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.