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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Now that we're home

Now that we're home, and I've finally got this blog caught up to GETTING home, and since Asher's transition home really involves the entire rest of the family, I'm going to be carrying on over on my family blog "Garden of Eagan". Who knows, maybe sometime down the road this blog will get woken up again. Just never know what God has planned, and I never say never.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Homecoming

*Disclaimers*
#1 Dean is still learning to work his camera
#2 Check back in a bit and the video should be rotated so you can watch it.
#3 Our flight was delayed a couple of times and Dean wasn't exactly sure when we were coming in. He was a little late getting to the airport and barely made it to the magic doors in time.
#4 Dean had to be videographer while also trying to meet his son for the first time.
#5 I was tired and possibly a little crabby.
#6 I was also hungry.
#7 Dean forgot you can't try to record AND interact with everyone at the same time, and that the back of someone's head is not very interesting.
#8 I debated not posting this video.
#9 I am not responsible for Angela's hair.

Biological Warfare by Air

So we arrive in Frankfurt. First task is to get off the plane. Remember, it's me with a large (read very heavy)  backpack on my back, carrying Asher on my hip and a diaper bag-type thing in my other hand. (cost me $7 at the cheap Chinese store in Belgrade) We have to go down the airplane steps again, only they are VERY steep, and it's raining so it's slippery. I get about 1/2 way down the steps and we are somehow stuck. I figure its the diaper bag caught on something so I'm kind of pulling. Maybe a little bit hard. Finally the guy behind me grabs my shirt (no jacket, since I left it in my car at home!!) and pulls me backward UP the steps. He's saying something in Serbian, and I look down to see we're "stuck" because Asher's foot has caught in the railing! Here I was gonna yank it off! Poor kid! (later I found a perfect impression of a bolt in his ankle. Poor baby never made a sound because he's learned it doesn't help to cry in pain. Nobody will respond to it.)

One of my fears about the trip home was how we were going to make it through the airports without a stroller. (If you're traveling to bring home a small child, bring a cheap umbrella stroller with you! The are over $200 in Serbia!!!!) The Frankfurt airport is MASSIVE, and the Belgrade flights come in at one end of the airport, then you have to get to the far opposite end to catch the transatlantic flights. Every single time I've come through the Frankfurt airport, I have barely enough time to get through security (again) and all the way to the other end. With Axel I had arranged for a wheelchair and I literally RAN through the airport, barely making our flight. I was really worried how this was going to go with Asher.

Well, God was watching over us. Not only did we arrive on time, but we had 90 whole minutes to get through the process and make our connecting flight. THANK YOU GOD!

We were strolling along, Asher enjoying walking with me (he LOVES to hold hands!) and I was looking at the signs for the "Z" terminal. (We were currently in the "A" terminal. See what I mean about the other end of the airport?) I was checking out the signs for the train when an escort person, complete with walkie talkie, came by with an elderly couple. "Are you going to Z?" she asked? "Follow me." So we joined their little parade, which was great since the older couple walked about the same speed as Asher. LOL We rode the train with them, then down an elevator, then...glory to God...she guided us PAST the 100 people standing in line for passport control, and then PAST the 200+ people standing in line for security! Can I just say, God is SO GOOD! Once we got past all the people staring at us as we bypassed their misery, our escort pointed the direction we needed to go from there. We made it to our gate with 1/2 hr to spare!

On this flight I've always flown on one of these giant airbus things

Now, these are HUGE planes (with an upper deck seating area as well. I've always wanted to take a look up there.) so they don't usually have them pulled up to the jetway. Instead you get on a bus and drive MILES  out to it. (I swear its miles, it's like a 10 minute drive!) When we in the terminal were waiting for the bus there was a family with two little boys around ages 5 and 2. The two year old was s.c.r.e.a.m.i.n.g during the entire wait. As I looked around at all the other people, I could just see  everyone's thinking bubble above their head saying, "Please don't be sitting by me on the plane!" I felt horrible for them. The family I mean. I know that stress of having "that kid" with you!

So we get on the bus, and the family with the screaming 2 year old is in the seat next to us. 1/2 way through the drive to the plane, their 5 year old starts throwing up. Oh how lovely. I happened to have packed extra plastic bags in my carry on, so I handed the dad a couple of those along with a big wad of wipes. You know how that puke smell gets on buses...ugh....

As we're boarding the plane there is an elderly woman on the steps just up ahead of me. She is dragging with her a purse and a very heavy-looking carry on. The stairs are steep and she is huffing and puffing up them. I looked up at her and realize she's also sweating profusely. Oh lady, please don't have a heart attack right here! I'm carrying my two carryons, plus Asher on my hip, leaving one hand free for the handrail to lug us up. Behind me is another woman carrying a small baby, then the family with the puking 5 year old. I really didn't want to fall on any of them! I'm about to die but we're only 1/2 way up the steps. I couldn't stand it any longer. "Are you ok?" I asked? Between breaths she huffed "I don't think I can make it up these steps." I grabbed her dangling bags, "I got these, you just keep going." I tried to catch the eyes of the flight attendants at the top but nobody was noticing the dilemma....sigh....By the time we got to the top I was sweating as bad as the woman I was trying to help.

Are you tired yet? Because I was wiped at this point, and there were still 13-16 hours of travel time ahead of us.

Finally we get to our seats. Bummer! This plane doesn't have individual t.v. screens on the seats.  It was gonna be a long flight. I prayed, "Please Lord, let this be a smooth flight!" I knew the flight wasn't full so there was a chance we'd be able to move to different seats. Our current seats were fine, being isle seats, but we were a long way from the bathroom and I was worried about those blowouts.

Here's Asher right after we got seated. He was having F.U.N! Notice the seats next to him are empty? Yeah, that didn't last long. LOL Two BIG guys sat next to him.

While we were waiting for the rest of the people to board, Asher and I both fell asleep, Asher curled up in a little ball in his seat. I was very vaguely aware that we'd taken off. All of a sudden a flight attendant tapped me, "Sorry to wake you, but there are seats open way in the back and there is only one person in the row. It's right next to the bathroom and much more room if you'd like to move." I don't think he'd even finished talking before I was up grabbing our stuff!

The family with the puking 5 year old and screaming 2 year old were now sitting right in front of us. I think this row had emptied out because the other people who HAD been here found new seats away from the 2 year old! LOL

The new seats were AWESOME! They were the very last row, where there is room to stand and yes, the bathrooms are right there. By the time we got to our seats, the flight attendants were getting ready to serve the first meal. These new seats meant we first to be served. SCORE! However, I dreaded feeding Asher because I knew within a certain period of time - usually 30-45 minutes - there would be another blow out. I had brought two meals-worth of baby food, plus a bottle. I fed him quick before my food arrived.

There was an empty seat between Asher and the other guy so Asher was able to stretch out. Not long after we ate he fell asleep again. And he did sleep... for about 90 minutes of the 8 1/2 hour flight.... with his legs hanging over the arm rest. LOL

I had been asleep for about an hour when I got a wiff of something. "Please God, let it be the 2 year old." No such luck. It was Asher. I peeked down his diaper, and while I couldn't see anything, I could certainly smell it!

Now, my friend Abby had made a suggestion. She said pack plastic bags, each with a full change of clothes (including socks!) wipes, etc. so if there is a problem I could just grab a whole bag instead of having to dig for stuff. Abby is so smart. ;-)

We got to the bathroom and I was SO GLAD I followed Abby's advice! Asher's pants were FULL. Not just his diaper, but his pants. THANK GOD AGAIN these planes have a changing table space. Although it's quite cramped, and not really meant to fit a 3-4 year old, it was better than trying to change this mess standing up in an even smaller airplane bathroom! Asher was a bit scared that first time, but he did ok.

Asher is a pretty good traveler as long as he has something to dangle. I had packed a few special dangly toys I knew he'd like, so when we got back to our seats I gave him one of those and dozed off for awhile.

I dozed off and on for a couple hours when that smell reached me again. Please no! I lifted the back of Asher's shirt a little so I could check him....omg....OMG. This was an up the back type of disaster. Oh please don't let it be on the seat!

I quick grabbed another bag of supplies and we headed to the bathroom. UGH! I hardly knew where to start. I stood him up on the changing table, which means his back....which was covered with poop... was against the panel where the paper towels and stuff are. Poop smeared from his back all over the panel. OMG I whipped off his shirt, knowing there no way to avoid getting the mess in his hair. Then I sat him down so I could scrub the wall panel.

Once that was clean I removed his pants and found it was all down his legs as well, EVEN HIS SOCKS  With him on the table, pants off, there was poop everywhere. Wait...almost everywhere. Asher has been nicely trained by orphanage staff to put his feet all the way up over his head (imagine folded in half laying on his back.) Now think about this for a second, and think about the anatomy and where all orifices would be in this position. It was at this time that Asher made it known his stomach had not yet settled.

There was now poop on the CEILING of the bathroom.

No, really.

I know, right?

Let me just say, that bathroom was....I hope...cleaner when we left it than it was when we got in it. Let me also say, after the way we messed up that bathroom, I never want to enter an airplane bathroom again because now I know what happens in there! I bet you don't want to either. ;-)

Asher had one more blow out about 1/2 hour before we landed in Chicago, but it wasn't quite as bad. Evenso, he went through all the spare outfits I'd brought along, except for ONE shirt.

We did miss our connecting flight in Chicago, but we were able to get on another and after a couple hour delay we were FINALLY on our way home!!! That last flight is only an hour. Asher had hit the proverbial wall by this point and was acting all the crazy boy while we waited. When we got on the plane he fell asleep instantly and stayed sleeping until we landed in Minneapolis. It's a good thing too, because I had one clean shirt left and I changed him into it while we were taxiing to our gate.

Next up: Homecoming!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We really ARE home

I know it seems like we've fallen off the planet, but we really ARE here. It's just very busy. There is lots to catch up on from my being gone for several weeks.

In addition to that, there is Asher. I don't have to chase him around at all, mostly because he's busy chasing ME around. I am never out of his sight. He is investigating EVERYTHING as long as it's within arms reach of me. Every kitchen cabinet, the fridge, the dog dish, the washer, the dryer (fascinating form of entertainment with it's glass door!) just everything.

And then there is playing. I have to teach him how to play. That there is more to this life than dangling whatever object he can find that fits his secret dangling criteria. Yesterday he spent 30 minutes playing with the broom, which was heaven because I got to sit and eat.

And there is eating. Someone has to teach him to eat. And he eats a lot, all day long. He will eat until we stop putting food in front of him.

And there is the poop clean up. I got lucky and caught one on the toilet yesterday so I think I only cleaned up 5  of 6 up the back and down the leg blowouts. But I didn't save the bed. No when he got up at 6 yesterday it was only because he was uncomfortable, and when I switched on the light I found that his entire bed and the wall next to it were covered because there was no way his diaper could contain ALL THAT!

So we're here, really we are. Please be patient as we find our groove. It's 6:00 a.m. now. Took me 10 minutes to write this and now I need to go get everyone up for school. It's probably the last time today I'll make it to the computer. I'm Jones'in man!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Planes, planes and...blowouts

I have a problem when I'm coming home from Serbia. I would would call it a habit now that I've been there four times in 19 months and the same thing happens every time.

First of all, it takes me 10-14 days to get on Serbia time. They're 7 hours ahead of us so I tend to be up at 2:00 in the morning which is 7:00 pm at home so I can visit with Dean and the kids on Skype.

About the time I get my inner clock figured out, it's time to come home.

I usually take the 6:00 a.m. flight out because it gets me home mid afternoon, so by the time we get home from the airport and wind down a little bit, it's time for a full-night sleep.

The only problem is, I can NEVER sleep the night before we fly home! Ugh, this is so frustrating because I know I need to sleep and it's going to be a very long trip, but my mind just won't shut down. This trip was no different. I finally forced myself to bed around 12:30 a.m. and needed to wake up at 3:00 a.m. I woke up Asher at 3:30 so I could give him a big breakfast and allow time for the..umm..fallout that would result.

I spent the four days from when I busted Asher out of the orphanage until we went home trying to constipate him. He has some pretty nasty GI stuff going on (oh, how I cannot wait to get those stool samples tested!) and I just knew there were going to be problems on the trip home. We went through a fair amount of bananas and rice cereal last week! LOL

So I woke up Asher at 3:30 a.m. and gave him some cereal w/bananas and a bottle (as in baby bottle) of water, then finished zipping up all the suitcases, stripping the bed, etc. 10 minutes before our ride arrived the blowouts began. Asher went through three diapers in those 10 minutes. THREE DIAPERS!!!! I prayed that was all the poop he had in him, and since he ALWAYS has a blowout within 30-45 minutes after eating, I wondered if it was possible to make the entire trip without feeding him? I was half serious.

I got the last of our bags down to the front door just as my friend Zoran arrived.

My other worry about the trip was the fact I did not have a stroller and Asher is a brand new walker with legs the size of a 2 year old. (actually, he wears a size 3t perfectly!) Since the Belgrade airport is very small it would be a good indicator what the rest of the trip would be like! We got all the bags loaded on one of those cart thingies, and I was able to push it with one hand while holding Asher's hand with the other. Thankfully Asher LOVES holding a hand (demands it, actually) so this part was pretty easy. He stood nicely while I got the bags checked in, and he LOVED walking through the airport as we went to our gate. So far so good!

Have I mentioned the Serbia airport is very small? They don't have jetways to the planes, instead you have to walk down 22 flights 4 flights of stairs, then outside on the tarmac to where the plane is sitting. It's December. Picture us:  I'm wearing my backpack and carrying Asher in one arm and the diaper bag. Pretty sure each of them weighed about the same! I tried to carry as few things as possible with me, but they were all heavy things like my laptop, the iPad, "the red book" (adoption documents) then the diaper bag was all Asher necessities. It was all heavy. So we're walking to the plane, and you have to walk up the steps...the very steep steps...into the plane. We get seated and Asher was pretty curious about everything around us. He was happy the entire 1 hr 45 minute flight as long as he had the tail of his seat belt to play with. We made the flight without incident.

Coming soon, the flight from hell transatlantic flight.

Breakfast

Asher is used to eating breakfast around 6:30-7:00 a.m, which is around midnight our time. Thankfully he slept until almost lunch time...or 3:30 a.m.! YAY US! Another week and maybe he'll sleep until 6:00. (Oh, but he woke me up with a present of the closest thing he's had to a solid poop since I got him!)

The day I met him he was weighed and was 14 kg, or 30.8 lbs. I've had custody of him for almost a week. this morning I weighed him and he was 33.2 lbs.

Anyway, I am working on more blog posts, but have been either closely followed by ahem..."someone" (no chasing him, only him chasing me. LOL) and trying to get my/our sleep schedule figured out!

Coming soon: Coming home, blowouts and feeding.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We are HOME!!!!!

After a couple delays coming from Chicago, we finally made it home at 6:45 last night ( or 1:00 a.m. Serbia time, so Asher and I had been up for 22 hours.) Asher slept a total of 2.5 hours of the trip home. Behaviorally he was fantastic, but I do have an entirely separate blog post about diaper blow outs! Really they deserve their own post, it was THAT BAD! But God was good, and made sure I only had to deal with those and not the screaming 2 year old who sat in front of us on the transatlantic flight, NOR his 5 year old brother who puked most of the way.

So...here we are...home. Asher woke up at 4:45 this morning, lunch time according to his internal clock. It's now 7:30 a.m. and I'm going to see if he's ready for an afternoon nap. LOL

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The List

So here is the list of specialists Asher needs to see. These are known issues, not things that have yet to be discovered, and you know we will discover more along the way, right? LOL Just like giving birth to a baby with DS, you just don't know until they get here what their needs will be. So, in order of urgency:

Radiology - AAI screening, only urgent because Axel is going back to Philly so we'll get Asher's screening done to make sure he doesn't need to go along!

Urology - no details for you blog readers. ;-)

Pulmonolgy - diagnosed with tracheolaryngealmalacia, needs a bronchoscopy done. Has a pretty good stridor going on!

Gastroenterology - was born with megacolon and had a colonoscopy w/biopsy to rule out hirschsprungs, but they only did ONE biopsy, not several along the enlarged area like they should have. Is symptomatic of short-segment HD.

Feeding Clinic - not only does Asher not chew, but he no longer has the reflex to chew. Food is just mashed against his very high palate where it gets stuck. Fun times!

ENT - needs tonsils and adenoids removed (they're HUGE and he snores like CRAZY!) and ear tubs inserted

Opthalmology - Strabismus and nystagumus -needs glasses for sure, possibly surgery on one eye if glasses can't correct the problem.

Cardiology - follow up on the PFO he was born with. It should be closed but we'll just make sure!

January and February are going to be very busy months, huh? The good thing is Angela and Axel are in school so I can get these appointments done while they're gone. Radiology, Urology and Pulmonology are the only ones that are urgent, the rest, while they need to get done, are things we can take our time with.

Gods

Is there a separate poop god, or a diaper blowout god? If there is, I need to speak with him or her. See, in less than 24 hours Asher and I will be getting on a plane. One of those flights will be 8 hours long, only he has not gone longer than 4 hours without a major, up the back and down the legs diaper blow out since I got him.

I think that getting the newly adopted child home is the most difficult part of the entire process. It is absolutely 100% unpredictable. There is no way to know how the child is going to handle being confined on a plane for many hours at a time. Now way to know if he or she is going to get air sick. (please god NO!) Are they going to spend 8 hours kicking the seat in front of them? Or screaming? Will their ears hurt on the 45 minute decent...on all three flights?

Axel was amazing when we flew home. Except the last flight from Chicago to Minneapolis which, thankfully, is only an hour and 10 minutes long. He'd "hit the wall" of airline travel by that point, and went stark raving mad. Laughing his manic laugh as he grabbed the skirts of fight attendants every time they walked by, shredded magazines and pulled my hair multiple times. All while he laughed so hard he couldn't breath. Thankfully it was only the last hour! When we landed and got off the jetway, I politely turned down the wheelchair in favor of letting Axel make the long walk to meet his family in order to burn off the fire steam that had built up inside him for the past 30 hours.

Flying home with Asher is going to be very different. First of all, I have a 7 year old who doesn't eat solid food. Are they gonna allow me to bring jars of baby food on the plane? They better! What about a bottle of formula? (thats an entirely different post, by the way.) And then there is the whole getting around business! Did you know buying a basic umbrella stroller in Serbia will run you around $150? No really. So I thought about playing the disability card getting a wheelchair escort. It worked great with Axel when we had to run from one end of the Frankfurt airport to the other in 5 minutes (and I got lost because some worker guys told me a "shortcut" through some tunnel I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be in but not once did anyone ask me what I was doing there! Or maybe they did but they were speaking German and I was just some crazy American running by with a kid in a a wheelchair and they probably didn't want to mess with me anyway.)

So, I'm scared to death about flying home with Asher. I'm going to check everything except my carry-on backpack which will be loaded down with computer, iPad, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, baby food and one dangly toy. And plastic bags. Lots of plastic bags.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Love this boy!

God is SO GOOD

Today we were able to get everything completed and ON TIME! WOOT WOOT!!!! We pick up the visa tomorrow afternoon, and...and...GET ON A PLANE ON FRIDAY!!!!!!

While you're starting your day

When some of you are just starting your day, I will be running around praying that God's timing is the same as mine! Here's what's on the list for today. Each task must be completed in sequential order and ON TIME:

1) Pick up translated documents. (needed for the Visa)
2)  Pick up Passport (needed for the medical AND Visa)
3) Go to medical appointment, (needed for the Visa) only we're going to show up early so we can make the visa appointment at 2:30!
4) Go to Embassy to apply for Visa.

If we don't make the Visa appointment today, there will be no getting on a plane for us on Friday, AND it will cost nearly $500 to change the flights. Glad I planned for an extra day in case of delay in the process, which there was! The birth city did not deliver the passport yesterday like they said would happen.

Asher's first time sleeping away from the orphanage.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gotcha Day

Ivanna (pronounced Eevanah) the orphanage social worker. Asher is blurry because he wasn't really interested in posing. 


Ok, he'll hold still for this one. Ivanna was trying hard not to cry at this point. Just off camera are caregivers in tears. After this, Ivanna handed me a bag. There is one caregiver who has cared for Asher since the day he was born, and often takes him to the grocery store and other places with her. She said the bag was something for Asher from his caregiver, who did NOT come to work today because she could not stand to see Asher leave. Later when I opened the bag, I found a size 8 brand new outfit. Size 8...something he will wear next year. And brand new outfit; something I know was not easy for her to do.

Seven years ago, his guardian walked through these doors with a tiny baby. One of the least of these. I know a lot about his birth parents, and I know they were doing the only thing they could. The story is for Asher, and not one I'll share here, but I can tell you Asher WAS loved, and in fact his birth family was just here to visit him knowing that he would be leaving. I cannot imagine how difficult that was for them.

Driving to Kragujevac. American's get a little freaked out about the lack of carseats here. Even when a family does have a carseat, it isn't used anywhere near the way it's supposed to be. LOL Here's Asher, sitting on my lap facing me to watch out the window.

Signing the adoption decree!!!

The actual ceremony. I'm going to tell you what was said, not to pat ourselves on the back, but so you can see how these adoptions touch everyone. (and I look horrible in the pictures because I'm crying!)

This was toward the end of the ceremony, when we all stood up for the formal part. Susanna the psychologist was talking, saying just three months ago they received Axel's update and were so thrilled to see how wonderful he's doing and the opportunities he has. To see that he has the medical care nobody even knew he needed (I included pictures of Axel in the halo and explained what had happened.) Then when they received our request for Asher they were so excited to know the family he would be going to, and to be able to tell the birth family just what kind of life Asher would have. They thanked me for coming back to Kragujevac to give a family to one of their children.
 Then she said something funny: In our paperwork for Axel and again for Asher I explained how many times adoption has touched my immediate family, and that my sister had 9 children, four of them adopted. They wondered how much more space WE have in OUR house, and if they will get to see us again next year. LOL

The head minister did not participate in our ceremony with Axel because he was out of town, but he lead this ceremony and was very glad to be part of it.

This is Susanna, talking about how our family has taught them all a lot about love and acceptance, and that by seeing the updates on Axel they have a new understanding of the importance of family for these children, and the progress that can be made when a child is raised in a loving environment. They hope all their children can be so lucky to find their way to a family like ours.


Certificate of Serbian citizenship, and his new birth certificate listing him as Lazar SPRING, with me as his mother!

"Uncle Zoran". Zoran is a COCI staff member who is nothing less than a Godsend to adoptive parents! He is translator, driver, and playmate for the children when you need your hands free. You will get more Serbian history from Zoran than you will anywhere else.
 After a VERY long day we drove home in Zoran's car...in a CAR SEAT! (with a lap belt. LOL) But Asher was comfortable and fell asleep holding my iPhone to his ear.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BLOG IS OPEN

Ok, the blog is open again! I went back and uploaded all the pictures and videos that I've been waiting to post! Go back and read the posts you've already read. Many of them have pictures and videos added. ENJOY!

The last time...

Lunchtime, and he doesn't really want to play with me. I could hear his stomach growling from where I sat. All he wanted to do was wait at the door for someone to say it was time to eat.
All I could do was wish he could understand that today is the last time he will wait at this door to eat.
This is the last time he will sit at a table with several other children as they all eat as fast as they possibly can.
This is the last time he will eat pure mush.
Tonight is the last time he will sleep in a room with 10 other children.
Tonight is the last time he will go to bed an orphan.
This is the last time .......

Sideways

When Asher wants to see what I have, (probably because it's flashing lights or making a cool sound) but doesn't want to admit he's looking, he looks out of the corner of his eye. I'm catching him doing this more and more often just to look at ME and not what I have. I finally caught it on camera.

Just pictures

Loving the swing

Our visits just get more and more fun as Asher comes out of his shell.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Development

I've been digging around online, looking at development checklists. I had a pretty good idea where Asher was at with things, but...I always like to see if I'm right. LOL

Gross Motor: Asher is able to walk on flat surfaces, but he tends to walk with both or one arm up in the air for balance. The faster he moves, the higher his arms go. LOL He is not yet able to run, but don't tell HIM that! He laughs hysterically at how fast he's going. LOL He is able to kick a ball if I hold his hand, sometimes actually winding up with his leg, and other times just kind of walking into it. He "gets" what he's supposed to do but does not yet have the balance to do it. He walks up and down steps holding the railing with one hand and an adults hand with the other. I think he's capable of walking up by himself but haven't tried it yet since all the steps here are cement. He's not ready to go down independently yet, and the tone in his ankles is REALLY LOW so his feet kinda of turn all over the place when he steps down. So all of these things put him in a gross motor range of 12-18 months, with a couple things splintering into the 24 month range. (climbing up a slide, etc.)

Fine Motor: Asher's fine motor skills are kind of all over the place. He does not yet have a pincer grasp and still rakes small objects off the table. When I thread a large bead on a stiff shoestring for him, he grabs the end with his thumb against the side of his finger, with the rest of his hand fisted. He is able to use a spoon, though I am going to make him stop and re-teach him how to do it. (we need to re-teach a LOT of things!) I have seen  him use his index finger for things, but not for what I'd like to see him doing. ;-) These skills I think put his fine motor abilities in the 7 - 12 mo range, though the ability to use a spoon splinters into the 24 month range.

Speech/Language skills: Ok, this should really just be "language skills" because he has NO speech. None. Zero. Zilch. But, I think he has the potential for developing speech. I have also seen him following simple directions from his caregivers so I know he's capable of this. All of this puts his speech somewhere in the 7-12 month range. The following of simple directions is closer to 18-24 months.

Since his ENTIRE body is significantly behind even other children his age with DS, I think we're going to see a lot of catch-up in this area. Why? Because of the things I'm seeing him do with me today that he was not able to do when I met him nearly 2 weeks ago.  For example, the other day I said it was time to put the dangly toy back in the backpack. Although I'm speaking to him in English, I'm also doing lots of gesturing to indicate what's going on. As he was (willingly) putting the toy in the bag he was babbling "bababababa". That's the first time he's EVER made sounds for me other than growling/screaming when I take something away. Today I spent most of the time saying, "mamamamamamama" to see if I could get lip closure at all. By the end of my visit he was trying so very hard to imitate me but (and Dean will be thrilled) he said something closer to "dadadadada" which of course is usually first developmentally anyway. LOL My point is, he was TRYING to imitate, even if he wouldn't look my direction when he was doing it.

Now when we're playing he's seeking out eye contact with me. He doesn't hold it very long, but he's initiating it, and it's heavenly. When he gets my eyes, he always gives me a HUGE grin before turning away kind of bashful like. LOL

He is LAUGHING! Oh how he laughs! Dean and the kids have gotten to see videos of him and you can't help but laugh right along with him. I can't wait until Monday when I'm going to go back and add in pictures and videos to all these posts so you can see how he's changed already. Things like, the very first pictures and videos his tongue is ALWAYS out. Now I would say it's in about half the time, and if it's out I can prompt him and he'll put it in then laugh at like like he just pulled one over on me. I can see this one might turn into a fun behavioral thing for a bit. LOL

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flights are booked!

Monday will be "Day 1" in the schedule! Oh, I can hardly wait!

The day will begin bright and early with a meeting at the orphanage, then all of us pack into cars (yes, that's multiple) And we...including Lazar...will all drive to his birth city for the rest of the day's festivities.

Now, I just need to get through the weekend!

Flights are booked for Friday, and since we're gaining time coming home, we will also arrive on Friday! If you want to meet us at the airport please contact me or Dean privately for the details.

Running with Asher! Look how much he's come out of his shell not to mention his tongue is in his mouth most of the time! He even closes his mouth to swallow A LOT now!

WE HAVE A SIGNATURE

WOOT WOOT We have a signature. There is just one more short step before Asher is legally mine, and that is the adoption ceremony which will take place in his birth city of Kragujevac. Please pray with me this is on MONDAY! If it's on Monday we can be on a plane Friday!

But don't think that between Monday and Friday we'll just be sitting around! No, this next phase is commonly referred to as "the paper chase"! I'll break it down by day. Here's how it goes:

Day 1) pick up Asher at orphanage and drive 139 km (86 miles) to Kragujevac. There the last of the paperwork is completed, including the adoption decree which must be signed by me. Once all the documents are gone over, it's time for the formal ceremony which (which is really just in a big conference room, and everyone stands around to watch since this is only their 4th adoption from that city!) When the ceremony is done we RACE down the street to the police station where we apply for his passport, get a copy of his birth certificate, and a certificate of citizenship. Drive back to Belgrade.

Day 2) Pick up passport which has miraculously made its way to Belgrade all by itself. Have medical check up, then first visa appointment.

Day 3) pick up visa

Day 4) PACKING Technically I could be getting on a plane this day, but it's awfully tight and leaves no room for error. There are often errors!

Day 5) ON THE PLANE!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Talk

Soon, very soon, Asher and I will be coming home. With our arrival comes the excitement of showing him off to new family and friends. I hope to see some of you at the airport, as I'll be ready for some familiar faces!!!!!!

If you've met Axel you know that like most orphans he was indiscriminate with affection when he came home. This from a child who'd spent two years in a family already. Axel has been home an entire year now, and just in the last 2 months we've noticed there's been a change in him. When we're out in public, like the grocery store or Dean's bowling nights, Axel is less likely to talk to just anyone.  In fact, he hardly says anything at all. But if there are extended family members there, he definitely shows a preference for them over total strangers!

I think there are few factors at play. First of all, we spent the first 6-8 months not allowing him to hug anyone who didn't live in our house. Not grandparents, not aunts or uncles, nobody. He had to learn that you don't hug just anyone who walks in the door. After all, how was he supposed to know the difference from Grandpa or the guy coming to fix the fridge? (No offense Verlie!) Some of his new reservation about talking to people in public is that he's always told not to. That's ok! The last factor coming to play is that I think he's figured out most people can't understand him, and that Dean, me and his teachers are the only ones in his life who sign. I know he's learned the difference between those who cannot hear him (He will make sure he's in his teacher's line of sight before talking to her) and those who hear just fine. (will call to us from another the room, etc.) Whatever the reason, Axel has gotten it figured out.

And then there is Asher.  He has never been in a HOUSE, much less in a family. In his world, 20 people come in and out of his group room every day, all of them saying hello, and every one of them picking him up to hug when he goes to them. It's only natural since he's so cute and cuddly. (and he is!) Every day one of 10 different people could bring the food to his room. As a matter of fact, he has NEVER seen a kitchen or a refrigerator/cabinets full of food. This will be an issue for a little boy who's spent most of his life hungry.

So, as strict as we were with Axel, we are going to be even MORE strict with Asher. We welcome family members to come and visit after we've been home a few days, but there will be rules to follow. I know you all understand how beneficial this was to Axel.

Right now Asher understands that I am called "Mama", but he has no idea what that means. "Mama" is someone who shows up at his door a couple times a day and plays fun games with him. That what "Mama" means in his world.

Hugs/holding: Asher is adorable. He's super cuddly (too much so, if that's possible! It's how he gets out of doing anything.) Nobody but Dean, me, Angela or Axel are allowed to hug or hold Asher. If he comes to you to pick him up, please turn him back the direction of Dean or I. Don't worry, we won't be out of eyesight. ;-)

Food: Nobody but Dean or I are allowed to give him food. NOT EVEN A BITE! Asher has had his entire life thinking that every adult is his. He has been in survival mode. He has NO concept of Mom or Papa, and that we are here to meet his needs. Every plate of food, every bite of a cracker, every drink of juice, MUST come from Dean and I and nobody else. It's not a game, it is vital to his bonding with us, his parents.

Caregivers: Asher will have no caregivers other than Dean or I for several months (see all the reasons above!) unless he's already in bed for the night and of course we have NO CLUE how bedtimes will go! That means if there are adult-only activities, Dean and I will either have to take turns, attend alone or not go at all. We're ok with that. When we need a break we'll get out, but for now this is just how things go.

Because Asher is significantly developmentally younger than Axel was when he came home, we anticipate some of the transition will be easier, but there will be other things that are much more difficult. Some of the difficulty will be Asher's, and some for us. Asher will require much more 1:1 care than Axel did. Axel was pretty independent as far as dressing and things like that. Asher is far closer to an 18 month old developmentally than he is his actual age of 7.  He has to be taught to play with toys (or to even look at them!) he has to be taught how to eat and how to drink. We have our work cut out for us.

Please know that we appreciate the love and support all of you have given us, and we can't wait for you to meet Asher. He's going to change before our eyes and we want you to be able to witness God's miracle of adoption and redemption right along with us.

Love
~Dean and Leah~

Ivan

Every day when I go to Asher's room in the orphanage, there is Ivan. (not his real name)

Ivan is the saddest child I have ever met. He has reason to be sad. The chances of Ivan ever finding a family are 1/147,000,000. Like Asher and most of the kids in his group, Ivan has Down syndrome. He is one of the "least of these". In Serbia and most of Eastern Europe, he is among the unwanted. The training of Stalin, Lenin and Hitler has labeled these children as "useless eaters". The caregivers told me Ivan is 10, yet he is the size of a typical 4 year old. Let me rephrase that: He is the height of a typical 4 year old, but he is so incredibly thin. It is painful to look at a 10 year old child who's lower leg is no bigger than your two thumbs put together.

Ivan is a very passive little guy. He sits on his bed or in a corner of the room and watches everyone else. Rarely do I see him doing orphanage stimmy stuff. No, he just sits. Sometimes, his lower lip pokes out and a tear runs down his cheek.

Ivan is the target for the three kids in the room who are highest functioning and also the most aggressive. A couple days ago I went to pick up Asher and there was no caregiver in the room (very normal) One little girl who appears to have nothing wrong with her, had Ivan on the floor, laying on top of him,  her teeth embedded in his cheek. He didn't cry, or even make a noise. He just laid there powerless, this much bigger child on top of him, and cried silent tears.

Tommy is another little boy with DS in the room. He is more solid that the other kids, with stronger survival skills. While Tommy appears aggressive, he is really just surviving, using the skills he's developed to keep himself alive and near the top of the child pecking order. Every day Asher comes running to greet  me. If I stand in the doorway more than a second (like if Asher is getting a diaper change, etc.) Ivan will cautiously and quietly come take  my hand. He is so gentle. Then he looks up at me, willing me to take him out of that room, always with his lower lip out and on the verge of tears. The very first time he did this, I learned to protect him from Tommy. Before I knew what was happening, Tommy came barreling across the room and slammed his hand into Ivan's face, causing his head to slam against the cabinet. All in one movement Tommy latched himself onto my leg and started climbing up me. There stood Ivan, stunned at the blow. I peeled Tommy off me and tried to give Ivan a hug, or at least a rub on his head. He looked at me, stuck his lip out and opened his mouth to scream. Not a single sound came out.

Ivan cries the cry of an orphan. The silent cry that comes because the child knows their cries will not be answered. Twenty Two visits I've had with Asher. Twenty Two times I've watched Ivan cry as I've had to turn him away, to unwrap  his tiny fingers from my hand and gently guide him back into  his room.

It is survival of the fittest here, and Ivan is not the most fit. He is not alone; There are 50 more Ivan's here. Some have DS, some have Cerebral Palsy or vision impairments.

The point is there are many children here and there is a registry of approximately 40 children available for international adoption in a country not much bigger than the state of  Minnesota. No, you won't find photo listings of them. We never saw a picture of Asher before I met him, and it didn't change things for us because we realized we never saw our biological children before they were born either. Our priority isn't what the child looks like, and to be honest, now that I've met Asher, I do remember  having seen a picture of him on a popular photo listing sight. Believe me, looks can be deceiving. I'm glad I didn't fall in love with the picture and a fantasy child I created in my mind before meeting him.

I don't know if Ivan is on the adoption registry. The only way to find out is to contact the ministry and ask. If not this Ivan, I know there are others who are. Please, somebody go save Ivan.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still nothing

For those who are wondering, there is still no signature today, and today is done here in Serbia. If we get a signature tomorrow, the absolute SOONEST we can get home is Wednesday the 7th. Glad I didn't book our tickets yet. :-(

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

He's been holding out!

This morning when I picked up Asher from his room, he came RUNNING (well his version of it) with a huge smile, but he was looking at one of the caregivers as if to say, "Haha, you're staying here!" and ran smack into a cabinet with his forehead. Poor baby! He's sporting a nice bruise, but like many orphans, he barely flinched. No reason to waste tears when they won't be responded to. Soon enough he'll learn that Mom and Papa, and even Angela and Axel will comfort him when he gets hurt.

We went to the playroom where he quickly dug out his favorite ball.
It fits perfectly in his hand, and is great for learning cause and effect. Tap it hard a couple of times and it starts flashing. It's also great for a little boy who likes to touch new textures to his mouth. ;-)

He took the ball out of the backpack then wanted me to pick him up. I turned on the signing time music then sat down on the big exercise ball because I can "dance" with him on the ball, rocking all kinds of different ways, all while saving my back! We danced this way for a good 1/2 hour. Sometimes he would bang the ball on my shoulder to get it flashing, sometimes on his own hand, and then other times on my hand. When we were done dancing it was time for some yogurt. This time he knew exactly what we were doing so he beat me to the little couch and got himself ready. Reminded me of a little bird waiting to be fed. We worked on keeping his tongue in, and it was a very neat and tidy snack. Better than yesterday. He will learn very quickly.

I told him we were going outside and started putting the toy back in the bag when my little man started in with, "Babababababababa." This is the first he's made ANY sounds for me other than an occasional grunt! He was very happy and chattery. As we walked down the hall to find him a coat he was making even more sounds. Outside in the swing there was lots of laughing and giggling, along with playing coy. He did a couple "catch me if you can" games on the playground. As much as these are a normal developmental stage and very fun for him, I'm not really interested in getting THAT habit started! Right now he's easy to catch because he's barely walking, but in a few months that will all change.

When it was time to go he CRIED. He did not want me to leave just yet. Hopefully this afternoon will be just as fun!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Yogurt

Today was the day. I *finally* got to give Asher the yogurt. Funny how life can hang on such a simple thing, isn't it?

The staff person said, "He may not like it. In all his 7 years he has never had yogurt before."

That made me just a little bit sad, but only for a second when I realized *I* get to be the one to give it to him. *I* get to see his face as he tastes and feels it's creamy smoothness for the first time. I do need to be careful to allow Dean some firsts too! LOL

Now you may remember my telling you that his tongue is always out of his mouth. Now if I click my tongue he will put his away. Also, when he uses a spoon he puts it way back in his mouth, and does not use his lips at all. This was going to be interesting.

The first bite, I put it back in his mouth where he usually does, and somehow....in a way that was invisible to both the staff person and myself....he got it off the spoon. Interesting! We watched his face, his eyes cast off to the side as he thought about this flavor, then sucked on his tongue for a second. Then he got a HUGE grin and opened his mouth wide!

Then I had a lightbulb moment. You know the kind where someone smacks you in the head with the lightbulb? Yeah, one of those. I clicked my tongue so he would bring his in his mouth, then put the spoon in, and BOOM! Lips closed on the spoon! It didn't work on the second try but after several bites he was trying to do it on his own without prompting. I think that was pretty good success for just a 4 oz yogurt.

He was NOT happy when that tiny cup of yogurt was gone. Not only that, but it was now about 9:45 with lunch not until 11:30 or so. That was it for his snack because he is not allowed "double snacks". For now I will bite my tongue, because I must follow the rules. The important thing is to get Asher out of the orphanage and home to his forever family.

Later I took Asher outside and we played with a rocking toy. I would sit directly in front of it, rocking it while he tried not to look at me. Once in awhile he'd catch my eye and give me a shy grin. I would sing part of a song then stop singing AND rocking the toy right in the middle of the song. Then I would say/sign "more", and use his hands to do it too. We must have done this for a good 7-8  minutes when he start squinting his eyes shut just before I was going to hand-over-hand sign with him. Not like it was overwhelming for him, but like a silly face. We kept on with the game, and at about the 10 minute mark he STARTED to sign it himself, but I got a little eager with the "BRAVO!" and startled him so he stopped. LOL Tomorrow we'll play our game again and see if he remembers. I'm thinking he does. ;-)

A sliver of light

There is a sliver of light at the end of our tunnel!

Tomorrow the social worker will be sending the final report to Axel's social center. That center will sign it, then fax it to the Ministry. There it will sit waiting for a signature from the head minister. I was told on Friday that the Minister's schedule is very busy right now with business trips so they hope to get a signature as soon as possible.

From the day of the signature, we need three full business days to get everything done. It's *possible* if we get a signature tomorrow that we could be on a plane on Saturday. If not, then Tuesday! Oh, I cannot WAIT!

Better!

Thank you everyone for your prayers! On Saturday I was able to start antibiotics, and by yesterday afternoon was feeling much better. I went back to the orphanage to see Asher for a short visit. His caregiver said he had missed me on Saturday when I didn't visit. We had fun last night and Asher blessed me with several smiles.

This morning he was ready to see me. When I arrived at the door of his room he was laying on a bed facing away from the door, dangling a stuffed animal off the edge. His caregiver said in Serbian, "Lazar, Mamo is here." He jumped off that bed SO FAST and came running! He barely stopped for a hug, just wanted to get down that hallway to the playroom as fast as possible.

When we got to the playroom he wanted me to pick him up. I turned on some music and he just sat in my arms while we swayed with the music. It was lovely.

Next we went outside to the playground. It's beautiful here today and there were lots of kids taking their turn coming out to play. Asher wanted to go by them but he didn't really know what to do with them. It almost seemed like  he was looking for a kid he knew but didn't' see anyone.

When our time for the morning was done I walked him back to his room the caregiver had to carry him in as he did NOT want to go back. Usually I can stand outside the glass and watch him for a few minutes and all is well. Not today. Today if he saw me he wanted to be with me.

Soon son. Soon you'll leave with me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shoes n clothes

Yesterday I brought Asher's new shoes to see if they fit. My 7 year old little man wears a size 10 toddler perfectly. The day I spring him from the orphanage he will be going with us to the adoption ceremony.

For those who've been here before me, there is a new international law that says any child over age 7 must be fingerprinted in order to get a passport. The great thing for us is this gets Asher out of the orphanage one day earlier than expected. Anyway, all that was to say I have one outfit that I think will fit him. Size 4T. The pants might be a little long, but his caregiver showed me the tag on his shirt. It's a Children's Place shirt! LOL It has been washed about 50,000 times I'm sure. Good thing the only clothes I have to fit him are a bit on the nicer side for his special day!

Suggestions?

I need to get a babyfood grinder for Asher so we can slowly increase the level of texture in his food. Yes, I can google them and pull up several, but I'd rather have suggestions from people who've used them. ;-)

Got drugs

My friend took me to the pharmacy to get some antibiotics this morning. I hope they kick in quickly. Little Johnny cannot get this so I am trying to stay away from the family upstairs. It is easy enough to do since this place is really like two apartments, just with a shared kitchen. Now, back to bed for me!

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm open for business again!

This blog has now been re-opened for anyone to read. That means I had to remove the pictures from it, but I'll add them back in later!
Ah screw it! Tomorrow he's mine, today you get pictures! These were taken on about day 3 or 4, when he still was only excited to see me because it meant leaving his room.

I'll look at you sideways

And sideways again...

I will even contemplate smiling

Ok done with that! (this was a wind-up to squawking at me. LOL) the next frame is a full-out scream.

Finding Asher

Asher has had his entire 7 years behind institutional walls. Through the glass partitions I watch him in his group.  Sometimes toys are scattered on the floor, like miscellaneous blocks that don't go together. Nobody has taught the children how to play with them so they are nothing but objects with which to hit themselves in the head or tap on the wall. When a patch of sunlight hits the floor, all the children rush to lay in it's warmth. When the hot water radiator kicks in they rush to put their cheeks against it, eager for any kind of sensory input. I have yet to find a way to describe walking into a room full of 12 children that is absolutely silent. Eerie silence. They move about the room without interacting with one another. Each alone in a crowded room.

Asher stands in the middle of the room or lays on the floor, eyes cold and distant, unfocused, lost in his own world. His world, the one in the institution, has nothing for him so he has disconnected to find somewhere better in his mind. He doesn't rock like many of his roommates. Instead he stands frozen as if a statue. If he lays on the floor he is still. Silent. Sometimes he finds a thread from someone's clothes, or a stuffed animal that still has it's tag, and dangles it before his eyes, occasionally using his other hand to give it a twirl. This is Asher's day....every day....for every waking moment.

And then this woman the caregivers call "Mama" comes. Me. I appear in the door of his room. He has learned that my appearance means a change of environment. He runs to me with a half grin, his head turned away but watching where he's going out of the corner of his eye. He wraps his arms around my neck for a hug as I pick him up, then squirms to get down again, taking my hand to guide me down the hall to the playroom.

But don't be fooled by his eagerness! Asher isn't connecting to me yet. I am but a tool to get him out of that prison of monotony. He will gladly take the hand of any caregiver if it will get him the same thing. He's indiscriminate.

Little by little, I see neuron's firing in his brain. I let him have the dangly toy I brought, but only for a minute. He has to give me something first: a flash of eye contact, a smile...anything, no matter how brief...and then he can have his dangler back. We take turns, him learning about give and take, me learning what makes him tick.

As much as his room is his hell, it is also his safe place. The caregivers he knows and can predict their movements and reactions, the routine that is always the same every day. He wants to go back there. Back to the people who know how to talk, unlike this "Mama" person who does crazy talk and doesn't make any sense at all. He goes to the doorway again and again, stands and looks out, his face pressed against the glass; his way of telling me he should be going back. Sorry Buddy, I've only been here five minutes and we have 85 left to go. 85 minutes of trying to convince you it's ok to be away from your room that is both hell and comfort.



The other day I saw him get the fastest, roughest, "bath" I have ever seen. The hand of the caregiver holding his arm up in the air so he couldn't sit in the water. He desperately tried to get his fingers under the faucet to play with the running water but it wasn't allowed. I willed him to hear my thoughts, "Soon Son...soon you will get in a tub full of warm water and be allowed to soak and splash until you shrivel up into a prune. Someday we'll add bubbles to it and you will be in heaven. I promise. I promise you son. Glorious days are ahead."

When that bath was done, he was quickly slathered with lotion and powder. There was no pleasure in it. It was fast and gruff. They're not trying to be uncaring. This is but a task that must be completed, Asher being just one in an assembly line of many.

Yesterday he took my hand and we went to the playroom. He has learned by routine to look in the backpack and pull out what's in there. The dangler is always at the bottom, his fingers searching around until he finds it. He chuckles a little at his success. Then I reach in and pull out a tiny bottle and lead him to the beanbag chair.

I sit him on my lap facing me. He looks away, anywhere but at my face. Eye contact is something he's never experienced before and like many things it is scary for him. I sing to him and notice him quickly glance at me out of the corner of his eye. Just for a second. He stops shaking the dangler, frozen as he listens to me talking in hushed tones about the wonderful life that's ahead. Words in a language he cannot understand, but the rhythm of my voice I know is stirring an instinct deep within him. I can see it happening. He leans into me, puts his head on my shoulder, his hand on my chest, feeling my heart beat against his hand, the vibration of my voice. We sit that way for a few minutes, alternating between singing and talking.

I sit Asher up. He goes back to dangling while I turn the iPad to Signing Time music (might as well create another addict to join Axel!) I open the bottle of lotion and put it beneath his nose so he can smell it, the scent of green apple, and he freezes once again; processing this new sensation. I take his tiny free hand in mine and deposit a dollop of lotion.  His head is turned away from me, but he watches my hands out of the corner of his eye as I massage first his hand, then up his arm. I find a dry spot on his elbow and he grins a half-grin as I rub the lotion into the spot. He lets out a big sigh and I feel him relax a bit. I repeat this with his other hand, all the while his dangler is still as I watch his face contemplating what is happening. Only occasionally does he actually look at what I'm doing, but his mind is searching, processing it all. I can see it.

I put a drop of lotion on my arm, then use his hand to rub it in.

There it is! He looks me right in the eye for the briefest of moments! I let go of his hand and he gently pats where the lotion was, flashes me that half-grin, then goes back to dangling...detaching.

When our time is done I bring him back to his room. He protests ever-so-slightly. The playroom is better than this. His caregiver takes his hand and leads him in then closes the door. I watch through the glass as he moves to the center of the room. I watch as his eyes turn cold and he becomes a statue once again.

I have to work so hard to get eye contact with him. And once we get home, the danglers will disappear.

Strep

I was told Asher just finished antibiotics for strep throat. This afternoon my throat started hurting just a tiny bit. Nothing to get excited about at all. Tonight...well...different story! So I did what any good, traveling, self-diagnosing person would do and downloaded a flashlight app on my phone.

My throat is covered in white. Lovely. I'm going to need to call the orphanage tomorrow to say I'm not coming. My friend (a dentist) is bringing me to get antibiotics. I wish they had Z-pak here, but they do have Erythromycin (Z-pack its just a fast-acting, long lasting version of erythromycin.)

I'm sharing this place with another family (little Johnny!) and he is very vulnerable so I'm going to keep myself isolated until the antibiotics kick in. At least in this apartment that is easy to do.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eating with Asher

I was happy to find out that Asher is able to feed himself, but to be honest I wish he wasn't. If he wasn't it would be easier to teach him how rather than now when I have to break habits.

First, what he's eating: Nothing with chunks, per an invisible nurse's orders. The first time I met him he was eating lunch which consisted of a brown paste, then a caregiver plopped some carrot pudding on top of that. He was given a cup to drink from that looked like thickened apple juice. I would put it about honey consistency.

What he's using: He never has a consistently sized spoon. Sometimes it's a giant tablespoon, other times a teaspoon or even a really slim but long handled spoon like we might have for an ice-cream sundae.

How he's eating: Here's why I wish we were starting from scratch. First of all, his tongue is always out, and because his foods are pureed so thin he has no reason to use his tongue to move food around in his mouth. He takes a GIANT scoop of whatever, and puts the spoon about 1/2 way back in his mouth. He creates some suction against his (very high and possibly small-clefted) palate to get the food off the spoon. He looses a lot of the food this way! I would say about 1/2 of his meal ends up on his bib. During one meal I made the mistake of scooping some off his bib and into his mouth and by the reaction of his caregivers you would have thought I scraped it off the floor.

Interestingly, when he's drinking his tongue is not out as far as it is when he's eating. Still, he has a tendency to gulp and there's no real lip usage to speak of. I've only seen him get something to "drink" twice, and he's clearly dehydrated like most kids in orphanages are.

We are definitely going to need the services of a feeding clinic to work on his skills as I think they're a bit beyond my ability/knowledge level. It's one thing to teach a child  how to eat, it's another to break long-standing habits.

So that first meal he was eating was some kind of bean puree (looked a lot like baked beans) carrot "pudding" made with carrots that I'm sure were boiled so long they had no nutritional value at that point. The next day I asked if I could bring him a snack of yogurt or pudding. They agreed hesitantly. (outside food is not normally allowed and they're pretty strict about this since the entire place had salmonella poisoning back in May.) So I bring some yogurt and am told two things. 1) I brought the kind with fruit chunks and he will choke and 2) no yogurt allowed since he just finished antibiotics and has diarrhea from them. They agreed he could have a mashed banana instead.

Along comes snack time and they tell me his banana is ready. (there were no other kids eating at this time.) It is in a cup and apparently mixed with water and mashed. I notice it has chunks slightly bigger (and firmer) that what would be in the yogurt. Interesting. So that was at 10:00 a.m. and it only took him a minute to eat it, scraping every last bit from the cup. His nurse later told me he will eat as long as you keep putting food in front of him. I soon found out why.....

At 11:30 it was time for lunch. All the other kids were given a plate that had mashed potatoes, what appeared to be boiled hamburger, and some kind of gravy that had tiny chunks of green in it. (like maybe ground peas or something?) They also had a cup with something to drink that appeared to be thickened apple juice. Asher was given a cup with an brownish-orange pudding consistency substance. While the other kids had probably 2 measuring cups of food, Ashe had maybe 8 oz at the most. (and remember, a good portion of that ends up on his bib.)  Since they usually only give him one dish at a time, when he had finished I asked if he had anything else. "No. He had a banana earlier so this is all he gets." There was nothing for him to drink, and he was clearly not satisfied. The social worker who speaks English was sitting with us, and I asked what it was he'd had. She asked the caregivers who said it was the same as the other kids, just pureed. Hmmm...I don't know how hamburger/mashed potatoes purees into and orange-tinged puree, but whatever. All I know is he was still hungry.

Today I had a meeting with his doctor for the first time to get his medical history. (which is pretty un-complicated. So was Axel's and we all know where that got us. LOL) Asher was sitting on my lap with the dangly toy and I had my hands on his belly. I could feel his little tummy growling under my hands and I knew it was still a couple of hours before lunch. Lucky for him, not long after our meeting was done the nurse came and said it was time for him to eat. (this was about 3:30) We went to the table and they handed him a cup of what looked and smelled like cocoa maltomeal. It was thinned to about honey consistency and he guzzled it down in a matter of seconds, but he had a good 8 ounces worth so it was a decent sized snack for him. Oops! Did I say snack? When I left at 4:30 the other kids were having the same thing, but it was their dinner. Asher had his at 10:00 and would now have to wait until until tomorrow morning to eat again. :-(

Tomorrow (which is already today for me!) I'm going to ask if I can give him the yogurt now. They acidophilus cultures are only going to help his antibiotic-affected intestines. If I must, I won't feed  him those dangerous fruit chunks.

Can't wait to get our boy out of there! This weekend I have a couple things on my agenda to find in stores. One of them is something similar to Pediasure that I can give him by cup during the trip home. It will keep him hydrated and satisfied when it will be difficult to have a puree with us. I don't know what I'm going to feed him when I get him out of the orphanage. I really don't want to try to make changes until we can get home and I have more tools at my disposal. For now it might just be malt meal or oatmeal with some canned fruit mixed in with it so he doesn't get too constipated. Should be interesting, I'm sure!

Psst....Asher...C'mere

Today when I went to visit Asher, although it's a little cold and damp, a nurse who only spoke Serbian (and didn't say a word) came into the playroom with a coat and hat. I guess that was my cue to take Asher outside. As I zipped him up I slipped my phone into my back pocket. ;-)

Oh, this boy was excited to go out! He LOVES the death-trap elevator. Anything that vibrates goes to the side of his face and ear, including the wall of the elevator. He leans against it with his check and laughs his grunty laugh when he feels it.

For the first time I was able to see how he manages steps. You may remember how Axel had such a tough time with steps since he'd never seen them before. Fortunately Asher does well holding the railing and one hand, though he has such low muscle tone that he's very wobbly. He reminds me of one of these toys:


When we got out the doors and were walking to the playground I noticed the social worker watching us out the window so no pictures for us! Then all of a sudden a bus full of do-gooders from a local church pulled up and people started piling off the bus carrying boxes of donated items such as fruit and clothing. The social worker went to deal with them so I had my chance!

First we went over to the swings. He really likes the swing and and he obviously has experienced it many times before. (unlike Axel who had never seen one before April of this year!) While I was pushing him I noticed some bushes with another small play area behind it.
(photo removed until adoption is final)

To give you an idea of his size, this ride-on toy is a typical first-timer's ride on, so sized for an 18-24 month old. (He was not thrilled and trying to get off it in this picture.)



A toddler-sized playhouse. He is the tiniest 7 year old I've ever met! LOL

We continue to work on his tongue. Now all I have to do is say "ne ne ne" and he pulls it right in. His caregivers are also prompting him, and I showed them things they can do to help the other kids with their tongues. Today he went to the magic toy bag and the first thing he pulled out was the toothbrush which he promptly put against his face. He knows what needs to be pushed to make it go but doesn't have the muscle strength to do it. He also wants to put it in his ear because..well..he LOVES vibrations on/in his hears! LOL When I took these pictures I was more concerned with getting him in the lens while watching my back than I was telling him to pull his tongue in.

Later in the day when I came for my afternoon visit he was laying on the floor chilling out (read bored out of  his mind and stimming with a thread from his shirt.) As soon as he saw me he hopped up and ran for a hug. He just wanted a quick one though because he squirmed to get down then promptly grabbed my finger and pulled me over to the elevator and pointed out the button that makes it go. LOL So we took a ride downstairs and he headed straight for the steps and the door to outside. He knows what he wants, but doesn't usually get too upset when he doesn't get his way. The only times he's gotten mad are when he has a stimmy object that I want to take away without having something better to trade. I will be clearing our rented apartment of all dangly items before I spring him from the orphanage. LOL I have a really fun dangly thing along with me that Axel loves, but Axel is not a dangler, he just likes all the different objects on it. Asher gets lost in the dangling and doesn't engage in the rest of the world if he has something, so I'll reserve this toy for those times when I need him quiet and occupied...like the very long flight home!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A day with Asher

There are some really good things Asher has going for himself, like the fact he is very well bonded to one caregiver in particular, and he does show reservation with strangers, especially strangers who don't know how to talk! LOL

That same attachment is what makes our visits difficult. He can see his caregivers through the glass walls and he wants to be with them. Today I had a 3 hour visit with him and it's just too long. All he really wants to do is dangle stuff. This afternoon I'm only going for an hour and a half.

So what do we do with our visits? For the most part he cuddles and I sing. While this is great and a good bonding thing, it is also indiscriminate. He does it with everyone and it his way to escape having to do anything. Because he's very cuddly and sweet, he gets away with a lot and there are no demands put upon him. He does like music, and if I give him my phone with music on he will hold it up to his ear to rock.

He is a dangler (of objects) but very quickly becomes absorbed in that activity so now before we enter the play room I do a quick scan of objects he likes to dangle and put them out of reach. I do have a dangly thing that he LOVES but I'm saving that for many hours in an airplane. LOL

He LOVES LOVES LOVES the spinning toothbrush I brought for him!!! Just like Axel, Asher loves the vibration. We played with it in his mouth this morning, with no pressure at all against his teeth, and his mouth bled like crazy! I was able to use the toothbrush to move his cheeks so I could get a look in his mouth. Oh man...poor baby! His gums are badly receded around most of his teeth, exposing the roots. Like Axel, I can't believe Asher let me put the toothbrush in his mouth! At tonight's visit I was rubbing the backside of it all over  his cheeks and lips. Then I stopped and he wanted more, so I first tapped his tongue and said, "Ne ne ne" (Serbian for no) until he put is tongue back in his mouth. As soon as he did I put the toothbrush back where he liked it on his lips. I repeated this several times, and by the time we were done playing with it he was putting his tongue back in his mouth for my cue to start the toothbrush again. Smart little guy! When we were done with that it was time to bring him back to his group. As we were walking I looked down and saw his tongue out. I said "ne ne ne" and went to tap it, but he pulled it in on his own quick while laughing and slapping his hand over his mouth. (like HE was pushing it back in.) It was very cute, and gives me hope we can work with the tongue issue when we get home!

This is one of the first walks I took with Asher. Watch what happens when I try prompting him about his tongue for the 3,000th time. OH how he can SQUACK! Guess I would too if some lady kept sticking her finger at my tongue.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

INTRODUCING

Asher Lazar Spring
Genesis 30:13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.[a

Asher is a tiny little man! He turned 7 in October, but is closer to the size of a typical 3 year old. I think ALL the clothes I brought are too big for him. 

Now for technicalities. I'm NOT supposed to have ANY pictures of him yet! The orphanage social worker took these pictures for me, then came back and said I wasn't supposed to have them. Last year when all the problems arose around Serbian adoptions and kids photos being illegally listed on websites, they banned all picture taking of orphan children, and certainly no emailing allowed! But I nabbed these two. I just don't know if I'll be able to post any more until after I have custody of him.

I'll post more info later after I've had a nap!

Today is the day!

You, my lovely family and friends, are tucked into bed dreaming of sugar plums. Well, you're supposed to be! I know a few of you night owls are are up. LOL I just a couple of hours I will be leaving for my meeting with the ministry, then off to meet our son!

I've been looking through my bag of toys I brought, trying to decide which to bring along for our first meeting. I know exactly which will be the most favorite toy of all. Many of you will recognize it because your children love it too!

It also happens to be the toy I will NOT be bringing along this morning! This toy, while well-loved among kids, tends to cause them to get lost in it's light and makes interaction a little more difficult. I'll save it to use as a "rescue toy" when I'm getting desperate from boredom! LOL

Instead, today for our first visit I've chosen these:

First there is the very fun toddler backpack on wheels which is a great toy to pull around. Then, when a little boy is ready to investigate a bit, there are zippers to open, revealing a super-cool and very soft ball, a matchbox car, that little light-up flashy ball, and I will add a banana and cheerios too.

Now, I'm off to shower and get ready for my day! Please pray for a safe arrival to the meeting, clear and warm communication between myself and all officials involved, and a wonderful first meeting with L! Also, I want to get that first moment on video for Dean and the kids at home to watch, so hopefully my friend Jovica can work my camera and catch it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Welcome everyone

I could start this first private post out as pure sewage, telling you all that has gone on the past few days, but it would serve no purpose. I want to give all the glory to God!!!!!!!

So...I AM HERE!!!! I arrived in Belgrade at 12:30 Saturday afternoon. I hit the ground running with the Schlorf family and we did some shopping, then came back to the apartment I'm sharing with the Schlorfs and slept the entire night. One would think the next day would have gone well since I slept all night but that would have been wishful thinking. The Schlorfs had orphanage visits to make so I was here alone and ended up sleeping most of the day. That was a huge mistake of course, because now my days and nights are completely turned around!

Today I went with the Schlorfs to take pictures of their adoption ceremony, which was wonderful and of course the photographer was sobbing behind the camera. LOL

Tomorrow is MY big day! I will meet with the Ministry to go over L's history, then we will all go to the orphanage right here in Belgrade where I will see our boy's face for the very first time. I keep going over in my head which of the many children I have already met that this could be. but really I have no idea.

I don't expect tomorrow's meeting to be completely smooth. This needs much prayer because the social center (which is like a county in the US) has been under the influence of one evil person. The reason I haven't ever gotten a picture of L is because of that influence. I am hoping it's because they're worried about getting in trouble like before and just don't want to release a picture of a child due to caution and not outside influences.

So please, sit back and relax, and enjoy the ride on my blog as our family enters into this new phase!

Going Private

Starting tonight and for the next few days my blog will be set to private access only. The Serbian ministry is being ever-so-careful to follow the laws of adoption in the country, and are now preparing to prosecute the former Serbia adoption facilitator on several charges.

Because of all that has happened recently it is necessary for me to go private for a few days. HOWEVER...I know many of you, and would love to add you to the private reader list. Once my adoption is complete (and possibly sooner) I will be able to open the blog back up and any posts made will be visible to you. If you would like access, please email me at deanleah at comcast.net  I will need your email address, first and last name in order to add you to the list. Please know that if I don't know you well, I cannot add you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Our "Prenatal Diagnosis"

When I was pregnant with Angela, although I had 16 ultrasounds due to many complications, we didn't know she had Down syndrome until she was born. Over the years, whenever a family who was expecting a baby with DS contacted me, I would refer them to friends who had themselves experienced a prenatal diagnosis and all the emotions that go with it. Although our kids are born with the same syndrome, getting a prenatal diagnosis is a very different emotional experience from finding out at birth.

Of course, with Axel he was chosen for two reasons. First because he had DS, and second because we knew he would fit well in our family. We CHOSE Down syndrome.

And now here we are. We have gone from deciding weather or not to get pregnant...or in this case adopt again...and we have gone through the stages of pregnancy in the form of paper documents. When we committed to L, it was like touring the birthing center for the first time. When I toured the hospital while pregnant with my second and third babies it suddenly hit me. "OMG I'm having another baby!" The memory of the pain of childbirth and those first sleepless nights came flooding back to me. Committing to L, and knowing it was really happening brought back the memories of those first few days with Axel; struggling through the language barrier, the shock for him at having a whole new set of expectations put upon him by a woman he couldn't understand, me learning his signals for hungry, thirsty...or sad.

But this adoption has a new component. The "prenatal diagnosis". We know that L has Down syndrome, but we really don't know anything else. We don't know where his functioning level is, and we still don't know what he looks like. Everything will be a surprise the day I finally meet him.

But we do know this: With L, we chose LIFE. No matter what he looks like or what his needs may be, we have chosen HIM. We have chosen to bring him into our family and love him as one of our own. He deserves nothing less than that. God Himself knows best the child who best suits our family, and we trust HIM to orchestrate it all. Just like He knew Angela and Axel before they were a glimmer in our eyes, so too does he know L.

In a few days I will go into labor (the long plane rides to get there! LOL) The hard labor stage of pushing will begin when I sit down to a table-full of officials to go over L's history and medical reports. Then I will make one last mighty push (travel to where L is located)  he will be placed on my belly for me to see and touch for the very first time. I won't be shocked by his diagnosis. I've known for months that he has DS. Still, we chose to give him life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A story of two mice

Let me tell you a story of a two mice; a smart mouse who is very very smart and another who is no so smart at all.

One day a human noticed mouse droppings in the house and knew there was a mouse infestation that needed to be taken care of. The two mice were lurking in the shadows watching as the human put food out out in the open and walked away. The smart mouse knew it was a trap. He was suspicious about the person, and why food would be put out in the open. He didn't want to get caught. He knew where there was more food, safer food, so he left what was out in the open alone.

But the other mouse, the one who is not so smart, couldn't stand to wait. Even though the smart mouse warned him, the not so smart mouse just couldn't stand to leave that free food alone. He scurried out of the shadows to get the food.

Now, even the smart mouse would have taken the prize and run back to the shadows with it, but remember, this mouse is not so smart! He stood out in the open with his prize and gloated, "Look! See? I got it! I got the free food the human left!" He sat with his prize right in the open and ate it for all the others to see. The human stood and watched as the mouse slowly became sleepy, and eventually curled up in a ball right there. The mouse never woke up again.

Sometimes it is smart to leave the bait alone. Sometimes BLOGS have bait too, and stupid mice have taken the bait. The have made it obvious and those who are watching closely now know just how stupid they are. Sometimes PEOPLE you have trusted in the past have become the bait.

For those who have been concerned about my safety from stupid mice when I return to Serbia, let me assure you the Ministry, Embassy AND ORPHANAGE staff have watched the mouse take the bait. She has run into the open with it, allowing all of us to confirm we have an infestation. Now EVERYONE knows there are mice in the house. ( and sometimes mice forget there are IP addresses attached to computer, and that they show up on hits to blog sites along with the internet service provider, which are cross checked with emails to other people, all information that was turned over to police.)  Now, because the mouse is stupid, I have 24 hour protection when I'm in-country. The stupidity of the mouse was exactly what was needed to confirm I needed protection. 

To my friends and family, I am safe when I travel to Serbia. The Embassy, Ministry and local police department are all well aware of the threats that have been made. Because of all the problems that have been caused by this woman, the Ministry assures me I will be able to complete my adoption swiftly and that all services including translation (which is normally paid by the families) is being provided completely free of charge.

To the mouse, go ahead and run into the open with the bait again. We're waiting for you.