Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What have YOU done the the past 365 days?

 It has been a year of learning and growing for our Little Dude...
  • He is a little boy who knows who his Daddy and Mommy are.  He is strongly attached and shows no fear of abandonment.  (This is HUGE for a child who spent his first 4+ years in an orphanage.)
  • He's topping the scale at 34.5# (a gain of 11.5#) and now stands 37" (an EIGHT inch growth!).  He, most likely, will soon be our middle child in both age and  size.
  • Needless to say, he came home in 18 month clothing and now fills out a 3T.
  • His vision has been corrected with the addition of glasses. 
  • He's lost his adenoids, but gained ear tubes. 
  • The 4 teeth that were missing at homecoming have now appeared and it looks like at least 1/3 of our boys has braces in his future.
  • This little one knows Mommy's kisses cure a multitude of injuries and willingly seeks them when bumps and bruises occur. (Again, this is especially important in a child who has been institutionalized.)
  • He is the most enthusiastic waiver when Daddy leaves in the morning and returns in the evening.
  • Spoken language is slowly progressing.  Immediate family best understands his combination of signs and words.
  • He has an amazing comprehension of both verbal and non-verbal language.
  • He's a typical American boy... he loves imitating someone if they burp, and just the other day laughed when his brother said "butt cheek".
  • The boy has opinions and isn't afraid to express them.
On July 10, 2012, we walked out the Baby House doors.  An orphan's bed laid cold, while a son snuggled against his mother on a train bound for Moscow.  A journey that started just one year ago, yet seems as if it has always been...
... just as God planned.
Son. Brother. Friend. Loved.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Virtual Ebenezers

Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help), saying, “This marks the place where God helped us.” 
(the Message)

The Bible's Old Testament is filled with Ebenezers.  No, not Ebenezer Scrooge, but Ebenezers-- stones of remembrance.  1 Samuel 7:12 describes Samuel placing a large stone as a reminder of God's help.  Joshua tells of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River on dry ground and taking 12 stones from the center to be placed as a reminder.  Each time the Israelites looked at those stones, they remembered God's faithfulness and provision.  For years to come, they could return to those stones with their children and grandchildren in tow to recount the miracles they witnessed.

For me, Facebook and blog posts are like that.  While seemingly less permanent than a rock, the internet allows me a place to recall God's goodness, mercy, and provision. 

Exactly one year ago today, we walked into a courtroom halfway around the world.  We sat in wide-eyed wonder as we watched God's extravagant grace unfold before us.  The next morning, after circumstances only God could orchestrate, the judge ruled and we became a family of five.

And so today, as I reread this ~ my virtual Ebenezer~ I once again stand in awe of the One who fit those pieces together.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Miserable Comforter brings no comfort

Last week, as the world's eyes were on Boston, another tragedy was unfolding.  Maybe unfolding  is the wrong word.  Folding  might be more accurate.  Folding  as in "we're packing up our toys and going home because we're not going to play with you anymore".  The 'Powers that Be' from both sides of the pond were having a powwow.  They had gathered to discuss the adoption ban.  Unfortunately, the pawns in this political chess match are children... children who have met parents pursuing their adoption... children who have been told by their nannies that a family is returning for them... and yes, children who now face one of two futures~ but I'll save that for another post.

Details released of the supposed meeting have been sketchy, but the bottom line is this: regardless of where you were in the adoption process, if you had not already been to court and had an adoption decree when the ban went into effect, Game Over.

So here's the question... What do you say to these friends whose child(ren) won't be coming home?  Looking to the Bible for the answer, I think there are two options.  The first can be found in the book of Job.  Job had three not-so-helpful friends.  These guys would not.shut.up.  They spoke for chapters and chapters, spewing their supposed wisdom on their hurting friend.  Part of what they said might  have even had some merit-- in a different situation.  And I can't believe that at least some  of it was well intended.

Our words can be like that.
"God has a different plan."
"God knows best."
or the real stinger... "He/she wasn't really (i.e. legally ) your baby anyhow."

Again, there is truth in all of those statements.  The problem is the heart is not governed by laws.  These parents have dreamed the dreams.  They have held these children.  They have spent countless hours and dollars redeeming their children.  They looked into that child's eyes and promised to return for him.
Yes, God does know best.  And at this point, it seems His plan is quite different than the path He had them on over the past months and years.

Job pretty much sums it up in chapter 16, verses 1-3:

"I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!
Will your long-winded speeches never end?"

Flip to the New Testament and we find a different example.  Lazarus had died.  Lazarus, the dear, trusted friend of Jesus.  Let's be serious-- Jesus knew Lazarus would be raised from the dead.  He knew God's plan was different... was better.
That knowledge didn't stop Him from going to Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters, His beloved friends.  And what happened next?  Jesus wept.

The whole account in John 11 is quite short.  It lacks the soap boxes and platitudes of Job's friends.  All it contains is the deep ache and sorrow Jesus experienced when his friend died.  I'll venture a guess that those tears ministered more to Mary and Martha's hearts than words ever could.

These mamas and daddies who have just come to the end of their Russian adoption journey need to grieve.  As their friend, they need you to walk this road with them. 

They are battle weary.  They are raw.
Walk with them.
Weep with them.
Jesus does.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SLEEP Study? Who slept???

Last night Little Dude had a Sleep Study.  For those of you that either didn't know he was having one or don't know what they're about, here's the Reader's Digest version:

Individuals with Ds have a higher than average incidence of sleep apnea and certain other issues.  In general, individuals with Ds tend to have a smaller facial structure, lower-set ears, lower muscle tone (including facial muscles), and a few other things that can make an obstruction more likely.  Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics standard of care for children with Ds is that they should have a Sleep Study by age 4.
At Little Dude's age, should his study show apnea, the first mode of treatment is removing his tonsils and adenoids.  He is already scheduled to get ear tubes placed in a few weeks, so the T&A would be performed at that time if necessary.

Our night went something like this:
We arrived at the clinic at 7pm.  We were shown to our room, which has a bed or crib for the patient, a small couch/bed for the parent, and an attached bathroom.  They can do 4 patients per night.  Last night there were all little boys.  After giving you a few minutes to get use to the room, the technician comes in to start the wiring process. 

The patient is wired from head to toe, literally.  A pulse oximeter is placed on the big toe.  This was a source of great entertainment for Little Dude and he took great pleasure in using the red light as a flashlight, sticking it in my face so I could see, shining it under and through the blankets, etc.
There are sensors on the legs to tell how much kicking occurs.

There are several different belts and sensors on the outside of the pajamas as well as a heart rate monitor, etc. on the skin.
There are sensors near the eyes that detect when the patient enters REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Sensors on the jaw detect if the child grinds his teeth as well as help tell when he falls asleep as the muscles become slack.
 EEG leads are applied to the head.
 The 2 most important parts of the study go under the nose.  One is a small microphone that picks up snoring, etc.  The second is a nasal canula which monitors the breathing.
Oh, and the beloved ceiling camera... everything is being watched.

the finished product
The wiring process took the better part of an hour.  Because the nasal sensors need to not be disturbed, the tech wanted to put no-nos on Little Dude.  (No-nos are arm immobilizers that keep the elbows straight so kids can't pull on tubes.)  I vetoed this idea with the promise that I'd agree to them if Little Dude didn't obey. 
I explained that if he played with the sensors, he wasn't going to like the consequences.  And in true Little Dude fashion, he didn't touch them with his hands.  But boy oh boy, he sure did try to with his giraffe-length tongue.

While he'll go into bed awake at home, he wanted none of that last night.  The combo of a strange environment, all of the leads, and a long nap on the drive down were working against us.
I rocked him for a long time, but everytime he fell asleep and I tried to put him into the crib, he awakened.  Eventually, we both ended up in the bed.  Lying there knowing you're being watched, there is a strong urge to do something goofy for the camera.  I resisted.

About 11pm I was able to move to my own bed, but after I did, I was wishing I had stayed with Little Dude because he definitely got the better bed last night.  (And this is from a girl who can sleep anytime, anywhere.)

The tech was in the room several times during the night to adjust wires Little Dude had disturbed while sleeping.  Overall, despite his nasal congestion, nap on the drive there, strange environment, and wires, Little Dude slept pretty well.
the morning after
No worse for the wear, he was his old chatty self by the time we walked to the car at 6am.

I am so very thankful for both the level of healthcare and access to it that we enjoy here in the United States.  We are truly blessed.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Very Hungry Little Dude

Anyone that knows our Little Dude understands that The Very Hungry Caterpillar  is the perfect theme for the first birthday party of his life.  Not only have we watched him emerge from his cocoon as a beautiful butterfly, the boy looooves to eat.  The menu was determined by the book (with the addition of Corn Chowder and a salad).  This is where I found the free printable food tags.  So without further ado, here is a picture-heavy post of today's festivities:
These window crayons are so neat!  They're Crayola Window Crayons and you can get them at Evans if you live locally.

The red & green balls are Sixlets. Buy them at JoAnn's with your coupon, otherwise they're pretty pricey. They are gluten-free and surprisingly reminiscent of malted milk balls (which are not gf).

marshmallow ice cream cones, spearmint leaves, lollipops,
& chocolate cake (brownies)

pickles, cheese, sausage, salami (turkey summer sausage),
& strawberries

cherry tarts
watermelon and fruit
Artwork by Little Dude's 5yo brother.

The Birthday Boy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Four days.  That is all we had been home when she arrived on our doorstep for our first post-adoption visit.  Though employed by the agency who performed our homestudy, it quickly became evident that this newly assigned Social Worker knew very little of our adoption journey.  She spent much of that visit trying to gather a sense of who we are, as well as what would motivate us to spend many months, countless hours of paperwork, and thousands of dollars to travel halfway around the world to bring home a little guy with Down syndrome.  Additionally, she needed to establish a baseline of Little Dude's current functional level for her report.

Out came the developmental milestones charts.  She began questioning.  "At 4 years of age, he should be able to ________ ; can he ________ ?"

Thankfully my filter was working that day.  I gave her simple "no" answers, though I'm sure the look on my face said much more than my words ever could.

"At 4 years old, he should be able to wash his hands by himself.  If you tell him to go wash his hands, can he go into the bathroom, crawl up, and do that?"

Um, no.
Meanwhile, I had mentally crawled onto my soapbox and was spouting things inside my tiny, jet-lagged brain.
Yes, he's chronologically 4 years, 4 months.  He has been institutionalized for 4 years, 3 months of that time.  He's 23 pounds.  He wears 18 month clothes.  He learned to walk 2 months ago.  And he's heard spoken English for ONE WEEK... not to mention that everything he's ever known has totally changed during that week.  Oh, and he has Down syndrome, which really is the least of any concerns.
So no, he can't go wash his hands if I tell him to.

Yesterday, I told my son to go wash his hands.  He did.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our Hardest Part of Post-Adoption

As part of the adoption of Little Dude, we promised to file post-adoption reports for the next three years.  Over that span of time, a Social Worker will visit our home 6 times (2 down, 4 to go!).  Each visit lasts about an hour as she poses questions about Little Dude, his health, his adjustment, and our adjustment as a family.  The report then remains on file with said agency, our placing agency, and Little Dude's birth country.  Each time our Social Worker leaves our home, she takes with her duplicate copies of 14 photographs of Little Dude~ one of which must be a family photo.  This, my friends, has been our biggest post-adoption challenge.  I'm not sure we've yet gotten a family photo where all 3 boys are looking at the camera.
[notice the boys sporting their Russia t-shirts and Moscow hats and Daddy & Mommy their Adoption Bug t-shirts]
And more often than not, any attempt at a photo session quickly dissolves into a wrestling match...
Please bear this in mind as you open our Christmas card this year, because chances are that those photo attempts won't go any better.