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

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Didn't Know I Was Their Mother

Over the past couple of days I've been hearing from parents who are in the midst of or had a really difficult time with their adoptions. Bonding with a child who is not biologically yours, particularly an older child, is NOT easy.

I originally wrote this post for my other blog, just a few months after bringing Asher home.  As we prepare our home and our hearts for the addition of another child, the fear sneaks in. Fear of the unknown. I'm reposting this tonight as much for myself as for others who may be reading.
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It was April 2010, and I'd made the trip to Serbia with a friend. We visited two foster homes to meet the boys who lived in them. One had Down syndrome, and one did not.

His name was Djordje. This little boy came out to greet us. I said to my friend, "Wow, for a boy with Ds he's tall for 4."

"Four? He's NINE!"

"Ok, well then I take it back. He's really tiny for 9!"

He was a funny little guy, eager to show off for us, and play with these two crazy ladies who didn't know how to talk right.

The first time I met Axel, I didn't know I was his mother.

When I returned home from that trip, Dean and I started the process to adopt a little girl I'd also met along the way. As things with that adoption continued to fall through, we started thinking: Who was most in danger right now? The little kids with DS had time, but that older boy. That 9 year old. His foster family was ready for him to move along. Dean asked if Djordje had any issues that I worried about dealing with, and I said, no, absolutely not. He's a lovable little guy who I wouldn't hesitate to bring into our family.

Suddenly I had lots of questions that couldn't be answered. When I had met him the first time, I wasn't looking at him with a mother's eyes. What size clothes was he wearing? Did he seem to hear? What size shoes? What kinds of sounds was he making? Did he say ANY words?

One month later, on December 1st 2010, I was holding him in my arms once again. Only this time, I knew I was his mother.

It wasn't easy. Bringing home a 10 year old boy who had lived in four different settings before coming to us was tough. He'd never been allowed to form bonds that weren't destroyed when he was moved from one place to the next. He tested us...oh how he tested. There were many times when I begged God for insight into what made Axel tick. What was the root hurt that was fueling one behavior or another. How many times I stood in the shower (aka my prayer closet) and cried because I really didn't know what to do or how to help him. And always....always clarity coming to me in those moments, when God would give me a word to explain Axel's latest antics, like "bruised", "fearful" or "distressed", or maybe show me an image from Axel's eyes and how he viewed a certain situation. That doesn't mean I handled those situations perfectly with this information, and I have made plenty of mistakes, believe me. I'm human, and often felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. But Dean...Dean has been my rock and together we made it through some rough adjustments.

The first time I met Asher, I didn't know I was his mother.

It was November 30th, 2010, and I was making a visit to the orphanage in Belgrade. I hoped to visit the little girl we'd originally tried to adopt, and also check up on a few other kids. The next day I would be meeting Axel again! Oh, there are SO MANY cute kids there, its very hard to know that you're going to leave them all behind.

I was with another family at the time, and together we met this little guy. Other than the fact he was very cute, he didn't stick in my mind as "my child" because he was so young. Still in a crib. Our age minimum was 6 and this little guy was no more than two...or was he? His name was Lazar, and I didn't know he was already 6!



But he knew...he knew I was his mother. He tried to tell me but I didn't hear. I wasn't speaking his language because I wasn't  his mother...yet.

When I met him again, exactly one year later, he looked much different. 

This time I came knowing I was his mother. I didn't remember ever having met him before, probably because he looked so different. His face wasn't familiar eat all! No, this was a new child I had never met before. And to be honest, he was. GONE was the child I didn't remember meeting. Clearly his nutritional level had changed, and he was "flat", without any affect at all. Gone was the eye contact. Gone was his ability to participate in the world around him. No, I had never met this child.

*It wasn't until we were home for about 6 weeks that I discovered the pictures I'd taken that very first time I met Asher one year prior. I still don't remember having met him. *

If you read back through my adoption blog during those first few visits, you'll see it was not easy. Three months ago I wrote these words:

Asher has had his entire 7 years behind institutional walls. Through the glass partitions I watch him in his group.  Sometimes toys are scattered on the floor, like miscellaneous blocks that don't go together. Nobody has taught the children how to play with them so they are nothing but objects with which to hit themselves in the head or tap on the wall. Asher stands in the middle of the room or lays on the floor, eyes cold and distant, unfocused, lost in his own world. His world, the one in the institution, has nothing for him so he has left to find somewhere better in his mind. He doesn't rock, he just stands frozen like a statue. If he lays on the floor he is still. Sometimes he finds a thread from someone's clothes, or a stuffed animal that still has it's tag, and dangles it before his eyes, occasionally using his other hand to give it a twirl. This is Asher's day....every day....for every waking moment.
Ever so slowly, over the course of the next two weeks, Asher started to appear. 

With flashes of eye contact...

And a the hint of a smile...

I eventually found him.

The little boy who now sleeps down the hall is not the same boy I met just three months ago. I am his mother and he is my son. Today he spends his day bursting with squeals of delight and great enthusiasm at every new experience. 

So many adoptive parents think that they will feel an instant connection to the child they're adopting, and if they don't they think there must be something wrong with them.  I met BOTH of my children prior to adopting them and there was no "instant connection" then, so why would there be when I returned to adopt them? I didn't expect there to be, and there were no guilty feelings when there weren't. I have parented children who were not biologically mine before. I knew ahead of time that it feels different. 

Bonding takes time, particularly when the child is not biologically yours and he or she is no longer a baby. And sometimes...sometimes a child who is not biologically yours never feels like they are your child. Sometimes they never get past feeling like a niece or nephew. And do you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. If your niece or nephew suffered a terrible tragedy and came to live with you, do you think you could help them heal? Absolutely! And so too will you help your adopted child. And those days when you really don't feel like loving them, you might have to fake it. Have you ever had an annoying neighbor kid come over to play? Their every habit grating on your nerves but you still treat them well because...well..you should! You even find yourself watching the clock for when it's time to send him and his habits - which were created in his other life - home. Sometimes your adopted child might feel like that annoying neighbor kid. Because you might feel that way doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. You can still show a child love and caring without feeling like they are "yours", just like you do with the neighbor kid. Your job is to help heal the wounds in that child's heart and spirit. Love them. There will be days when you feel like you can't. Get support, pray, call a friend, talk to your spouse, pray some more, stand in the shower and cry. It will get better eventually, but you MUST seek out support if you feel like you're sinking. 

As for us, both Axel and Asher are truly "my" children now. We have bonded. That doesn't mean every day is a cakewalk, but I can say I have never had one single day where I regretted the decision we made to bring these boys home. 

Prayers work!

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers!!!

The other family has cleared and are leaving for Serbia tomorrow!  You prayed them there, and for that I am grateful. I have no doubt they are as well.

And there have been other prayers answered. For nearly two years I have been praying for "Mary".

  A year ago I blogged about her.

On Monday she will meet her mother.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Adopting Older Kids: Our experience Pt 2

Several weeks ago I started a series I never came back to. I am QUEEN of unfinished projects! It is for this reason Dean is amazed we've ever completed an adoption because there is a lot to get done. I say it's because I work better under pressure. LOL

Anyway, if you're new here, here's a link to my first post "Adopting Older Kids: Our Experience Pt 1".

So what about Asher's adoption? He had just turned 7 when I showed up in his world, what was he like?  You can read about one of my first days with Asher here. Asher was largely unaware of anything other than spending every waking moment of his day stimming with whatever object he could find. Where Axel's adoption was hard physical work, Asher's was mentally exhausting. With Axel I just had to have good reflexes and the patience of a saint. (and I am no saint!) With Asher I had to be constantly mindful of his fear, constantly mindful of what triggered those fears. Oh...and I had to learn what his fears were, because clearly "fear" is what much of Asher's life was based upon.

Asher was the easiest child EVER. How could a kid straight out of the institution be SO easy? Surely he was going to explode before me any minute.

I kept waiting.

It didn't happen.

It all went back to that fear. Asher was scared to death to do...anything! He wouldn't walk without holding my hand. When I let go he stopped there and just froze in place like a statue. When I first met him and told Dean how developmentally little he was, I told him to quick childproof the house because Asher was basically a 6 month old who could walk. I need not have worried, because Asher was too afraid to touch anything. We had to put a toy in his hand and then he was too afraid to put it down. Everything. He was so afraid of everything.  Working through some of that fear really was exhausting. Sometimes I felt like screaming "Just go PLAY already! Pick up a toy and PLAY!"

It has never happened. Asher will pick up toys, but it's rare that he plays with them. Not appropriately, anyway. He is not interested. Asher wants to MOVE now. Like the 2 year old he is now developmentally, Asher is all about running, and climbing, and jumping, and crawling in and crawling under and through. Asher is on the move!!! He is making up for 6 1/2 years he spent in a crib. He has "under" days where he spends every waking moment trying to get under every chair, every table or other small nooks and crannies, even if only his head will fit inside. Other days he spends the whole day trying to be as high up in the air as possible. Climbing the step stool and standing at the top (no hands mom!) Climbing up the bunk beds, climbing up the back of the couch, just anywhere he can climb up and be high. There are "in days" when he spends the day hiding in tiny dark places: in closets, behind doors, in dark bathrooms. The "throwing" days are those where he is constantly throwing his entire body onto furniture or other people.  Each of these different sensory needs are Asher trying to get input into all the areas he missed as an infant/toddler. He's trying to self-regulate his body.

What does this mean for us, as parents? It means on the days when Asher spends crawling around dragging his head on the floor, we need to find a way for him to get the input he needs in a bit more appropriate manner. It means we need to be ready with lightning fast Jedi moves to deflect him throwing himself into us or other kids. It means we need to be aware that on certain days we cannot expect certain things from him because he's just not able on those days. The sensory need of the day is what rules Asher's world and we need to be prepared for all of them.

Teaching Asher has also been difficult. I want him to learn new skills as quickly as Axel did. But he won't. Asher and Axel are two different children. Asher has absolutely no interest in learning things like ABC's, colors or even matching colors. No, Asher's mission in life is to move. Period. As soon as learning materials come out, he completely shuts down. I have to remind myself he is "two", and eventually when he hits "three" our "four", he'll be ready for other things, and since he's 8 years old now, we might be waiting a long time.

If you have adopted an older child, what were some of the things you found difficult? Lets use this as a discussion for those who will come behind us. If you're reading from Facebook, please comment here on the blog so everyone can participate.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Today I looked...

I looked at the counter up there on the top of the blog. The one with the airplane. Do you see it? Do you see that number? Only 18 days left!!!!

How will I stand the wait?

The anxiety dreams are in full swing! Yesterday I woke up with a start thinking, "I can't go." and was overcome with fear. I started praying right away, because I knew from where this came. I only needed to pull out B's picture and see his huge grin to come fully awake.

We are coming B! Even though the other side of the world seems really far away right now, we're coming!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Serbia's system

Let me explain a bit, about Serbia's adoption system.

First, there are the levels of government involved. There is the Ministry, which is like the state level.
Then there is the Center for Social Welfare (aka "Social Center") which is like the county level. The Social Center is located in or near the child's city of birth.

In the US, the state oversees the county. In Serbia, in matters of social care for individual children, the county makes all the decisions.

When you submit your dossier to Serbia, it is first approved by the Ministry. They make sure you your family meets the general requirements and that you have all the appropriate documents. Then you are added to a registry of "Approved adoptive families".  You are given referrals for children who meet your criteria, and your dossier is then sent on to the Social Center responsible for the child you choose.

Once in the hands of the Social Center, it is up to the child's Social worker to determine if you are an appropriate family for that child. In theory, that social worker is supposed to know the child. In reality, the child could be located hundreds of miles away and it's possible the social worker hasn't seen the child since the day he or she was born.  And yet, this one person is responsible for making the final decision on approving an adoptive family.

When I adopted Axel, he was the second child with Down syndrome ever adopted through that particular social center. (since then there have been several more, and at this point I think they have done more international adoptions in general than any other social center in Serbia.) The staff was wonderful to work with and clearly invested in the care of the child. It helped that Axel was in a foster home very near their office so there was frequent contact. This Social Center is quick to get children placed in foster care when there is a bed available, and they have several children who have never seen the inside of an institution. In the year following Axel's adoption we remained in contact and I sent many updates.

When you are presented with a child who meets your criteria, you're not typically told what social center the child is from. When we chose Asher, it was without knowing that he was from the same Social Center where Axel was from. Exactly one year after completing Axel's adoption, I once again stood in their office for Asher's adoption ceremony. There are the formalities (there aren't many!) then they said it was the first time they'd had the opportunity to keep current with a child's progress. That while they had always been in support of adoption, they were finally able, for the first time, to see that a child wouldn't just thrive in a family, but make significant progress toward becoming a contributing member of society. This increased their level of commitment to the children. They jokingly asked if, since I was there in 2010 and 2011, would see me again in 2012?

Now we  have chosen B.

B is not from the same social center as Axel and Asher.

Though Serbia has been allowing adoptions to the US since 2008, not many people know about it. From 2008 to 2011 there have only been 24 Serbian children adopted into the US. Although Serbia does allow adoption to a couple other countries, it is easy to understand why some of the Social Centers in Serbia have never completed an international adoption.

Here is where I must back up a bit. If you have been reading here for awhile, you know that during Axel's adoption we ran into some problems with the facilitator we were working with. The Serbian ministry quickly rose to the challenge, addressing issues of adoption corruption to the best of their ability. There was a big investigation and some day .....who knows how long really....there will be a trial. Things calmed down and adoptions went back to the pleasant experience they were supposed to be. Word travels fast in Serbia, and Social Centers that had never completed adoptions became hesitant to get involved. They didn't want to be accused of child trafficking or profiting off the life of a child.

There are many people in Serbia who don't understand how it is possible to raise one child with special needs, much less three, four, or five. It is unusual for a family in Serbia to have more than two children. Three is rare. Four is almost unheard of. Then you look at a family like ours who has three kids with Down syndrome in the house. It is incomprehensible to most Serbians this could be something a family would be able to handle, much less WANT to do it.

The Ministry (remember they are the state level) gets it. They understand that things are different in the US. In Serbia most families don't have a car, instead walking or taking public transportation everywhere they go. Grocery stores are like our convenience stores, and because they're on foot they shop for a day or two at a time, not a week or more like we do in the U.S. Services for kids with disabilities are available and the ability to receive an education is the right of every child in the U.S regardless of disability.

If only those who are responsible to make the decisions for the life of each child understood that Down syndrome is nothing. Down syndrome is easy. It is dealing with the damage done by years of living behind the walls of an institution that is difficult. Teaching children who have been deprived of the most basic needs that people are safe. Family is safe. Food is safe and will always be available. That the survival skills he or she has spent years developing and depending on aren't needed anymore.

A Serbian friend of mine made a great statement the other day. He said, "Two years ago we dealt with the illegal activities of corruption. Now we must deal with something that is perfectly legal but no less dangerous - ignorance." 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kindle Winner

Good morning everyone! I hope today finds you more awake than my kids were when the pulled the name of the kindle winner. LOL They were quite out of it at 6:15 a.m. If the winner would please email me or message me on FB with your shipping address, I will get this sent off!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Winners!!!!

Ok, I know you're tapping your fingers waiting for this! These winners were chosen randomly by the staff at Project Hopeful. I wasn't given a list of contributors so I don't even know who participated unless they specifically told me. I am so honored to see these names. People I didn't know read my blog, people I know may have struggled to contribute, people from other parts of the world. Thank you again to everyone who helped to bring B home!!!!

To the winners, please email me privately at deanleah at comcast.net or message me on FB with your shipping address!

So, without further adieu....

1) Winner of the "FAMILY" print: Kathy Thut

2) Winner of the Scentsy Easter Basket: Jill Spicer


3) Winner of the Signing Time DVD Set: Virginia Marton

4) Winner of the REDEFINE Marco Exfoliator: Fransisca Esco






Coming Soon!

Later today I'll be posting the winners of the two giveaways. I need to wait for the Project Hopeful staff  to do the drawing for the "FAMILY" items.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

....sigh....

I had everything all figured out. Childcare, Dean's time off work, kids, and all the other things involved when the parents are leaving for three weeks. (well, Dean won't be gone that long.)

Today we were informed our ministry meeting has been changed. Now we're scrambling to re-arrange childcare and all the other arrangements we need to have in place.

I had PLANS for this trip, that centered around timing. There is another family who was going to be traveling at the same time, but yesterday they were informed they need to be there a week earlier, and us a week later.

I'm pretty disappointed. Having done this twice before and know it is NOT fun to be there by yourself the whole time! We will overlap a few days, but they will be busy with their final days of paper chasing  right when we're getting there.

HOWEVER, although I'm disappointed, I try to keep in mind that timing is everything, and everything happens for a reason. I have been stranded by volcanoes, had earthquakes just days before I was supposed to arrive in a city, and then there are root canals. There is a REASON we can't leave yet. Either something on this end or something on that side. We may or may not ever know what it was, but I'm not going to stress about it. I can't.

So...we leave in 29 days. That's just one more weekend to get everything done that needs doing around here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Soon Shoes"

Pretty soon the feet of a little boy will be filling these shoes!


B is just a little guy, but so were Axel and Asher when they came. Well, who are we kidding? Asher is still a little one! Here's how the boys measured then and now:

Axel: Arrival: 10 yrs 4 months, 45 inches and 43 lbs......Current: 12 yrs 7 mo, 70 lb, 54 inches
Asher: Arrival: 7 yrs 1 month - 29 inches and 32 lbs.......Current: 8 yrs 4 mo, 43 inches and 48 lbs
B: current measurements sent to us are 45 inches and 46 lbs. 

Can you believe that Axel came home a little over 2 years ago wearing a size 5 (what Asher is wearing now)  and he's now wearing 10's??? That is crazy to me. Do you know what that means? It means between Axel and Asher I have lots of boy clothes here. I have every size from 3t to 10-12's! I don't think I'll have a problem outfitting our little guy. Still, I had to get him a couple of new things. He is DESERVING of some things that have never, ever, ever been worn by another child before. 

In just a few weeks, the day will come when he will be stripped of his orphanage clothes, and I will get to dress him for the very first time. He will not wear pink. He will not wear tights. He will be dressed like the tween boy he is.

Needless to say, we're getting pretty excited around here.  When I got the shoes I asked Axel, "Who will wear these?" He signed Angela. I showed him they were much too small for Angela's feet. He signed Asher. (they're only 1 size bigger than Asher's shoes.) I told him good guess, but Asher already has new shoes. Axel looked puzzled. I took out the picture of B and put it next to the shoes and explained that he would be wearing these shoes. "Soon Axel. Soon your new brother will be here. He will come home on the airplane with Mama and will be wearing these shoes."

Axel was chattering in Axelese and quite animated after that. He showed the shoes to Dean and told him "New boy, soon shoes. Airplane!" 

Preparations are coming along. We bought a bed on craigslist and hope to get it painted and set up in the boys' room this weekend. Taking many things into consideration, we've been trying to decide on the best sleeping arrangements. I think we finally have it figured out. That is, at least until we get to know B, his fear, and any problems we might not know about. 

25 days. Just 25 days until we fly!

YOU DID IT!!!!!!



Easy Fundraising Ideas

Both the FAMILY artwork fundraiser, and the Kindle fundraiser are open until the 15th. If it happens that we have an overage, it will be going to another Serbian adoptive family.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's Humbling

In 12 days we need to be booking our plane tickets. In 26 days we should be on that plane.

We are still $900 short.

This process is a very humbling experience. This morning I had a small tantrum right in the middle of the floor on Facebook. A stomping, kicking, ugly-cry kind of tantrum. And then I took a nap. Or tried to. Instead as I lay in bed holding my head that was pounding with a migraine while God reminded me of something. That it isn't about me. It is about B and all of YOU. 

I really need to thank a lot of people for the funds we have raised so far. If it weren't for you, we would not have raised $2,100 so far!

To Kyle Marsh, artist behind the ASL FAMILY artwork.

My good friend Hevel, who lives in Isreal, donated the Kindle. He has now made a new offer to the Kindle winner! (see #3 of his quick takes)

A thank you to Kim for donating the Scentsy basket.

To Marsha for donating the facial exfoliator. (If you haven't seen these things, they're quite awesome!)

My good friend Ronai contributed the Signing Time pack of DVD's. She is also graciously hosting an Origami Owl fundraiser.

I know there are MANY people who donated funds without entering any of the give aways. I cannot thank you enough. I would like to thank each one of you personally, but because some people prefer to contribute anonymously, I'll not be given a list of contributors. Please know I am grateful to each and every one of you.

To those who took the time to write out a check, put it in an envelope, lick it, seal it and put a stamp on it, then get it in the mail, I thank you. I honestly don't know the last time I put an actual piece of mail in the mail box, and I truly appreciate your effort. I know that as you did, it was with OUR family in mind. It is different. I know you prayed over that money and it wasn't easy to give away.

To my online friends who have shared our story, written words of encouragement and love to us, called when they knew I was feeling discouraged, I cannot thank you enough. Most of you have been, are currently or soon will be in the adoption process yourselves and I know you "get" the stress involved.

And still, there are more of you. There are people reading who contributed to our previous adoptions in the form of monetary contributions, prayer and support. You have seen us through. You prayed with me when I was feeling afraid. You have helped me 'think out loud' when there has been a problem to solve. You have helped me teach my children. You have loved them right along with us. You have accepted them. You have joined me for coffee at my table, you have commented here or on Facebook. Always there for us. You've always been there.

Thank you. To each and every one of you. Thank you.

(please note, if you arrived her via networked blogs, links to fundraisers buttons may not work. Log out of networked blogs and go straight to http://myianna.blogspot.com/  links to the fundraisers are on the right sidebar.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adopting Older Kids: Our Experience Pt 1

Adopting older kids is not easy. I'm not talking three or four year olds. I'm talking kids who are nearing puberty. Kids who, in the blink of an eye, would no longer be eligible for international adoption. We know darned well that we've had it "easy" compared to what many have gone through.

But "easy" is a relative term. You can read about my first evening with Axel here. Axel was 10 years old at the time of his adoption. Although he was the size of a 4 year old he was extremely strong. He'd had many years in the institutions of Subotica and Kulina. In both facilities, "survival of the fittest" is the rule, not the exception, and Axel was clearly fit. He knew how to protect himself, and I am guessing, by the time he came to me, he felt the need to protect himself from everything and everyone. Not only was there the obvious physical and psychological neglect, but there was the emotional neglect as well. Never having had the opportunity to form bonds, Axel was not about to trust anyone. Lets not forget the language difference. Axel  had no idea what I was saying. How confusing for this little boy to be sequestered with yet another person he couldn't communicate with.

Any child, raised in a stable environment for 10 years, would have trouble coping when placed with someone he can't understand. Axel didn't have the benefit of that stable environment. He knew nothing but pain, rejection and neglect. When he finally had let his guard down, living two years with a foster family, I came and ripped him away from all that.  Parenting a child like Axel wasn't going to be easy.  I had read everything I could get my hands on related to parenting a child traumatized in the way Axel had been, parenting a child who doesn't speak your language, parenting a child who didn't want to be parented. There isn't much out there!!  No amount of reading could 100% prepare me for that first meeting because there was no way to know all that Axel had experienced. I could only guess based on the lack of information I had prior to his adoption.

I had just nine days to get Axel from "feral child" to functioning at a level where he could tolerate airports and crowds. Imagine, if you have a child with autism who doesn't do crowds or loud noises, having just 9 days to fix the problem.

Every day I thank god for the behavioral tools He had so carefully placed in my belt through years of dealing with Angela's severely aggressive behavior. He allowed us the opportunity to work with a behavioral specialist who helped us understand the causes of various behaviors, or to look carefully for a cause - things such as fear, frustration, communication, anger, overstimulation - and address them accordingly. I never could have done what I did in nine short days, by myself, without anyone to give me a break had it not been for those opportunities.

Still, reading back on my account of that day, I made it sound "easy" compared to what it really was. If only you could have been in my head that day, as I sat on the bed with Axel in front of me, using my body to restrain him as I begged God for direction and clarity. If only you could have seen the tears streaming down my face as I sang "Jesus Loves Me" because if was the only thing my mind could come up with in the moment. If only you could have seen the bruises and bite marks I carried with me for the next week. If only you could feel my fear, wondering how we would survive the next several days together, how I would get him home alone, and how Dean and I would manage once we got there.

Looking for support, I skyped with another mom who had adopted older kids. She laughed. She offered no assistance or support what-so-ever other than to say, "I could have told you it would be hard."  I realized, then, she'd never adopted kids this old, or with a background such as Axel's. Actually, at the time I didn't personally know anyone who had. I was on my own.

In the end, Axel DID turn his behavior around. With firm limits put into place (no gray areas!) he was actually a delight to travel with. I knew upon arrival home Axel would present the same behaviors with Dean...yet another new person. The difference was I now knew some of what made Axel tick. I'd discovered some things that made him happy and things he was afraid of.

Go here to read "Adopting Older Kids: Our Experience Pt 2...Asher"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We're almost there!!!

Thanks to all of you who have so generously contributed, we have just $1000 left to raise!!! I have to tell you, our total goal ($3000) was the difference between weather or not Dean goes on this trip or stays home. We're still not *quite* there.

This trip is significant for many reasons. Of course, the most important is that we're brining B home!!! Oh, I can hardly stand the wait. Just 30 more days! But, it's more than that. It's really important for Dean to be part of this trip. To see B for that very first moment that only happens once in a lifetime. That first meeting is a bit like having your newborn baby placed in your hands as he or she takes that first breath. It will never happen again. Dean has never been part of this experience with our previous adoptions, and he NEEDS to be there for this one for this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

He also needs to see and experience where our children have come from. Where B is. What has influenced his development, or lack of it. Where do his behaviors come from. It is one thing to be told about it. To experience it for one's self is life altering.

But there is more....

Those who have been reading here for awhile know I'm a multi-tasker. Rarely do I just "go on a trip", even for adoption. Most of the time I have multiple agendas! (Dean is worried I'm going to have him exhausted. Mmmm could be!)

 First, we'll be meeting with Axel's birth family. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with them during another trip. Dean has never met them and is anxious to hug the people who gave us the gift of our son. It is a rare opportunity for parents of an internationally adopted child to meet the birth family. To know the real story. We are so blessed! They want to be a voice for new parents of babies with Down syndrome so they, too can understand the blessings that come from raising these children. That they don't HAVE to go through the heartache of giving them up.

We have a couple other important meetings planned as well but they're not yet confirmed so my lips are sealed until we know for sure.

$1000. That is all that stands in the way. We are so very close. In another 10 -15 days we'll be purchasing airline tickets. So very, very close.




Sunday, March 3, 2013

For all the newbies: Introductions

If you're one of my new readers, let me give you a bit of an introduction so you don't have to dig for it. ;-)

Dean and I have been together for almost 10 years now. Between us we had 6 kids. The oldest 5 boys are all adults now, living on their own.

We were down to just one kid left at home: Angela who has Down syndrome who is now 16.
Angela age 16

In April 2010 I made my first trip to Serbia and Bulgaria. In Eastern Europe, as well as other parts of the world, children with Down syndrome are often institutionalized at birth. It is a stigma to have such a child attached to your family. An embarrassment. A curse. During that trip we visited the Zvescanska institution in Belgrade, as well as some children living in foster care. When our time in Serbia was done we went to Bulgaria. My friend at the time was completing her first Bulgarian adoption. While there we also brought donated toys and therapy supplies to the Bulgaria DS association and spoke with Bulgarian parents who had chosen to go against the norm, keeping their children in their families as they were intended to be.

In July 2010 I connected with Cherish Our Children International. A US based 501c3 non-profit NGO registered in Serbia. They are on the ground in Serbia, working with children and adults with disabilities in Serbia as well as Croatia. (they work in many countries too, but this post is about Serbia.) They also provide dental care for children in institutional and foster care.

In December 2010 I returned to Serbia to complete the adoption of our son Axel. He was 10 years old at the time. Like Angela he also has Down syndrome. If you've watched the videos done by MSNBC, which are based on the investigation done by MDRI of Serbia's institutions, you have probably seen pictures of our Axel who spent time in both Subotica and Kulina, and was removed to foster care shortly after the investigation. Although Axel had been in a foster home for 2 years he still had a lot of catching up to do. He came to us at 10 years old weighing 42 lbs and wearing size 5 clothes. Two  years later he wears size 10 and is 70lbs! He had never seen the inside of a school. Now, home two years, he is reading and doing just amazingly well!
Axel age 12
In December 2011 I returned to Serbia, this time to bring home Asher who also has Down syndrome. He is 8 years old now. Asher was living in a Serbian institution which, by Serbian standards, provides fairly decent care. Unfortunately the children are still extremely underweight and lacking in the care which comes with living in a family setting. 7 years old at the time of his adoption, Asher weighed 30 lbs. and was wearing size 3t clothes. He came to us like a 6 month old who could walk.
Asher age 8
And now we're going back for B. Serbian law says I can't show you his picture or tell you his name. (which we'll be changing anyway) He is located in the same facility Asher came from. He is 9 years old and, according to his measurements, is the same size Asher is now. Asher wears size 4t clothes.
"B" age 9

I do most of my blogging on our main family blog Garden of Eagan. That's where I blog about life in general. This blog, my adoption blog, is dedicated to our time getting our new kids home! If you're new here, I'd love to hear from you. Please don't be shy about saying, "Hello!" in the comments!
We have teamed up with Project Hopeful, an 501c3 non-profit organization. We currently have two fundraisers going on. Our "FAMILY" artwork fundraiser, and our Kindle giveaway.

As of March 9th, we are still $1000 short of our goal. In the adoption world $1000 is nothing, but to us, it seems like a million dollars right now.

Thanks again for visiting!!! 

The AAA's made a video



Donate through Project Hopeful, a 501c3 non-profit organization


Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's FIXED!!!

I was receiving emails from people saying the paypal button on the KINDLE fundraiser wasn't working. After messing around all morning I finally got it fixed!!! We're running out of time to raise the last of the money we need, being short $1900, and leaving in 34 days.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Spring Kindle Fundraiser


We are just one family working toward bringing home our 4th child with Down syndrome. Angela 16, Axel 12 and Asher 8 are all anxious to meet their new brother. No, we can't show you a picture of our son, which means there is no cute face for you to fall in love with. Serbia law prevents us from doing so.

We've already been matched with "B" by the Serbian government. He's one of "the least of these". At 9 years old with Down syndrome nobody wants him. BUT WE DO!!! God made our family just right for him. We have seen pictures of him and he is stunning He has already been told his Mama and Papa are coming for him. With only 35 days until we travel, just three weeks until we purchase airline tickets, but still $1900 short. To help us get there we're giving away one more special item:

Kindle 6" E Ink Display (Black) 

    Kindle — small, light, and fast
    • Less than 6 ounces - lighter than a paperback, fits in your pocket
    • New darker, hand-tuned fonts for easier reading
    • Reads like paper with no glare, even in bright sunlight
    • Download books in 60 seconds with built-in Wi-Fi
    • Holds over 1,000 books - take your library wherever you go
    • Massive book selection. Lowest prices. Over a million titles less than $9.99
    • 180,000 Kindle-exclusive titles that you won't find anywhere else, including books by best-selling authors such as Kurt Vonnegut

    How to enter:
    This giveaway is now closed
    $10 - 1 entry
    $20 - 2 entries
    $30 - 6 entries
    Blog it and comment here with the link - one additional entry
    Blog it AND Facebook it (tag me in the post) - 3 additional entries
    Ends March 15, 2013
    Rules:
    I will only ship within the continental United States
    If you win and live outside the US you are responsible for shipping fees.