Saturday, October 30, 2010

Old friends, a farm and fun (part 2)

Time for a few more pictures from our visit at the farm last weekend.


My kids absolutely loved the rabbits.  Can you tell?  Funny b/c growing up, Warren's dad used to raise rabbits.  Warren never ever wants a rabbit.  LOL.
Bonfire was a blazing.  Kids loved throwing stuff in the fire.  Of course.  Something about kids and fire.  It was warm that night.  But when we go to the annual Christmas Tree bonfire party in February, the fire feels absolutely wonderful.  


Hanging out with old friends is always so much fun.  Just relaxing and watching the fire and the action.


Not daring enough to go down the ramp standing up.  Fun, nonetheless though.  


Nik getting ready to take a ride down.  


this house is truly a kid paradise.  A rope swing is the perfect thing for Alyona.  Drums and keyboards too.  So even if raining, there is still stuff to do.  Trust me, the kids entertain themselves when they go there.


And who else would have a rock climbing wall in their living room?!  

Kids had such a wonderful time.  They always do.  It's great seeing new people and old ones too.  Relaxing atmosphere.


It was a pumpkin carving party.  Do you think our family got around to carving our pumpkin?  Of course not.  We dragged it in, forgot about it and drug it back out to take home.  It's the night before Halloween and still not carved.  Yes, we are behind this year on everything Halloween.  Maybe next year we'll finally get around to doing what we want to do.  LOL.  Thanksgiving will be just us this year which will be quite different from previous years.  I've got some plans for us already to do so will see if it actually works out that way.  

Busy week coming up.  I feel like time is just flying by yet standing still at the same time.  Weird, huh?  Also, time changes next weekend.  That always messes our FAS kiddos up.  Don't know why, but it does.  So, not looking forward to the week after that.  We are actually getting our family portrait done this coming Friday pending no major disasters or ER visits.  Please, no one fall this week or get scarred up.  Just one week out of the year, no cuts or bruises or cutting of own hair.  Please kids, just ONE nice picture?  Can you hear my begging?  I reminded them this many times already this week.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Little updates

Today is busy as usual.  We have no school today so there are 10 kids here.  Well, not really as Max is out driving in the driver's ed course.  He was really excited.  Should be interesting for sure.  I canceled the MRI I had this morning.  Going to reschedule.  Just was not going to make it on time & be back in time to take one of the "littles" to preschool.  Usually I wouldn't mind being late but there was a field trip today.  Felt too pressured.  No big deal since I am able to reschedule. 

Nik still does not have the new implant back.  Called Advance Bionics and they checked the tracking number.  There was a problem w/ the plane yesterday.  Plane actually arrived today instead.  It has priority right now as it was supposed to be here yesterday.  It's 11am and we still don't have it.  However, it is on the FEDEX truck so hoping soon that Nik will hear again.  It has been most frustrating these last few days. 

Bojan has a Halloween Party tonight and I have no costume made yet.  We're getting there.  Getting ready to carve some pumpkins next and play outside for awhile.  No school today.  So, we had pancakes and sausage for breakfast.  Nice on a cool morning. 

Windows are being replaced Monday.  We did the garage ones ourselves w/ some friends' help but these are not in a place where we can do it ourselves.  Though we wanted all repairs to wait until spring and after the adoptions, we can't let the rot go further down into the wall.  The other window rot we can slowly fix ourselves.  Just don't have the money for it all right now.  Money is something we must talk about shortly.  As much as I hate it, we will have to fundraise at some point.  There is just not enough in the bank.  We have borrowed from retirement in order to do this adoption however, it is not nearly enough.  So, stay tune for some upcoming fundraisers on here. 

Started this email this morning and never finished it.  Oh well.  Time flies when you're watching kids.  Still haven't made Bojan a costume for today so he's going as a head on a platter.  We'll make his electric chair tomorrow.  Yes, the kid has a sick sense of humor.  Girls are about ready for the church lock-in.  Wahoo!!!  two girls gone.  Bojan goes at 6:30pm.  He's lucky he's even going right now.  He and Alex have been fighting all day long.  No idea why.  Happens.  Ended when I made them do a project together.  In this house, kids fight, you have to do a project together.  They had to repaint the wooden Christmas reindeer we have for outside.  Did them some good. 

Max goes driving again tomorrow at 8am.  Pick girls up at 9am.  Working on cleaning up and the house all day Saturday.  Saturday evening, some relaxing. 

Oh, btw, writing Alyona & Nik's adoption story later this month...November.  They were adopted in November so figure I'll do it then.  Someone asked if we went through an agency for Serbia.  We did.  This was back in Feb. of 2005 and to my knowledge, my son was the last adopted through an agency in the States.  At the time, he was the 11th child ever adopted from there from America in 13 years.  Now, people adopt from Serbia and us a facilitator.  It's an independent adoption.  Also, the agencies are now getting involved in Serbia as well.  Someone had also asked what happened to the little boy we had fallen in love with.  He went to live with a Swedish family.  Very glad he found a home but boy, he was the most precious thing for sure.  We wanted to come back for him but we were in the midst of adopting Alyona.  We had no idea we would end up adopting Nik as well.  Plans change.  LOL.  Keep the questions coming, I do not mind a bit.  I know I wrote those a few years ago so things have changed.  But, some things never do.  Well have a wonderful, relaxing weekend everyone. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Serbian Adoption Journey (blast from the past)

Our Serbian Adoption

Well, I told the story of the other 4 and thought it was time to tell this one. As last year at this time, we were on a flight from Belgrade, headed home. Home sweet home. Once you've been gone, no matter what's wrong with your house, you'll never trade it for the world. Especially, your own bed!

And now, time for the story. How we found Bojan. 


I had been photolisting surfing while we were waiting for a court date to Russia. I found this boy from EE. Decided to check it out. Found out he was from Belgrade, Serbia. A country that I did not know did adoptions--later to find out just how rare they are. Anyways, inquired but said we were in the midst of going to Russia and was just curious. Once we got Yana and Alex home in May of '04, still couldn't stop looking at him. Gave time for those two to adjust and then got the guts to call back again in August. Still available this 5yo boy. All I had to go on was a small picture of him from waist up. Never got to see his missing limb, clubfoot, missing finger, or syndactylity of hands. Didn't matter. With that smile, I was hooked. Said I was interested but had to contact agency to do an updated home study. I knew our main agency wasn't going to do it b/c we were "just" home. So, you know me, a bit persistent. Went to another local agency and got an update. Signed on in August. Had some confusion with INS but got straightened out. They wanted us to go pick him up in November. We said no way. Then wanted us to go in December. We said maybe but my brother was getting married AND we were still in the midst of a massive remodel. I couldn't have him come home to a nightmare with walls covered in plastic and dust all over. So, we actually were able to delay this adoption until going in January. Still, a relatively fast time frame compared to Russia. And we were on our way. Oh, there are no visas required for this country, no in-country travel, no gift donations, and you get to do your own post-placement reports. Obviously, we were excited for the pleasant change of no red tape as in Russia.

We landed and were greeted by our host family. I won't go over every detail b/c there's just too much. We were able to go to the orphanage everyday and play with Bojan. The first meeting with him was kind of awkward. That's the best word I can use. We had everyone watching us and you know how that can feel. But, the smile was contagious. They took him back upstairs. We continued with the meeting of the minds so to speak. Then, they told us his history. Then, question we were totally unprepared for. "Do you want to meet her?" Referring to the birth mother. We looked at each other and said sure. Needed closure, as I'm sure she did. She truly gave him away out of love. So, they said they would arrange the meeting when we traveled to Bor to collect his birth certificate. Okay we said. Then, we were taken upstairs again play with Bojan and get to know the staff some more and more about the orphanage. Oh, I can't say enough good stuff about how they treated the children there. So much different than our experience in Stavropol. Night and day. Bojan was the healthiest child we ever brought home. Now, Bojan was kept in the home. He wasn't supposed to be there but they used to say he will be someone's president someday b/c he is so smart. That's why they kept him at the baby home. They thought he had more of a chance there. They were right. So we were able to play and interact with the kids all day long, everyday. 8 hours a day. We toured the orphanage, which housed between 300 and 400 kids. Birth to 4 years old stayed there. Incredible kids we met. I fell in love with a little boy there. His picture is still on our mantel. Yes, we are going back for him. Can't leave him behind. It was just fun and joy playing with the kids everyday.

Back to business. On Monday, we had to go meet with the ministry. All of about 20 minutes and later our adoption was approved. No mean judge, no harsh questions, very nice people. In Belgrade, they usually have an adoption ceremony to honor you as becoming parents. No court proceedings by the way. We were not able to have the ceremony due to the snowstorm. And boy, did it ever snow. From the day we arrived until the day we left. Airports were shut down. The reason I mention the snow is b/c it had quite the impact on us. Bojan LOVES snowball fights and that is all he wanted to do while we visited him. 

Our days while there consisted of visiting Bojan daily and eating the best food ever cooked by our host family. We were so well fed. We walked to the orphanage in the snow( cars got buried in this snow folks). What an adventure! But we did it and actually lost weight while there. The orphanage staff and the ministry were incredible. Okay. Then the hiccup. You know there always has to be some kind of hiccup. No birth cert. Well, more like, we couldn't obtain it. See, he was born in a very rural village, a couple of hours away from Belgrade. Trouble was no one could get in or out due to the amount of snow. Literally. It was in the paper. A bus got stranded for 21 hours in the snow in a nearby village. In the paper our host family read to us the article about a guy trapped in a beer truck. He drank all the beer and literally urinated his way out of the snow. I so wanted to clip that article for Bojan's scrap book but didn't. So, as you know, you are supposed to have a birth cert. Even asked the US embassy what we could do. Joke at the embassy and the MOE was that maybe we could get Marine helicopter to land in Bor, on top of all the snow and then get your birth cert---LOL. Not going to happen. No US copter available to us--ha,ha. So, embassy agreed to a very bad fax copy--hardly legible. But, still had to go get passport in the nearby town. About 4 hours away. In the mountainous, snowy terrain. 


Well, none of the orphanage cars were going to make it nor the MOE's cars. So, they located us a driver and a specialized van for the snow. That was given to us at no charge. Like I said, these people are beyond nice and just want to see the kids have homes. We made it and got the passport. Embassy was a little miffed at how we could get his passport before the birth cert but we played "dumb." Then they forgave us b/c they knew that Bor was deemed inaccessible due to the snowstorm. Yeah, one step closer.

I must say, when we first met Bojan we were nervous. We had no children with physical needs. This was new territory for us. I was nervous and scared the first time I saw his missing leg. Didn't know what to think. But, all those feelings go away once you interact with your child. Our family doesn't give his prosthetic a second glance anymore. We forget he has it when we're out in public and go, oh yeah, that's why they're looking. I never thought I could handle a child with a deformity. You know what, I can. We saw a little boy with a mild form of CP. Always had a misconception about CP until I spent time with him. What a doll. So smart too. There are so many disabilities that I don't think people understand until they get to know the person and realize that that disability isn't really who they are. I would adopt a child with CP in a heartbeat now all b/c I met this little boy. I was so taken away by these kids and all that they CAN do. It was a remarkable experience and really shed light on our eyes in regards to the term "special needs." These are totally normal kids with some little disability. And most the time, like our son, is easy to live with. There was just such life in those kids at Bojan's orphanage. They were enjoying life and it was so good to see. I knew then I had to do something and that is when the orphanage doctor and I started planning. A year later, our dream is coming true. We will be able to help find these kids loving homes here in America.

Back to the trip. The night before we were to leave, the orphanage staff took us out to dinner at this beautiful restaurant on the Danu River. So gorgeous a setting with the snow and sparkling water. It was delicious food and a six course meal. The restaurant owners knew Bojan. They would often take him here and he would get on stage with the singers and play piano with them. Or take the mike and walk around the restaurant interviewing people. I got to hear stories about our son, about their culture and their life. So relaxing and enjoyable a dinner. What a beautiful way to say goodbye. They gave him gifts to remember them by. Have to tell about the one gift. One of the caretakers gave him her silver gravy bowl and I asked why. She said Bojan would come stay with her family every holiday. AT the dinner table he would rub the gravy boat b/c it looked like a genie lamp on Aladin. His wish she said was always the same---to have a family like this. He gave it to him and said your wish has come true now. Take this and make more wishes. We still have this . There were so many memorable gifts it was like a dream. We even got a baby book of him. They take pictures of all the kids there and keep baby books on each one. Firsts, accomplishments, personalities, etc. We have albums of him from when he was little. Truly, a priceless gift. The love these women have for these children was miraculous to witness. I was so humbled by it. I just can't tell you the feeling we had that night.

Needless to say, since we didn't make it to his birth city, we did not get to meet his mother. However, we were sitting next to the orphanage doctor when she called. She assured his mother that we were good and would take excellent care of him. see, a week before we got there, she came to tell him goodbye. She knew it would be better for him to be adopted. She gave him a necklace with a charm on it. We have her contact information and pictures of his 5yo sister and 3yo brother. They look just alike. It is understood that if anything happens to her ever, we would be taking his sister and brother to live here. Her dream and ours is to one day get a picture of all of them together. Totally different lives but the love for the children exceeds continents. Bojan's adoption was different in that his mother loved him so much yet knew his life would be better here. This is so hard for me too. When we go back, I know we'll take Bojan too and hopefully, be able to meet his birth mother then. I know it will be hard on all of us, yet peaceful and joyful at the same time.

The trip home was uneventful for the most part--okay, they lost his tickets and it was already an overbooked plane. That was stateside though and I can argue a case in English like no other! --especially when I'm just one flight away from being home. The trouble we had was at every airport he'd set off the alarms with his prosthetic. Well, in Atlanta, they had to test him for gunpowder, have terrorism people come over, the whole nine yards. I said do you people have any common sense. this is a 6yo boy. I don't think he's packin a weapon of mass destruction. I said if you make us late for the connector, I'm coming back down here. I was not happy at this point. See, with Belgrade, there is no direct flight. You have to go through a major international hub to get there. No biggie but 24 hours on the planes gets tiring. So dealing with the US terrorism task force was not the highlight of my trip. It's a kids' prosthetic for pete's sake! But, we made it through. Home at last.

Coming home was bittersweet. We had a nanny that ripped us off & that was really hard to swallow. A year later, we are past that whole ordeal. Now, remember, Bojan was raised in a baby home. So, when he came home at 6yo last year, he could not feed himself, dress himself, use the toilet himself and cried at everything. I looked at him the first night home and said you're on your own now! 4 days later, he did everything himself. He watched and followed the other kids closely. No behavior or mental problems with him. Found some good doctors and everything went relatively smoothly from there. Yeah. He is totally independent a year later and doing phenominally well. He learned English the fastest among all our kids---including how to use sarcasm.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience adopting from Belgrade, Serbia. We have learned a lot and gained so much insight. The five kids have blended so well together. It is amazing how you just know they're yours. It is so hard to believe it has been a year. I know I've missed a ton of details and things that have happened. Just know we thoroughly enjoyed it and more than that, forever grateful to a birth mother who loved her son so much to give him to us to take care of and love. It has been a whirlwind of a year. So many things happening and so many we are trying to straighten out. We are on the right track and love the kids that were chosen for us to raise and love.

Each adoption, we learned something new. I'm sure the next one this year will prove the same. We are still "in talks" as to when to start this all again. Definitely after tax time---LOL. Our lives are kept simple and love is great. Enjoy your adoption journey because you never know where it may lead you. We didn't know that while we were adopting Yana and Alex that there was another little boy waiting for us in Belgrade to come and bring him home. WE wouldn't change a thing about any of the five adoptions. For because of everything that happened, we have become better parents for it. We take each adoption as a chance to learn. We are very fortunate to have each and every child in our lives. Thanks for letting me share our Bojan's adoption story. And thus concludes #5. One day, I'll be able to share #6 with you all.

take care,
__________________
Stephanie
2 from Orenburg, Russia (June 1999)
2 from Stavropol, Russia (May 2004)
1 from Belgrade, Serbia (Feb. 2005)
Paperchasing for a little girl from Murmansk, Russia (TBD--2006)

Stavropol Adoption Journey (blast from the past)

Our adoption Journey-- Part 2 a---the hosting and saying goodbye.

Hello once again. Have an hour before I have to be at the prosthetic doc. Thanks for the comments on the first adoption story of our first two children home. Adventure is an understatement when it comes to the next story. Hold on tight for it's not for the faint of heart. I will be honest so bear with me here.

Well, it all started in Jan. of '03. My husband and I had been discussing more kids but were waiting for timing. Our son's meds were finally adjusted and things seemed to be progressing. At a good point with the schools, etc. So, we looked into the hosting program. Same program our first two were found on except this time, we would be hosting the children. We signed up for the program. Later, we got medical reports on each. Little scary even for Russian medicals. I turned to my husband and said what if she hurts the other kids? The medical said our daughter was malicious and violent toward others. But, we figured it is only a week and we could handle anything for a week--LOL. I also question the head of the agency & the head of the foundation as to why it said terminating of parental rights being considered. I looked them straight in the face and said "Are these children free and clear for adoption?" Remember this for later on in the story--vital piece of info. I was assured yes.

We got photos. 


  
I was not overly wowed by my daughter's picture. Pictures above are Yana and Alex.  I don't have Zhenya's picture from before.  But the other little guy was okay. He was 6yo and my daughter was 7. Grew to know the photos, you all know how that feels. While reading the 10 pages of medical info that I had on each child. Yikes. Time was drawing near. Practicing Russian, getting ready. Got a call. Can you please add Alex to your home to host? I said I don't know if that's going to be a good idea given his medicals. I personally didn't think a child going through that much trauma in the past few months should be put through more. (remember, he's our future little "RADish.") But we said sure. We can host 3 kids. First, I asked how old Alex was. They said 2 but he'll be 3 when he gets here a week later. So, we were going to be having our 2 kids and then the 3 hosted ones. Anyone up for a little adventure??? So we had a 3yo, 6yo, 7yo, 7yo, and 10yo in the house.

The day for hosting came. Going to the meeting place and feeling like I was going to vomit. So for the description but my stomach was so in knots with emotion that's the best way I could explain it. Anxious, excited, scared, joyed, etc. all wrapped up in one feeling. The kids were obviously jet lagged and terrified. But we managed. Trick to any meeting w/ Russian kids (learned this w/ the earlier 2 adopted), is always GUM. They will do anything for gum, including stop crying. Won't go through everything we went through that week. It was rough but good. The one 6yo boy was not going to fit in with the family. Many behavioral, emotional and mental issues beyond our capacity. That was a very difficult decision. Anyway, on the third day, my husband turned to me as I was going to sleep and said "we're going back to Russia, aren't we?" I said yes and went to sleep. Ironically, this was the same day our daughter proclaimed to her caretakers that she was not going back to the desky dom but staying with her new family.

It was the day before they were due to leave. I frantically rushed to Walmart and spent $50 bucks at the one hour photo. I made all 3 of them individual photo albums to take back to remember us and their trip. That night, Yana was rumaging through all our photo albums and wondered why she wasn't in any of the pictures. We tried to tell her b/c she lived in Russia and wasn't home yet. that's when it hit that she was going back. Oh, she cried and cried. We did tell her that evening that we were going to come back and get her. She ignored us as we were packing her things up. This was extremely difficult on all of us. The next day we had to meet at Chuckie Cheese to say goodbye and hand the kids over. Oh God, I just wanted to keep driving and runaway with them. I couldn't believe they were going to take MY kids away. But we knew we had to. Yana still did not want to have fun. We made them translate and tell them we were going to bring them home. Also, told them to tell her the sooner she went home, the sooner she'd get to come back and stay forever. That did it for her. She was ready to go so she could come back. We gave a donation of $500 to the orphanage director so she could purchase things back in Russia for the orphanage. She was beyond appreciative. Oh, forgot to tell you all we were once again media followed. The big paper here followed us and the other families the whole time. Even came to our home and took pictures.

As we loaded them into the van, I broke down. I couldn't do it anymore. I had so many people try to pick me up. The thought of saying goodbye
literally brought me to my knees on the ground. That was by far one of the hardest things to do in my entire life. I was absolutely crushed as we had to say goodbye. I turned to the director and said I will hand everything in on Monday. He said I know. It was Saturday. My future 3yo son and 7yo daughter were on their way back to Russia. It was hard to go home to quiet. Even the other two kids were crushed. They said when are you leaving to go get them. Now, at that point in time, we honestly thought we'd be leaving in October to bring them home. Boy, were we ever mistaken! That story part to come later tonight. Got to go now. Son needs his leg adjusted and errands await. Stay tuned for part 2 b later on.

Take care.


Our adoption journey: Part 2b-- the process

I'm back. It's pouring outside and Alex is content watching a movie today. Usually we have story time and play time after lunch but it is just one of those days for a good movie and some quiet time "vegging out." So, I get the chance to write. Here goes.

I left off with the kids leaving. Did not know a heart could ache that way but it can. I'm sure so many of you can relate. Especially after living with them for 24/7. I have theories on why are son only just turning 3 was allowed to come. Won't get into it but there was very good reasoning behind it. And no, typically they are much, much older. But we were thankful, nonetheless. I went in that Monday and filed the paperwork. Made the homestudy appointments and had already sent off the I-600A. Yeah, on my way. Things seemed to be rolling and was told everything was a-okay.

Fast forward to October, when we should have been going. Nope. Turns out, miraculously that the mother had supposedly visited and signed her rights away. But b/c she had technically visited her (by stepping into the orphanage--yes, that counts) she had to be put back onto the database. Now, keep in mind, we were still keeping in contact with our kids over there. Sending things and writing. Our daughter was expecting us soon. And by everything being approved and done, we should have traveled. Our region, however, was not so kind.

Okay, here is the deal. Our agency was going to a brand new region for them. We were the first people to adopt from this region under this agency. This was uncharted territory for them. Found out through a bit of research that Stavropol tended to be a bit corrupt. Don't fly off the handle those of you who've adopted from there, please wait till the end of the story. (thanks) See, Stavropol has a certain # of agencies working in that region. That don't take kindly to "newbies." WE are going to leave it at that for now. I ended up having to constantly change paperwork for them. ALWAYS changing paperwork. In fact, the dossiers alone cost me $4K to do. We had 4 dossiers on each child. We said throughout the process when the paperwork weighs as much as the child, we could go.

They were having so much trouble getting clearance for our daughter that we were asked to go ahead and pick up our 3yo son in December. I said absolutely not! We get them together, no exceptions. This would prove to be vital in the whole process. See, what the agency didn't know is that we were getting feedback of what to do and how to handle certain things from contacts in Stavropol. All the while being told to switch agencies b/c they didn't want them there. Crazy, and almost science-fiction it seems. But all completely true, unfortunately.

Won't go through all the lies constantly told to us. Too many to recall. Just know that we contemplated switching agencies in January but couldn't afford to lose the money. Didn't have it to lose. Stuck to it knowing we had to bring our kids home. Well, we got two false alarms to travel. 3rd time's a charm. Got the call while I was visiting my husband at work. That's right...3 days to line up airline tickets (got majorally ripped off on this ), babysitting, wills, poa's, paperwork, etc. What I failed to tell you all is that we were stuck in a bit of a dilema the month before. In April, a developer bought our home. We bought another but backed out last minute. We had 2 days to find a home and were due in Russia that same week. So the Lord works in mysterious ways and that's when the 2nd court date had been changed. We had all our stuff together and we were on our way to Moscow. Yeah! Or so we thought. Stay tuned for the next part of our journey. And that's where it gets interesting.....


Our adoption journey: Part 2c-- the trip & oh, what a trip

Back to the story. We landed in Moscow and I must give credit where credit is due. The agency's in-country team is phenominal...top-notch. Could not ask for better. Greeted and taken to the Novotel to wait until next flight. Sitting in the lobby while DH is changing money. Coordinator looks at me and says "Did they call you?" I said what do you mean by that? She tried to beat around the bush and I said look, I've been through this before, I know this is a hard region to work with and I probably know a bit more than you right now (and I did!). So I told her to cut to the chase in so many words. She said our daughter was in the hospital, very sick (dying like), and that we were not leaving on Saturday. I looked her in the eye and said "Yana is NOT sick (knew this b/c of my contacts) and we WILL leave on Saturday!" She tried to tell me my daughter had some type of heart trouble (btw, I used to do cardio-pulmonary rehab so I knew all the heart terminology she could throw my way). I told her she doesn't have heart trouble and she said no, in Russian that word (sorry, can't think of the stupid word right now) means sore throat. I told her get on the phone to Stav right now and find out what's going on. And she did. They had our daughter in isolation. We couldn't wait to get to Stav at that point.

Noneventful flight and then stayed at a very nice hotel in region. But obviously, we couldn't sleep b/c we knew it would be an upcoming battle and fight to the finish so to speak. We were preparing ourselves mentally for it. Next day came and we went to our son's orphanage first. Very difficult to see the little child we met on our hosting experience. We knew we were not the right family for him but still did not make it any easier seeing him and knowing he still needed a family. We went inside and met with the director who asked us why it took so long for us to come...as if she didn't know. Then our son came in. Obviously, he did not quite remember us. And gosh did he ever grow while we were apart. Lost his "baby" face. All the feelings of love were still there though. No big deal. While at the orphanage, we were not allowed to take any photos nor were we allowed to walk around. Felt like a prison. Noticed most of the doors closed and yes, most locked. Said goodbye and left outside. As we were walking to the car, all four of us, DH, me, coordinator, and translator stopped dead in our tracks and turned and stared at each other. It sounded as though a child was being tortured. This was not a normal, I'm punished or being spanked screams, this was more than that. It sent chills up ALL our spines and we discussed it in the car later. We just wanted our son the h*** out of there at this point in time. Urghh.

Onto meeting our daughter. Her orphanage was for the older kids and very poor looking. We were told by the director that our daughter was only the 8th girl ever adopted from there in the 30 years it had been there. This tore our heart apart. We were very anxious to see her. But remember, she was still being kept in isolation. So we walked over to the isolation ward. There were no lights on and the hallway was dark. We heard a voice yelling and running down the hallway, "mama, papa, mama, papa!" Couldn't see anything b/c no lights. Felt this tight squeeze all of a sudden. It was Yana. Elated beyond words to see us. And then the true Yana stepped back, put her hands on her hips and said in Russian "what took you so long?!" Oh, if only she knew what we had to go through to get to that point even. We went to the room she was staying at. No toys, nothing on the walls, nothing to play with or do but stare at walls all day. She did have our photo album with her that we had given her. They left us alone. We knew this was our chance. We shut and locked the door and it was just us, our daughter, the translator and coordinator. We told her to get serious and we started asking her questions. She said they tell me I'm very sick but I feel fine mom and dad. We said, we know. She said they kept taking blood and giving her medicine. We told the translator to tell her to cooperate w/ them under all circumstances. We also told her if she could "save" the pills and spit them out later, that would be good. As we had no idea what in the world they were giving her and she clearly was not sick at all. We said our good-byes and promised to be back. She was so excited. She promised us before she left that she would do whatever they asked her to. Hard to put her in that position but we all knew in that room that they were finding "excuses" for her not to leave the country. Urghh.

Anyway, we went back and had a wonderful dinner though hard to relax. Next day we visited them again and were supposed to bring donations. now remember, we had already given $500 earlier that year. However, Yana's orphanage was so incredibly poor, we wanted to do something for them. Our younger son's orphanage was given a lot of stuff from other families all the time and had humanitarian aide going there as well. This is a fact. Okay, here is the deal, we decided to buy boilers b/c that's what they desperately needed. Well, our younger son's orphanage got wind of this and was furious that we were giving them donations. She said that because Yana grew up there mostly, that we should be giving them all to her. What?! So, the coordinator, translator and us went back to our son's orphanage to try to settle this out. OMG. I was able to witness corruption for the first time in my life. Seriously. Okay, the director was jealous of our gift to the other orphanage. So we said, okay we'll split the gifts up among the orphanages. She wasn't happy with that at all. What pursued was a screaming battle between our coordinator and the orphanage director. My husband turned to our translator and said I wished I could understand what they were saying (we could pretty much only understand the cuss words). She looked at us and said oh no you don't! Finally, the coordinator turns to the director and says what do you want for the orphanage. She said the children could use a new iron. What?! These kids don't iron. They are ages 3 to 7 in that home. It was obvious that she wanted a new iron and was basically holding our son's case hostage. We agreed to it though later we refused to buy into corruption and did not buy her her iron. The joke w/ the coordinator the whole trip was maybe we could buy an iron. This was said every time something went wrong.

Later that evening at the hotel we were grilled w/ court questions. We had to answer them exactly right. This was a very tough judge. Great, just what we needed. And this region requires a precourt hearing as well. We spent the night memorizing 3 pages of answers I had written down.

Next morning court. And now I need to go take care of dinner and some monkeys playing Star Wars Jedis in the living room. Try to write the rest of this tonight or tomorrow sometime. Next part is court-- oh the fun.
__________________
Our adoption journey: Part 2d-- Court

I left off at getting ready to go to court. What I forgot to tell you all about the day before was that our translator was completely distraught. She told us she did not want us to think all people in Stavropol behaved this way. We said, we know. Greed had just gotten the best of the orphanage director. The translator didn't want us to get the wrong impression. However, the very next day we had to go somewhere. Got in the cab w/ the translator. Cab driver was sick of waiting but more than that, had major anti-American sentiment. We kept our mouths shut and were hussled out of the cab. Driver claimed he couldn't wait any longer. Translator told us later that Foreigners do not like Americans in that region. Okay w/ us. Glad we didn't have to ride w/ an angry cab driver any more.

Onto court. This region has a pretrial hearing and a court hearing. Pretrial is usually short. Not for us of course. Ours took 2 1/2 hours. I was repremanded profusely for being too emotional. Crying in court was a big NO_NO. Now, for the past several months we had always said we would take our daughter's sister as well. Told they couldn't find her. Come to find out that the corrupt orphanage director met her once, and debunked the whole thing. She decided she didn't like her. (this women has ALOT of pull & old connections w/ the judge) Yet in court we were asked why we weren't taking her sister. That's when the orphanage director stepped in and gave her reasonings. Urghh. Anyway, while in court, we discovered that our son has a baby brother---WHAT?!?! Ticked off b/c we would have taken him as well. They said they were unaware of his location. Court was indeed a nightmare. Hated being up there. Everybody reassured us out of the courtroom that it would be fine. Next day was court. Almost identical to the prehearing except now I got reprehanded for not showing enough emotion. Can't win for losing I guess. This court took 3 hours. Everyone said this is the longest procedure they had seen in this region. Yeah, and we know why. Not enough bribing on our part--LOL. Seriously, we were told to bring 8 gifts. We brought 20 just in case. Needed way more than that. Told by the coordinator that this is not the way it works in other regions. Anyway, kids were ours!!!!

Now, the real work began. Oh, we were handed transcripts from Alex's previous court hearings on his mother AFTER court. Found out later what was in them. Mind you, his abuse, neglect and hurtful situation was never once mentioned in court or on his medicals or by the orphanage director. This is stuff that contributed to his RAD/FAS/ADHD by the way. Could have been a little more prepared had we known ahead of time. Urghh. Back to the story. Getting the kids the h*** out of dodge!

We were scheduled to go to Yana's orphanage first. However they received a call on the cell phone and said we leave immediately to go pick up Alex. Remember, they did not want us to have him and the orphanage director was trying to get back at our coordinator for the whole iron incident. Well, got the call that the director was gone. (coordinator had someone on the "inside" tipping her off). We literally ran in to grab Alex, change his clothes and run out the door, kid in hand before the director got back. We did leave the caretakers w/ money b/c found out they don't get paid what they should yet director is living the good life. Put it this way, money is not going where it should in that place. My heart went out to the other kids. We have no pics from here due to everything that transpired. It's crazy but swear to you all, you can't make this stuff up if you tried. I had Alex safe and sound and wasn't about to let him go. He was safe now and a huge relief came flooding out. It was off to get Yana now.

Remember folks, they had her in isolation still swearing she's on death's door. We got to the director's office and doctor said she wanted to draw blood b/c may not be safe to travel. We said no way. She's ours, here's the papers, there will be absolutely no more lab work or pills given to her. Period. We were firm and stood our ground. That's when they let us see her. She was moved back out of the isolation ward and into her group finally. Okay, the next part was indeed gut-wrenching. This group of girls was tighter than any family I had seen. One girl, Sveta, was wise beyond her years. They were all so close. we were allowed to take many pictures and able to do whatever we wanted. Yana changed into her new clothes. The girls in the group each spoke of Yana and how they'd miss her. Sveta gave her speech. She said we had now given them all hope that there is a chance out there. Sveta could speak english. They scraped up whatever pictures they could find and gave them to Yana. They also wanted something for her to remember them by. So they gave her a giant red and white stuffed elephant.( this is relavent to the next part of the story later on). They love these girls showed for one another was beyond words. Our coordinator purposefully did not come in b/c she said she would not be able to handle all the emotions. She said she's done hundreds of adoptions but this one from this orphanage was different. All of us were in tears as we had to say goodbye. My husband turned to me and said okay, "which six are we taking home?" We knew we had to come back. Anyway, all the kids followed us out to the car to say goodbye. It was like a huge parade. EVERY single person there had tears in there eyes. even the driver. My heart was numb again knowing we had to leave them here. It was off to the hotel again and for our first family dinner together. Pizza. We all ate and the kids called their sibs at home. Hilarious phone call as our other two had completely forgotten all their Russian. Love needs no words though. And it's off to Moscow, or at least that's what we hope.....

Stay Tuned


Our adoption journey: Part 2e

Trying to finish this last part of the journey story off before my son goes in for surgery. We left off with the after court ordeal and saying goodbye. Now, we have to leave for MOscow. Simple enough, right? NO. We honestly didn't think they were going to let us on the plane.

Okay, we're packed, hustling to the airport w/ translator in tow. Get to the gate and she explains everything to them and says she can't go any further, which is understandable. Plus, all we had to do was go through security and board the plane. We were having tons of difficulty. Yana's red and white giant stuffed elephant was apparently a bit too suspicious everywhere we went. And not to mention huge. Anyway, once they were done pretty much giving the elephant a cavity search, it was onto my back pack. I had a Timberland backpack w/ the very padded back and shoulders. She ran it through the x-ray machine several times, dumped it out many more times and kept swearing I had a pistulette...gun. I said I don't have a gun (her face was priceless b/c she didn't think I understood what she was saying). She said agrooshkee. I said I don't even have a toy gun! Anyway, many business men were getting a little peeved at this point at this women accusing us of carrying a weapon. Nothing like a "mob" of angry Russian business men supporting an American Family to board the plane. After a few choice words from them, everyone was on their way.

Flights were typical. Nothing major. In Moscow we had rented an apartment on Arabat St. Best decision yet. Kids could run. well, we walked to the grocery store and picked up some turkey and things that we could sautee for dinner. A home cooked meal so to speak. We also enjoyed going for a burger at the Hard Rock Cafe. Just relaxed that the kids were ours. No trouble at the embassy. Remember, our kids knew us and were 3 and 8 at the time so we could joke around w/ them and throw them in the air and stuff and they loved it. Some other families were a bit concerned. These are kids, let them have some fun for a change. They've been couped up enough. They were of course the only older children in a sea of infants. Anyway, we were told by the embassy what line to go through at immigration. I told him I think you're wrong unless they've changed it since last time. Low and behold, we were right; US embassy wrong. Helpful government officials at work. LOL.

We were off on our flight. We had to go through Paris. An hour later, the terminal we went through, collapsed. It was all over international news but we didn't hear about it till we got home. Sent chills up our spine to see where you were just an hour before in pieces on the ground. But back at Paris we were again searched b/c of that stupid elephant. Trust me, at this point I wanted the elephant to mysteriously get lost. Once we proved the elephant wasn't "packing" weapons, we were on our way to Boston. Don't really care for that airport. Ironically, they have random searches. Guess whose chosen? That's right, the big threatening family w/ a red and white elephant. Urghh. But we managed. Finally, made it back to NC. Home sweet home.

We let the van door open and Yana flew outside. Irina ran from the house. They were screaming and so happy to finally be together again. Been a long time. The embrace between those two seem to last forever. It was definitely a Kleenex commercial and a Hallmark Card combined. People had prepared meals for us and such. We were just so incredibly happy to be home at last. I wanted MY bed and MY shower. I took the longest, hottest shower ever I think.

Kids settled in and then the first month of h*** sets in of course. Happens after all the adoptions. The dreaded adjustment period. Every time Yana would say I'm going back to Russia I just wanted to spout out there's the door don't let it hit you on the way out.(didn't say it but really wanted to) Frustration was really setting in. Keep in mind, this is also when remodel was starting to take place. We had the summer to adjust and amazing what a pool can do for family harmony. We did practice hold therapy on both Yana and Alex when they came home. Yana still to this day has anger management issues. When I try to hold her down (cradle her so she doesn't hurt anyone during a rage), I end up with bruises, bite marks on me and usually glasses messed up. Gets crazy. The first few weeks back home she was exceptionally hard to deal with. We knew the problem was that she needed to grieve her loss. So, we took away all her Russian religious icons, her photos, her drawings, her "life" in Russia. She was MAD. But, it worked. She has them all back now mind you but she needed to see that we were now her family, caregivers, her new life.

Yana today is calmer. She still has anger management issues but she has learned to control it better. Her sister and her are still extremely close. She has many friends and teachers adore her. Though they also see her stubborn side. She has had the hardest time with english out of all of them. She has a heavy Russian accent still and stutters heavily when she can't think of the words. She is finally receiving resource help for reading. No special classes for her. She just has to catch up on english. She's actually top of her class for math. yeah. Now, if we can only work on that stubborn preteen attitude she's got. She's fit in well with the family. Though at times during her struggles as I'm left numb and bruised, I didn't think she'd make it. But with every new day there's fresh hope. Patience goes along way. We are proud of her progress and know she'll do just fine. It has been a year and a half since she's been home. Grown so much. She grew 5 inches the first year home and gained 13 pounds. Wow. She has absolutely no health issues whatsoever. Not delayed. She is overall well-adjusted. Just those anger management issues we're working on. We still keep in touch with some of her old friends and her Godmother. She has told us she wants to go back to Russia but made sure we understand that it is just to visit...not to stay. A milestone moment.   This was written a long time ago.  Yana obviously had more than just anger management issues.  RAD, ODD, CAPD, PTSD, and a few others.  It was a very long road but now, it is where it should be. 

Now, the other one from Stavropol is a different story. Rough start in life and a hard life to boot. His background has indeed contributed to his RAD. However, when he came home, we were in pure denial. Said no, it's just an adjustment period. We knew we
couldn't possibly have another FAS/ADHD child on our hands. It wasn't until recently that we came to our senses. Key for everyone to remember is the earlier you intervene, the better. No FAS/ADHD won't go away but at least the RAD can be almost eradicated w/ proper care and treatment. He is a charmer. He is developmentally delayed and cognitively delayed as well. It is hard sometimes because we can almost picture the future. We know he and our other son will most likely never ever be able to live on their own. Most people are saddened at the thought of their children leaving home. We however, would be elated if they left home later. It would mean that they have made it beyond our wildest dreams. Only time will tell. We know Alex needs a lot of love. And even though he's bad sometimes, we still have to remember he's RAD. Hard to remember though when just in the past 3 weeks he's busted 5 gallons of paint on our newly remodeled floor, broke the aquarium, peed in the toy box lid (yuck!), stomped a lizard, and way too many other things to count. I was originally concerned about the lizard incident until I saw a kid come to our house of normal intelligence the same age & do exactly the same thing Alex did. That's another hard thing is to determine what in adoption related and what is just normal kid behavior.
It is nonstop with him and you literally have to watch him 24/7. Yes, even in his sleep! He does sleep talk which is really weird to witness. His night terrors are all gone--progress like I said. We are thinking of "tagging" him w/ an alarm system. Where if he gets a certain distance from us, an alarm goes off. We need to make sure his safety is a priority. That is one things our kids have taught us is to be very vigilent.

It was definitely a change going from 2 to 4. Also, not knowing the severity of Alex's issues was a concern as well. But there has been great progress in both since they've been home and there is something to be said about that. We have grown wiser, prouder and more tolerant over the last year or so. Yes, their behavior is sometimes "odd" but to us now, it has become somewhat normal. WE have learned to restructure our parenting skills to fit our childrens' needs. Just knowing they are safe, healthy and loved is enough for us right now.

This adoption journey was a bumpy one but in the end, it all worked out for the best. We wouldn't trade our kids for anything in the world! even on the worst of worst days.

Only one more adoption story to finish. That will be for another day. Take care.
__________________
Stephanie

Orenburg Adoption (blast from the past)

Our stories: Part IA-- the trip, orphanage, on our way

Hello everyone. Thanks to Karen, you've motivated me to put things on paper and to share our adoption journeys. I won't be as clear on this first one as it happened over six years ago.

DH and I discovered our infertility issues early on. We were married in Dec. of '97. (kids came home about a year and a half later). While sitting down at Ragazzi's discussing things, we opted not to go through with any fertility treatments and instead to opt for adoption. We attended one seminar and thought, omg, how in the world are we going to pay for this? Still strong to expand our family through adoption, we figured we'd find a way. So, we signed on with a local agency. We of course, thought we were going to go the typical route and bring home a baby. Little did we know what was in store for us.

Our director said we should look at the kids that had been hosted in Ireland recently. Well, that was that. We even got to speak to the host families in Ireland and get information on what they were like over there. Also, received a video of our kids from their stay. No infant in sight, but a 6 year old girl and just turned 4yo boy. The referral pics of our daughter were beyond ghastly. I thought she was a sick little boy. Anyway, got about a paragraph size write up on each. Not much to go on but after talking with the families who kept them, we were okay with the decision. Well, we got a call one day that our boy had been taken by another family. They had another child in mind. Though disappointed, as some of you know how you can fall in love w/ a photo so easily, we decided to pursue another child. Then another call a few days later saying that Max was again available as the other couple fell through. We said absolutely b/c he was our first choice. His referral picture was as cute as cute can be. Looks can be deceiving is all I'm going to say about that one. Now remember, this was back in 1999. It was only one trip back then. We got the call for court a total of 5 different times. That's right, had to change tickets 5 different times. After the second time, our bags remained packed in the dining room.

Now, at the time, I worked for a high-end powerhouse brokerage firm and DH for a computer software company. Found out last minute that both companies would reimburse $5K per kid. That's right...$20K. So our adoption was paid in full by the companies. A relief to have the financial end of it taken care of. Our adoption for these two totalled $19,700. Wrote it all down.

Well, we left on the big bird in the sky headed for MOscow and then onto Orenburg. We were full of emotion. Didn't really know what to think as here we are, first time parents to be and not a clue of what to expect. We diligently practiced basic Russian phrases on the plane as I'm sure this is still a common practice for those traveling nowadays as well. We landed and were greeted by our coordinator. I'll skip all the boring travel stuff that we all have to contend with. Overcrowded, broken down, in-country air travel. Got to love it. Landed in Orenburg in the middle of the night and were taken to an apartment. We stayed with all host families back then. We do remember passing quite a few brothels. Okay, we're assuming here. But women dancing in full view with nothing on in big glass windows. We thought oh my, where are we going. Hoping our eyes were playing tricks on us. We went into the tiny apartment but were well greeted and very well taken care of.

Had to get up extremely early the next morning and head to our childrens' orphanage. It was in a small town called Abdulino. About 4 hours by car from the city. very scenic, mountainous terrain. Oh how I love pepto on the go--no pun intended. It was gorgeous countryside though. Mostly donkeys, hardly any cars seen. Found out later it is rather a poor community with very few cars for transportation. We finally pulled up to this building. Nothing fancy, that's for sure. My heart must have been pounding fast enough to pass out and require resusitation. I could feel it through my whole body. We were ushered into the directors room. He was tall and seemed just as scared of us as we were of him. Oh, forgot to add, these were the first children ever adopted from this orphanage we were told. So new experience for everyone involved. We had a brief meeting to discuss the children and their medical issues. Sounded like my daughter was on her death bed. They told me to never give her chocolate as it induces her asthma. What!? I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic myself. Of course we nodded for everything as if we understood. Then the question....do you want to see them? Sure, why not since we're here (just kidding). We were taken into another small room. There stood our future children. Very mixed emotions. We gave them lollipops. Obvious they hadn't ever eaten one before as our son tried to stick it to his head. Successfully, I might add. I handed my daughter a candy bar despite their warnings. They said sternly she's allergic to chocolate. I said NOT my daughter. Our daughter was so thin and white. I mean sick, pale white. She was 6.5 yo and weighed 26lbs. She wore size 2T. Our son was 4yo and weighed 21lbs. He wore size 18months. You didn't know whether to hug them or stand away from them. Very odd feeling. Essentially, we were strangers in a room trying to instantly become family. Anyway, we were then led on a tour of the orphanage. Extremely clean. Smells like pinesol. This orphanage housed children from ages 2 to 13. At thirteen years old, we asked what happened to them. Let's just say that this Dec. 27th (my daughter's b-day), she would have been released on the street. This is when it finally hit home that we had to do more for these kids. Explain that later. Back to the orphanage tour. Our kids were dressed up. All the kids were. Very sweet. They even performed a song and dance for us. I had the whole thing video taped. In fact, I taped our entire trip. barely took pics. BIG mistake. Got home and son erased the entire thing w/ two hours of golf. Urghh. While there, they asked us if we wanted to take another little boy home. We said sure. Our coordinator said okay. How many are you approved for. I said two. She said then you can't do that. Another lesson learned, always put down one extra on that I-600 than you think you'll need. Anyway, the entire staff was very sweet and honestly cared for the kids to the best of their ability. This has been the poorest orphanage we've ever been to yet. They grew every bit of their own food. Barely any toys for the kids. But they were somewhat happy, you could tell. I need to speed this up as I know I can't give all the details as it would take way too much time. One interesting tidbit, since we were the first people to ever adopt from there, they had a local news crew follow us around. Talk about adding pressure to the situation. Well, it was time to leave and put our kids in the clothes we brought. All to big for them of course. So we held our son's pants on by the camcorder string. Instant belt. First lesson in parenting...improvising. We had brought donations for the orphanage. Also, our agency fee helped to buy the orphanage a brand new van. Nice to see where our money went. They were so appreciative b/c now they could take the kids to the hospital which was 4 hours away. Hence, the reason why my daughter has a huge scar on her forehead. She fell out the second story window. Yes, she still has no fear. Back to the story. So sorry for sidetracking here. It was time to leave. The caretaker stop us, pointed to our son and said the only English word she knew...discipline....discipline. She said it twice and little did we know until later on what that meant! And we were one our way.

We drove back in a tiny car w/ our two new kids. rough ride for everyone involved. Next day was court. Yes, we had the kids before b/c court was 4 hours away. Our court lasted a total of 15 minutes b/c of the excruciating heat. Awful. The only thing that struck us funny was the judge really wanted to know what a half bath was. He said how do you have half a bathroom? So, court was uneventful, kids were ours and later it is off to Moscow. Shortening this story as it is already too long. Suffice it to say, the next few days were very challenging as new parents. Our daughter was mad the entire time and our son was beyond ADHD. Seriously, it was like someone purposefully gave him injections of stimulants. Insanity. The only time they seemed somewhat docile and contained was when they were eating. And boy, did they ever eat. Remember, they were extremely malnourished when we got them and very bony. Our daughter wanted nothing to do with us and stayed with the interpreter. Finally, on one of the last days there, I turned to her and said you can no longer hold her hand or speak to her. that is our job now. I said I have to have her in control for the airport tomorrow. Otherwise, she may run away and never listen to me. We put it in perspective for her and then she understood.

Oh the Moscow tour. The first day, I was too sick to take it. I had gotten to ride in the diplomat cars the entire time b/c I kept passing out from the heat. They had record setting temps in Moscow that week-- the hundreds. So, our kind host, who spoke no English, took us on a wonderful personal tour. It was definitely a highlight. We were slowly getting a little more comfortable as parents. Then, the trip home. What a nightmare! We'll leave it at that. Part Ib coming a little later. That will be coming home and becoming parents of special needs children.

Thanks for listening.

Our stories: Part IB...Homeward bound & new parents

Hello again. Sorry if the details are a bit rough. These two adoptions, our first ones, occurred over 6 years ago. Hard to believe that. We had a fairly uneventful trip to Russia. Came home and my parents left that evening. Did not stay at all. We felt stranded and hopeless. They thought we needed space, however, we just needed to recover from the trip of emotional and mental uproar. My advice to you future parents, please make sure you have someone with you for at least 4 days to recover not only from the trip, but the jet lag and the emotions of it all as well. It will be more overwhelming than you can ever imagine. Get the help you need for sure. What were we going to do with these two little children? I must say, back then we were not nearly prepared to become two new parents. We did not know what to look for or even how to handle things. Lesson # 2 as a parent: you definitely will learn as you go.

We settled in as family. I was able to get 12 weeks maternity leave. yeah. Needed it too. (later had to quit job b/c of kids' needs). Gave us time to adjust as a family unit. Communication was tough. By the way folks, those Nickelodeon cartoons are not always so innocent to learn English. Hey Arnold has an older EE guy whose name in Russian means Mr. SH**. Learned that later. Also, learned that our two sweet kids, speaking complete Russian were cussing a lot. Yes, this happens. We knew better for our next adoptions. Learn the bad words first and foremost to head that stuff off.

Our kids transitioned as best as could be expected. Our son never had any problem transitioning. Irina, however, huge. We started to practice hold therapy on her. Worked. Irina needed time to grieve the loss of everything. Each of our children has grieved in a different way. For Irina, it was being held for 2 1/2 hours in the chair, crying inconsoluby. As new parents, we had no idea why this was happening. Know now that she was indeed grieving. After that session, she was the happy kid that we still know and love today.

The first month home was pure h***. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone. Mainly because I felt like I was a terrible mom. Not knowing how to handle my own kids. Felt very out of control of the situation. We have learned a lot over the last six years. We've become the best parent advocates for our children at school. When you discover you have special needs children, it is not the end of the world. We have learned to take each problem as it comes our way. Because every problem
does have a solution. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to figure it out. Our son for example, took awhile to figure out. We were told by doctors and others that we were just over-reacting and that we were just new parents. Don't give up when someone tells you that. Our son is FAS and severe ADHD. Our other daughter adopted at the same time is FAS / MMR/ Dev. Delays/ OCD/ anxiety/ asthma. We had no idea any of this would happen. Getting help early is key and also sticking to your guns when it comes to schooling. They told us our daughter would never pass a second grade level. She is now in a 5th grade classroom. Feels good to prove them wrong. Our children have more capabilities than we give them credit for. That is just another thing we've learned along the way.

We have learned to adjust our way of thinking and our way of parenting. What works for one child may not work for another. We have come a long way in 6 years and hope to make even more progress the next six. Becoming new parents is tough. Becoming new parents of an adoptive child is even tougher. Becoming new parents of a special needs adoptive child is not only the toughest but the most enlightening as well. Our kids have taught us a lot. Our adoption journey for our first two kids was an awakening of sorts into parenthood. Nothing like a crash course. Our daughter is now 12, almost 13. time flies. Our son is now 10. Both have grown so much both figuratively and literally. Our daughter grew 12 inches the first year we had her. Amazing. But both have flourished. yes, we have rough days. We have definitely learned not to sweat the small stuff over the years and take every moment as it comes. My advice for all you out there, enjoy everything b/c you will blink and they'll be teenagers. Goes by that fast. I know we've made mistakes, most parents do. But I also know we've done the best we can and they will without a doubt become productive, happy members of society. We would never change our adoption journey. Okay, maybe the heat. It was an experience of a lifetime. And the experience continues to this day. Once you become a parent, you are a parent through the good, the bad and the ugly. long-winded again.

Thanks for letting me share. Later this weekend I'll do the adoptions from Stavropol from last year. But all the kids are going to a Christmas party tomorrow. Can't wait for it. Hope to eat a lot of cookies.

Dentist visits

This week a total of 5 of my kids went to the dentist.  We go to a wonderful pediatric dentist who has supported our adoptions for years now.  BTW, he does humanitarian dental work on Moldovian orphans every single summer!  Takes his own team and pays for the entire trip and crew & equipment.  This guy has a heart for orphans, it is clear.  Anyhow, we went today  as well as on Tuesday.  Tuesday Max & Alex went.  No cavities.  No work needed.  Today, I took Irina, Bojan and Nik.  Irina had no cavities and only needs her sealants retouched.  Bojan had no cavities and needs no work done.  Nik needs two baby teeth pulled to make room for the permanent teeth.  Though, I don't think he'll need this work as one of them is totally loose & I'm sure the other will be as well before January.  Nik does have his first cavity though.  Bummer.  Dentist said you can barely see it but he wants to go ahead and fill it anyhow.  All the work for Irina and Nik is scheduled for January. 

Was a busy day for errands.  I had the four "littles" in tow as well as mine.  All did really well & I was quite proud of all the kids.  Came home from all the errands and dropping some of the kids back off at school.  Being that Irina had just an hour left of high school, I just kept her home for that hour.  After a very late lunch, I received a phone call.  NOT good news and I am not allowed to elaborate at this time.  Just allowed to worry.  LOL.  I promise I will share all details of this adoption once adoptions are completed.  Just know we have tons of thinking to do right now and hoping it doesn't come down to a big decision.  On the up side, our dossier will be submitted as soon as that I-800A approval comes in the mail.  If it is like most of them lately, that will come in about 2 weeks-- mid-November.  Keeping fingers & toes crossed that the current "glitch" works itself out.  Don't mean to be vague but you all know how adoptions are.  Hey, it's a sign we're getting closer, right?  What I'm thinking of doing is posting some of our past adoption experiences on here.  Something I haven't done for quite some time.  Actually, never done it on here.  Reason I want to do that is because there tends to be ups & downs in every adoption.  At least that has been our experience.  Bojan's adoption, we got hit w/ the biggest snow storm of the century.  Literally.  Yana & Alex's, we experienced extreme corruption and lying.  Irina & Max's adoptions we had the hottest days EVER on record in country.  We had news crews following us around.  It was truly nuts for our first adoptions.  Alyona & Nik's were full of surprises too.  Yet, the kids all made it home safe and sound.  All were the kids we originally intended to adopt.  All of them.  So, even though we are facing some major changes in our adoption plans and major issues, we are tackling everything as we have w/ every other adoption we've done...all the gusto we can muster!  Forward it is.  No turning back.  No backing down.  No backing down.  So, those past adoption posts will come at some point in time.  Since there's  no homework tonight, they may come this evening.  It would help take my mind off some things right now.  Never even occurred to me my MRI is bright and early tomorrow too.  But, no big deal as it's just the knee.  Anyhow, lots on my mind right now.  Haven't even thought of dinner yet.  We'll get there.  Teens have a youth group lock in tomorrow and Bojan has a Halloween Party to go to.  More to come on here.  I told you all November is going to be a very busy month.  And, it's not even here yet!  Enjoy your evening. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Attempt at Martha Stewart....

FAILED!!!  Yes sir, it failed miserably.  I thought I'd try to be creative and make Halloween pancakes last weekend w/ the help of these cute little cutters I have.  I knew from the get go, I was in trouble here.


Many mistakes on here.  From over filling to not knowing how to flip them.  There are more designs but I thought these two would be the easiest to start out with.  LOL.


No, that is not another bat.  That is part of the same bat.   These things definitely have a learning curve.  


My children had much fun at my expense.  Max and Bojan goofing off here w/ what was supposed to be a bat pancake.  Now, it's just a decapitated pancake.  Again, just goes to prove to you all (as if you didn't realize it before), I am no Martha Stewart.  Have a great day.  Rest of farm post  at some point.  Homework calls. 

Nik is deaf

Yes, I know this is not a new story for sure.  However, it never really occurred to us before b/c he can "hear" with his implant on.  Follow basic instructions such as put your shoes on.  Or , don't touch that, it's hot.  Well, Nik has one implant.  No spares due to some wonderful FAS residents in this house....URGHH!!!  Long story for sure.  So, if his one and only implant is broken, he is 100% deaf.  He can not hear a thing.  He was at first nervous of this fact now, he uses it to his advantage.  The other day I was yelling at him at the dinner table for being rude & obnoxious(common theme as of late at our dinner table) & he took his implant off, looked at me and laughed.  Was not happy about all that.  Anyhow, as of yesterday he has no implant.  Nothing works.  Could it be from when one of the kids jammed the coil in upside down or could it be from when Nik wore it in the shower and got it wet?  Well, no one really knows.  We just know it's broken, he can't hear us and it really is frustrating.  With the device, we get that comfort zone and don't realize he's deaf.  For others considering just verbal or auditory-verbal communication, you may want to consider adding sign.  From a personal stand point, I'm glad we did not back down and stop using sign as we were advised to do when Nik got his implant.  Nik has been taught the total communication route and glad we did.  At least now, when he is totally deaf, then we can communicate with him.  This is very nice for sure.  And it is not just when equipment is broken that Nik is deaf.  how about most of the summer when he's a fish in water?  No implants on then when he's in the pool or at the beach.  Or when he gets a shower?  Or when he's going to bed?  I like being able to sign goodnight, I love you and give him a kiss.  Though he's getting better at reading lips, I'm still very glad we at least have some basic ASL to communicate with him.  Just wanted to let others know our opinion on it.  I know communication modes are different for every family and each child is different.  However, I truly believe they can learn both.  Shoot, most parents want their children to be bilingual if they had the choice.  Speaking from experience today and yesterday, being able to communicate in ASL is priceless when it comes to your own child.  Otherwise, I would not have been able to ask him how his field trip was to the forest.  Okay, so I don't know how to sign field trip.  I just used trip.  He understood and that's what counts. 

Implant is being sent off for repairs tomorrow and he'll receive a loaner.  this won't be so bad when he has both implants.  Still, we will continue to sign with him.  BTW, whatever signs he knows by just verbal, then we don't sign it, just say it.  Hope all is well.  Tomorrow is the dentist for 3 of my kids.  I guess we won't have speech therapy today.  LOL.  Friday I have a few kids here as school is out.  Next week is absolutely insanely busy.  I mean insanely busy.  MRI is this week as well...Friday.  I have to leave all the kids here and go to get an MRI.  I'll be terrified NOT b/c of the MRI(had those before & this one is only of the knee so cake walk) but b/c I'll be leaving the bunch here.  Hospital is literally a few miles away so shouldn't be too bad.  More to catch up on.  Second half of farm post coming later tonight.  Enjoy your week everyone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

USCIS, dentist & surgery needed

I'm sure you can gather from the title it has been beyond a busy day.  Alright, I'll start from the beginning this morning.  It was raining outside.  Rain + commuters = accidents galore.  Put it this way, we had to travel 35 miles to get to the immigration office here.  Normally, that would take us 30 minutes from here to Durham.  Umm, not today.  Warren clicked on the average gas mileage button and we were averaging 11 miles an hour.  Yep, no way I was making that 8am appointment for my prints and was just hoping and praying they'd have mercy on me, not be crowded and let me go on anyhow.  Oh, before we left, it was like herding cats.  Picture day at school.  And, even though I never buy them (too expensive), I at least like my kids to look decent.  Alyona, Bojan, and Nik...check.  Alex...URGHH!!!  I gave up on what he looked like at that point and decided as long as it wasn't a bathing suit, we'd be alright.  Did I mention Nik had a field trip today too?  Got them semi-ready and we had to head out the door to give ourselves plenty of time.  Hour and a half later, we got to UCIS. 

Enter into the building.  Quiet, nice and new.  No, our children could never be allowed in there.  LOL.  The lady at security checked my passport and said, this isn't you, person on here is much younger.  She was dead serious.  I said, oh no, did I grab the kids' passports?!  She busted out laughing.  She was kidding.  The guy beside her said one day she's going to do that & the person is going to have a heart attack.  I think I almost did.  They were gracious enough to take me even though 30 minutes late.  Got in and out and we were on our way.  Only 30 minutes to get home.  Max had to stay behind.  Well, one of my "littles" was playing tic tac toe w/ him when I got home.  Told her mom there'd be about 30 minutes between the time she was dropped off & the time I got home.  Right on the money w/ that one.  Loaded her & Max up and went to pick up Alex from school.  Next stop...dentist.  I took the "little" shopping while Warren waited w/ the boys at the dentist.  No cavities...hooray!!!!  Since it was Alex's lunch time at school anyhow, we decided to go to Chick Filet.  Very tasty on such a busy day.  Let the kids play on the playground.  Took Alex back to school and then went to pick up one of the "littles" from preschool.  Came home, got items, went to the bank then and the doc office to drop off request for all the medical redo stuff. 

After all that, on my way to the ortho doc.  This time, just 2 in tow.  Ortho doc said his guess is a pretty positive test for a torn meniscus for me in my knee.  Lovely.  X-rays were clean which is great...no arthritis.  However, MRI is being scheduled immediately.  He wants me seen 2 days after the MRI to discuss.  I asked him and he said most likely treatment is surgery to scope it out.  Yes, can you see all this happening w/ travel to Bulgaria?  Are you thinking what I'm thinking??  That is going to be one long airplane ride.  LOL.  We're discussing options and timing of surgery once we know for sure it is a torn meniscus.  He seems pretty confident though.  No cardio I was told though I stopped that two weeks ago due to the pain.  Now I know why I had the pain.  Warren is now going to pay a bill.  Poor guy takes a vacation day but it was anything but a vacation.  Speech therapist will be here any minute.  AFter that, I think a nice relaxing dinner is in order.  So, so much to do yet but after a day like today, need a break.  That was my day.  Nothing special but let's just say I'm glad it's not Groundhog Day.  Enjoy your week.  Part II of the farm trip coming at some point in time.  Playing catch up right now.  Have to take Nik tonight for a shot  that he was supposed to have awhile back.  For his ear.  Can  I take a nap now?  Hey, I have nothing on tap for tomorrow but Thursday & Friday are just as busy.  Thank goodness I'm still allowed walking.  No running, no cardio, just walking.  No weight bearing activities I'm told.  Please, no more surgeries for awhile.  We're not going to do any Irina sinus surgery stuff until spring. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Old friends, a farm and fun (part 1)

We did make it to the farm.  What I failed to tell you all is that the kids kept telling us Nik's implant was red light.  Trying to guess from the front seat what was the issue, we decided it had to be the coil.  Well, after getting out and looking at it, Yana had forced the coil in the wrong way.  URGHH!!  Our FAS children have destroyed their fair share of items both unintentionally and intentionally.  But, when something is $8,000 to replace, you tend to be a little more upset about it.  Anyhow, our friend has a farm here w/ all sorts of animals.  We go and visit when we can.  Her kids and mine get along quite well so nice to visit them.  There are so many things to do there that I thought I'd just do some pictures and a little explaining.  Here goes:


Little tire swing action for Nik to start the night off. 


Can't be afraid of dogs if you come here.  They have them of all sizes.  Including this wonderful great dane named Wanda.  Very friendly dogs.  Alex doesn't look so big now.  


Tables were set out to provide all the goodies people brought.  Yum is all I can say.  Max looks a bit shocked here.  I think b/c I caught him w/ a Reeces.  


It was just really strange looking up and seeing all the chickens in the trees.


And, one of the main reasons we come here...friendship.  This is one of the girls that lived in the same orphanage as Yana and Alex.  Both are from Stavropol, Russia.  Do you think they enjoy seeing each other?


Irina collecting some things to put in the bonfire later that evening.  


Bojan found a buddy the whole evening.  He loved this rabbit.  He was bummed that he couldn't run around the farm.  I told him next time he'll be able to run even better!  Between the chicken on his shoulder and the rabbit in his lap, he was fine.  


Isn't it wonderful how close to nature my kids are?  They love the animals.  They got to pet llamas, emus, goats, ponies, chickens, rabbits, guineas, ducks, dogs, and too many others to name.  The visit was wonderful and despite it being a school night, we stayed later than we should have.  My kids are very at home at Mary's farm and for that, I am grateful.  More pictures to come. Have to get to bed as need to be up early for USCIS prints!