. I KNEW we would get a naughty elf! (pretty sure  he's licking the bottom of that Malibu cap. The lush!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Look Who's Coming to Visit!

It should prove to be an interesting month!

I wonder what the kids will name our Elf on a Shelf?

I also wonder if we have a naughty or nice elf?

URGENT call to action!

Copied from David and Carolyn's blog:


Parents of children with disabilities and those who care about parental rights please read and take action.
November 27, 2012
Senate Vote This Week - Please Call Immediately!
Yesterday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) announced that the Senate will vote to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) this week. We need you to call your two senators immediately, and urge them to oppose the CRPD.

U.S ratification of the CRPD would subject our domestic law to United Nations standards and oversight, threatening parental rights and American self-government.

Thirty-six Senators have signed a letter stating that they “respectfully request that no treaties be brought to the Senate floor for advice and consent during the lame-duck session of the 112th Congress.” These Senators have promised in the letter that they “will oppose efforts to consider a treaty during this time.” Senator Reid has purposefully ignored this letter by promising to file cloture (so thefilibustercannot be used) and will make every attempt to proceed to the CRPD for ratification this week.

We are behind in this battle. Thirty-six is not enough to stop a cloture vote – that takes forty – and these thirty-six have not pledged to vote “No” on the treaty. They have only pledged to oppose its coming to the floor. If CRPD comes to the floor anyway, we have no guarantee that we have the votes to stop it.

We need you to call both of your U.S. Senators right now and ask them to oppose the CRPD. You can click on your state on our States page to find your Senators’ contact information, or use the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. (I apologize for the incorrect area code in yesterday’s email. This is the corrected number.)

Please give them some or all of this message:

“I urge you to oppose the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This treaty surrenders U.S. sovereignty to unelected UN bureaucrats and will threaten parental care of children with disabilities. Our nation already has laws to protect disabled Americans. This treaty is unnecessary and will hurt families. If the Senate ratifies this treaty, it would be the first time ever that the U.S. has ratified a treaty that obligates us to recognize economic, social, and cultural entitlements as rights under domestic law. The Senate should be more focused on avoiding the fiscal cliff than on ramming through a dangerous treaty that has not yet received the full study and legal review that it requires.”
Then, please forward this email to your friends and family and urge them to call, as well. Please also post this information on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) to help get the word out to every parent and freedom loving person in America.

For more information on the dangers of this treaty please visit our CRPD page.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

P.S. – Our petition to oppose this ratification contained 10,195 names as of this morning. That’s more than 10,000 persons with disabilities or family members of persons with disabilities who oppose this treaty that is being rammed through in their name. We will deliver this information to the Senate this afternoon and hope they listen. Your immediate calls will help them hear us.
Parental Rights Amend. House Cosponsors
Includes HJRes110 lead sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks.
Latest added Oct. 25, 2012.
Parental Rights Amendment Senate Cosponsors
Includes SJRes42 lead sponsor, Sen. Jim DeMint.
Latest addition July 23, 2012.
Senators Opposing Treaty Ratification Vote
Senators who indicate they will oppose cloture.
Latest addition Sept. 21, 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Remembering one little girl

Do you remember this darling little face?

photo credit: Google Images

Little Caylee Anthony disappeared in July 2008, her body found in December 2008 in a trash bag in a wooded area not far from her home. Her mother, Casey Anthony was later tried in her death. She was found not guilty.
Today Channel 13 news in Florida reports the Orange County Sheriff's Department confirmed there were google searches on one of the Anthony computers for "foolproof suffocation",  and that the jury was never made aware of this evidence. According to the article, the prosecution team didn't think the information as relevant at the time. 

Ok, I am not an attorney. I am not an investigative reporter. I am just a mom, at home. I guess I have interrogated enough teenagers in my time as a mom to know that if I found information like that I'd be digging further! You bet I'd be getting to the bottom of why in the world someone would want to search a term like that and a very short time later a child goes missing, and is later found dead.

 Four years down the road and there are still unanswered questions about the disappearance and death of little Caylee Anthony. I wonder how many other questions have been raised by the book that was released in July? "Presumed Guilty - Casey Anthony the Inside Story" is written by the Anthony attorney, giving details about the investigation and trial. What about you? Were you satisfied with how the trial was handled?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving recap

This is one of the best Thanksgiving weekends I can remember in a really long time! Dean was home for four days, and I absolutely love when he's home so many days in a row with us! I know the kids enjoy it too!

Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving with Dean's side of the family. Lots of amazing food cooked up by my BIL Kelly. And pie...lots of pie! Every one missed Angela since she was at her dad's.

Friday Dean decided to tackle the last of the painting that was still left from last spring's remodeling project. We had two walls that we just couldn't decide what to do with so Dean made an executive decision. Of course, it looks lovely!

Saturday I drove the hour up to the other side of the cities to pick up Tyler and when I came home Dean had all the painting stuff cleaned up and had made the hor dourves my sister had requested. We all snuck in a quick nap then headed out to my sister's house for my family thanksgiving. We had a lovely time!

Today Dean and Tyler got the last of the Christmas lights up. Oh, and for the last two years there is a mirror I've wanted for the front entry. Since that is one of the walls Dean painted this weekend, we went to ikea and got the mirror. Now we just need to get it up on the wall.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow the kids will be back to school, Dean back to work, and I will be picking up the house since it looks like a bomb went off in here! This will I'll be trying to get the Christmas stuff out, a couple kid doctor appointments taken care of, therapy for the boys, and..hmmm...I bet I will think of a few other things to fill the little bit of time left!

I hope all of you had a beautiful Thanksgiving as well. Our nice weather held out until Thanksgiving Day and now winter has arrived! We have snowing and blowing and...well it's just darned cold! Thankfully there are only three months of this junk and then it will be Spring!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

School Bans

It seems we, as well as our kids, are slowly loosing freedoms. Schools across the country and around the world are placing bans on all sorts of normal kid activities. Here's a look at things that have been banned over the past several years.

In 2007, the principal of Oakdale School in Connecticut banned lots of things. No kickball, soccer, dodgeball, or other "body banging" activities. Instead kids are encouraged to jump rope or play with hula hoops. Eventually the principal gave in, a little, and started allowing fourth and fifth graders to play a modified game of kickball - twice a week - if a parent or grandparent is present. Oh, and nobody can keep score.

In 2010, a school in Ottawa banned playing with balls at recess for the duration of winter. Their reasoning that the balls get snow and sometimes small pebbles stuck to them. Students can (and sometimes do) get  hurt. Hmmm haven't kids in Canada been playing with balls during winter months EVER?

2012 In Sydney, Australia, Drummoyne public school has banned cartwheels and Somersaults during lunch or recess unless a "trained gymnastics teacher and proper equipment" are present.

Portland Maine Public Schools has banned all unhealthy foods, such as soda and potato chips, on school grounds. Clearly parents attending games with their families cannot make decisions on their own so the district has widened their school policy to include high school football games. Instead of the concession stand selling pop, buttered popcorn, etc. it will now well things like baked tortilla chips and hummus. OH YIPEE!

Taucoma WA public schools banned sunscreen, even on field day , even for a kid who has albinism, resulting in severe burns and a hospital visit for two.

The Minnetonka High school here in MN has made a plea to parents and students about leggings and yoga pants. I have to say though, I'm fully in support of this one! I don't think there is any reason to see every crease or crack a girl's body has! Last weekend we were in shopping mall and we counted MANY teens dressed this way. To be honest, I found it pretty disgusting. They may as well have been naked since there was NOTHING you couldn't see. If I want to educate my 12 year old son about girl's bodies, I don't plan on doing so at the local mall.

Have you heard of any crazy school bans recently? Which ones do you agree or disagree with?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Visits

This is a continuation of my story about meeting Asher.


Twice a day, two hours each visit, every day until he is legally mine. That is how the visits will go.

This is the exhausting part of the in-country process. Many refer to it as the "Groundhog Day" effect. Every day is like the one before it and the next will be the same as well until they begin to run together and you start to forget what day it is.

The visits themselves are monotonous. Trying to think of activities that will encourage bonding yet pass the time quickly, all while trapped in a small room. Luckily the Zvescanska orphanage has a playground with lots of toys!

It is late November in Belgrade. I've been lucky enough to hit mild weather. Although it's pretty damp and drizzly much of the time I try to get us outside every day.

On this first day I bring yogurt. I can see that Lazar is hungry and thin, and food is a great way to encourage bonding. Unfortunately I was met with some resistance from staff.

Rather than my re-writing history, I invite you to read my adoption blog posts from November and December of last year. Please do take the time to read. "Finding" Asher was really difficult but so incredibly rewarding! Those first flashes of eye contact, the first smile he blessed me with, all of it so very much worth the wait!

Just Because

Sometimes Asher cracks himself up. On this day he was sitting on the ottoman when he started swinging his arms around. Apparently it was pretty funny because he kept giggling, and I just love his giggle so much I had to share it with you.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


"Leah, dear, it's Thanksgiving day! Why are you just now posting Halloween pics?"

I don't know! I got distracted, and busy, and...and...and I'm having trouble feeling very motivated to blog lately. Do you hear the crickets? It seems my readers are dropping like flies.

Anyway, on to Halloween.

This was Asher's very first Halloween, so I was determined to do all the Halloween things, even if there wasn't time for it all. I decorated the front step, but don't worry! Axel didn't stay out there the entire month.

On the big day, even though there was very little time, I made sure we carved pumpkins.

Axel remembered this activity from last year and was anxious to show Asher how to do it!

Angela is not really a fan of pumpkin carving, but she also isn't about to be left out of whatever fun thing the boys get to do. LOL

Asher thought this was pretty cool! 

Axel did an excellent job of cleaning out his pumpkin.

Asher pulled the guts out one string at a time. 

Dean got to do the actual carving, while Zurri kept a close eye on the pumpkins.

Oh, you can stir this stuff? YAY!

Asher really wanted to move over and see what Dad was doing but he wan't sure how to get there. Notice Zurri is headed to lick off a kid's face.

Hurry honey! The sun is going down and we need to get the kids' costumes on yet! 

Doesn't he have the cutest belly now?

Pumpkins are done! YAY! 

I have to tell you about these costumes. Axel and I were at Goodwill dropping off donations one day when I decided to take him into the store to see if there were any interesting toys for the boys. They had just put their costumes out and Axel picked the skeleton costume. 

Later that day Angela saw the costume and declared "I be a sketton too!" I reminded her that she's too afraid to even walk down the Halloween isle at the party store. Was she SURE she wanted to be a skeleton? Oh absolutely! 

Asher did fantastic with T-or-Ting! Axel would ring the bell, then when the people would come to the door he'd say trick or treat. About the 4th or 5th house Asher figured out the routine and was VERY excited people were putting SOMETHING in his bag! At that house Axel rang the bell, and as soon as the person came to the door Asher let out a glass-shattering screech! It was all he could do to contain himself. Then he did it again at the next house, and the next. This was his way of saying, "Trick or treat!"

Angela volunteered to stay back at the house and hand out candy, but we didn't have one single trick-or-treater. :-( Until we came home and the boys were excited to knock on the door. 

Halloween was fun. I didn't realize how much I missed it from when the big boys were little kids. We've always done Halloween with Angela but some years we haven't bothered with pumpkins, or decorating, or anything else really. This year was fun!