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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I remember back 26 years ago when I told people I was expecting my first baby. Even though I was only 19, I was married, and people said "Congratulations". Most of them anyway.

When we had baby number two, people said "Congratulations" and shared in our excitement.

When I announced my pregnancy with Angela, and then a few months later that we were having a girl (there were 4 boys by that time) everyone was so very excited!!!

Adopting is very much like a pregnancy. The whole process of pulling together the documents is all part of it. The emotions are all the same. we worry, we fret, we go through a nesting phase (several of them, actually). For those who have never done it, there is a reason people refer to it as a "paper pregnancy"! And knowing our child has a diagnosis is like having a prenatal diagnosis with our pregnancy. There are a lot of unknown, particularly with his behavior. We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best!

Fast forward many years to our first adoption of Axel. Those in the adoption community were very excited for us. They understood where we were at.

But, that's where the congratulations stopped. Instead we got lots of questions, "Are you sure you want to do this? Why would you want to do this? Don't you realize how much work another child with Down syndrome will be? (umm we probably understand more than the person asking since we've been living the life for 14 years by that point!) But you're not going to be able to have any FUN! When will you ever get out on your motorcycles again?" In the end people were excited to meet him and we know he is adored by all. That is important!

When we announced our adoption of Asher, the response was similar. Granted, we didn't give anyone a lot of time to digest the information. Although Dean and I had submitted our dossier (packet of adoption paperwork) to the Serbian government months before, by the time we were matched with Asher and getting on a plane was a matter of days. Still, everyone knew we were waiting to be matched but still there was nothing. No congratulations. Yes, everyone adored him once he was here.  I guess that is most the important part.

Here we are again. We have spent the last couple of weeks sharing our news with those close to us. Those in the adoption community or who we spend a lot of time with get it. They're excited for us. From everyone else we've gotten lots of frowns and fake smiles and "" kind of responses. Only twice. Only twice have we heard "congratulations" outside of the adoption community.  Instead we're asked, "Why? Why would you want to do this AGAIN? But you don't have any time to yourselves. Will you ever get to ride again?" It's as if we never would have thought of any of these things on our own. As if we haven't discussed these things time and time again between the two of us.  The same people who give this reaction are the same ones who wonder why they're not among the first to know.

We're "pregnant". With our third child TOGETHER. Our LAST baby. This isn't an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. We're SO EXCITED for our upcoming arrival. I just wish everyone would be excited with us. We have three very special kids here in our house. We cherish them. We know and understand what the boys'  lives would be like today if they weren't with us. We understand the circumstances our new son is living in and we can't wait to get him out. We can't wait to meet our new son!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I've been awake since 4:30 this morning, hoping I would find an email in my box today. Oh how thrilled I was to see that email address!

Today for Christmas we received the best gift! A picture of our  new son! I wish I could share it with you. Instead I will just have to tell you our observations. LOL

First, unlike Asher who although he is just a few months younger still looks very much like a baby, our new son LOOKS like his age.

He has the same big front teeth that Axel has, which is interesting because they are so atypical of kids with DS. Angela and Asher both have the more common, very tiny teeth.

He has the most awesome smile!

His tongue is IN his mouth and not being sucked on! Oh they joy!!!! Because I'm telling you, dealing with the tongue sucking is a pain in the neck!

He looks like a very happy boy (based on a single picture with a single smile. LOL)

And, we have chosen a name, but you will have to wait until we meet him to learn what that is. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How do you choose a child?

Choosing a child to adopt is so hard! No matter what child you choose, you know that others are being left behind. Some will get lucky and have a family come for them....eventually...but the vast majority will never experience that love. Never. Ever. They will be forever alone.

Can you imagine that? Now imagine this fate for a child who has severe medical, physical, or cognitive differences. The "least of these". Nobody is banging down doors competing for these children. There are no waiting lists full of families who want to adopt them.

The just wait. Most of them don't know what they're waiting for because they've never even heard the words "mother" or "father". They don't know what life could be like.

For our family, the decisions went like this:

First, we had to decide if we wanted to adopt internationally again or adopt a child from here in the US.  I have several friends who are currently struggling through domestic adoptions and they make international adoptions look like a piece of cake! Many people ask, "Why not adopt one of "ours?" (meaning a child from here in the US.) My first question is, "I have absolutely considered it. Have YOU?" This question often comes from people who've never even bothered to help out an adoptive family, much less choose to adopt themselves. Anyway, we looked into kids on the US waiting child lists, looking for kids who might fit into our family. While there were a couple, the process to get them was daunting. We're familiar with adopting from Serbia. We understand the process, the costs and the time frame are predictable.

Next we had to decide on age. A child needed to be close to either Angela's age group or close to the boys, but not developmentally younger than Asher. I say it that way because I could could be 5 and developmentally beyond where Asher is now, and we really want him to remain the baby of the family.

What type of special needs? Now this was tough for us! We were open to pretty consider pretty much any child. We didn't know yet what child was meant to be in our family so we were worried about making our criteria too narrow. Angela, Axel and Asher all have Down syndrome. If our next child didn't have DS would he or she felt left out of the chromosomal party we have going on here? If there is one thing we know, it is Down syndrome. We can see a child with DS who is coming from institutional care and...most of the time...know if what we're seeing is "just DS" or is related to post institutional issues. Anyway, we considered several children with a variety of special needs. This was SO HARD! There are so many "what if?" and potential hidden diagnosis with any internationally adopted child. Not only did I start reading information websites, but also started contacting families who are parenting children with needs similar to those we were considering. It seemed overwhelming sometimes, and we've done this a couple times before!

Boy or girl? Well, there has to be boys and girls available to even make a choice in the first place. Back in September and October there were no children who met our criteria at all, and suddenly in November there were! Finally a couple weeks ago we were able to narrow it down to just two children; one boy and one girl.

 Oh, these decisions are so difficult! We always have taken this decision very seriously, but I have to be honest with you about my emotions about this adoption. This is our last one. We are done. When this adoption is complete so will our family be. (and no, it's not possible for us to change our mind about that.) For some reason this seems like a bigger decision that Axel and Asher's adoptions were. Maybe part of that comes from the process being so different for each of  our kids. In Axel's case, we were planning to adopt another child who turned out  not to be a legal orphan. Our hearts were broken but we decided to adopt whoever was next most in danger. At the time it was Axel. With Asher, there were only a few kids who met our criteria, and when we narrowed it down to two we realized one of them would require us to make a change to our USCIS paperwork because of when her birthday fell. Also, she wasn't walking yet and I just didn't feel I could carry a non-walking 6 year old around. (and having met the child previously I knew she wasn't a tiny petite thing!) By description Asher seemed the better fit for our family. But this time? This time we agonized (well, probably me more than Dean!)  Dean and I discussed each child and all of the different scenarios, the potential for undiagnosed syndromes or medical problems, our ability to learn ourselves and provide the best possible care for each child, as well as  how each child would fit in with our other three here at home.

The one thing we do not take into consideration is how the children look. We are going by profiles only and not faces. I do like the process this way. There is no tendency to fall in love with a picture and in our heads create a personality to go with that picture, only to find it doesn't really fit.

By description we know that both chronologically and developmentally Little B will fit right in between Axel and Asher. Now, I do learn pretty quickly! Asher was considerably developmentally much younger than what we were expecting. Don't get me wrong, the description I had was accurate, there just wasn't enough of it for us to get a clear picture of where Asher was in his development. We could have asked more questions but decided that it was just as easy to get on a plane and meet him instead of fill the ministry's email box with my daily questions! LOL So, by description, B fits right in between our boys. Is it possible we will get there and find he's actually behind where Asher is? Yes, this is totally possible but I trust the information I was given and at this point have no reason to think it's inaccurate.

So, that is how WE made our choice this time. Several of you reading are adoptive parents. How did you decide which child or children to add to your family?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On re-naming

 I think I mentioned previously that it starts with a "B". Yesterday we found out our new little guy's name.

A couple people have left comments about names in general and inevitably the subject of why we re-name comes up. I have had comments in the past stating "Their birth name is the only thing they have left that is "theirs", and "Re-naming adds to the trauma of adoption."

We take into consideration several things when we choose to rename our kids. The first thing is where our kids come from. Let me tell you something: There is nothing positive associated with the birth names of  our kids. In many cases, particularly in institutional care, their name was used only when they were being disciplined or abused. In particular, Asher's name was only used when he was being ordered around. There was no affection ever associated with his name. Their birth names have already been associated with trauma. Their new names have only positives associated with them. New start, new life, new name. Both boys knew their new names within a couple of days. In the dog training world there is a game we play to teach dogs their names. I play the same game with my kids when they get their new names. Work's great!

Then there is how the name sounds or looks in print. Axel's birth name is Djordje. It's a beautiful name, however American's butcher it to pieces when they see it, and understandably so. My kids aren't able to speak enough (or at all in the case of Asher) to correct someone who cannot say their name. Asher's birth name, "Lazar" is pronounced similar to "Lah Zer", Because we haven't done a legal name change yet, whenever we're dealing with insurance companies or anyone else that comes across his legal  name, they pronounce it "Laser", as in a beam of light.

Next is our kids ability to pronounce it. We have three kids with significant speech impairments. They need to be able to pronounce their own names. Granted at this point we don't know if Asher will ever talk or even attempt to say his name, but from an articulation perspective, "Asher" is much easier to say than "Lazar". ( Which is why Axel is able to say it. LOL I don't think he'd ever be able to say "Lazar" and there is no way he'd ever be able to pronounce his own birth name.)  Based on all that, we know enough about our new little guy now that he will likely be getting a new name. If I had known this before, Angela would have a very different name because hers is quite difficult for her to say. All my kids have name signs. It's also a safety issue. We have one who cannot write legibly enough for her name to be read and she won't tolerate an ID bracelet (or jewelry of any kid, for that matter.)  and Asher may never write, so they need to be able to SAY or somehow spell their name.

As for "A" names, the jury is out. We weren't going to have another A name the last time, but God pretty much decided for us. (there's a story about how that verse was brought to my attention.) As expected we constantly stumble over the kids' names, but ...well...I have three dogs with very different names and I stumble over them too, so I don't think the problem is with the names. LOL

So..that's where we stand on the re-naming issue. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Joy for Today

I was going to post this last week. However, with the tragedy that our nation faced on Friday, with parents loosing their hearts within the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School, I just couldn't bring myself to share.

But we need joy. We need a smile. As the country says goodbye to it's most innocent members, we want to announce the expected "birth" of our newest family member.

In a room, on the other side of the world, sits a boy who is completely unaware that his life is about to change.

He is not a little boy. No, he has waited many years for a family to call his own. He is a child nobody else wants, a child passed over again and again because he is "different", and he's not cute and little anymore. He has watched Mamas and Tata's come to his home and leave with his friends, never to be seen again. His hope is almost gone.

But this mom...this mom is coming back, and this time the Tata is coming too!  This time it is HIS turn. A Mama and Tata for him! Brothers and a sister. A bed that has not been slept in by hundreds of others, clothes that are his and not shared with multitudes, shoes for his feet and nobody else's. A place for him at the family table as well as in the family van.

Please join us on our journey to bring "B" home. He'll be here before we know it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We're still here!

So the last time I wrote was September 12th. At that time we were just starting the process to update our homestudy.

And then we stopped.

A couple of things happened: First, we are expecting to go back to Serbia, but they don't have a child who meets our criteria at this time. Second, we had to put a bunch of money into some household maintenance and repairs which ate up our entire adoption budget. As in all of it!

So we're on hold a bit, hoping to start up once again in December. Our goal is to have an adoption completed before the kids are out of school for the summer since having them all home during the day will make traveling very difficult.

So that's the plan, but I can tell you I'm not very good at waiting! I just keep hoping this winter goes really fast!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How well do you know your child's school?

Does your child's school have secrets? Here's a not so lovely post by the Families Against Restraint and Seclusion blog. The post was written in 2009, however schools keep getting added to the list.

It is a state by state listing of schools that have allegedly overused or unnecessarily used restraint and seclusion as a way of dealing with students.

I live in Minnesota. Ummm Minnesota's list is SO LONG that I wanted to vomit before I even read it.

Apparently seclusion rooms are alive and well in Minnesota schools, since we have the highest number of them than any other state!

How about your school? Did you find your school on the list?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You know you're adopting when...

I'm sure some of you reading have things you can add to this. Please join in!

You know you're adopting internationally when:

Your car dies. Completely.
The hot water heater (or any other expensive appliance) dies and is beyond repair.
Your work hours are cut back (temporarily reducing your income enough to put you into panic mode)
You loose your passport.

Please add your own things you've dealt with while in process!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On the agenda this week:

Here's what's on my agenda for this week:

pick up new local and state criminal checks
Visits to schools

Boys have Therapy 3-5:00
Evening swimming club for Angela

Finger prints for federal background checks
pick up new medical statements from doctors
Get the last of kids school supplies
Asher gets four teeth pulled.

pick up new letter from employer
drop off paperwork with homestudy agency
Boys have therapy 2:30-4:30

Get school backpacks stuffed and ready
Get laundry done so kids can start school with clean clothes!

We were talking about going up north for the holiday weekend, but somehow I don't think this is going to happen. So much to get done this week and I already feel pressed for time! I have the feeling some things might get bumped to the following week when the kids are at school and I can get all the running done alone!

But keeping me going throughout my busy week will be the images embedded in my mind from this building:

This is the Zvescanska orphanage in Belgrade, Serbia. This is where Asher spent the first 7 years of  his  life until I met him 9 1/2 months ago. Do you see that 3rd floor balcony? That is where he and his roommates would play. There are so many faces I remember...They keep me going on my quest to get our homestudy completed!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Say WHAT? didn't really expect people to be THAT surprised. LOL So, to answer some questions:

1) We are just starting to update our homestudy.

2) We are only adopting ONE child, and this will be our last adoption.

3) We don't know who we're adopting, and won't know until just before we travel. We're hoping for a girl this time.

4) We have no idea when we're traveling. We have a timeline in mind but it's based purely on speculation at this point.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vanity Plates

Almost 9 months ago when I brought Asher home, Dean, Angela and Axel met us at the airport. We shared hugs and laughs with some of our extended family then headed to the parking ramp.

As I opened the back door of the car reality hit me. For months we debated about adopting again. We had gone through all the scenarios. What we hadn't considered at all was our transportation needs. In other words, did we have enough room in the car for three kids? Technically we did, since there are three seat belts in the back seat. Yeah, well just because there are seat belts does not mean there is room for everyone, especially with Asher in a full-size carseat.

Back to the airport parking ramp....

I opened the back door and put Asher in the car seat, buckling him in. I went to the other side and Axel got in first, then Angela. Only Angela wasn't able to buckle her belt with Axel sitting on top of it and Axel wasn't able to figure out his either. I had Angela and Axel get out then had Angela get in first. Climbing around the back of the car I was sweating and getting crabby. Ok, it's possible I was tired with ZERO sleep in the previous 30 hours and since I was hungry my blood sugar was dropping. Tired, hungry, sweating while wrestling seat belts is the recipe for a mommy meltdown in the airport parking ramp. I made it clear the very next day we'd be buying a van.

Fast forward 6 months, and I was still doing the same wrestling match every time the whole family wanted to go somewhere. Fortunately we just didn't do a lot of that so Angela could sit in the front seat.

In July the kids and I were taking a road trip to D.C. for the NDSC conference. I was dreading making this trip in the car. And then something happened: Dean's car died on the side of the freeway. That would mean he'd get my car and I'd buy a van. I really tried hard to hide my excitement as he called me from the side of the road. Really, I did.

So now we have this awesome new van. I love it. I'm IN LOVE with my van. One week after the purchase we took our trip, which was phenomenal. We realized just how much space we have now.

And then I decided I wanted to do something totally frivolous and put vanity plates on it. Here is what I decided.


Monday, February 27, 2012

New Here?

If you're new here, I'd like you to go read this post. It's about "Ivan", a little boy I met on my most recent trip to Serbia. It is all the Ivans of Serbia who I will continue to advocate for, and for Cherish Our Children International's Serbian office who's  mission it is to help the Ivans who will never find their way to a family.

If you'd like information on Serbian adoptions in general, please visit this post on my other blog.

I don't blog here on a regular basis anymore. Well, if something happens and Dean decides we're adopting again (because God already knows I'm ready to jump back on that ship in a heartbeat) then I'll be back to regular posting. Otherwise you can follow us on our family blog.