Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Major error

Go back and read this post first. Pay particular attention to the paragraph JUST ABOVE where I'm signing the adoption decree.

Fast forward a couple of weeks when Axel and I came home. When the the US Embassy is finished completing the visa, they give you two things: a stack of original documents, and *the sealed envelope* that is the child's visa and is given to Immigration in your port of entry, which for us was Chicago. The originals were to go back to our facilitator, because some of them go back to the city where the adoption took place. (2 hours away.) There were some issues in the last couple of days, and I did not meet with our facilitator. Instead I was instructed where to drop the papers off.

A few days later when we were home, and I was filling out papers for Axel's health insurance, I realized I needed to give then a copy of the birth certificate (and possibly the adoption decree? Not sure on that one.) I realized that when I gave the Visa paperwork to Immigration, the only thing I got back was Axel's passport. I didn't have one single document stating that I had just adopted this child, and that he was mine. I only had a passport that listed his last name being the same as mine.

I called my adoption agency, and the agency staff person said, "Umm...you got out of that country without ANY documents listing him as yours??? How did you do THAT?"

Umm...I have no clue.

The in-country attorney was contacted, and she put the documents in the mail to my adoption agency last week, who would then overnight them to me. They arrived to the agency yesterday.

And here is where the MAJOR error was found on the adoption decree. It was one that I caught at the time I was given the decree to read over, and I pointed it out. The person doing the paperwork turned back to the computer to fix it, then printed it out for me to sign.

I signed. We had the ceremony, and came home a few days later. I did not see the decree again after I signed it.

My adoption agency staff person got the decree and birth certificate yesterday, and found that major error was STILL on the papers, in TWO PLACES!

Honestly, I'm laughing only because that is all I can do at this point. The annoying part is I need these documents to get Axel's insurance in place, and we have a week FULL of appointments coming up!

I'm hoping that for now they could just fax me a copy of the decree for me to use for insurance purposes while we wait for it in the mail. But...it's already the middle of the night there on New Year's day. Lovely.

Don't forget him

How was your Christmas? Did your children enjoy it? Were they inundated with gifts and love from their family?

Picture your child, living in a family but feeling insecure in his place at the table. Why? Because the people around him have told him, "You're not staying here. You're not welcome to stay here. If a family is not found for you soon, you'll go to live in an orphanage for older boys and adults. Prepare yourself, it won't be easy there."

Those are the thoughts Marjan lives with every day.
Marjan is the sweetest boy! When I visited him in his foster home in April, he was appropriately shy for a 9 year old boy. It was clear he was uncomfortable with the adults talking about him as he sat right there on the couch by me. I tried to play some games with him, to keep his ears off the discussion taking place; discussion about how well he was doing in school, how smart he is, but also how it was time for him to move on. He needs to be adopted or he'll be moved.

Marjan's social workers are the same ones who were in charge of Axel's care. The guardian who was assigned to Axel's case is the one responsible for training the foster families in the area. I can tell you, from the care that Axel received, that they have gotten very good training. Marjan's foster brother (who is in his 20's) made sure to tell us many times what a GOOD boy Marjan is, and it was clear he is concerned that is brother find a good family who will love him forever.

Marjan's time is running out! Once he is moved he will no longer be available for adoption. The place where he'll be moved is not a good situation for a 9 year old boy!

Do you have a place at your table for Marjan? Do you have room in your house for his bed? Do you think your kids could handle getting a few less gifts so that Marjan could know a family? Do you think your kids have the ability to learn compassion for another by welcoming a new brother into their home? Do you think you have the ability to love one more child?

If you would like more information about Marjan, you can contact Shelley at About A Child.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Time to move

Now that Axel is home, and learning to be part of our family, it's time to move back over to my main blog, Garden of Eagan. There you'll find me blogging about life with Angela and Axel together, along with all the other things our life involves, such as dogs, motorcycles and general insanity. I will keep this blog open as I continue to post updates about Ianna.

I hope you'll all join me over on my other blog!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

a dry post

When I took Axel from the foster home, I was told he was fully potty trained during the day, but night time he just had no concept of. He would wake up dry on occasion, but he wasn't consistant enough for his foster mother to consider leaving him without a diaper at night.

The first four nights that I had him he woke up SOAKED every morning. S.O.A.K.E.D. I was really glad I'd brought pull-ups along. But the fifth morning he woke up dry! And again the 6th...and 7th...and every night after that. I was hopeful about what would happen when we got home, because I could see what the problem was. Axel still has one main left over institutional behavior: he will not leave his bed until he's given permission to do so. That means if he woke up to go to the bathroom he couldn't/wouldn't. The first four nights with me I'd let him play in his bed for awhile before forcing myself to get up. After that I started getting up with him as SOON as he appeared awake so that I could get him to the bathroom right away. That's when he started staying dry.

When we got home I bought a month's worth of pull ups, figuring I'd let him get used to the routine of the household before trying to ditch the nigh time diaper. But three days before Christmas Axel showed us he was ready, and confirmed the problem of him not coming out of his room without permission. So that night I told him, "No diapers tonight." and I mimed being asleep, then needing to wake up to use the bathroom, then OPENING the bedroom door to go to the bathroom. (we sleep with bedroom doors closed here.)

The next morning he woke up with a soaked bed, which I knew he would. But there was more...there was a puddle in the carpet NEXT to the bed. Hmmm...that means he got up, pulled down his pants, and peed! I took his hand and touched his wet pajamas. "Wet" I signed, making an icky face. He looked at me like, "What did you pour in my bed????" I showed him the puddle next to the bed, and signed "pee", and also pointed to his wet pajamas. Then I took him into the bathroom, and told him "pee in the toilet." as we got the wet pajamas off of him.

The next morning he woke up dry.

And the next up at my parents, although I did put a pull up on him while sleeping, he still woke up dry.

Tonight he went to bed diaper free again.

We're still having to get him to the bathroom as soon as we hear him wake up. Although we like the fact he will stay in his room until being told he can come out, it would be really nice if we could get him to get himself to the bathroom in the morning.

Axel's first Christmas

Axel has been home almost two weeks now. Can you believe that? What a blessing God has given us in our new son. Not only get the gift of Axel, but we were fortunate enough to have him here for Christmas. God is so good!

Do you know how Axel met his Grandma Lundgren (my mom) for the first time? In front of the entire congregation at the small church she pastors up in Northern Minnesota. My sister thought up the great idea to surprise Mom and all of us go up north, (four hour drive from my house) and show up for Mom's Christmas Eve service. Axel was a little worried when I started packing a bag, and Dean and Tyler started loading up the car. Do you suppose he was praying we weren't going on one of those airplane things again? LOL

She was SO surprised (and had to preach after several minutes of tears. :-) She stepped before the church to introduce us to the family most of them have never seen before, and certainly not all at one time! Then she asked me to bring Axel up, since her church had prayed for him and for me while I was in Serbia.

Axel walked to the pulpit, turned and gave a big, "HI!" to the congregation. Then he jabbered to Grandma for a minute, in the sweetest voice that could be heard through the mic my mom was wearing.

After church we went back to my parent's home for dinner that my sister had brought up with her. In the morning Dean and I made breakfast for everyone, then it was time for sliding! My brother has been just dying to take Axel sliding down what is possibly the best run in all of Minnesota, which, by the way, just happens to be my parent's driveway! Axel LOVED sliding!!! Angela loves it too, and went down by herself twice, both times crashing face first into a snowbank. LOL Axel even went down alone once, and didn't even cry when he, too, went face first into the snow!

It was decided this was the new Lundgren Christmas tradition!

When everyone was sufficiently exhausted from trudging back up the hill, it was time to load up the car and head back home to spend time with Dean's family. Can you imagine what was going through Axel's mind when we started loading up the car AGAIN? Not only did we have to drive the 4 hour drive home, but we were only home for about 45 minutes before getting in the car again. POOR KID!

Ah, but we went somewhere Axel has been dying to go back to. THE BOWLING ALLEY!

Oh, he was SO EXCITED that he was going to get to bowl! He was NOT a happy camper when I told him "wait" instead of just letting him get up there and do what he wanted. (when Axel is not happy with me, he gives me a look that says I am clearly the most evil person in all the world.) Finally it was his turn. We let him try with Angela's very light (5 lb) ball, but that was really too much for him. Dean's brother had arranged stuff before we got there and made sure there was a ramp available. I would walk Axel up to the ramp and set the ball on. Together we'd count to three, then he'd give it a shove. Oh he was SO THRILLED to watch those pins fall. I can't wait until he gets a little bigger and can hold the ball himself.

Bowling done, it was time for dinner and Wii at Dean's sisters. Axel is going to be a video game junkie. I'll have pictures and videos to post soon. To say he had fun is an understatement.

Finally it was time to end the day. It was Christmas night, and Santa still needed to visit OUR house! LOL This morning it took him a bit to understand the whole gift opening thing. Clearly they have saved wrapping paper at his foster home because he did NOT want to rip that stuff today! Still, he was very happy with the kids' camera he received, along with duplos and some animals figurines, and a toy guitar. He is one happy boy!

We cannot get over how quickly Axel is integrating into our family. Clearly his foster parents did some great things with him and for him. But Serbia is still a different world, one that does not hold the same opportunities for a child with Down syndrome. I think Axel has experienced more FUN in his last 10 days that he did in his previous 10 1/2 years.

Christmas

Axel had his fist American Christmas, which included sledding at Gramma and Grampa Lundgren's house. Here is is on his first run down the hill with Uncle Lynn.



For those reading this months or years after the post was made, just one week after this sledding adventure we had Axel's neck X-rays done to screen for AAI (Atlanto Axial Instability) something that occurs in approximately 10% of kids with Down syndrome. What we didn't know on that day of sledding was that we could have killed him. His X-rays and the following week and MRI showed that he was just a cough or sneeze away from catastrophic injury. If you're adopting a child with Down syndrome over age three, please get them screened before doing activities like we did! In May 2011 Axel underwent cervical spinal fusion and was in a halo brace for several months.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sleep stuff. Questions for YOU

So, I have dealt with obstructive sleep apnea with Angela (ok, and maybe myself. Shhhh) and can recognize it.

So what would you make of a kid who flops like a fish all.night.long. Like every 3 minutes he flops. But, he doesn't snore. Not even a tiny bit! He just flops his whole body around. I haven't noticed an apnea episodes, but again, there is no snoring (or cessation of snoring) to cue me when he would be having an episode.

Most of the time when I check on him, he's sleeping with his whole head (and sometimes upper body) hanging off the bed. The fact that he puts himself into this position frequently makes me wonder if something doesn't happen to his airway when he's sleeping, and being in this position is his way of keeping it open. If I put him back in the middle of his bed, he returns to hanging within a few minutes.

Any thoughts? I know a sleep study is in his future, but that will be a couple months off, at least! And..you know...I'm just plain curious! LOL

Sign Count

Today, since officials paid a visit to the house, I decided to do a sign count and see where Axel is at. This is a list of signs Axel recognizes, and the ones with an * are the ones he uses on his own without prompting and in the correct context.

Axel's sign count 12/22/10

1.all done*
2.Angela*
3.apple
4.Axel*
5.banana*
6.bath*
7.bathroom (toilet)*
8.bed*
9.boots*
10.bye*
11.car*
12.cereal*
13.coat*
14.cookie*
15.diaper*
16.dog
17.drink*
18.eat*
19.garbage*
20.get dressed*
21.go (leave)
22.hat*
23.help*
24.hi*
25.home*
26.lights on/off*
27.make bed
28.mama*
29.milk*
30.more*
31.movie*
32.no*
33.orange*
34.papa*
35.pajamas
36.play*
37.please
38.pop*
39.sandwich*
40.scissors*
41.shirt*
42.shower*
43.shoes*
44.sign
45.socks*
46.stop*
47.store
48.table
49.telephone*
50.toy
51.tree*
52.t-shirt
53.TV*
54.underwear
55.yes
56.zip*

That is 56 more words than he could understand just three weeks ago. That is 43 more words than he could use to make his wants and needs known.

One week "HOME"

The word "home" has several definitions, among them:

home:
1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
2. the place in which one's domestic affections are centered.
3. any place of residence or refuge: a heavenly home.

How fitting that today, one week to the day that Axel arrived in the US, today after running errands with me, as we pulled into our drive way he hollered from the back seat, "HEY!" and then signed "HOME"!!!!!

Axel now knows this is "Home", and is excited when we return to it.

How I love this child. He is the most amazing little boy, created by God just for us. Every day God blesses us with the opportunity to see the wonder in Axel's eyes as he experiences something for the first time.

Like tracing the letter "A" all by himself.

Like putting a puzzle together, all by himself.

Like signing "TV" at me and the amazement in his eyes when I turn it on for him.

Like loving a dog who loves him back.

Like seeing papa coming to through the door, and the joy on Papa's face when he signs "Papa!"

Like swimming in a giant pool for the very first time.

Like watching Papa bowl, and cheering for every pin knocked down by every person in the entire alley.

Yes, this first week home has been a wondrous one, with experiences he's never even dreamed of, that weren't a possibility for him just one month ago.

One week home.

Thousands more to come.

Meeting with the school district

Today the special ed. reps from the school district came to the house. Axel LOVED having new people here.

So, we have come up with a plan! First, we'll spend the month of January getting assessments done to figure out just where he's at. Of course the reports are always a deficiency model, and it won't even be completely accurate since he doesn't have a primary language. If he spoke or understood Serbia, we would assess him using that language. But he doesn't have Serbia, nor does he have enough ASL for it to be a good model. The end reports will be talking about the things he cannot do, but this is only a tiny picture of who Axel is. It will also give us a good baseline to measure by. Won't it be fascinating to test him a year from now and see how much he's gained?

Once the assessment is done we'll discuss the most appropriate placement for him, and how best to start him on his educational career given his chronological age PLUS his developmental age.

I'm so excited for Axel to be starting school. It's going to be fun watching him blossom with all the new things he's going to experience!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Chameleon

Most people associate Chameleons with their ability to change color, and blend into their environment. We often associate this with the character traits of some people, and their inability to maintain an individual identity around certain groups of people.

But chameleons are also known to be quite slow in certain situations. Axel is a chameleon.

So far, my biggest frustration with Axel is his speed...or lack of...when doing a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Please don't get me wrong. I love this child! He is amazing. This is just me adjusting and getting to know Axel.

Axel's foster mom told me he was pokey, I just had *no* idea how slow his slow really was.

The foster mom wasn't kidding.

Tonight I found a video. It is a perfect example of how Axel moves sometimes. Notice between each step the chameleon stops to look around, checking out every aspect of his environment. Yep...totally Axel.


Was that PAINFULLY slow for you to watch? Hmmm mmmm! Point made.

This has been my biggest frustration so far. And, I fear, it's what will cause him the most difficulty in school. I'm sorry Axel, but you will not have an hour to eat school lunch. You will not have 15 minutes to undo your pants in the bathroom, plus another 15 to get them put back together when you're done. Never mind how long it takes you to do what needs to be done in the bathroom in the first place! You will not be sent to your locker a full 15 minutes before everyone else just so you can make it out the door for recess shortly AFTER them.

I did discover that when walking in a store, it is better to NOT hold his hand. If I hold his hand, he d.r.a.g.s. and will eventually destroy my shoulder. But if I just walk and don't look back, he keeps up! I think holding his hand means he is not required to pay attention and so he looks around and allows the adult to propel him along. But if he's required to walk himself he has to pay attention and stay connected to what's happening around him.

This is a minor issue, and so far it's my biggest frustration. Life is pretty darned good!

I'm on the phone!

This kid cracks me up. Ok, he cracks himself up too! I can't wait until he can hear and starts talking. Oh, the conversations we will have here! And now we have TWO jabber boxes. Oh, like his glasses? Stole them right off Mr. Potato head he did. Yep, he's jealous of Angela's glasses I guess. Don't worry little man, you'll have your own before you know it!


Pssst! PSSSSST!!! Hey you...

Shhhh...come closer so you can hear me.

Shhhhhh. Quiet so nobody notices.

I know something.

Yep. I really do.

And I can't share a word about it until mid January!

I am NO GOOD at keeping secrets. Hope I can keep this one!

Angela introduces Axel

Angela is introducing Axel on her blog today. What a hoot!

I don't always like to be right

There are times in life when I would prefer to be wrong. Like if I say I want to loose 20 lbs, and somebody says, "Oh no. You look great just the way you are!" It's ok to be wrong at times like that.

Today I wanted to be wrong.

Today I took Axel in for a full hearing assessment.

I suspected hearing loss when I met him last spring, and my friend and I were speculating why he wasn't talking. There were several possibilities, but the most obvious to me was hearing loss. When I met him again for the first time on December 1st, I knew right away his lack of speech was hearing related. In April he was just silent. But his foster family said he started babbling this fall, about the same time they found out I wanted to adopt him. (Coincidence? I think not! I think God told him there were changes coming.) The quality of his babble told me immediately what I needed to know.

When I told my facilitator and Axel's social workers that I suspected a significant hearing loss, they thought I was jumping the gun a bit. After all, he's speaking Serbian and I'm speaking English. Yeah, well...he wasn't speaking SERBIAN either. He had a couple single syllable, single consonant words and that's it. I tried explaining to them I knew what I was talking about. Not only have I been down this road before with my own child, but I'd worked in the field for 20+ years. I think I just sounded like a know-it-all American to them.

When Axel and I got home I found out one of Angela's hearing aids needed servicing. I called to set it up and asked about having Axel tested. Our Audiologist was nice enough to see Axel before his insurance is in place. It was a long week to wait, all the while second guessing myself. Surely I was wrong. He was hearing me whisper! Well...ok..there is that balloon that popped behind him that he didn't even bat an eyelash at.

During the testing today we watched for every indicator: an eyebrow flinch, a twitch of his shoulders, anything to indicate he was questioning if he heard something or not. So we repeated the test, just to make sure. (and we'll be doing a sedated ABR in a couple months to verify. The ABR is the definitive hearing test.) But both the audiologist and I are confident this was a reliable test. Axel is one smart cookie, and he was quick to catch on to the "game" that is the sound booth.

As he sat in the booth, not responding to sounds, my eyes threatened to spill tears again.

I refused to cry. This is NOT news to me. It is NOT a surprise. God put him in OUR house, in OUR family because HE knew we could help Axel IMMEDIATELY, and in fact I did. I started signing EVERYTHING to him...IMMEDIATELY. He is blossoming here with the ability to communicate.

Sound after sound came and went that Axel did not respond to.

Below is a graph of the "Speech Banana". You can see at what decibel and frequency sounds of speech and environmental sounds fall. (you can click on it to make it bigger.)
Axel's hearing was tested twice, and he tested the same both times. His hearing falls in the 45 db in his left ear, and 50 db in his right. All the sounds above that on the chart are the sounds he cannot hear. This would be why he doesn't speak his native Serbian either.

No, he does not have fluid in his ears, however he has no reflexes in his ear drums. This usually happens when there has been YEARS of untreated fluid, which causes the drums and the small bones behind the ear to calcify. It can also be because the three small bones are just malformed. (Angela's small bones are malformed.) This all can contribute to the hearing loss, but only a small portion of it, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

It will still be a couple of weeks before Axel's health insurance is in place. Once it is, we'll get his hearing aids ordered. (nice! I'll have two in hearing aids.) Tomorrow the school district Spec. Ed. rep will be here, and we'll be discussing his placement. But I had already decided last week that Axel will go to the full-immersion ASL program in the neighboring district (our district contracts d/HOH services with them.) Axel is fully capable of functioning in the mainstream classroom, and that school has everyone in place who is FLUENT in ASL. (an aid who knows only a couple hundred signs would be of no use to him, as he will very quickly bypass the aid's vocabulary.)

So here we are. Axel has a significant hearing loss.

I've had my cry, now it's time to move forward.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Knowing Papa

Do you remember this post? It was my very first day having custody of Axel. It was a rough day, and that's putting it mildly. Axel spent the entire day testing every possible boundary, laughing hysterically when he did. OH he is SO FUNNY that he can hardly contain himself.

At first I tried some of the behavior techniques we learned for attention-seeking behavior with Angela. It didn't work. Axel is just a different kid. But time outs ARE effective for him (they were NOT for Angela) so that is what I used while in Serbia.

It took me about a week to recognize "the laugh". It's a special laugh reserved for only those times when he's about to do something he shouldn't. I know "the laugh" now, and know to get him busy with something else (Axel, Can you carry this bag for me?) or keep my eyes trained on him.

But really, although the first day was HORRID, each day after that was better than the day before. By the time we flew home two weeks later, he was good 90% of the time. My biggest fear was that he wouldn't be ready for being in crowded airports and sitting on a plane. Not only did he do all that, he did so with incredibly fantastic behavior. However, I warned Dean that when we come home, he would start again at zero, testing Papa's limits just as he did mine.

And that is exactly what he has done. Laughing all the way.

The difference between Dean and I is that Dean is a softy. He has a hard time being firm with the little boy who's laughing and having a good 'ole time.

We came up with a game plan. Lets say Axel hits Papa. (happens about 10 times a day right now.) Papa tells him once, "No." (which Axel very much understands.) If Axel hits again (almost always does so immediately) Axel is brought to a rug we've put in the hallway. He is sat down, facing the wall. This removes ALL attention from him. He is still within our eyesight, but he his back is to us. He is only left there for a minute or so, then we go back and say, "Axel, let's try again." (another phrase I know he understands.)

When I do this, he comes back to us ready to play nicely again. When Dean does this, Axel laughs hysterically, challenging Dean even more. He won't stay in the spot and spins around on the little rug, happy that papa is playing this really fun game with him. But, if Mama comes around the corner, suddenly Axel turns around and sits quietly, ready to do whatever Papa says. In fact, I can now point to "the spot" and tell Axel to "Go sit" when he has done something, and he sticks his lip out, hangs his head, and takes himself the spot.

Papa has about had it.

I reminded Dean that I had a two week head start with Axel, while he has had only four days. It WILL get better. What is most frustrating for Dean is some really special times are interrupted by naughtiness. Like tucking Axel into bed for the night. It's very likely he will slap Dean in the face at some point in the tucking in process in his attempt to engage Papa even more. If he does it to me, I only have to get him to look at me, and say, "Mama said NO!" and he will stop what he is doing. If Dean does that, he just gets slapped again.

......sigh......

So we have to find a way that they can both enjoy the tucking in routine, without the slapping. Axel loves to be tucked in. If he understood more English we would tell him he has to put himself to bed because Papa doesn't like getting slapped. A couple days of that and Axel would want to "try again". But Axel doesn't understand that much English, so we're kind of stuck. Just walking away and turning out the light (removing the attention) doesn't seem like something he would understand right now.

So we're muddling through those types of things. I'm doing fine, but Papa is struggling a bit. I need to let them find their own way, while at the same time Dean and I maintain consistency in our discipline of Axel. We're getting there.

Other than that, Axel is doing fantastic! He is now enjoying the dogs most of the time, and his favorite activity to do with Angela is play doctor. In fact, I'm pretty sure Angela's doctor kit now has a permanent spot in Axel's room. LOL (Angela doesn't seem to mind, she had forgotten she even had it. LOL)

The behavioral issues we're having really are minimal, and they are NOTHING compared to what we have dealt with over the years with Angela (who spent several years being one of the most aggressive kids with DS we knew!) Both Dean and I were expecting much worse from Axel.

Dean said yesterday he's just amazed at how much he loves this boy already. Axel is easy to love.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Q's and Answers

How long was it from when you commited to Axel, submitted your paperwork, until you were able to travel to pick him up?
Serbia is different than Ukraine. First you submit your family profile, and request a child who meets certain criteria. We requested a 10 year old boy with Down syndrome. Not many of those in Serbia who are also eligible for international adoption! In fact, we knew there was only one...Axel. We submitted a family profile on October 11th.

Once your family profile is approved, your dossier is requested for review by the ministry officials. I fedexed our dossier on October 21st.

Once your dossier is approved you're given a travel date. We were given a travel date on November 5th.

Did the fact that you had meet him earlier this year speed up the timeing at all?
What sped up the process for Axel was a few different factors. 1) He is either THE oldest, or one of the oldest children with disabilities who was registered for international adoption. 2) he was at risk of transfer out of the foster home and back into an institution 3) We were paper ready. We had started the US side of the adoption for Ianna. Dean and I had agreed that when our homestudy was ready to submit to USCIS, if Ianna still was not available we would submit for another child. We decided to submit for the most at-risk child who I had previously met, which was Axel.

You were able to have Axel with you early on in your trip, is that the normal process (do you know)? I am not completely sure how it is that I got Axel on the 3rd visit. On the afternoon of my second visit, my facilitator asked if I would feel ready to take him the next day. Ummm YEAH! I was shocked they were allowing me so quickly, and my facilitator was just as surprised. Again, I think there were a couple of factors at play. 1) is the fact that I had met Axel and his social worker back in April. She knew my connections to the DS community. 2) Reading the adoption decree it is noted that our visits went VERY well, and Axel didn't show any signs of distress. I was comfortable with him, and he with me. I was already teaching him signs so it was apparent we would quickly build communication. 3) his social center is is in favor of getting things done quickly as long as the child is safe. 4) I'm very knowlegable about raising a child with Down syndrome and have a 14 year old daughter with DS. This was not new to me. I learned later that the head psychologist from the social center had read not only my blog, but Angela's as well, so she could see the kind of life Angela lives.

However, I did NOT leave the city with him at that point. Axel's social workers made two visits with us at the hotel to see how things were going, and if I had any concerns. I also had our facilitator with us who was watching how our interactions went and reported back to the social worker about how things were going, so I wasn't just turned loose with him. There have only been two other children adopted out of foster care to US families. Usually the family has several visits in the foster home before they're allowed to take custody of the child. My friends who adopted from foster care just the week before I did met him for the first time on 12/15 and were allowed to take him on 12/19, so only one day more. The other family who adopted from foster care, I'm not sure how many visits they had. I bet she'll chime in here though, cuz I know she's reading.

Love to know anything about what you are so happy that you brought with you, wish you had brought with you, wish you hadn't wasted the space to bring it. Along with recomendations on starting communication etc.
I was going to bring a couple cans of ravioli, or something that could easily be warmed up. I wish I had. When I'm completely alone, I'm a little intimidated about going into the stores alone. I need moral support. LOL The store across the street from me the first 2 nights was always PACKED with people and I was too intimidated to be doing the miming thing in a crowded store. I did bring instant Mac and Cheese, and I'm glad I did. That saved me the one night I didn't want to go to the store. It's light, so doesn't add much to the suitcase where the canned ravioli is heavy.

I only brought 2 pr of jeans and 3 sweaters. I brought enough clean underwear for the entire trip, along with socks. If you're staying at an apartment there is usually a washer available to you, but no dryer. I was in a hotel for an apartment 2 days, then a hotel for 9 days and didn't have EITHER available to me. Then I moved to my friend Mary's apartment (and those of you going behind me will be able to stay there as well if Mary is out of town.) And she has a washer AND dryer! (unheard of in Serbia!) I could hardly wait to do my laundry, and it was nice to be able to come home with a suitcase full of clean clothes.

Don't bring shampoo, etc. You can buy those things there.

I keep one clean shirt for me, along with solid deodorant, in my carry on, just in case of extreme layovers. (my friend got trapped in Frankfurt for 24 hours! YIKES!) Traveling home I brought a full set of clean clothes for Axel as well.

They do not have pull-ups in Serbia. If you're getting a child who would need them, bring them with you. I remembered that Axel was not night-time trained, so brought a pack of 15 pull-ups. I carried 2 with us on the plane home, and had him wear one. I was a little worried as to weather or not he'd use the airplane bathroom. He WAS petrified of it, but he DID use it and the pull up remained dry. I finally removed it in Chicago when we only had an hour flight to get home.

I also carry a travel toothbrush with me. Toothpaste is hard to carry now with the recent TSA changes, but even brushing without toothpaste feels better to me than not at all when traveling for 24 hours!

If you can, ask what size clothes your child is wearing so you can bring the right size. Here's a european size conversion chart. However, I was told Axel was a size "10" in Euro sizes. I wondered if this was a "110", which is a size 6 in US sizes. I held up 6's, 7s, and 8s, trying to remember how big he was when I met him in April. I ended up bringing size 8's, and they were HUGE on him. It WAS a "110" (size 6) that he needed. I also was able to bring the right size shoes for him as well.

Learn how to buy water. Look CAREFULLY at the labels, or you'll end up getting charged water (or soda water). If you go into a store or restaurant, ask for "Natural water" or "flat water". Soda water is usually called "Gas water".

I brought LOTS of stuff for Axel to do. I brought construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, small magna doodle, match box cars, and a few dollar store toys, These were more than enough to keep him busy. At each foster home visit I brought out something different. These kids are used to having very little, what I brought was more than enough to keep him busy.

Skype. Make sure you have skype loaded on your computer. Put a few dollars into your skype account so you can make phone calls too. Skype calls are CHEAP (like .02 per minute!) and it was well worth it to be able to call Dean's cell while he was in his car for work. I was able to call my bank, and other people in the US. It really helped pass the time!

Install a world clock app on your i-stuff. I put it on my iPad and this served as my alarm clock as well. I left my computer clock on the time at home so I knew what time it was there without having to count on my fingers. LOL

Communication: I was an ASL interpreter for over 20 years. Most parents are not able to do this, however I started signing...everything... IMMEDIATELY. Having a manual method of communication is a good bridge while you're learning to understand each other. Once I had custody of Axel I signed everything I said to him. Learn as much sign as you can before you go.
Also, learn some key words and phrases in your child's language, such as "No", "Yes", "toilet" (or bathroom, or however a child might indicate they need to go.) Those are the only things I knew, but I wished I'd learned more. Still, Axel was very quick to start understanding me.

Pictures are a good thing to bring along too. I brought along this talking photo album, and recorded some phrases ahead of time. I had pictures of his bed, new coat, Papa, Angela, etc. You can record your own voice, or have your translator or someone record the phrases you want in the local language. This was very helpful to us, but I didn't even realize HOW helpful until we got home and Axel recognized his own bed. :-)

I'm sure I'll think of more things to add to this list. LOL


How to get that wheelchair

A couple people have asked how we got our wheelchair escort. When I called to change our plane tickets to a different day, I asked my travel agent at Golden Rule Travel to set it up.

Easy peasy!


Traveling with money

When you travel to adopt from Eastern European countries, you travel with A LOT of money on you. I don't know about other countries and continents, so I'm only going to discuss Europe in this post.

But I didn't.

At the International Airports there are banks and money exchanges. Since we live very close to our international airport, I went a couple days ahead and had all my money put on a Eurocard.
When you do this, you'll be given a receipt which includes on it the exchange rate at the time you put the money on your card. SAVE THAT RECEIPT!!! You'll need it later!

All the money on the Euro card is in Euros, which are accepted all over Europe. And, when you get there, you'll discoverer there are money exchange places e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e, where you can exchange Euros for local currency.

So here's how it works: You put your money on the Eurocard, and carry with you only what you'll need immediately when you get where you're going. For myself, I carried 500 Euros and $200 USD (us dollars.)

The Euro card allows you to pull out up to 5000 Euros (which is $6500 USD) at one time from an ATM. If you know you're going to need more out than that at one time, do it as soon as you get to the airport in country, then again the next morning at an atm near your apartment, and you'll very quickly have 10,000 euros (or $13,000 USD) in your hand.

When you get home, if you have money left on your card, take it back to the bank at your US International Airport, along with that receipt I told you to save! They will give you back US dollars at the same rate you exchanged them prior.

Now, you can also tell your bank that you'll be traveling and you need your cards opened for Europe. This allows you to use your regular cards at ANY atm within Europe. My bank asks me specifically what countries I'm traveling in that I would use my cards. For me, this would be Germany (the Frankfurt airport if I wanted to purchase something there, which I almost always do) and Serbia. I also have my bank lift my daily ATM and Point of Sale limits significantly.

I keep a contact email address and phone number of a specific contact person at my bank. If I make an unusually large purchase, I email that person and let her know. However, my bank knows me well enough that if there was a large purchase made, they'd be contacting ME to make sure I made it and that someone hadn't stolen my card.

This makes traveling with money so much easier, not to mention safer! Especially now with the body scanners, which do not allow you to keep a money belt on you. If you're travel with more than $10,000 cash you have to claim it at customs, but if you have it on a card you do not.

Hopefully this will be helpful to someone traveling soon.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

Just can't do it

I just can't stay awake past the bedtime hours of the kids. It is all I can do to hold my eyes open until 8:30 p.m. Well, now it's 9:22, the latest I've stayed up since I got home. But my mind says it's 4:30 a.m in Serbia, and any sensible person would be asleep by now.

So that's where I'm headed. To bed. Hopefully soon I'll feel like a grown up again and stay up late to enjoy the quite, kid-free hours with Dean.

The Dethroning of the Queen

When Angela was a tiny baby, I started referring to her as "The Queen". She was, you know! She was the only girl out of the five kids in the house. He much older big brothers adored her, but while nobody catered to her every whim, she certainly was adored, as any queen should be.

We probably did some serious damage with all of that.

When Angela was five her dad and I divorced, and we went from a family of 7 to a family of 4 in the house. This break up was devastating on all of the kids, with all of the kids suffering the damage in different ways. But it didn't stop there...when Angela was 7 the other two brothers who lived with us, who were now now 14 and 16, decided to move to their father's. (He is NOT Angela's dad. Confusing, I know...just go with it.) Angela was now an only child.

I remember being the same age, and having the same age difference between my siblings that Angela had with hers, I was often on my own. I learned quickly to entertain myself, a skill that Angela also has. Sometimes that very skill of independence can have it's drawbacks. There are some people on my life...ahem....who will say I'm a little too independent! LOL

I always wanted one more baby after I had Angela, but God had other plans. I ended up having a hysterectomy at the age of 29. The very thing I didn't want to happen...for Angela to be alone...had happened.

Dean and I met when Angela was 7. She has certainly ENJOYED having her "big guy Dean" all to herself, and being the sole rider in Mom's sidecar wasn't a bad part of the deal either. But still she was lonely. When Dean and I started talking to her about bringing home a sister (Ianna) she was pretty excited!

Now some will say we shouldn't have discussed it with her, but we were working on getting our homestudy done. Part of that process involves the social worker talking to the potential siblings about how they feel about the idea, so we really had no choice.

When things changed, and we started talking about a BROTHER instead, Angela did not seem quite as excited. We finally realized in her mind, a "brother" was someone bigger and older than her. She didn't want a bigger brother. She wanted someone smaller than her. She wanted someone who would play with her, and big brothers don't always like to do that. It took a bit for her to understand Axel WOULD be smaller than her, and he WOULD play with her.

And then Axel came home.

Axel DOES like playing with Angela, and she could not be more thrilled. What she doesn't understand is why he doesn't like to play "Cops" with her. Even though I have explained to her he just doesn't understand what "Cops" is, and that NO he's not watching "Dog the Bounty Hunter with her" she just doesn't understand. This is why I was not surprised to see her trying to tie his hands. LOL I laugh, only because Angela does not now HOW to tie, so her attempts were worthless, but Axel was intimidated just enough to not try getting away. He was very relieved to see me come around the corner. She was very unhappy that I ended their game.

We talked. We reminded her of the "no cops allowed" rule established months ago. We established a new rule. It is called, "No playing downstairs without a grown up." Axel is in full agreement of this rule, because he's really not thrilled about the basement anyway. Angela is a little bummed, but Axel has a cool room too so she's game for playing in there.

Especially "doctor."

If you stretch your mind a bit, you'll realize that "Cops" and "Doctor" are really the same game. One person is in control, and the other person is the "prisoner" or "patient" who must accept the orders. The difference is the tools used. Cops have handcuffs and guns, while doctors have syringes to give shots, blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes. If they're really lucky, Doctors have ace bandages too.

Angela lucked out. Axel LOVES "Doctor". More specifically, Axel loves playing the role of doctor, and Angela's favorite role is that of the patient. She is very good at thinking up all kinds of ailments, and is also getting good at letting Dr. Axel know just what is ailing her. From a bad cough to a broken ankle, she gets her point across. Occasionally Dr. Axel is distracted by other patients who visit their walk-in clinic. Those big fluffy dogs make great patients too, you know, but they're tough competition for the patient laying on the bed. Eventually she gets mad and walks off.

There has been some regression here and there, mainly in the form of extra whining unlike any we've heard from her before, but it's really not been a big deal. What we ARE seeing a lot of is heavy competition. If Axel gets praised for doing something, you can bet Angela is going to kill herself trying to do it too. This includes following through with her responsibility chart. Axel is working on learning about his responsibility chart, and Angela is loving showing him how to do it, and that getting all these things done and checked off gets lots of praise.

And we are praising A LOT! We are praising a sickening amount, really, laying it on thick and heavy.

And it's working....for now.




Loving dogs

It's safe to say Axel loves the dogs now. So does Angela, of course! LOL





Sibling play

How long do you supposed this lasted until it went south?

HA! Wrong! They played like this for 45 minutes, burning ALL of their energy. Then I put the balloons away to save for tomorrow. ;-)

Meeting the Dogs

My dogs talk and I talk to them.

No, really.

Thursday morning, while Axel was still sleeping, I had the dogs all come sit in front of me. "I brought a BOY home." I told them, and they all looked at me in disbelief. Especially Zurri, who has wanted a boy for a long time.

"This boy may not like you right away, but he will learn to like you very quickly. He is a gentle boy, and a loving boy, and you all need to be gentle with him."

Roman trembled with anticipation, Rubee moaned her eyore type "O....k..." moan, Dudley licked his lips in nervousness, and Zurri just stared at me, unblinking, taking in everything I was saying.

"You are not going to meet him all at once, because you'll scare him to death. Rubee will meet him first, then Dudley, Roman, then Zurri will be last."

Zurri still didn't blink.

I sent all the dogs back to the basement, and we waited for Axel to wake up. We had things to do this morning. I had given Angela the choice of staying home with us or going to school. She chose school, wanting to introduce Axel to her teachers and friends.

Finally Axel was awake and had eaten so we brought Rubee upstairs. Axel looked at her, but his hands on his hips, and scolded her and us in Serbian gibberish. He yelled at Rubee and pointed to the front door, I'm sure telling her to get outside. Then I showed him that he could pet Rubee, and that she was nice. I told him she lives in the house, and just wait...there are MORE!

An hour later we brought big, fluffy Dudley up. Kids are either scared to death of Dudley, or love the fact he looks like a giant stuffed animal. Axel's reaction was right in the middle. He WANTED to touch him, but there is that big tongue to consider, and that big tail that thwaps you as you walk by if he's excited.

We brought Angela to school, and Axel got to meet everyone (that's a different post, if I get to it.) When we came home we brought little Roman up. Axel really likes little Roman because he's...well...little! Roman rolled around in Axel's lap, unable to contain his own glee at having Mom home, and this BOY to pet him too! We sat on the couch with Roman, and Dudley came over and put his giant furry foot on Axel's lap. Axel leaned down and hugged Dudley's foot. LOL

It wasn't until the next day that Zurri, who had listened so intently, got to meet Axel. Zurri is our most "intense" dog. Her energy can be very intrusive as she investigates every inch of a new person if given the opportunity, and she would certainly be given that. Zurri came upstairs before Axel was awake. She sniffed every inch of Axel's coat and his shoes, surely taking note of every city and country where those items had been. She went to his closed bedroom door, shoved her nose in the crack and took in HUGE wiffs of the child sleeping inside. She laid down against his bedroom door and waited.

When Axel finally woke up, Zurrie walked into his room and crawled right up on the bed with him. She took in more huge sniffs, memorizing her new boy. He was HERS.

And it was love at first sight.

Zurri has a boy. The boy has Zurri.

First Night Home

The night before I left Belgrade, I told Dean that if we weren't too exhausted when we arrived home, I wanted to go to Perkins for french toast and SYRUP. (breakfast food is my favorite. LOL)

Well, we were pretty wound up when getting off the plane, AND starving since we hadn't eaten much of anything since 9:00 that morning and it was now 4:30 by the time we got our suitcase.

So here we were, at perkins, having our first family meal together! What a wonderful feeling that was.

Mmm Chocolate milk!

Can't forget the big sister!



Since everyone was exhausted we decided to leave the meeting of the dogs for tomorrow so Dean had them all put kenneled in the basement. There was still much barking and howling when they heard ME home though, especially Roman, my little velcro dog. LOL

Upon arriving home, the fist thing on Angela's agenda was to show Axel his room. I had brought pictures of his room on the talking photo album, and the phrase, "This is my bed" in Serbian. When he first walked into his room and saw his bed, he got a HUGE grin on his face!!! "Bed!" he signed, and climbed right on.

PURE GLEE ON HIS FACE. He crosses his arms when he's trying to contain his excitement. LOL


Then he invited Papa to lay on the bed with him

And Angela too


It was bedtime, and Axel and I were exhausted. Dean gave Axel a bath, and Angela took a shower, and we all crawled in to Mama and Papa's bed for awhile. With everyone relaxed Axel was falling asleep so it was time for his bed. He laid down and was sound asleep in minutes.

It's GREAT to have you home Axel!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Trip Home and wheelchairs

There won't be many pictures on this post, because it wasn't easy to manage Axel, two heavy backpacks AND my camera. The camera just ended up packed away in one of those backpacks. LOL But this will be a LONG post, because HELLO! It was a long trip home!!!!

I had only slept 90 minutes the night before we left. I just could not force myself to wind down. Axel loved helping me pack up all his toys, and was very excited to know where we were going THIS time. I showed him the airplane videos again, and told him that he and Mama were going in one of those things!

I woke up at 3:30 and got the last minute items packed, and did last rounds in the apartment to make sure I wasn't leaving anything behind (and all messes were picked up!) I woke Axel at 4:00. He was so funny! He kept looking at me like I was crazying for waking him when it's dark outside. As I started making his bed, he signed to me, "I bed" with a disgusted look on his face. LOL As I was getting his groggy self dressed he signed to me, "airplane", so I knew he understood what I had told him the night before. Have I mentioned how amazing this child is?

My friend Zoran picked us up at 4:30 and we arrived at the airport a little after 5:00. Zoran was such an amazing friend to us there, and it was hard to say goodbye. Except that I was going HOME, so I only cried a couple of tears. They would be the first of many tears shed along the trip home.

I had checked in and printed boarding passes online the night before, so I only needed to check my HUGE duffle bag. We had time to grab a juice at the coffee shop. THANK GOD because my blood sugar was dropping because I hadn't eaten since lunch the day before.

We visited with some Embassy staff who were also traveling. When she discovered our story she said, "Oh, I heard about this story at work yesterday."

Hmmmmm

The flight out of Belgrade was very late taking off because they had to de-ice the plane twice. We had window seats so Axel enjoyed looking out at all the things there are to see at an airport. His eyes were WIDE open, taking it all in. Unfortunately the de-icing stuff covered his window so he couldn't see out during take off and really was oblivious to what was going on. I was sad I didn't get too see his reaction, but there were more flights ahead of us! LOL

He was excellent on that 2 1/2 hour flight to Frankfurt. It helped that embassy staff person and her 11 year old son were sitting right in front of us. They were very nice, and her son made a paper airplane that Axel played with most of the flight.

We got off the plane in frankfurt at 9:25, and boarding for my next flight was due to start at 9:40. If you've been in the Frankfurt airport before, you know usually you end up having to get from one side of the very huge airport to the other. This time was no different. Honestly, I had to go from one EXTREME and of the airport to the opposite EXTREME end...in 15 minutes.

This picture is a description of Axel's speed most of the time:


A few days before coming home my friend Ellen suggested I get a wheelchair for Axel. I am so glad I listened to her. Now, instead of dragging Mr. Pokey through the crowded airport, I was instead SPRINTING with him in a wheelchair in order to make our flight! Seriously, SPRINTING! (in fact, I am SO stiff today. LOL) It was probably a total of 1 1/2 mile run. The whole time I was fighting back tears at the though of missing our flight. Twice I had to stop for directions and could barely speak because letting words out of my mouth would have opened the flood gates and I would started the "ugly cry".

I finally made it to the security check point right before me gate. I could SEE my gate, and the people boarding, and here was me, with my arm setting off the *&%$ alarm! ( I shattered my wrist a couple of years ago and have a couple plates and A LOT of screws in there now.) So now they wanted to do the EXTENSIVE pat down, (yes, THAT pat down...the one everyone dreads.) They ran the wand SLOWLY over every inch of me, and even inspected the surgical scar on my arm. Made me lift my hair so they could see under it. Checked out the under-support thingy on my bra. All the while I have tears spilling down my face, saying, "Really, do you see the people boarding that plane over there? That is MY PLANE!" They didn't move any faster. All this while Axel was sitting in the wheelchair trying to figure out how to move the wheels to get himself going a different direction. LOL

Security check done, I was trying to get my shoes back on really fast, only to turn around and see I had to produce my passports YET AGAIN, and I hadn't even gone 30 feet! Oh, and could the guy see Axel's visa paperwork too. Now when you adopt, the visa is in a SEALED envelope and that seal CANNOT be broken except by immigration in your port of entry in the U.S. (which was Chicago for us) I kind of freaked out on the guy a little bit. (I'm claiming insanity at this point) and said, "If you so much as wrinkle that envelope, I will start crying hysterically right here on the spot! Now PLEASE hurry, my plane is BOARDING!"

"No it's not, you have 10 minutes before your flight boards."

"Umm, I can see my flight boarding from here, and I don't have time to sit here and argue with you."

He turned around to see the gate I was talking about, and turn to write something on my boarding pass. "You flight has moved. That is gate C14, your flight is at C15. They're not quite ready to board yet."

Seriously? I just trained for the Boston Marathon within the airport, cried at nearly every stop along the way, and they're not boarding yet?????? As soon as I got through that last check point, I forced myself to stop and take giant cleansing breaths. I was wearing a wool sweater and my down coat, and had just run forever, so was dripping wet. I stood there and let my tears fall for a second, then gathered my wits to move on with the rest of my trip. Apparently traveling when overtired is not a good thing.

We boarded the plane with the first passengers who needed more time. We had seats in the middle of the middle row by the bulkhead. In walked a woman from India with a TINY baby (not yet holding up his head) He was SCREAMING, and she was struggling with her HUGE backpack thing (too big for carry on!) I was talking to Axel when all of a sudden she hands me her baby! Ummm...ok! He was beautiful, and in the 5 minutes she wrestled with her bags and getting situated I was able to put him to sleep. :-) Axel LOVED that baby. He was so soft and gentle with him.

Axel hadn't got to the bathroom in quite some time, so I took him before take off. Umm...yeah. Axel doesn't DO airplane bathrooms. I had to FORCE him into that tiny space, which, with two of us in there made wrestling him to get his pants down quite interesting. It didn't help that he was petrified, and clinging to me like a spider monkey. Have you ever wrestled clothes off a spider monkey? I HAVE NOW!!! Thankfully he went. Switching places so that I could go was just plain clown-car competition. (I only had to take him once more on that flight, which he was NOT happy about AT ALL!)

There was much arguing about seats in the row behind us, and one of the men ended up sitting in the empty seat to my right. As soon as he sat down he started complaining about EVERYTHING around us. This was NOT his seat. (but it was a better seat!) and he wanted the seat that he had chosen 4 months ago because he paid for it. (the woman who got his seat had sat there by mistake but she had trouble walking (umm not) and refused to move. It was all entertaining until the complainer guy was sitting next to me. Wow, 8 hours with this guy who smells like he bathed in annis...ugh! We were just getting ready to settle down for take off when a flight attendant asked if I would be willing to change seats with a woman who had two small children. They were better ISLE seats at the forward bulkhead, and Axel would be able to see the TV better. Absolutely, I said. Mr. Complainer guy was now going to get THREE small children sitting next to him. HA! I could hear those babies screaming off and on for the entire flight!

Axel was mostly great on this flight. Considering this was all so new to him, really he was amazing. About 2 hours in, we had just eaten our in-flight meal, and he was sitting quietly playing with something and jabbering to himself. All of a sudden he went into PANIC mode. He started crying, and clawing at his seatbelt, and was just very panicky. It occurred to me he might be getting sick!!! They guy sitting next to me was a father of 6. "I think he's going to get sick." He said, (and he didn't even have that look of "crap, and I'm sitting next to them." look.) He helped me scramble and search the pouches in front of us for an airsick bag but there were none. A flight attendant walked past and I grabbed her, and she searched a nearby pocket and produced 3 bags. Axel did not get sick, and I never did figure out what thats sudden panic was about. Other than that there were a few moments of testing here and there, but nothing that was overwhelming at all.

When we were coming down in Chicago it occurred to me that touching ground there was quite significant to Axel's life story. My tears started to flow, and I was having a hard time controlling them. They guy next to me knew our story and understood (though I'm sure he was thinking Lovely, I have a hysterical woman here.) A flight attendant noticed me and asked if everything was ok. "Yes" I squeaked, "It's just that I just adopted him and now we're going to touch down and he's going to be a US citizen FINALLY!" and followed by rushing tears. She turned stood up and announced to those around us, "We have a new US citizen with us! Axel has found his forever family is will be a citizen when we touch down!"

SOBBING. I was SOBBING here.

When we got off the plane, the wheelchair was waiting for us. So was an ESCORT!!! This was our ticket to a stress free airport experience. I didn't have to think AT ALL going through the O'Hare airport. This guy brought us through every single step AND we bypassed ALL lines. (and they were Long!) We got to passport control, and the officer asked how our adoption experience was in Serbia, etc. He was very nice. Then when he was done he said, "Congratulations on your new son."

Tears started running down my face yet again as I followed my guide.

We went to baggage claim, then to Immigration. They opened that envelope I'd been guarding with my life, and handed Axel's passport back to me. "Don't I get the other documents?" I asked. "No, just the passport." umm...hmm...ok. (this would prove to be a problem the next day.) "Congratulations on completing your adoption. Your son is now a US citizen."

Tears. Many more tears here, but no time to cry, I must follow my guide.

We had to put my bags through an xray thing again, but it was not a security point. I was confused, but exhausted and no longer cared. My guide said to it so I did.

He got us on the train, and to the other side of the airport where we found our gate with an hour to until boarding time. Axel and I found a restroom, then got a juice for him and a coke for me. Then we turned on my cell phone to call Papa and let him know we were safely on US soil. As soon as Dean and answered the phone I put it to Axel's ear, so the first voice Dean heard was Axel's.

I'm pretty sure I could hear tears falling on the other end of the line.

The last flight from Chicago to Minneapolis is a short one, only 59 minutes, but we had a strong tail wind so it was only 50 minutes. :-) Axel was great until the last 15 minutes. That's when my tired boy, who had been up for 24 hours, hit the psychological and emotional wall. He was DONE with these planes, and he made sure everyone knew it! But this was not with tears, but with hysterical, MANIC laughter and a body he could not in any way control. He kicked, he pulled hair, he shredded paper, he spit...all while laughing hysterically. At one point he was laughing so hard he crossed his arms to try containing HIMSELF, unable to even breath he was laughing so hard. Praise God we were seconds from the wheels touching down. He could NOT get off that plane fast enough. There was a wheelchair waiting for us, but I said no thanks. At this point, Axel needed to be able to MOVE!

And then we saw Papa and Angela.....




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bringing Axel Home

With both Angela and Axel tucked in for the night, and Mama showered and ready for bed, I got permission to post the highly requested video! Axel has talked to Dean and Angela a couple times every day on Skype. Check out his face when he realizes they're REAL and don't just live in Mama's computer. And then he leaned in and gave papa a kiss. Oh, how he brought tears to his papa's eyes.

Now, I am off to bed, and tomorrow during some down time (Will I have that anymore? LOL) I'll post details about the trip home.

For now, ENJOY!

Dean and Angela, waiting.....(I'm pretty sure I gave instructions to make sure Angela's hair looked decent at the airport. But...whatever.)


Angela waiting with flowers for mom. She was SO excited for us to be coming home!


Ok, here comes the people from their flight! Do you see them? Do you see them YET??


Here they come!!!!!

Our first family picture. We couldn't be happier!


Axel taking pictures of Uncle Dan with the ever present toy phone. He's had that thing for two years, and is never out of his reach! He uses it to talk to HIS pretend people! Yes, we just added to the invisible party around here.



We are HOME!

We are HOME!!! I have been awake for nearly 48 hours thanks to my inability to sleep the night before we left. Axel was awake for 24 hours straight.

We stopped and had dinner on the way home, then introduced Axel to his new room. He was SO excited to see the bed he'd seen in the talking photo album I brought to him at the foster home. It was adorable.

He has now had a bath, and we had a family cuddle on Mama and Papa's bed. Axel is now tucked into his bed and was sound asleep in about 10 minutes.

That's all I'm allowed to post for tonight. It's a "no computer" night! Goodnight everyone. Pictures and video tomorrow, I promise!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interview With Papa

While we were still in Kragujevak, on about day 3 with Axel, he interviewed Papa on Skype! Have I ever mentioned what an amazing thing Skype is? We have been able to talk to Dean and Angela 2-3 times per day, and I can even call Dean's cell phone. I was able to call and take care of a banking issue, and several other phone calls as well. I cannot WAIT to see how Axel reacts to seeing these people called Papa and Angela in real life!