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

Friday, May 3, 2013

Closing up Shop

This blog is all about our adoptions. Since Abel is now home, we're a family, and the door is closed on this chapter, I'll be back to blogging on my main blog Garden of Eagan. I'd love to have you join me there as I chronicle the lives of our kids and family and we find our new normal raising the AAAA's.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Welcome Home Abel

Here's the video you've all been waiting for. Dean's brother Dave did all the recording, and discovered it's hard to get short kids AND adult faces in the video at the same time. LOL My favorite part of the entire video is when Abel gave Asher a hug. After having the day to observe them now, we're pretty sure Abel remembers Asher from their time in the institution.

The video starts out with everyone in the house waiting for us to arrive. Enjoy!

Traveling Home

Here are pics from our trip home. I don't have the ARRIVAL video yet. Hopefully I will have it tonight so I can keep the blog in chronological order.

Sitting at the Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade.

Goodbye Serbia! Goodbye!

He kept the headphones on for .001 seconds.

Riding the car for 7 hours. He did FANTASTIC! 

His first slide in America, at a highway rest stop somewhere in Wisconsin. LOL

Nobody has ever given him a snack to hold before. He was quite proud of himself.

Minutes after that last picture was taken we arrived home! Video still to come.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

We Made It

Well, it was an interesting trip home!

The we caught our first flight from Belgrade to Munich at 1:00 Saturday afternoon. Although he was just a little fearful getting onto the plane, Abel did fantastic on the 90 minute flight! However, we were late arriving in Munich which had us running through the airport, Abel in a wheelchair so we could move faster. We got on that flight was they were closing the doors.

Abel did absolutely AMAZING the entire flight. Really, he was perfect. The only problem we had was  him not wanting to eat the food because it was tough for him to chew, but I had packed back-up options. Really, he could not have done better. He stayed awake the entire flight which means Dean and I did too. This would be a problem later.

The excitement started when we arrived, right on time, in Chicago.

When you arrive at your port of entry, there are several steps to checking your newly adopted child into the country. We have come in through Chicago every time and never had any problems, but this time was different. I have always gotten  a wheelchair escort for a couple of reasons. First, the Chicago airport is HUGE 2) there are lots of lines to stand and wait in and 3) the newly adopted, post-institutional kids don't do very well with all the waiting around, and the wheelchair escort is able to bypass some of the lines.

Step 1) Passport control. It took us awhile to get down there because there were about 15 wheelchairs waiting for the elevator that can only take two wheelchairs at a time. Our escort, a college kid, looked at his watch, then looked for our gate on his phone. At this point we had one hour. "I don't think we're going to make it." he said. "Oh, you need to think far more positive than that! We have one hour, I have made it in an hour before." It was about that time we got a whiff of Abel.

Step 2) Baggage claim. You must get your bags off the carrousel, but re-check them later through security and into the domestic flight system. While Dean and the escort were waiting for our bags, Abel and I found the bathroom so I could get him cleaned up. It was a good thing we went then. When I removed his pull-up, Abel was nice enough to pee all over the floor while I was scrambling to get a new diaper to catch the pee, then clean the puddle off the floor. It was a bit tight in the stall since we had a wheelchair in there with us, and while I turned to get rid of the diaper Able pooped on the floor. Meanwhile Dean is at the door of the restroom "Hurry honey! Hurry!" I pulled a clean pair of jeans out of my carry on, got the floor cleaned up as best I could, and ran to catch up to them. Because this happened while they were getting our bags it didn't delay us at all.

Step 3) Immigration.

A lot of people have complained about the Immigration section at Chicago O'Hare, but I have never had a problem. I've always gotten in and out very quickly. This time when we arrived there was one other person ahead of us, and several who came in behind us. Just after we arrived the guy at the counter left. He didn't bother to have any of the other 8 immigration staff step into his place, he just walked away.

For 20 minutes.

When he came back he got through our stuff pretty quickly, but by then the damage was done. We quickly shoved our bags through the X-ray machine, threw them on the cart and all of us (escort pushing wheelchair, Dean pushing cart with bags and me running behind) and all of us RAN to the area where our bags would be re-checked and get our boarding passes. All the agents were occupied. One woman stood and debated for 10 minutes over which of the three flights she was being offered would suit her needs. Another woman was issued a boarding pass for her flight and told to "Run! I'm calling to let them know you're coming! They're ready to close the door!"

Then it was our turn. "Oh no." the agent said. "That woman was on the same flight." She quick punched in the numbers to check us in. "I'm so sorry. The system has locked me out of that flight. It won't let me check you in because they've closed the doors."

We were only one hour away from home, and I did NOT want to hear this. Only it got worse. "That was the last flight out to Minneapolis tonight, and there is nothing tomorrow that has seats available." We were a one hour flight away from home but couldn't get there.

It is possible I started to cry at this point. I blame exhaustion, frustration, and the thought our only way home at this point was to pay $300 to rent a car and drive 7 hours. As our escort guided us out of the airport I couldn't stop the tears. They were just flowing down my face as I kept thinking, "We're not supposed to be leaving the airport! We're supposed to be on a flight HOME and seeing our kids in less than an hour."

We got our rental car and headed out of Chicago. Dean doesn't like to drive at night and I realized at the first toll booth that my eyes were having a really hard time staying focused. We'd been awake for 25 hours at that point and I realized even if we took turns driving, neither of us would be able to drive more than an hour at a time, and there is a heavily wooded area we'd be going through where there are lots of deer and other critters. "Lets get a room." I said, but Dean didn't want to. "Lets get something to eat. I need some real food." We pulled into an all-night diner and ordered some food. By this point Abel was DONE with the travel business. Our food took FOREVER because I'm pretty sure the cook went to the store to get the eggs, bread and oatmeal we ordered. As we were eating we realized it was the first time Abel has ever been in a restaurant and we were doing it when he was exhausted! Poor kid.   Sometime during our meal Dean realized driving wasn't a good idea and there was Super 8 right across the street. The empty beds there were calling our names. We ate quickly because Abel was DONE, drove next door, checked into the hotel a little before 11:00 pm and I think all three of us were out cold in a matter of minutes!!!

We woke up at 5:30 this morning, ate a quick breakfast then headed for home. Abel was excellent, once again, playing with his block and entertaining himself with the empty seat belts on either side of him. he sure is a good traveler!

FINALLY we pulled into our driveway at 1:30 this afternoon. What a journey!!! Dean's brother Dave and his wife Sandy were here to video our arrival. I will post it as soon as I get it.

Now, it's 9:15, all four kids are sound asleep in bed and Dean and I are headed to our own very shortly. It's 4:00 a.m. Serbia time. It usually takes me several days to get my body back into the local timezone, and I expect Abel will be waking up for the day at around 3:00.

Good night everyone!!!! Pictures and video as soon as I can think clearly!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Packing Frenzy

In just 17 hours we will be on our first of three flights home. Oh, we cannot WAIT to hug on all our little kids! We can't wait for the Angela, Axel and Asher to meet Abel! They have been so looking forward to this moment.

For those who were wanting to be at the airport, we come in at Terminal 1,  United flight 1616 from Chicago at 9:30 pm. I would check the flight status online just in case we have a delay somewhere along the way.

We're so EXCITED TO GET HOME! Please pray that Abel does ok (we think he will!) and that he SLEEPS A LOT on that long flight! 


It normally takes the US Embassy 2 days to process the Visa. Sometimes they can get it done in one day. (do the application in the morning, pick up the Visa in the afternoon.) We arrived at the Embassy at 2:45 today and planned on picking up the Visa Monday morning.

But today, they completed our Visa in TWO HOURS!!!!!



I am working on booking flights now, looking for the first flight out we can get. Of course it's a holiday weekend here,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We're in the final stretch

Today we were up really early. Ok...Abel was up early and Dean and I laid in bed doing rock/paper/scissors to see who was going to get up with him. like that. ;-)

We were out the door and on our way back to Sid to get the passport ordered. Everything seemed to go ok, and in theory we should be able to pick up the passport tomorrow at 1:00!!!! Assuming there are no problems, here is what tomorrow will look like:

 pick up an extra copy of the birth certificate
 pick up translated documents
 pick up passport
 medical appointment
 Apply for Visa at US Embassy

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Family Table

One good thing about this adoption process, Abel is learning about being in a family in a gradual way. First with just Dean and me, and next week we'll be adding in his new brothers and sister.

In the institution, meal times aren't that. They are feedings, and it is much like feeding a pack of hungry animals. The day we had Abel's birthday party was probably not one of my top 10 favorite memories. The cake that was made was placed in the middle of a table with 8 or 10 starving kids around it. Hands reached to grab as caregivers did their best to dish up the treat as soon as fast as possible. Lightning fast hands raked through the frosting, shoving food into their hungry mouths, while at the same time grabbing off whatever plates they could reach to get more. It was so sad. So very sad.

In addition to chronic hunger, the kids are chronically dehydrated. OH THE THIRST!!! I have never seen a child FIGHT for something to drink. Asher was the same way, and after 18 months home still drinks a lot and is still obsessed with water.

I honestly don't know what the problem is. Part of it is chronic hunger. They children are fed just enough to keep them from starving, and the nutritional value of what they get is very low. Both Axel and Asher came home from Serbia deficient in almost every nutrient, and I expect the same will be true for Abel. But there is also the business of teaching manners. I just know the caregivers go home to their own children and expect them to act like children and not wild animals. For some reason it is just expected that in the institution the children aren't capable of learning this.

In the institution food shows up on a cart ready for them to eat, sometimes a bit hot so it is allowed to cool. Then it is placed before them and it is a race to eat before it is taken away. The institution where Abel spent 10 years is trying to make many changes, and this is one thing they want to change; the feeding routine.

So, our first meal at the apartment with Abel was a difficult one. As I did with Asher, I had him sit on a chair a safe distance from the stove and other dangerous things. He could see but he could not reach. ;-)  Watching us handle the food caused HUGE anxiety for him, and he cried the entire time, during which I kept talking about what I was doing, how I was cutting things up, pouring his drink, etc. Dean sat near him, reassuring him that the food would come. We fed him first and did not dish up our own food. With Asher, I spent several months feeding him every bite of food he ate. Part of this was for the bonding process, and the other purpose was to teach him to eat at a normal speed instead of inhaling as is done in the institution. So, with Abel I also fed him each bite, and intended to do so for quite some time.

When he was done with his meal he continued to beg for more. A child who is chronically hungry does not feel "full" and will eat until they vomit. He had eaten a reasonable amount of food and needed to be done. Then Dean and I ate. OH THE TEARS! It was so very difficult for Abel to watch us eat! Even though his belly was full, he didn't know how to be around food without eating. It was a new concept for him. I think it was about Sunday - the second full day - before we could eat in front of him without him panicking. Still, his belly had to be full first.

On Saturday and most of Sunday Dean or I fed him every bite of food he ate. He seemed to be settling in well so Sunday evening I let him feed himself. I only put one item of his dinner on his plate at once, but he ate at a normal rate. I still only put one item of the meal on his plate. In addition, Dean and I ate at the same time. Abel was relaxed and peaceful during this meal!

On Tuesday at lunch I was able to put all the items of his meal on his plate at one time. He alternated what items he took bites of, trying different things. At dinner I added one more step. I put his drink on the table too. OH THE DRINKS!!!! He has been OBSESSED with drinking just like Asher still is. He is now able to accept when we tell him "all done", but we have to put the drinks out of sight or he can't let it go. But this night...this night I was able to put the drink on the table along with his meal. Oh the delight he showed!!!!

These are pictures from dinner last night.

He enjoyed the fried eggs! 

He wasn't really sure how to handle having his food AND his drink on the table at the same time. We assured him that he didn't have to hold onto it. Nobody would steal it from him. 

He took a drink and set it back down.

Then nicely went back to eating.

He kept an eye on that cup though! And, like Angela and Asher,  he has chose a 'spot' for the cup and it must be in that spot if it's not in his hand. LOL

He has only ever eaten bread that is soaked in broth or water. ( the bread is in the cup with the broth/water.) Over the last couple of days we have introduced him to bread with various things on it, butter, or peanut butter, etc. He is now able to take bites of the bread and manages to move it around in his mouth. Because he's never picked up food to eat with his fingers (other than cookies which were a rare treat) he does NOT like the stuff on the bread to get onto his fingers. Today he ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the first time. (every American kid must, right? LOL) He wasn't thrilled at first but after a few bites he liked it!

On the 3rd day with us, we no longer allowed him to cry while sitting on the chair watching us prepare food. If he cried he could do so, but he had to sit in the living room. (he could still see from there, but not nearly as well as from on the chair!) This only took one mealtime to correct, and now he can sit and watch either of us prepare food without the extreme anxiety he displayed before. He no longer needs one of us to sit near him while he waits. Now, any time one of us enters the kitchen area he goes to his chair. This will be very helpful at home, when he can sit with Asher at his place at the island and see everything! (this also keeps small hands out of harms way!)

I really am glad we've had this time with just him alone. I cannot imagine bringing him from the institution directly into our group of kids. Although none of them would try taking his food, HE doesn't know that and it probably would have taken us a lot longer to deal with this. I expect the first time we all sit down to eat together will be a bit stressful for him, but not nearly as traumatic as it could be.


On April 24th, 2013
Sid, Serbia

A little boy 
who has spent 10 years all alone
is an orphan NO MORE!

Bogdan Abel Spring

Welcome to the family Abel!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Damage Done

When I first got custody of Axel 2 1/2 years ago, if he was sitting "still" he was doing the orphan rock. He would do it to put himself to sleep too, but it was pretty easy to stop. What we haven't ever been able to stop, and we have long since quit trying, is the head banging in his sleep. Every 20 minutes, like clockwork, he bangs his head on the mattress for about 5 minutes. He's had a sleep study, it's nothing but institutional behavior. Then, in the early morning hours, he sits up and rocks again until you tell him it's time to get up. Most orphans I know never stop this type of self-soothing behavior, even when they've been home for years. I know a 13 year old who has been home 7 years and she cannot stand or sit still. She always rocks.

Asher has never rocked. Instead he destroys his blankets or sheets by twisting them. Some nights he sneaks out of bed to get something else to twist around his hands to comfort himself. It's another version of the dangling that he does.

And now there is B. In general he has more institutional behaviors than both Axel and Asher combined. He twiddles his lower lip, he makes noises that I didn't know a human could make, and he rocks. Whether awake or asleep it doesn't matter, if there is a moment to sit still he rocks, while holding his breath and letting it out in a "raspberry" while at the same time humming. He grinds his teeth constantly. (which could be due to pain because his mouth is full of rotten teeth) He dangles his block. He taps every person he walks past. (not in a friendly way!)

But of all B has brought with him, the saddest thing is the damage done from his life in the institution.  The first night B slept at the apartment with us took quite awhile to get him to sleep. I let him rock or do whatever he needed to calm himself. Finally he cleared all the blankets off his bed so the space was clear. He laid down on the bed and started a type of rocking I have never seen before. Since then we've discovered he does this for several HOURS out of every night. Last night he did it for three hours straight. I know he has sleep apnea because he snores terribly, but the rest is just how orphans learn to comfort themselves when nobody will come for them. This breaks my heart to watch.

Three hours. Without stopping. This. This is the damage done by spending 10 years in an institution.


Here's how it's *supposed* to go, and it's how it went for both Axel and Asher's adoptions:

Day 1) get signature
Day 2) Travel to birth city for adoption ceremony, get new birth certificate and certificate of citizenship.
Day 3) Pick up passport in Belgrade, pick up translated adoption documents, get medical appointment done, get VISA photos taken, have first Visa appointment with US Embassy.
Day 4) Pick up Visa
Day 5) Fly home (in this case it would be Saturday.)

But of course, this can't go the way it's *supposed* to go. I'm not allowed 3 easy adoptions in a row. Here's how B's adoption will work, and why it will be tiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Tuesday (today) get signature

Weds: Travel to Sid (pronounced Sheed) for adoption ceremony. Notice I did not say "travel to birth city? Why yes, that would be because the officials from Sid kind of forgot to inform us that while the birth parents were residents of Sid, B was born HERE in Belgrade!!!! So, adoption ceremony, only, in Sid. Then return to Belgrade to order new birth certificate and certificate of citizenship.

Thurs: RETURN to Sid to order passport. Now, because Sid has never completed an adoption, that means the police department has never ordered a new passport for an adoption child. This could be a MAJOR problem as far as timing is concerned.

Friday: BEST CASE SCENARIO pick up the passport in Belgrade at 1:00. Pick up translated adoption documents, get medical appointment done, visa photos done, first Visa appointment with US Embassy.

Monday: Pick up the visa.

Tuesday: FLY HOME!!!!!

Now, everything must happen exactly according to this schedule!!! If we don't pick up the visa on Monday ONE of us will fly home on Tuesday, and it won't be me or B! On Friday we will know which is going to happen. The police station in Sid has been notified that we'll be there on Thursday and they are clueless. It should be fun. Oh, and lets add in the fact the Embassy staff are moving into the new embassy and their hours are sporadic!!!


We have a signature!!! Our adoption will be final at 10:00 tomorrow morning in Sid, Serbia!!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

So what's next?

Here's where things stand at now:

We did not get a signature today. Our sitter at home told us the absolute longest she can stay, so we are waiting until the last possible minute that we have to buy Dean's plane ticket home. We don't want to buy it now, only to get a signature in time to allow us to go home together, forcing us to pay a change fee for his plane tickets.

The good news is, the new US Embassy in Belgrade is open, and today the other family got their visa in one day. (they fly home tomorrow morning.) That drops the processing time we need for final paperwork to 3 business days. If we got a signature tomorrow we could be on a plane on Friday.

Please God...please.....


So, we brought B back to the institution this morning. The staff could see the difference in him immediately. He was calm. He gave hugs. He was different.

The institution psychologist understood my concern this return could have on B's trust in us. Trust that is so new and fragile. He contacted the social center (like the county) responsible for B's care, and they agreed we could. He was only there one hour!!!

When we left the house so fast we forgot his clothes and had to go back to the apartment. LOL

We got to the institution and he was already sleeping because was nap time. The caregiver woke him up and got him dressed. Notice the crying has already started? ONE HOUR!!! Hopefully we can get rid of it just as quickly as it returned. LOL

He put his new shoes on.

This caregiver has been with him since he arrived at this institution when he was born 10 years ago. 

Other staff came to say their goodbyes.

This is it B!!! Never again will we make you walk through these doors! Never again will you be without the love of a family. Never....ever....again.

B is not yet legally ours. We still don't have the signature we need from the head minister of the country. Without that signature we cannot move forward to finalize the adoption. 


This morning we brought B back to the institution. The difference in him was visible to the staff. He was CALM. He gave us each a hug when we said goodbye. In two days he is already a different child.

We had some time to speak with the psychologist about some things and I expressed my concern over the damage this could do to the trust B has developed.  The institution psychologist called the social center and they agreed we can keep him until we go home!!! He has only been there 35 minutes and we are on our way to get him!!!!


Orphan Clothes

This morning B got up and had a big breakfast with Papa, went potty on the toilet, and just 'hung out' until I got up. All things he's never done before this weekend.

When I got up he had a bath; playing in the water and even putting his face under. This from a child we were told doesn't like bathes or showers.

His bath done I got him out and dried him off. He practiced where's your eyes, nose, mouth, etc. (he doesn't know, we're just learning the names.

I got him dressed. Only today he didn't wear the fun new clothes we bought for him before we came to Serbian. No, this time we put the orphanage clothes back on him.

It's going to be a rough day.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

To bring him back

Tomorrow we have only one task on our schedule.

Tomorrow we must bring B back to the institution. It feels no different than if, after 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years we were to bring Axel and Asher back.

I cannot begin to tell you how this is tearing our hearts apart.

In just two and a half days he has learned....

He has learned to wait patiently for food.

He has learned food is prepared in a kitchen.

He has learned there are such things as cabinets and refrigerators where food is stored, and no matter that you close the door, when you open it again the food is still there.

He has learned there is no reason to cry while waiting while food is prepared.

He has learned that we will not forget about him.

He has learned that being with us means he will never be hungry.

He has learned we are here to comfort him.  There is no need to comfort himself by rocking.

He has learned to express joy and pleasure, and does so by humming.

He has learned to get attention he doesn't need to do anything, he only needs to BE.

He has learned to feel pride in himself.

He has learned at 10 years old he doesn't need to wear a diaper. He can tell us and we will get him to the bathroom.

He has learned the pleasure of a walk in the sunshine with his family.

He has learned there is always enough to drink.

He has learned to eat with a fork.

He has learned that he can take a drink and set it down, or take a bite of food and put his fork down, and nobody will take his food or drink from him.

He has learned there is no reason to steal food from anyone else, because there is enough to satisfy him.

He has learned to trust.

He has learned to receive affection.

He has expressed his desire to give affection.

In just two and a half days he has learned all these things. But there is one thing we could not promise him. We could not promise him he could stay with us forever because tomorrow we must bring him back.

Tomorrow he will know hunger again.

Tomorrow he will know chronic thirst again.

Tomorrow he will have to comfort himself again.

Tomorrow he will rock himself to sleep again.

Tomorrow he will wonder where we went.

Tiny Cars

My adoptive family friends often comment about the small cars in Eastern Europe. Last week we put the Burmans, us and our driver in a car meant for....mmmm...maybe four? LOL Yes, I still panic when I get into these cars without seat belts and with kids on my lap!

A Trip to the Zoo

Last week we went on a field trip to the Belgrade zoo with our friends the Burmans.

As we toured the zoo, people around us complained.

They complained about the condition of the animals.

They complained about the unnatural conditions 

They complained about the confinement, and how 
the animals were  1/2 the size they should be.

Onlookers complained how stressed the animals looked. 

They commented about how some of the animals appeared frozen, like they'd disconnected from the world.

 People noticed the animals pacing

and remarked about the causes of the pacing.

The peacocks were no longer beautiful, and were missing most of their tail feathers.

The tigers appeared drugged, sleeping just inches away from reach of onlookers.

The Elephant, skin hanging, begged for food from everyone.

I wanted to scream. To tell these people that just down the road, in this very city, there are CHILDREN who are kept in similar conditions. That in buildings around the country, there are CHILDREN who are kept in far worse conditions. 

The Block

You've probably noticed a lot of pictures of B which include a building block. The institution staff told us he never, ever.....ever....goes anywhere without the block. Ever. They use it to get him to do pretty much anything.

When we first started visiting the institution, we noticed the block not only went with him everywhere, but it also never left his hands. The rare occasion when he dropped it was a moment of panic for him until it was back in his hands. When he needed both hands to do something he'd hold it between his knees or in his armpit.

On the morning of our first full day with him at the apartment we were able to get him to put it down for a few seconds here and there so he could have both hands to do something.  Around mid morning he and I took a walk, and naturally the block went with us. A couple of times he dropped it, but I exclaimed "Uh oh!" and we picked it up and carried on.

Later in the day Dean took him for a walk and B accidentally dropped his block,  but this time it became a game. Him purposely dropping it and picking it up, occasionally giving it a kick. Typical boy stuff.

By the second day we realized his intense hold on the block while in the institution was all about security, yes, but it was also about ownership. If he were to drop it, someone else would get hold of it, and with lightning fast speed!

Today (Sunday) he started playing games with his block. First a catch game where he would toss it in the air just a little bit, letting it bounce off a chair and onto the floor, laughing when it did. He repeated this activity many times. We can't get  him to play with anything else, but he will play with this block. Then, this afternoon he took his games a bit further. A bit of object permanence and cause and effect, all rolled into one!

I can't wait to get him home and introduce him to toddler toys. I think he's really going to like them once he sees Axel playing with them.

First Bath

Here is B's first bath with us. Getting him into this tub (which really isn't a tub but the base of a small shower stall) was a lot like wrestling a 12 legged cat. Arms and legs everywhere! Oh, and he peed and pooped on me while I was getting his clothes off. YAY! Once he was in the water he was fine and seemed to enjoy it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 8

Yesterday was a very busy day!

First, we went to Lake Ada. All the kids from the institution who were not in school, plus a caregiver for every single child, loaded on a bus with strollers and wheelchairs. It was PACKED. Some of the kids on this trip never leave their cribs or beds. This is a once-a-year trip and some have never been. They go in the early spring, early in the day, when there is hardly anyone there. The stories I know about some of the children would break your hears. Just know...there are Serbian children who need families. They need freedom. They need you.

B absolutely loves riding on a bus or in a car, so he was in his element. We sat next to my friend Boris, who I met during my adoption of Asher. We had a good talk.

It was a beautiful day to walk around the lake. We had two full hours to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and of course our son! I had been really worried how this trip would go. B's behavior has been difficult to handle, but as I looked around at some of the other children I realized I needed to get a grip on myself. If these caregivers and volunteers could take "these" children out and enjoy the time...even with some kids who's behavior is more difficult than B's....then we could do it to. We just needed to brace ourselves for the possibilities.

We threw rocks into the water.

It is evident B has been here before. He pointed to every single vendor and signed "drink" or "eat". Unfortunately most of the vendors were closed. We were glad to see he knew what they were, because it means he's been to this place before. Finally we found an ice-cream place that was open and we all enjoyed a cone! 

We were all tired on the way home. Notice B has lots of marks on his face. The one on his right cheek is healing. It's a bite mark from one of the other kids that happened the morning we met him. The one on his chin appeared mid-week. His nose is red because we're constantly having to wipe it.

When we returned to the institution we were asked if we wanted to take him home for the weekend. OF COURSE WE WANTED TO!!!!

So, later in the afternoon we went back to pick him up. The daytime staff was gone and evening staff was on. The caregiver from B's room when to get someone. On the way out she locked the door behind her with us standing in the hall. While we waited we watched an incredible scene. In B's room there is a regular size metal twin bed. (think old-time hospital bed, which is very heavy.) Then there are 6 wood toddler beds. As soon as the caregiver left the room and shut the door, B  ran over and flipped over that big metal twin bed. I mean, flipped it all the way over so it was upside down. As if he'd given some unspoken code word, to other little boys started flipping over the wooden toddler beds, completely dismantling the headboards, footboards, and throwing the slats that support the mattresses all over the room, with each bed ending up in about 15 pieces. This all happened in less than 30 seconds. I was really worried about one very frail little girl who has been sick all week. She was laying on one of the beds with a mattress covering her. I was afraid what would happen if one of those beds hit her. I saw the caregiver coming back down the hall and motioned for her to "hurry hurry!" and pointed into the room. Someone else said, "Oh,  no worries. This is normal."


Normal? Oh dear Lord I'm bringing this very strong little boy to stay in my friend's apartment!!! Please Lord, protect her apartment!

B was happy to be getting back in a car and very curious as to where we would be going. Dean and Zoran dropped us off at the apartment while they ran to the store to get supplies. B walked up the big flight of marble steps quite well (have I mentioned he goes up stairs alternating feet?) and we hung out for a bit, me trying to figure out what to do with him because he doesn't really play. He either stims or destroys stuff. Dean came home and we managed to get through our first dinner together. (that was interesting!) . We'd been told he goes to bed at 8:00 and "sleeps well."

Not at our house.

It was a very long night for this little boy who has never slept in any place but the institution, with 10 other kids around him, many within arms reach. He finally rocked himself to sleep around 11:00.

It was a long day and we were all worn out. What will tomorrow bring?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Not yet

Please pray for a miracle.

It will only be a miracle if we get a signature today, because all Serbian eyes are on the activity in Brussels.

It is currently 12:30 pm. If we don't get a signature today Dean will need to go home without me and I will bring B home alone.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 7

Today was our 7th day of visiting. It feels like we've been here a month, and yet we really don't know our son. He's still such a stranger to us.

Our day started out a bit rough. We were being picked up by my friend's father - who doesn't speak English - at 10:45. Awesome! We could sleep in a bit since we are still having trouble getting on the Serbian clock. (usually I don't have any trouble, but this trip has been more difficult for me.)  I was sound asleep when suddenly Dean shouted, "Honey! Wake up! It's 10:30!"

Holy smokes! We got ready in record time and met our driver at exactly 10:45. We were both starving, but we were ready. ;-)

When we arrived to the institution B was waiting for us with one of the caregivers. He ran to change his shoes (they have specific indoor/outdoor shoes.) then took Papa's hand because he was the one holding the magic bag. LOL Just for fun Dean handed me the bag and B switched to holding my hand. LOL

We went outside and had a snack and played for a few minutes. Then the busses came to bring all B's classmates back from school. This caused a bit of drama because he wanted to go on the bus. One of the drivers came and said hello to him, then he was content to watch the 3 or 4 buses come and go while his friends made their way into the institution building. Then it was time for lunch so we took him in. He at his broth with boiled cabbage and/or veggies (it's boiled beyond recognition, and there is nothing of substance to it.) Then he was told to lie down on his bed.

There is one piece of institutional training that I don't mind keeping, and that is staying put on whatever bed or chair they've been told to sit on. B. took his place on his bed and waiting while the caregiver changed the diapers of the children, each taking a seat on his or her bed when they were done. Finally she announced that it was time to lie down. I know this because all the children simultaneously layed down. She came around and tossed a blanket over each of them. (the beds on either side of him are empty because one is at school and one of the other little boys with DS is a gymnast and climbing all over the cabinets at the time!!!) And do you see the Duplo block in his hand? It is with him...always....We even have a spare.

Goodnight B. Have a nice nap. Soon you won't go to bed without a pillow, kiss, and a hug!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Please say a prayer

We need some big prayers tonight! (because it's 10:30 pm here right now.)

Today our paperwork was submitted to the head minister for signature. That signature allows us to finalize the adoption then spend 3-4 business days finalizing our adoption so we can go home.

With both Axel and Asher's adoption we have waited 3-6 days for the signature.

Unfortunately, this time, we don't have 3-6 days!

May 1st is a major holiday here. Between May 1-18 there are only a few days when government offices are open. The last 3-4 business days of the process are things done with the US Embassy, but they follow the same holiday schedule as the Serbian government PLUS U.S. holidays.

Now, lets add in the fact the city who must process our adoption (Sid) has never done one before. They will defer certain decisions to another city. THAT city has just completed IT'S first adoption, and they have had some problems. What should have taken them one day has taken them three.

So, here's what we need and how to pray:

We need a signature from the ministry by Friday, April 19th.

If we get a signature by the 19th, we will be able to have the adoption ceremony by April 22nd, and to pick up the passport by the 23rd. This will allow us to be on a plane home by Saturday the 27th.

If we don't have a signature by the afternoon of Friday the 19th, plan B goes into effect. We have known since before we traveled that it is a possibility, but we are praying it doesn't come to pass. What we didn't know is the boy who we would be bringing home.

If we don't get that signature by Friday Dean will be on a plane headed home and I will have to bring B home by myself THE MIDDLE OF MAY!!!!

This is NOT a good thing. We KNOW that B will not climb up the airplane steps out on the tarmac by himself and he is too big for me to carry him up them. He is not going to let anyone else do it either, at least not without putting up one very huge fight, and the last thing I want is for a total stranger to be wrestling a 50+ lb spider monkey up those steps. And, I haven't even touched on the fact he is going to be difficult ON all the flights with just one adult. He needs two experienced adults to tag-team with him.

Please pray for each of the specific steps involved:

Pray we get the necessary signature in time.
Pray we get the passport without complication.
Pray we get our paper-chase completed quickly.
Pray we are 100% complete before the shut down.
Pray we get home without complications.
Pray that B does ok on the flights.
Pray for Dean and I as we navigate these last days.

Day 6

Be HAPPY B! It's your birthday!!!!

Smile B! We're visiting your school.

Smile B! Your teacher loves you!

Smile B! It's time to sing Happy Birthday!

Smile B! Have some frosting!
(video removed)

Lets try that again, shall we?
(video removed)

 Smile B! Your Papa loves you!

Our "vacation"

Just in case any of you think we're having a wonderful vacation, let me correct your thinking.

One day we went to the zoo with friends.

We have gone out to eat twice.

Today I told our driver we will need to get out to do some touristy type shopping before we get custody of B.

That is all we've done so far. Dean hasn't gotten to see much of Belgrade except while we drive back and forth to the institution (which is about 3 miles.) We buy groceries to eat at the apartment and can live very inexpensively that way!

There is a 50/50 chance that Dean will go home without me while I stay here to finish things up. We will know by the time you, at home, wake up on Friday morning if this will be the case. If I have to stay longer, that means more expenses in lodging and transportation for me, all the while loosing income at home. So, for now we are being very conservative with our funds. There have also been a couple of unexpected expenses at home that had to be dealt with.

It feels a bit disappointing to me to have the beautiful weather we do today and not be walking around Belgrade seeing stuff! I think after B's birthday party today we will walk up to St. Sava Cathedral because Dean really wants to see it. Then we can call our driver for a ride from there. 

Happy Birthday!!!!

Today our son turns 10 years old.

For 10 years he has never known love. He has never had a mother, a father, a family, a home.

He has never seen food prepared.

He has never seen a kitchen.

He has never seen a refrigerator full of food.

He has never had a real bath.

He has never gotten to lay in a tub full of water and watch the bubbles float round him.

He has never been tucked in at night with a kiss and a hug.

He has never had anyone to calm his fears in the middle of the night.

He has never NOT been thirsty.

His 10 years of waiting are over.

Happy Birthday Son!!!!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Visit with B: Day 5

Yesterday there was discussion about Dean and I visiting the school B attends. Since this discussion took place in a mix of Serbian and English there was lots of potential for information to be misunderstood. (or just plain forgotten since we were discussing several topics at once! LOL) When it was time to arrange our ride for today, Dean said that was today and I said it was tomorrow. So, today when we arrived for our visit there were LOTS of kids and caregivers out on the playground, and one of the staff said that B looked around quite confused that we weren't out there, and then was brought back inside, which he wasn't happy about.

We found him up on his floor but in a different room. He came to us right away, and I asked to speak with the social worker or psychologists about the school visit. In the meantime, we didn't want to take him outside for his snack since there were a lot of kids out there, so we went up to the 2nd floor to use the playroom up there.

Problem: We changed the routine.

B was not AT ALL happy that we were changing things up. He pointed to the elevator, signing "Eat!!!" as hard as he could. We did, indeed get on the elevator, but when we tried to get off on another floor, not the one that leads to outside, he was NOT going to get out of the elevator. I pointed to the bag, "Eat." I signed, "Ide." and put out my hand. He shook his head no and dug in his heels. "Ide" I said,  bit more insistently. Finally he came along. He was not happy to be walking down the hallway to the playroom so I reached into the bag and showed him the water bottle was in there. Talk about dangling a carrot!

Once in the playroom, some staff who remembered Asher came running to see the photo book I have along, so Dean worked on snack with B while I kept tabs on my book. When I came back to the room they were done with the pudding, which B loved, and were trying some cheerios. He chewed a few using his front teeth, but his mouth looks incredibly sore (his gums bleed constantly without any stimulation. Poor baby!) so I'm not really surprised he didn't want to chew with his back teeth. After a few he started spitting them out so we moved on to the juice.

As for the rest of the visit, it was spent not letting him kick over the table, not letting him hit, not letting him kick (us or anything else) and with him spending a lot of time sitting on the floor crying. Pretty much a repeat of our 1st and 2nd visit. But, we're not dismayed. I think tomorrow's visit will be spent back in that very same room. Maybe. We'll see how much energy we have tomorrow. LOL

Today I was having trouble seeing what he needed. I mean, yes we changed the routine so he didn't know what to expect from us, but other than that I just wasn't able to see and understand what he was trying to tell us with his actions other than the attention seeking stuff. I didn't know the best way to handle him today. I guess I didn't bring my "A" game! LOL

Oh, he did soak through his diaper so we brought him back to his caregivers for a diaper change. Or should I say double diaper change? They put two disposable diapers on the kids. You know, better to spend a ton of money on diapers than to potty train them, right? We were able to see that the small spots of vitiligo he has really cover large portions of his body. Yeah...we'll be getting that thyroid thoroughly checked out when we get home. Both Axel and Asher came home from Serbia with very low iodine levels (which affects thyroid function). Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, yet I would venture to guess more than half the kids here have vitiligo. Also, we've seen that his tonsils are huge so they will need to come out. Looks like we'll be doing lots of things under anesthesia: Teeth cleaning/removal (he has two rows of teeth) tonsils and probably adenoid removal, ABR (hearing test) though I suspect his hearing is fine we'll get it checked anyway as long as he's out! That's all I can see up to this point that would need to be addressed with a trip to the O.R.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Visit with B: Day 4

God smiled upon us today.

We have a routine now, and B is able to predict what will happen. This makes a HUGE difference in the process of getting to know one another. He is able to learn to predict our movements and us his. We can slowly introduce new signs, as well as tiny stressors to push his abilities a bit further. Every new, successful experience is one step closer to home.

When we arrived for the morning visit, B was in his group's room. He saw us through the windows and ran to his caregiver. "Eat!!!" he signed with desperation. Tapping his chin as hard as he could with the sign. "EAT! EAT!" pointing to us through the window. She let him out the door and he came running to me with the bag. "Eat!" he signed, pointing to the bag. "More eat! Eat!"

"Da!" I replied. "Soon eat." I pointed to the shoes on his feet, then to the outdoor shoes on the rack. He plopped his butt on the floor, crying tears as he changed his shoes as quickly as he could. He cried when the caregiver asked me if I wanted a jacket for him. I slipped it on his arms, signing and saying "zzzzip!" as I zipped it up. He imitated the sign and smiled big.

I offered my hand for him to take, but he shook his head no and dug in his heels, as if to say, "No. Wait. I want to go on my terms."  I dropped my hand to my side and waited just a couple seconds. "Ide" ("come" in Serbian) and offered my hand again, which he took willingly. He smiled and giggled as we walked to the elevator. Papa had the bag by this time, and B kept checking to make sure papa...and that bag of food...were coming along.

We got downstairs and out the front door when I discovered a problem I hadn't anticipated. There were other children and caregivers sitting at the picnic tables. While there was plenty of room for us, we couldn't feed him in front of the other children. B went straight to the tables and took a seat while I quickly scanned the playground. Behind some bushes is another small area with a low railing Dean and I could sit on. "Ide" I said to B, holding out my hand for him to come along. He shook his head in refusal. That is not the routine. The routine is to sit at THESE tables and eat. I pointed to the bag, "Eat" I signed, "Ide". Again he shook his head no.

I told Dean, "Lets just walk. I think he'll come along." and that is exactly what happened. He didn't let us get more than a few feet away before joining us, although he was a bit wary. We sat down on the railing and I took the first item out of the bag. "Yogurt" I signed, and he immediately imitated. I gave him a bite and he got a huge grin on  his face and giggled a bit. "More eat!" he signed. We went through the yogurt and juice, him signing unprompted for everything. These are signs that are now solidified in his mind. He uses them with the caregivers and they are encouraging this new step.

When snack was gone we put the empty items back into the bag. "All done." we signed, and he giggled as he repeated the sign and turned toward the playground. He now understands that "all done" means the eating is done and now it's time to play.

The previous two days, any time he gets within reach of the ride-on toys he has picked them up and thrown them. Yesterday he didn't, but only because I was standing right there to grab them before the throwing motion. Today he went to pick up items, but I pointed back to the ground and he (mostly) set them down gently, smiling when I praised him with "Bravo!"

B slid down the slides and wandered around from playhouse to playhouse. We joined him inside the tiny spaces which he seemed to enjoy.

Since the first day I have made an attempt to have him walk with me, nicely, all the way around the play area. Today I held out my hand, "Ide". B stubbornly shook his head, so I turned away from I'm and started walking away. I went about 15 feet then turned and, without moving toward him, offered my hand again. "Ide". B ran to catch up to me, taking my hand and giggling a bit as I told him "Bravo".   We went about 30 feet when he dug in his heels. I immediately stopped. No eye contact, I simply held out my hand until he was ready to move forward with me again. Then we did it!!! We did it!!!!  We finally walked all the way around that play area. It is maybe 200 feet total, but we this was 200 feet further than he has ever walked with me before.

It was time to go inside for lunch. "Ide" I said, and pointed up to the building. B took my hand and walked with me to the front doors. Then he saw them. The buses. All his friends were getting off the busses from school. He wanted to be with them. He sat down on the ground, refusing to move, unless...of course...he could scoot himself over to the buses. ;-) I used my body to block his path without making an attempt to put my hands on him, and without blocking his view of the buses.  He needed to see this. He needed to see that his friends were going inside for lunch and the buses were leaving. It would have been pointless to try getting him to leave with us until the buses were gone. When the buses pulled away we waved, "Ciao! Ciao!" I held out my hand, hoping he was ready to move forward again. He stood up then, taking my hand, pointed up to the building. "Eat" he signed. Together he walked up the steps and in the door, when he stooped again. He pointed through the windows in the direction the busses had gone. "Ciao!" I said. That was the end of our problems getting inside.

We watched him eat his lunch (mashed potatoes with hamburger-type gravy) as he cried tears periodically through his meal. Dean and I made the observation that he doesn't really cry with us anymore, but he is certainly crying a lot with the caregivers. We can only guess at which of the many possibilities are the reason for this. All we know is it is progress, and we will take it.

Later, at our afternoon visit, B learned two more signs. "Mama" and "Papa". I don't know if they have meaning for him yet, but he certainly knows WHEN to do them. It was the end of the day and he had already had his snack with us. We were trying to kill the last few minutes of our time when we sat down at the picnic tables, curious to see if B would repeat a game he had started with us at the morning visit. First backing up to my lap where I would gently squeeze and rock  him while softly singing in his ear, then after just a few seconds repeating the steps with Papa. But this time I added a step. Before he sat in my lap I turned him to me "Watch" I said, "Mama" I signed. As soon as he repeated the sign I let him sit on my lap.

A few seconds later he moved to Dean. "Watch" Dean said, then signed "Papa", having B imitate the sign before letting him sit on his lap. By the 3rd or 4th time B understood our game. He came to me, signed "Mama" at which time I said "Bravo!" and pulled him into me for our quick cuddle, and he giggled every time.

(and don't I look nice and crabby on this video? Good grief.)

What a blessing today was, for all of us. Please continue to pray for the process here. There is a government shut down looming, making it imperative that every step of our process that is to happen this week must be done at precisely the right time for us to be completed before the shut down. If we don't finish in time, Dean will go home without me while I will be stuck here an additional three weeks longer than necessary.


Today I went looking for them.

Looking for the children I first met three years ago. Children who climbed all over me, fighting for my attention, for hugs, for my touch. They smiled. Despite their circumstances they were happy because they knew no different. Full of life, all of them.

Today I went looking for them.

They are gone.

Their bodies are there, skeleton thin. The eyes I remember are still there. But the children...their spirits...are gone. They have given up on the world and are now disconnected from it. From us. From me. Their eyes have gone vacant. They look at me without seeing me, instead seeing something in the world they have created for themselves in their mind. A place better than the hell in which they live.

Today I went looking for them.

Today I can stop wondering.

I don't need to look anymore.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 3: Pt 2

Today, as we stood in the entry of the institution, Dean and I prayed. We prayed for insight into what B was needing when he displayed various behaviors. We prayed to see things from his perspective. We prayed for our own patience. We prayed for wisdom. We prayed that B would feel our love.

And then we went in.

We arrived about 30 minutes before snack time. The kids were already agitated and hungry. As we predicted he cried when he saw us, worried that he would not get to eat.

I hate that these kids are so obsessed with food. The kind of obsession that comes with chronic hunger. When you see the children you know why. They are stick thin. B feels quite solid, but he's also wearing several layers of clothes. This time I will remember to take pictures when we get custody of him. I didn't with Asher, and he was so painfully thin.

I signed "eat" to him, and tapped the bag we had along. He immediately lunged for the bag, signing "eat" just like he did yesterday. Then he cried, sobbing tears, when this caregiver told him to change to his outside shoes. Oh how he cried. I understood, he was so hungry and so worried he would not get food. I signed "eat" again, and pointed to the elevator. Finally he changed his shoes and put on his jacket. He got on the elevator nicely, and walked so nicely outside with us. I turned to say something to Dean and B tugged on my hand, pointing anxiously at the picnic table where we sat yesterday while he snacked.

"Yes!" I said, signing "eat" and pointing to the table as we continued to walk. B ran ahead and sat in the same place as yesterday. This will be our routine now. Predictable for him. Safe.

Today's snack was watered down juice ( the kids here are chronically dehydrated. Fewer diapers that way.) a fruit pouch and a banana. I've been told he doesn't chew so wanted to see what he did with small bites of soft food. He'll probably have more fruit this week than he's had in his entire life and I realize we may suffer some gastrointestinal consequences of this. I posted video in my previous post. He did SO WELL with his signing. Laughing excitedly when it got him what he wanted. Later the caregivers told us he's signing for them now too, and they seem both proud and amazed he is learning so quickly. The caregivers we have met so far are encouraging him as well. As I suspected he is not able to take bites of the banana, at least not safely. This is partly because he's starving and wants to just shove it all in. We can work on bite size later when he's not so hungry. After a few bites I just broke pieces off and put them into his teeth to see he he would chew. Like Asher, he very quickly moved it to his palate and swallowed. (but it didn't pack in his palate like Asher would do.)

When snack with us was done we went back inside for THEIR snack. It sure wasn't going to hurt him to have two snacks, and I wanted to see what he did with their food. When we arrived on his floor we were greeting by the social worker who would observe our visit and submit her report tomorrow.

B couldn't believe he was getting to eat again! Again, he cried sobbing tears as the caregiver put his bib on. He was given a cup of clear broth with very large (whole) crackers dropped into the cup. He sat down with his food, but this time didn't inhale it. He lifted the cup to drink the broth, expertly using the spoon to hold the crackers out of the way. When the broth was gone he put the cup down, using the spoon to smash up the mushy crackers into paste, then eating them. He was the last one done because he wasn't rushing like everyone else. ;-) Then he was given a couple of wafer cookies. The caregiver handed it to him, which I thought was interesting since he doesn't chew. Yeah, well he's pretty smart. He handed to me and indicated I should break it up. I broke a piece off and put it in his molars and he chewed a tiny bit. The next bite I put BARELY in his front teeth. He used his lips to pull it into his mouth, chewing a little bit with his front teeth before swallowing.

By the time his snack was done, he was FULL! I bet he's never felt full in his entire life. Now much more calm, we decided to go back outside. He walked with us nicely! He went down one of the little kid slides, again using the sign for "more" each time he was going to climb up the ladder. I did something else today. Whenever he showed attention seeking behavior, like licking the slide, or the ground, or the basketball hoop, I just didn't respond. But, when he did what was appropriate, he got lots of "Bravo!" for praise. He stopped doing those things.

The social worker was still observing all of this, so I spent a lot of time thanking God under my breath that today was not a repeat of yesterday. When he looked like he was going to throw a giant toy (again, attention seeking) I showed him how to put it down "nice" (signing it) and he didn't throw anything. He tried lots of different ride-on toys, testing us to see what we would/would not allow him to play with or sit on, but he wasn't inappropriate.

When it was time to go back inside I told him "come" (signed while saying it in Serbia) He took my hand and walked nicely until he realized WHERE we were going. He sat himself down on the ground, refusing to move. That's ok! Out came my canine-training techniques. He was not allowed to let go of my hand, but as long as he was sitting on the ground we would  not move forward NOR would he get any attention from me. No eye contact, no pulling on him or begging. After a few seconds he stood up and started walking with me. We went about 10 feet and he sat back down. This is the lather, rinse, repeat part of retraining. He has to try each thing several times to see if I respond the same way I did the time before. Consistency. Consistency makes thins predictable so he will know what my response will be. We repeated this little exchange three times before he had it figured out. He walked the rest of the way inside, up the elevator and back to his group without anymore problems.

He changed his shoes, put his jacket away, then went in to wash his hands...and took a bite out of the bar of soap. Why? Because that is what gets him attention from the caregivers, and yes they come running! Hands all over him to get the soap out of his mouth, etc. Attention, attention, attention. This is one of those "maladaptive" behaviors that isn't really maladaptive in my eyes. It's a survival skill. Something he has developed to get attention he is so severely lacking. Now I will just have to figure out how to act proactively with this at home. I think the brothers and sister will be helping me with some role play. That and we use liquid soap at home. Yes, he will lick it off his hand. No, it won't kill him in small quantities. No, he won't get ANY reaction from me when he does it, but HIGH PRAISE when he washes his hands nicely.

We left this visit feeling so much better than we did yesterday. He was able to sit with us for quite some time (as long as we kept the food coming!) and he did calm down once his tummy was full. We're praying tomorrow goes just as well, but are also prepared for a backlash. It might have gone too well, and B might try some new tricks. ;-)

Day 3: Pt 1

Two part post today. I know you only come here for the pictures or video, so I'll get those up, then take a much-needed nap before writing out all the details.

Now, here's an awesome video. He is using two signs together!!!
(sorry for my very "intense" face. I am constantly at the ready for him to lunge at something or smack things out of my hands!

And, these signs have MEANING to him. We went inside where it was snack time (Yay! More food!) and he signed "more" when his food was gone. "eat" because he wanted more of the snack, and "drink" when he wanted his cup of water. This was completely unprompted!!! He is already learning signs faster than Axel did. His method of communication is WELL established from his years in the institution, we have only given him NEW signs that will be understood by us as well as others when we get him home. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 2 visit

Here's a summary of today's visit.

Oh the tears! Not from us, but from B. Oh my word does this child cry easily. Children do what works for them, and if crying works to get what they want, then that is what they do. Clearly the water works have been successful for him, because he can turn them on and off at at will. 

When we arrived he was eating his snack. A clear broth with bread soaked in it. He cried when he saw us because he thought his food would get taken away. When he realized he could still eat we were able to see HOW he eats. (this info is for our feeding and speech therapists. ;-) He closes his lips on the spoon, but does have a tongue thrust when swallowing. I have seen him do some great lateral movements with his tongue. (he licks food off the corners of his mouth.) His tongue is in when he's drinking and is not sticking out inside the cup. He is able to drink thin liquids (we've seen water and juice) without any problems. 

When the caregiver told him he was going outside he cried. It was not part of his routine and he likes routine. When she told him to wash his hands he cried for 1/10 of a second then did it. When she told him to change his shoes he cried for 1/10 of a second then did it. (removed inside shoes, put on outside shoes, all independently) When she told him to get a jacket he cried for just one second but still did it. He went with us nicely to the elevator and I had high hopes. 

Apparently too high.

When we got out to the playground he wanted to see what was in the bag. Knowing he likes to drink, I had a sport bottle of juice. I gave him a few sips and he signed "more" right away. He did this twice, then the third time he put his hand on the bottom off the bottle so I couldn't take it away. LOL When the juice was all gone I had a pouch of pureed fruit. He was able to suck from the top like a straw without any problem at all. Here's a quick video. At first he didn't want to sign "more" like he knows is what we want. He wanted to do it HIS way but I didn't respond. Darn! Then he quickly signed  "more" spontaneously while also attempting to say it, then imitating "all done" and attempting to say it making two syllable sounds like I did. 

That was the best 5 minutes of the visit. The rest of the time was spent with him crying because he couldn't do what he wanted. When he is not crying he is throwing toys. And then he is crying because we won't let him throw the toys. I'm not talking small toys, I'm talking about big ride-on toys like the rocking boats and similar things that are on the playground. 

After 90 minutes of this both he and we were exhausted. We only have a very short time to get his behavior turned around so we can bring him into the airports to get him home. That means we have to start out from the very first moments letting him know that this is not acceptable behavior. We won't tolerate it. We can have great fun, but only when the behavior is good. After today I am going to guess that when he sees us again tomorrow he's not going to be very excited! He will cry...again. Today when we brought him back to the caregivers I explained that he cried the entire time and was tired. They nodded "he is always crying." When I described the behavior we'd seen they nodded, "He is a bad boy always." they said. I replied "But he is very smart! He catches on quickly, this is just very difficult for him." and they agreed. I asked if the social worker was around. I wanted to talk with her about getting custody of him as soon as possible. The institution he associates with all the behavior he has been allowed to get away with for 10 years. Getting out of there, into a new environment he is unfamiliar with will help him learn what is expected of him. 

Honestly it is very difficult to see the real little boy behind all the behaviors. We get glimpses like in the video above. He is a very intelligent little boy, which is exactly why he's behaving the way he is. He has good problem solving skills, so he knows how to get whatever he wants. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Some more about B

Last night I slept the entire night. (with the help of a little pill. ;-) I slept from 11:00 - 9:00. Lucky for Dean, he was awake for the day at 3:00 a.m.  We met B and came home to take a much-needed nap before we met friends for dinner. It was only about an hour long nap and we both slept hard.

When we came home from dinner Dean fell asleep on the couch for an hour while we waited to Skype with the kids. I was really tempted to sleep but knew I'd have a problem if I did so I chatted with friends instead. Just before we skyped with the kids I took my little helper pill again.

The helper is not helping.

I dozed off for about 20 minutes and am now wide awake! Fortunately we don't have much going on tomorrow, and won't go visit B until the afternoon so I'll have time to nap if needed.

So...on to information about B. Just some observations we made during our first visit.

Size: He is wearing size 5 clothes, but will very quickly be into 6's. He is about the same size as Asher, but a bit more solid. He is underweight, so I expect he will shoot up very quickly!

I was able to ask about his eating (and hopefully tomorrow we will get to watch him with our own eyes.) He is fed only pureed foods and does not chew.


We will be able to teach him to chew, I have no doubt, as his oral motor skills are significantly more developed than Asher's were when we adopted him, but it's going to be work. I'm ready for it, I was just hoping it wouldn't be one of his issues. I suspect there is also a behavior component involved, because when he doesn't want to do something...yeah...he's not gonna do it!

We were told he had an ASD (that's an atrial-septal defect of the heart for those who are unfamiliar. It is a very common heart defect among kids with DS) but that it resolved on it's own. Angela had the same defect and hers was self-resolved as well. He does have a problem with the mitral valve which we'll be checking out as soon as we get home. He has some chronic respiratory problems, ear infections with fluid, etc. that are also common to our kids. He seems to hear but, as with all my kids, he'll have an ABR (hearing test) done at the same time he gets his teeth cleaned and examined.  ;-)

We were told prior to adoption that he was "half" potty trained. We assumed this meant trained during the day, but not at night. Ummm no. He is in diapers full-time. Again, I think this comes down to exposure, and we'll be working on potty training right away. He is a very smart little boy and we are going to pray he takes to this new skill quickly. We shall see!

Have I mentioned he is like Stretch Armstrong morphed with the Incredible Hulk? Tomorrow Dean and I will go through the apartment we're in and move all breakable objects to safer locations: very high or behind locked doors.

I don't really know what his true activity level is like because he was very overstimulated by this visit. Keep in mind it was us along with about 10 other people who were observing the visit, not to mention we were people coming in talking crazy talk (English, which obviously he doesn't understand) and yet we were gesturing to him. That is a lot to take in for one little boy over the course of an hour! If you ever wonder what a foreign adopted orphan feels like with the language change, to to Netflix and watch a foreign film without captions, and you'll have a good general idea. He did eventually have a seat by the wall, and it was clear he was tired from the visit, and done with the crazy talk people. Our visits from now on will be three hours long. We will be praying for nice weather so we can get him outside to move, run and play!

We were told he is able to dress and undress himself. When our visit was done I helped him put on his high-top shoe. They had a zipper from the arch to the top of the shoe, with a TINY zipper tab. The caregiver told me he was able to do it himself. He did his "but I don't wanna" look at he and I told him "Your turn" and pointed to the shoe. He put it on without any trouble at all, and zipped that tiny zipper. As little as it was I'm curious to find out if he is able to do buttons and snaps!

I was chatting with someone earlier tonight, and she asked if he felt like he was "mine". Neither Axel nor Asher felt like they were "mine" the first time I met them. With Axel it took a few months of us being together before I could say he felt like my son. With Asher, who was much more dependent upon us for every need (more like a 6 month old baby) our bond formed much more quickly. Within a matter of weeks he felt like he belonged to me. Thankfully both Dean and I have parented kids who are not biologically ours, and we know it feels different. Meeting B today felt like meeting the new kid who moved in across the street. He is new to us, but we know we'll be seeing him every day. It will take us time to learn what makes him tick, how he learns, what motivates him, his likes and dislikes. As we learn these things, he will be learning about us, how to read our body language, what these new words  mean, as well as these new expectations that will be put upon him. Since he is able to turn tears on/off quite quickly, I expect we'll be seeing a lot of them over the next week. Our biggest concern at the moment is addressing immediate behavioral issues that will make traveling home difficult. Like I said in above, he is a very smart little boy and he'll catch on quickly.

And here is a bit of brutal honesty:

Please pray for little B's heart and soul. In a matter of days we will take him from the very place he has lived his entire life. Adoption involves trauma. Lots of trauma. Even children who are saved from the most extreme circumstances suffer trauma when removed from that place. From everything they know. From an environment in which they are familiar with the routine and people. And, lets face it, there are some children who never do well with that change.  International adoption is not for the faint of heart. Don't assume that you will love your new child the moment they're placed in your arms, and don't assume that child will love you. I know, from going through this with Axel the first few weeks, that B is probably going to hate us at first. We're going to have to change 10 years of learned behavior and it's not going to be a pleasant experience for any of us. But the rewards. Oh the rewards!!! To be able to watch this little boy grow and learn. To watch him SOAR, all because God found him a family before it was too late.