Monday, January 11, 2010

Max's transformation

It is about time I get back to this.  We had a great time at Warren's parents' house yesterday.  Kids enjoyed their grandparents & of course, their belated Christmas.  I had the extremely slow camera so not too many shots but will have some up later tonight.  Warren has to load the old camera in.  New camera this Wednesday...wahoo!!!  Though I can't take fancy pictures like some folks, I do enjoy taking pictures of the kids and everyday life here.  With older adopted children, you want to capture every moment as you most likely missed quite a few when they were younger.  Remember, our youngest we ever adopted(so far) was Alex.  He was 3 years old, almost 4yo.  So, when they get home, we try to capure many of the "firsts" that we see.  I don't know if all adoptive parents do this or if we're just nurotic, but we really don't care--LOL.  Now, if I can only find a way to get back to organizing the photos again.  I must admit, the computer made me lazy with that.  I have a huge storgae tub right now literally filled with photos.  Thousands of them.  Sitting, unorganized, not written on and just waiting to be put in an album.  Soon.  I'm thinking of making it our summer project. 

Onto Max's transformation.  Gosh, where do I begin.  I will not tell their adoption stories on here as they are extremely lengthy.  But what took place over the years.  Max came home at just four years old.  He weighed 21 lbs. and wore size 18 months.  He was developmentally delayed.  He was a nightmare wild man.  Keep in mind, Warren and I were new parents and had absolutely no idea what we were doing.  These were our first two children.  Adopted IRina and Max at the same time.  Now, Warren and I had to figure out if what Max was doing was just normal child behavior or something more.  Max was all over the place.  Never slowed down, had night terrors, banged his head against the wall over and over again, rocked constantly(self-stimulation rock), and numerous other post-institutionalized behaviors that took place.  We were nervous, we were scared.  We know about all this stuff now but back then in 1999, much of what happened to post-institutionalized children was not very public.  We didn't have blogs to rely on or email forums or support groups.  It was just us.  No one else.  So, who do you turn to for help?  A doctor, a therapist, etc.  We went to our doctor and I was told we were overreacting and just first time parents.  I was told & I quote "you'll get the hang of it."  I said really, this is normal?  Funny, i"ve never seen any "normal" children bang their heads over and over again and me have to literally sit on top of them to calm them down from night terrors.  Went to a well-renowned therapy center here.  The top doctor mind you, told Warren and I we would all need therapy for years to come, Max was sexually & physically abused, etc.  BOGUS!!!!  He was not & I'll get to that in a minute.  This professional had not even observed or ever seen Max!  He was going on "hearsay" of what happens to most orphans.  Warren and I left that grim outlook meeting and me in tears.  What was to become of our son?  Can we ever help him?  Then, on the way home, a lightbulb went off in me.  I said you know, he never even saw or talked to Max.  Maybe I should ask some other people.  Back then, you didn't go to the agencies for help for feelign like a failure as a parent.  You thought you were doing something wrong.  Not the case anymore but it was back then.  After much thought, we found a great therapist to help us briefly and explain what was happening.  In addition, I quite my brokerage firm job as a secretary and stayed at home.  Well, stayed at home and got a part time job.  We began seeing progress in Max.  He wasn't rocking as violently.  He was still crazy fast and never slept however.  After about a year of this, I was going a little crazy myself with him.  I'd ask over and over the daycare(this was when I was still working) if they saw these behaviors there or anything.  They denyed it all but found out later there was a lawsuit and big case w/ that center, worker got fired, etc. so they were playing cover up w/ everything even if the kids were not behaving. This was not helping Max at all or us as parents trying to figure him out.  Finally, Kindergarten came.  Teacher called me and said how on earth did that preschool not know there is something wrong with this kid!  This to me was pure relief.  Pure relief that it wasn't just me & Warren that saw these things in Max.  There was something more to it than the ever so common answer I got from professionals of "oh, he's just adopted and you're new parents."  Hate that. 

We took him to a neurologist.  Confirmation was ADHD and FAS.  Read all I could and again,they don't paint pretty pictures for children with FAS and there are many misconceptions of children with that disorder.  Did you know that 85% of the kids w/ this actually have normal to high intelligence?  Max is one of those kids.  He is extremely bright.  Over the years we dealt with Max's ups and downs and went through many med changes till we found something that works.  Though I hate medicating my children, sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  If he were not medicated, there is no doubt he would be in jail.  I know that sounds horrible but it is the truth.  With medication, he is able to make clear decisions and choices and rage is completely controlled.  We only medicate our children that truly need it.  All our kids have various dx's, but only 3 are medicated for them.  If we can modify their behavior w/out meds, we give it a shot.  If they are a safety risk to themselves or others in the house, we do give medication.  They are  extremely monitored with these.  They see a neurologist every 3 months and have bloodwork drawn every 6 months.  I know medicating a child is a hot topic.  It was for me and I didn't want to do it.  But when Max took the medicine, he was different.  wE never told him in the beginning it was medicine.  Just said it was vitamins as we wanted to make sure there was no placebo effect.  He came to us after about two weeks on it and said "can I keep taking these vitamins?"  I said why?  He said "because my brain can finally think."  He used to literally put a toothbrush to his mouth and forget he was brushing his teeth.  There was so much scrambled thought, he couldn't function in everyday life.  Once this issue was taken care of, we got to see the true Max. 

Let me share with you some of the true Max.  My son has gone from a wild, head banging, out of controlled, agressive child to something only one could dream of.  Max is brillantly artistically inclined.  This child has a natural gift for art.  I will indeed post some pictures later this evening.  He has won some art contests at school and one for the entire state when he was only in 2nd grade.   He is currently painting a mural for my friend on her son's wall.  He will be doing that here in the next few months to expect his talents and broaden his knowledge.  Max is extremely mechancially inclined.  If something is broken in this house, we ask Max to fix it.  He is the go-to guy here.  He can tell you how engiines work and reads about mechanical stuff and technology stuff all the time.   Max is a very sweet child as well in regards to his siblings.  He and Bojan are best buddies.  Our biggest issue w/ this is they want to stay up all night talking.  Max sees a problem and tries to fix it.  Max is now 14 years old and will be 15 in a few short months.  He likes the girls as all teens do at this age but is way too shy to ask any of them out yet.  He seems to think that girls don't like "brown" boys.  That's what he calls himself...brown.  Don't really get it.  He is from Russia but clearly Asian.  both his parents were from Kazakstahn.  We are trying to boost his self-esteem a bit in that department.  Any girl would be lucky to have him.  Our biggest issue with Maxwell is cleaning his room.  But, if that is the ONLY issue we have with a 14yo boy, we must be doing something pretty dog gone good.  I love seeing the quiet, sweet, compassionate, art-loving, mechanical thinking young man he has become.  We are very proud of him.  So, those contemplating an FAS child, take a look at Max.  Yes, he'll need help with some things as an adult but I have no doubt he'll be able to make it in the real world and have a great life.  I wish I had pictures from 1999 when we brought him home but I don't.  He was a tiny little thing.  So, earliest I have is 2004, 5 years after were were home with him.  Here goes:

This is Max w/ 3 of his sibs.  This was at 5 years after being home so he was definitely much, much bigger than when he first came home.


This was at the beginning of 2005.  It was at my brother's wedding.  This is Max, Dad and Alex.  Max has always been a Daddy's boy for sure.  Always.  They have a very special relationship since they are the only 2 in the family that can talk technical.  Warren talks, and Max actually listens intently whereas the rest of us only pretend to know what he is saying.

while at the wedding, we went to Hershey Park.  Kids had a blast and of course so did I!  I LOVE chocolate.  You get free samples of chocolate at Hershey Factory.  YOu also learn how chocolate is made.  Wonderful place to go for sure.  This was just a week before we were to leave to get Bojan and bring him home.  Notice in this picture just how much taller the girls are from Max.  Max and Yana were the same age.

The bike almost looks too big for him.  This is in the summer of 2006.  He hasn't hit his growth spurt yet.  Believe it or not, he is 11 years old in this picture.  Max learned to ride a bike in a matter of minutes.  He's not the most athletically inclined kid but can ride a bike, skateboard and skate for sure.  And, he has definitely fixed every bike the kids have broken.   This was his first big bike as he called it.

This is Max in the summer of 2007.  You can see the changes in his physique taking place.  Starting to look more and more like a young man.  For many years Max struggled in school.  When children from institutions come home as older kids, they have to learn a whole new language among other things.  It takes them years to catch up.  Especially, with the disorders Max has.  As I was writing this, his teacher called me to let me know at tomorrow's IEP meeting, they want to pull Max out of self-contained into a mixture of regular middle school classes and resource classes!!!  this is a HUGE accomplishment for Max and one that frankly last year, I thought would never happen.  I can honestly say I am really proud of him.  Max & I even went through a stent of home schooling during middle school.  Let's just say Max is closer to his dad than he is me.  Max & I have always seemed to be like fire and gasoline up until I started to homeschool him.  We became a bit closer I think.  Now, he's back in public school, doing fantastic and he & I have a great relationship now.  This child is NOT the same child we picked up at the orphanage.  He deifnitely has transformed into a wonderful young man.

This is Max listening intently in Sept. of '08.  We took the kids to actually go up in small planes.  They were SO excited.  Max got to learn about flying.  He considered joining the Civil Air Patrol.  We will most likely revisit that idea now that his grades are great, attitude is better and he's not in trouble anymore.  Max came home and must have drawn airplanes for a week straight!

This was taken in the spring of '08 I think.  Max loves his brothers.  I can honestly say that w/out laughing.  He is closest to Bojan but plays w/ all of them.  Very caring w/ Nik as well.  This was a "picnic" the boys decided to have in our front yard when it was still chilly out.  They wanted to be in the sunshine so I let them.  Made them some popcorn and they were happy as can be.

This was teh "snow" North Carolina got last year.  Kids have fun anyways.  You can see Max and how much bigger he has gotten.  You're never too old for mom to take a picture!

Max knows how to have fun even if he is a southerner now.  Must be in his Russian/ Kaz blood.  We do have a ton of fun here when it snows as it is such a rarity.  PUt it this way, we get more hurricanes here than we do snowfalls.

This was Max in May of 2009.  Just this past year.  You can see, he is almost as tall as me!  We were at Special Olympics to support Alyona.  Max is not a real fan of crowds and it was packed at that stadium.  He was a real trooper and cheered her on as loud as he could.  What better big brother could Alyona ask for??  BTW, she won gold!

Well, that shows you just a few years of Maxwell growing up before our very eyes.  This lost little boy found his family and transformed his life around against all odds.  Now, he is painting murals on walls for people, sketching like crazy, taking some regular classes, looking out for cute girls(shh, don't tell him I told you all) and just developing into an overall great young man to be proud of.  Not sure of what the future holds for Max but sure it will be something very special.  Again, another unwanted child waited to just be wanted.  Can any of you out there transform a child's life today??  HOpe you enjoyed Max's transformation.  Next will be Irina's.  But not tonight. 

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful transformation story! Again - I receive so much hope from reading your blogs. It is addictive! In a good way! We are very stressed in our household right now - home study first visit next week (need funds to pay - praying), teething baby, frustrated out-of-work hubby staying at home with teething baby and 2 other kids, mother frantically applying for grants and fundraising! Whew! Reading your blog always gives me some serenity and peace. We really admire you guys! Blessings!