Saturday, November 14, 2009

Transformation # 2

Well, figured I'd continue on w/ the kids' transformations.  I spoke of Alyona last time and now will talk about our youngest...Nik.  I have so much to say about this one.  So much.  I can not wait to share it all with you.  Now that you know the story of Alyona, I will talk about Nik.  We originally went into this adoption journey for one more child, Alyona.  Got approval for 2 however, just in case they found us a "little one."  Always dreamed of having a baby.  Always.  Well, we were to travel in October but in September I got a call from the agency saying they needed to place a 3yo boy(ready to turn 4yo in October) immediately or he'd be sent to an institution.  Would I be interested in seeing a picture?  Sure, send it on over.  My email back stated " I don't care what's wrong with him, he is our son!"  Got his medicals later that said he was mute due to trauma.  Fine, we can handle that.  Flew the next month to meet these two.  Nik was just as I pictured him except much, much smaller.  Wore size 18 mo clothes.  It was nuts.  And developmentally, he was 18 months old or less!  Warren looked at me and said  well, you wanted a baby, you got one.  I admittedly was indeed nervous.  Would he catch up?  Would he be able to do anything on his own?  Would he be loved by his siblings for his differences?  All these questions.  After awhile though, I started to observe more.  Thinking to myself, is this kid deaf?  No, they tell me he can hear.  LOL.  Tell you why I'm laughing later. Long story short, went home from trip one, came back & brought them home.  We learned quickly in the hotel room that Nik was going to be a quick learner. 

At home, we had many, many medical appointments.  I am deifnitely going to abbreviate for the time being as going through the entire diagnosis and such would take about 2 days in writing.  Not kidding or exaggerating about that.  Anyhow, we learned Nik was Deaf due to Auditory Neuropathy.  Not your typical deafness for sure.  What shocked us more than that was Nik's eyes.  In the beginning  we were told Nik most likely had Ushers Syndrome.  Deaf/ blind.  Ironically, when we filled out our adoption papers, two of the ONLY things we said we couldn't handle would be a deaf or blind child.  Here we were, getting both at once, totally unexpectedly with our new son.  We were heartbroken, angry, disappointed all at the same time.  I know that sounds awful but being honest here.  After much thought, we said this is our son, we love him to pieces and we can get through this together.  And, we have.  Nik has done astonishingly well.  Passing everyone's expectations.  This little boy has an academic gift like no other I've seen.  He is smart as a whip, eager to learn, creative, motivated and just plain cute.  Nik has a cochlear implant now on his right ear which helps him to hear.  His receptive language has exploded.  However, his expressive still is and probably always will be lagging behind.  So we all made the conscience decision to use ASL.  He is signing like crazy, has an interpreter at school, has friends, & people love him to pieces.  His behavior is excellent(outside the home of course!).  We could not have asked for a better outcome.  Many thought he would not be able to do a thing being deaf-blind.  NOT true.  Our eyes were truly opened with Nik being in our family.  We have met so many amazing deaf people since he came into our lives and have realized Nik easily fits into this family and will definitely reach his fullest potential.  At the orphanage, he would have been dead by now or at best, tied down to a crib daily.  Now, he's trying to learn to read, he's tying his shoes, artistically inclined, knows his entire alphabet, and the list goes on.  I can only imagine what the future holds for our dear Nik.  I will admit, this kid is spoiled rotten b/c everyone loves him too much.  That is his one major flaw.  We'll take it.  He shares, plays with the kids next door okay & is in regular classes.  Sometimes, God takes us to "uncomfortable" places for a reason.  Had we known he was deaf-blind, we would have never taken his referral.  Can you imagine what we would have missed out on?!  Thank God for unanswered prayers for sure.  Nik is our cuddlebug.  He comes down on the weekends & crawls in bed w/ Warren & I to cuddle before going on w/ his day.  Nik does almost everything on his own.  He is Mr. Independence.  Nik will not leave for the bus until he has given me at least two kisses and a hug every morning.  Nik loves to swing, swim and jump on the trampoline.  He loves anything scary.  He loves to tease his siblings when he gets a chance.  He is a mommy's boy through and through.  I don't mind not one single bit.  This lump, lifeless, deaf, underweight little boy was rotting away at an orphanage waiting for his chance at life at transformation.  We were the lucky ones to give him that chance.  It was the best chance we ever took!  It was a total leap of faith.  I knew nothing about deaf children or where to even start.  We started somewhere though and it worked.  It is as though he always belonged with us.  I have no doubt Nik will live on his own, go to college and have a career.  No doubt.  It would have been ashame to throw this much talent away.  So many other children sit there waiting for someone to take a chance on them.  Take that leap of faith.  There is no turning back nor would we ever want to change the course of fate.  I truly believe there was a higher reason that Nik came into our lives.  He opened us up to more disabilities and that people can accomplish so many things despite those disabilities.  I am ashamed to say I didn't feel that way before I met him even w/ a son at home that also had disabilities.  This was a whole other level for me and I am thankful for this opportunity and experience I have had parenting Nik.  I would not trade it for the world.  Well, maybe all the stupid screaming that comes in the beginning.  Phew, those days were rough.  Worth it in the end though.  Just want to say there is no doubt I love this little boy and can hardly wait to see him transform into an amazing young man.  Okay, so I can really wait.  LOL.  In the meantime, here are some transformations from him at the orphanage to now. 

Nik had just turned four years old in the picture above.  Only weighed 21 lbs. I believe.  Wore size 18 months clothes and they were a bit big on him.  Look at the size of my hand compared to his body. 

Not much pleasant areas around the orphanage for sure.  This is Nik & I on our last day from our first trip visit when we met the kids.  He was w/ his group, saw us pull up and ran to us!  I knew then, this kid was going to be okay.  I was hooked. 

Got to love the pink tights they put on him--LOL.  Not a smile in site.  Common in an orphanage setting.  Not much energy or light in his eyes.  That blank orphanage stare we see in all of them.  It disappates soon after being home and being loved. 

This is a recent one of Nik.  He's doing archery of all things!  He definitely has a light in his eyes now & is ready for anything that comes his way.  He has found his forever family here.  We are so proud of Nik and how far he has come in life.  The transformation of this one is nothing short of a miracle.  To think he was considered retarded and just a throw away in Russia.  Not here, not ever, no how no way.  We love you Nik Nak!  And to leave you with one of my favorite pictures:

Reason this is my favorite...the flowers are for me!  He picked all the daffodils in our yard and said they were for me.  They looked beautiful on the table.  He is that considerate.  How lucky an a mom be?!  Yep, I see no blank stare here, do you?  Tell you of more transformations this coming week.  Hope you are enjoying them. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the road to recovery!

Quick note to say Warren is on the road to recovery after an emergency appendectomy.  After I had written the last post, surgeon called to say they couldn't wait & were taking him to surgery that evening.  They also had discovered a mass but turned out to be nothing.  Thank God!  So, he is recovering and hence, why my posts were neglectful.  Like I said before, family's health is more important.  We'll update on everything else soon.  And, I'll continue with the kids' transformations.  Good evening.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sometimes a bump in the road

Hello everyone.  This will be quick.  Trying to reach as many as possible.  With every adoption journey comes bumps in the roads.  In the adoption world, we call them hiccups.  Our first fundraiser was supposed to be this weekend.  Life sometimes takes a turn.  Remember me describing twists and turns on the adoption journey?  This is a minor turn.  My husband was admitted to the hospital this afternoon.  Poor guy was taken via ambulance from work.  They are still running tests & only reason I'm writing is to keep my mind busy.  Warren has an elevated white blood cell count.  Sharp stomach pains.  They are thinking appendicitis.  Surgery.  He has called me so far from the hospital once.  They took his phone away--LOL.  They still have to do a contrast study to confirm & make sure dx is right but they're pretty certain.  I really do want to be with him but he ordered me to stay here w/ the kids.  He said he'd do better knowing the kids are at home w/ me versus someone else.  Remember, we do have some with certain disorders which require some talking to during strenuous or uncertain times such as this. They know their daddy is in the hospital & for some of them, it is very hard to take.  Some of my children suffered from PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder) and things such as a hospital stay send them into a tizzy.  I'm making sure they stay calm.  Warren was laughing & had some good drugs when I spoke with him last.  He's not worried and we are both very thankful it is nothing more serious.  Plans are for me to stay here tonight.  They will probably drug him to sleep anyhow while there & he'll have surgery tomorrow.  Don't know the surgery schedule as of yet.  Hoping I can sleep this evening as well so that I'll be of better help tomorrow.  I'm hoping to leave as soon as the kids leave for school to the hospital.  Stay w/ him until they release him to me to come home.  That's the plan anyhow.  Waiting to hear more.  Kids are okay for now.  We had baked meatballs for dinner.  Everyone had their meds so we're also good on that front.  Now, 2 of my kids are trying to dry the couch cushions.  Our 100 lb. lab laid on the couch.  Problem is, we have a house guest sleeping there tonight!!!  We also have a dining room almost blocked off from all the donations for the fundraiser yardsale.  Bojan informed me I am to drive him to chorus in the morning.  Ahh, forgot that daddy usually does that on Thursday mornings.  Anything else mom forgot?  Umm, yes.  2 IEP meetings to be rescheduled, 1 sick note to be written, and 1 turkey in disguise not done.  Not a problem.  Working on it all.  So, plan is to recover Warren and then have the fundraiser.  Though we want to get started immediately, family's health comes first no matter what.  Not a major hiccup but any delays always delay the process.  Mostly wanted to tell you all Warren will be fine though recovery will be awhile.  Very thankful it is just this and nothing more serious.  This can be healed and he can be back to his old self in no time.  Love you Warren!  Get well soon.  Can't wait to be there first thing in the morning. 

Transformation....some before & afters

Many have asked why we do what we do. How can we not? It is no different than when a family decides to have 4, 5 or 6 biological kids. Deciding how many children to have in your family is life altering no matter who you are. Even more so as an adoptive family as the children have to go through adjustments when first home. Both the children at home and the children coming home. But once that adjustment period is over, you connect as if you'd known each other all your life. It's that family bond that each of us knows.

I know many get a great joy of seeing their infant grow the first year of life. As adoptive parents, we feel the exact same way about the transformations our children do that same first year of life. That first year of life w/ a family. Irina grew 12 inches the first year we had her! Nik went from being developmentally an 18 month old when we got him to the 5 year old he was supposed to be. They learn english w/in a few months. They learn what love is, how to be loved and how to give love. The countless transformations we get to watch are nothing short of miraculous. The blank orphanage stare leaves their eyes and life & joy enter. I could go on for days regarding the awesome transformations that take place. Bojan at 6yo could not feed himself, dress himself, or use the restroom himself when first home. That by the way all ended very quickly. Shoot, he couldn't walk even 3 steps w/out falling down. I look at it in awe each and every time about how far my kids have transformed. They have done so many things that professionals and other people told us they'd never be able to do. It is an honor to see it all take place in my own family. I get to see firsthand the changes from scared, lithless, helpless orphans to strong, bright, full of life children. I am going to post a few pictures of the before and afters that we've seen on the outside. The more important changes have taken place on the inside. I am beyond proud of what my kids have accomplished despite what some have called disabilities or limitations. Here are a few pictures to share of our last child that came home.

The above are pictures of Alyona during our first trip to the orphanage.  When we first went in & they brought the kids to us, we were so afraid to hug Alyona. Literally, afraid we'd break her somehow.  She was bones.  Only weighed in the 20's and was so sickly looking.  Very pale.  Take your first finger & your thumb to form an o.  I could take that and run it all the way up her thigh.  That is how little she was from some malnourishment.  Now, here is Alyona a few years later:

A much healthier and happier child for sure!  A long time since those days of long ago when we were told to consider internationally life flighting her home.  Can you imagine?!  What a difference the love of a family makes.  Alyona does have a list of diagnosis probably 2 lines long at least.  However, we have never defined our children by their diagnosis or special needs.  We define them by their abilities and who they are.  Alyona is just pure sweetness.  Yet has that mischievious side to her no doubt.  She is our little girl through and through.  She has bonds with everyone in the family.  Alyona is the best at giving hugs and means it.  She is our little princess.  Anything pink and frilly, she wants it.  I can dress her up in pretty dresses and she adores them.  Alyona is a kind, gentle soul.  She is loving, motivated, and will go far in life I just know it.  She is trying SO hard to read despite her really only having one eye to read out of.  And that eye is not the best.  For Alyona to see, it is as if she is looking through grains of sand we are told.  She has Optic Nerve Hypoplasia as one of her many diagnosis.  This is not stopping this little one.  And despite her probable form of dwarfism, she can keep up w/ the big kids like no other.  She is slower than molasses though when it comes to eating.  Alyona has come so far already giving the odds stacked against her when younger and at the orphanage.  This child has her own unique style and has a zest for life.  So proud to call her my daughter for sure.  I hope you have seen the transformation in her as we have.  Simply amazing.  I will continue over the next week to do a transformation a day so you can see for yourselves just how much potential orphanage children have.  Till tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The process has begun

Every adoption journey has to start somewhere. For me, it is when we start contemplating adoption again. This was a few months ago. However, when it "gets real" is when you actually start signing papers to agree to this whole idea. Well, that was yesterday. Papers were signed(yes, by Warren too)and mailed off. The papers signed yesterday were simply the agency papers that say you agree to work with them. It is called an application. The other set that was scanned and emailed off was a set of papers that essentially holds the file of the children we are interested in in Bulgaria till our documents are put together. We had to do a mini write up on our family, etc. It goes to the Bulgarian Ministry and they then decide if our family is capable, willing, and a good fit for the children in question. We were deemed so and now the work really begins. Our first hurdle is much the same as every other adoptive family...costs. I will discuss this in length in another post later as it is often a common question adoptive families receive when doing this: "how can you afford to adopt a child?" That will indeed be the next post topic as it is critical for people to understand you are not buying a child. For now, just letting everyone now, the process has begun!!! We are off on our adoption adventure. Though, the paperwork is the most boring part, it has to be done. Till next post. Oh, many pictures to come. I'll be doing an excerpt on each child throughout the next coming week. Can't wait to tell everyone about our children that have totally transformed since coming home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Our current bunch

Okay, so forgive me as I'm still learning how to use this thing.  No telling if pics will come through or not but hoping.  I'm going to try an image or two.  Here goes:

The above(if it worked--LOL) is a picture of our stunning 7.  They are siblings through and through for sure.  Though each has their own set of issues, you would never know it if you interacted with them.  They play together, laugh together, play tricks on each other and of course fight from time to time.  Wouldn't be normal if they didn't fight.  As the next few weeks go on, I will slowly introduce you to each of our children and you can see first hand what a loving family can do for an orphan.  I will leave you w/ another picture(I hope). 

The above is one of daddy & his girls.  Over the course of the next few days, I will try my best to get things posted about our family and about the upcoming adoption of course.  However, some days I can not do as much.  We do have 7 kids and they come first and foremost.  Not the blogs.  Still working on the other two blogs as well.  I am done with the blog for now.  Just wanted you all to put some faces to the wonderful people I share my life and my love with. 

A little history lesson

Good morning everyone.  I thought I'd take you back in time a bit for some history on our previous adoptions.  One day, I will post each of our adoption stories.  But being this is my first blog, I did not want to scare anyone away with a lengthy post.  (thank me later--LOL). 

Warren and I were married in December of 1997.  Just as some of our adoptions have been considered quick & a whirlwind experience, so too was our relationship and marriage.  We met in August of '97, engaged 3 weeks later on Aug. 31st and then married a few months later on December 7th.  Some said it was too fast, it won't last, you hardly know each other, etc, etc.  Almost 12 years later and I have to say those worries are far from everyone's minds now. 

Well, just as our marriage began, so did our adoption journeys.  They too seemed to come on quickly and friends, relatives were questioning our sanity & footings in reality back then as well.  Think about it for  a moment.  Married, and then a year and a half later, we had two children.  However, no one thinks twice about this when it is a married couple that is pregnant with twins.  For that, there is much congratulations.  For us, it was much more questioning as to why we wanted to adopt two orphans from Russia who were gasp...NOT babies.  Relatives & friends were in shock.  Just as every adoption since then though, I looked at Max & Irina's pictures and I just knew they were my kids.  It is mother's instinct, I swear it to this day.  I do adoption advocacy work here & there & see hundreds of pictures of kids all the time.  Yet, the ONLY ones I have ever stopped and called on are the 10 children that you have come to know.  Well, 7 you know & the three you will get to know later in the year.  There has to be something more to this.  That can not just be a mere coincidence.  I truly believe everything happens for a reason and me seeing all our kids pictures & pursuing our adoptions was simply us pursuing our family to be complete. 

Max & Irina came home & it was quite an adjustment just as any other new parent would have.  Just we also had past orphanage behaviors and no speaking english to deal with.  I will admit, back then, we had no idea what we were doing.  But, we grew as parents and learned as we went along.  This was 10  years ago & so hard to believe.  We had 2, we were happy.  A few years later, we got that adoption nudge feeling.  Thinking again about maybe more children.  We adopted Max & Irina in 1999.  4 years later, we decide to host Yana, Alex & Zhenya to see if they would be a good fit for our family & honestly, to see if we really wanted more children or not.  Long story short, Yana & Alex came home in 2004.  Before their adoption, we were also met with the same questions of how and why.  I always say, why not or how can you not do it.  Just look at the kids if you want to know the why.  I personally thought that waiting 4 years between adoptions at the time was plenty to know what we were doing.  It was.  Crazy as it may seem, we still had that nudging feeling we couldn't shake no matter how hard I tried.  I saw Bojan's picture right before we left to get Yana & Alex.  I called as soon as we came home just to check on this little boy.  In my rational mind, I said we can't do another adoption after just being home.  No way.  No how.  But, there was this great kid waiting for us in Serbia who needed us to save him from a life w/out meaning.  During this whole time, Alex was having a rough go of things with his RAD.  We brought Bojan home 8 months after we returned w/ Yana & Alex.  Best move we had ever made for Alex.  Bojan seemed to help Alex & vice versa.  They were meant to be together.  I truly believe both needed each other to heal but in different ways.  We had five & thought that is it.  We are done.  No more kids.  Starting looking what people were adopting, how their journey was going, anythign I could help with, etc.  Happened upon a site that showed Alyona.  Her name had a hold on it meaning another family was to adopt her.  Yet, I looked at her picture every single day.  One day in April of 2006, her name came off hold & well, the rest is history as they say.  We were to travel in Oct to visit her.  I received a call toward teh end of September sayign that there was a boy & his last hope was us as he was going to be transferred to a mental institution.  I was sent his picture & I said to the agency " I don't care what is wrong with him, he is our son!"  That of course was Nik.  We brought Nik & Alyona home Thanksgiving time of 2006.  We had 7, we were busy, we were done.  Didn't feel complete, but thought we were done for sure.  I started helping children find their forever families & felt no draw to go back.  That is until we got further & further into Nik's deafness.  We wanted him to hav the same opportunity to communicate in the family with someone.  So, we started to see if there were any deaf children avaialble to adopt.  Actually, harder than you think.  Though we started out wanting to adopt a deaf child, during the course of this we discovered that Nik was making huge gains and though may never be able to communicate verbally in life, he was defintely going to be able to eventually understand what we were saying.  Our thinking switched as we were slowly getting clues of where to go.  Bulgaria.  Bulgaria?  What?!  Are you sure?  Yep, those are the questions I kept asking myself.  I will go into detail tomorrow as why Bulgaria.  But for now, this brings us to our conclusion of our history lesson.  Though some times it may seem like we rush into things, we really have clearly thought long and hard...most of the time..LOL.  This upcoming adoption will have happened nearly 4 years after Alyona & Nik first came home.  That is definitely plent;y of time to think about if you really want to do this again.  They say history repeats itself.  In this case, it sure has.  Just look at our dates of adoptions 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2010.  We would not change the course of history that has been written for our family.  It is a history we are proud of.  Surely, it has come with ups and downs.  If we were to say it was all rosy, that would be a lie.  No major events in history have been without trials, tribulations and triumphs.  We will muddle through the tribulations and bask in the triumphs.  Much more to come over the next few days. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wait for it..... it's launched!!!!

Finally, we have started a blog! This is my first blog so bare with me.  We have started a blog as to chronicle our final adoption journey.  We are unbelievably excited and can not wait to share our adventures with all of you.  I will in the next few days explain more in detail about our decision to adopt yet one more time.  For those of you who are new, we have  7 internationally adopted children.  There are 6 from Russia and 1 from Serbia.  This next adoption will take place in Bulgaria.  Though I would love to share all the details of the children with you, per Bulgarian law, I can not. That includes pictures unfortunately.  I will be showing some pictures of all our current children and doing some before and after shots, I'm sure.  I want this blog to not only be about our current adoption but also previous adoptions as well.  All of our children are special needs children.  Though we did not originally start out intentionally adopting children with special needs, that is how it has gone.  We would not change our life for all the money in the world.  Though our life may be seen as different from those not living it, for us, it is the new normal.  We have ups and downs just as any other family does as they navigate those after changing waters of parenthood.  We will share the trials, tribulations and triumphs that come along with any adoption journey.  Sit back and enjoy this roller coaster ride.  It will be the ride of a lifetime!  Each day I will blog.  I want this to be a memory of our final adoption journey.  We never thought 10 years ago we would be preparing to add three more children to our family.  We are here, we are excited, we are nervous, we are waiting and we are ready to start.  More about the Bulgarian process tomorrow.  I'm learning as well.  Thanks for joining our journey.