Archive for the 'bye-bye' Category

First day of school!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

IMG_3313

First day of 1st grade and first day of preschool WITH bus service!!!

(How dare this girl be in 1st grade!!! She was in newborn diapers yesterday! And didn’t we just bring home Roland from the orphanage ten minutes ago??? Not right!!!)

IMG_3319

After so many weeks of wanting to ride the bus, little Rolly was doubtful this would happen.

IMG_3328

When the first bus arrived they started cheering!

IMG_3331

It was for Laelia. This marks the very first time our bus service has worked out correctly on the first day of school. For preschool the bus never came and we ended up fighting them for a while until they realized we were NOT backing down and gave us a bus. For kindergarten the bus took Laelia to the wrong school while both Charley and I drove to the correct school and then went crazy looking for her.

But today with the same bus service nothing went wrong! Well except for Roland cried when Laelia left. I should have known that would happen. He wanted to ride the bus with her. “No bus! Ba back! (Come back) No! Waywe-a! (Laelia) Ba back Waywe-a! Bus! Boo (school) bus! Boo bus!! No mama no!”

Yeah after 15 minutes of that, his own bus showed up.

IMG_3329

Roland’s bus driver strapped his car seat in. (Yes still pink. By the time he’s in college we’ll get him a blue one.)

IMG_3330

Actually I was really worried. Roland went blank. I asked if he liked his school bus that he’d been begging for all summer and he didn’t say anything or give eye contact. He did not understand when I got off the bus without him and I watched his blank expression as he drove away. I was getting flashbacks of his trauma coming out of the orphanage.

But his daddy was waiting for him when the bus pulled into his school. Charley called me right away and reported that Roland saw him and was all smiles and happy to be back in his classroom. Then he chittered endlessly about his school bus adventure in Rolly language. He gets bus service two days a week and he has school for only three hours in the morning so it’s not too much for him.

After I put Roland on the bus I shot over to Laelia’s school for orientation. I met her teacher and aide and gave them all the usual warnings. ;) Laelia clung to me doing her “fake shy” thing. But two seconds later she was in the swing of things. We even decided not to bring her walking sticks this year and see how it goes!

The only sad part was when Roland came back home on his bus all smiles and then went through the whole house looking for his sister who has three or so more hours of school a day. He asked maybe three thousand times, “Waywe-a where?”

When Laelia finally got home she was sound asleep on the bus (as usual) and Roland screamed his hellows so forcefully and so jubilantly that she woke up. Then they hugged a lot and two minutes later they were fighting over something. 0_O

Love these kids.

And these kids love school.

IMG_3315

Happy Gotcha Day!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

1002169_10201937537465966_263588035_n

We take “Gotcha” day literally around here. Good catch, Laelia!

My baby boy’s Gotcha Day is TODAY! Happy one year home little Amerikrainian!

Last year on this day (August 15th) Roland left the orphanage and was promised that he would never EVER go back there. Welcome to family; family is permanent.

“Are you sure you want him? Would you rather have a ‘healthy’ child?”

Our son (the diamond in the rough, a pearl of great price, the treasure in the field) is forever wanted! Desperately wanted. Incredibly loved!

What they couldn’t see, we saw so clearly.

So did all of you.

“Didn’t you pick him up two days ago?” a nanny asked on this day last year. No, we hadn’t. Was he just a number? Another mouth to feed? He’s so much more than that.

I carried him out the formidable green gates, down the stairs with no handicap access, across the streets with no crosswalks and into the car with no car seat.

He literally left without a thing to his name. Well he would have. They striped him of clothing, and then when they realized we had left his extra clothes at our apartment in Kiev, an hour away, they suggested we leave him in the orphanage another day. (Um, no.) Finally they allowed us to take home different clothes (comically too big, mismatched and pink-laced) only because I asked really really nicely. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand it also may have had something to do with the fact I had just gifted them 100% of the money the Ukrainian government had in a savings account to feed Roland that would have gone to me. My back. Your back. Scratchy scratchy.

He had no toys.

He had no ability to chew the first foods we gave him. And he choked on his first snack. (Great job, mom!)

He was so scared during our walk around busy Kiev (on our aimless hunt for diapers) that he started shaking and then threw up down the front of my shirt. Cars and buildings and people and noise… this was all completely foreign to him.

IMG_1143

With no language and no way to get away he braved the terrifying umbrella creature over his head. What torturous moments in the rain.

And, even though I imagined this magical instant bond, he was also wary of this strange woman he was strapped to.

But then that woman put him in a bathtub.

IMG_1228

Or glorious day! He LOVED his first ever real bath! So much!

He discovered the microwave that was kept near the floor because “Let’s put microwaves on the floor!” said the dumbest apartment designer ever.

IMG_1241

And the best toy in the world was the door in the apartment between the bathroom and kitchen that he loved to close, then wait excitedly for it to open again, then close it again.

He didn’t make great eye contact.

He didn’t know how to hug or rest against me or cuddle.

But he was willing to learn. Slowly. Cautiously.

He fell asleep for the first time in his life that night with a Mommy right next to him, hand on his tummy–no bars, no distance.

IMG_1233

With those little stiff arms that would NOT bend.

Several days later Roland would get his passport and fly home.

 IMG_1225

…and scream most of the 26+ hours of travel. And throw up on the plane. And hate us for doing that to him for a while. :)

Then he was home. And he was ours. And it was so surreal. That first night home I fed him a bottle of donated breast milk and rocked him gently. It would be three long, hard days of detoxing whatever drug was in his system before I got a moment like that again. Well worth the wait.

He is not the same boy I took out of the orphanage that day. He’s a maniac! Haha!

crazyRoland

(Click to enlarge.)

Happy one year home little man!

Roland

We love you.

To celebrate Gotcha Day he got chocolate! (Haha, not as great as it sounds thanks to his new metabolic issue.)

IMG_3252

We made sugar-free chocolate cake and sugar-free chocolate cookies to celebrate since Rolly now has sugar limitations.

Cookies: 3 mashed bananas

1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

2 cups oats

1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup of sugar-free cocoa powder

350 degrees for 20 minutes

Cakes: 1/2 cup ground walnuts (or crushed)

1/2 cup carob or cocoa powder (sugar-free)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

4 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

350 degrees for 20 minutes

(The cakes tasted like sawdust so I suggest adding some almond milk or unsweetened apple sauce.)

Six months ago today.

Friday, February 15th, 2013

This happened six months ago. Happy six months home, Roland!

 

Our excursion up north… in pictures

Friday, February 15th, 2013

It’s nice to have most of our family living in the same state… oh wait, it’s the state of California which is freaking long! Family is really a ten hour drive “up the road” so we don’t see them as much as we’d like. But a friend’s wedding provided the opportunity for a road trip and off we went to make the rounds! Here are a few pictures of our trip. (I realize now I missed out on pictures with Grandma Wynema, Aunt Linda, Ginny and Emily and Daniel. I guess we were just too busy having fun and catching up.)

The wedding (Saturday):

We drove up Friday night after Charley got off work. We arrived in Fresno at 1:24 am only to be told our room had been accidentally given away. We drove around looking for the other hotel. We got the kids to bed by 2:15 am by some miracle. So then we were crossing our fingers that they would last the whole wedding later that day without being the crazy children they already are, but more so. Crazy concentrated  Lynn’s wedding was so great because the ceremony was set up in the banquet/reception hall. So we sat at the tables we would be served lunch at while watching the ceremony. Somehow this made it very intimate and perfect… like a family reunion. Roland missed most of the ceremony as he had to be louder than anyone speaking. At least I wasn’t the only one in the “little screamers” section and the set up made it less obtrusive to dart out the back. :) Roland cheered, clapped and hollered when the couple walked back up the aisle after the ceremony. :)

Lynn

The couple: Lynn and Doug

BeckynRoland

Becky

blowbubbles2

Bubbles!

Check out the video of my littlest trying to blow a bubble. He would have passed out before too long. :)

blowbubbles1

Check out that face!

blowbubbles1 - Copy

That face there. :)

IMG_2459

Laelia decided to “meow” silently during the entire ceremony. Don’t ask.

IMG_2463

Roland sat with Becky… you know for the 30 seconds he was quiet, then they darted out the back. :)

IMG_2467

Loud little man!

IMG_2468

Flirting with my camera.

IMG_2469

Oooh!

IMG_2474

This was our table.

IMG_2476

Kids with Uncle Bolt

IMG_2478

One kid stealing food off the table.

IMG_2488

I had put the bubbles way up high, but Laelia climbed a small mountain of wide stairs to get to it! The first step was almost as tall as she was, but she did them all by herself. I even got a short video of the last couple steps. (She started at the bottom!)

wedding

Sunday:

We drove up the extra three hours to Placerville that night with a little boy who cried most of the drive. (He had his casts cut off, bivalved and strapped back on with ace bandages which cut into his skin. Long story.) We arrived a bit after midnight and worked on getting the kids to bed. Later that morning we visited the church Charley and I met and fell in love at. It was nice to see the familiar spots like  that parking lot we used to make out in the… um… trees. :) And we spent some time at their new playground.

20130203_114325

20130203_115950

20130203_121351

20130203_141243

Lunch after church at Tortilla Flats!

AMC Mini Meet Up:

Charley had to drive back to San Diego right after church. (He ended up being too tired to make it the whole way and stopped off in Bakersfield at Linda and Phong’s to sleep.) He had work the next morning, but the kids and I stayed a few more days. Through Facebook I learned of another AMC family living right down the road from my childhood home! So we went to her house. It was us three, plus Becky and her kids, plus Kayla and her kids and a friend. It was funny how we all knew some of the same people even though we lived a long ways away.

IMG_2498

The AMCers

IMG_2500

Love these people!

The next day we visited Sue who had just had hip surgery a few days earlier. We also visited Ginny and her family. Both Ginny and Sue flew down to San Diego to see us after Laelia was born and to welcome us to the special needs community and offer support. I had no idea what to do when Laelia was born. Wow how times have changed!

404413_10200750095901153_614926518_n

Helping “Auntie” Sue learn to walk again. :)

560242_10200750070180510_532256170_n

Getting Jared rides. :)

531876_10200750084620871_2094523680_n

Destroying Juni’s princess tent. :)

And last but not least…

Staying with Grandma and Grandpa and GIANT DOGGY!!!

IMG_2504

The three “kids.”

IMG_2526

Dog = ride-able

541543_536527379703275_1932165809_n

Giddy Up!

538188_536527966369883_1426391657_n

Grandpa taught Laelia poker (which she called “pokes”) and she beat us. All. The. Time. We even dealt the dog in. Laelia would give back cards that made no sense and then STILL WIN. ACCCCCCCCC! Grandpa says he’s taking her to Vegas.

529923_536528303036516_1232666668_n

My car goes on your head. You’re welcome.

IMG_2529

Rolly Man getting tuckered out.

IMG_2502

Rolly had to be typing too. So they put a calculator out for him.

IMG_2532

Laelia pushing Levi.

Here’s a video of her pushing  Roland all over the kitchen. Compare it to this video in the same kitchen. She’s come a LONG way!

IMG_2518

Aunt and Uncle meeting Rolly

Afterwards we went to Seniors Club to meet all Grandma’s friends who had prayed Roland home.

IMG_2535

Laelia and Grandpa

IMG_2541

The little rascals. (Soon to be four! One more is coming from the Congo!)

We got to fly back home because these kids would not put up with another drive. (Especially after we drove out to Elk Grove one day, and Folsom the next.) We closed an entire TSA lane in the security area when I put Roland’s homemade walker through the xray machine and it got stuck. They had to open it up to get it out. I guess it was suspicious because of the two random planks of wood I had duct-taped to the bottom to add weight. The lady asked, “What the hell is this?!” I answered, “Roland needs a walker. Walkers cost $3,000. This was $5 plus $2.50 for caster wheels.” Then I hand it to my son who happily walks around with it yelling, “Wok wok wok!” (His word for walk.) The lady then smiles and says, “You saved $3,000? Say no more. That’s awesome.” Laelia demanded to walk through the area because she could walk now over “bumps.” They were telling her she couldn’t because of the metal in her braces. Guess who won. :) Roland is a MUCH easier flyer now that he’s been home for six months, and surprisingly taking my two AMCers on a flight was not that hard. These two are wonderful travel buddies when they want to be!

Zoo

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

From the Roland Diaries: “Today I met a hippo. Yep. Welcome to America. This is my normal now.”

My husband and I joined the PTA at Laelia’s school and we won a free zoo pass for signing up! So Rolly and I took advantage of our only day without a medical or adoption-related appointment this week and headed over to zoo it up!

Rolly vacillated between underwhelmed and overwhelmed, but he only had one age-appropriate fit (not orphanage-related melt down) after we’d been there for three hours. (I had to take him away when he started banging on the glass to get a snake’s attention. For one thing, you can’t do that. For  another  thing, hello! bad idea.) Overall he did pretty good in my opinion. I’m definitely trying to be able to take him out more.

The only downer about our day (besides the heat) was that we got a couple negative comments from other zoo-goers. One couple by the flamingos actually said under their breath, “That’s horrible, that kid’s actually in casts!” To which his partner responded, “Shut up she can hear you!” Blarg. And two girls stared at Rolly instead of the monkeys. They even followed us to stare. WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS?! No where? Cool then it’s my job. “Um… girls? Shoo.” They gasped and giggled and ran back to their school group. :)

Then one woman asked what happened to Roland’s arms. I said, “Nothing’s broken, it’s for a joint condition.” She said, “Oh yeah when I adopted my daughter from Russia we went through clubfeet casting.”  ***gasp*** That led to a whole wonderful discussion on international and domestic adoption. She even said a few words in Russian to Roland that he seemed to recognize! And I met her youngest daughter (with a heart condition) who she adopted domestically even though she was in her late 50′s! So cool! It all happened right there in front of the fox cage.

Roland also tried to say different animal names which was fun. Of course the polar bear became “teddy bear” and the lion and goats were “kitties,”  the elephants were doggies (“woofs”) and everything on four hoofed feet was a “deer.” Oh and anything with wings was a “birdie” except for the secretary bird which Rolly just barked at. :)

Okay enough talk, here are some pictures. :)

Flamingos

This bird must be related to Roland! (Screams even though not threatened. *snicker*)

Giraffe

Butterfly

Roland to Condor: “Birdie!”

Condor to Rolly: “Lunch?”

Elephants!

Roland started making barking noises at this guy. (Something his sister taught him. *sigh*)

Secretary bird came right up to us!

DRINK THIEF!!! (He wouldn’t let go or give it back.)

“kitty!”

“teddy bear”

Sticking his tongue out like the snake.

Hippos

Happy boy!

First trip to Philly with Rolly

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I haven’t had a ton of time to blog, but thankfully my friend Julia already did for me. Click here to read her blog and see pictures of all our kiddos.  We hadn’t seen Julia in person since Aaron’s first trip to Philly right before he got his first casts. Now Roland was getting his first casts and we run into them again. Every time either of us adopts a child who needs serial casting we’re sure to run into each other. ;) Julia and Rob and their boys are part of our AMC family. And Aaron and Laelia were flirting something obvious.

Aaron: “Laelia wants her water, but I have to get it.”

Laelia: “Push me on the swing!”

Aaron: “Gotta go.”

(Video here.)

At one point she spilled her water and Aaron ran to get the towel. Amy was already carrying it over but Aaron convinced her to give it to him. He triumphantly brought it to me to clean up the water. :) He even helped Laelia stand up using the step in the living room. He got down and showed her over and over how to do it and then cheered her on. I think Aaron enjoyed being the more mobile one for once and Laelia enjoyed being the center of attention (For once? Ha!) so their relationship works well. ;)

We were invited over for dinner at Amy and Adam’s house. (Here’s Amy’s blog.) Amy and I have been chatting lately since we learned we have both adopted out of the same orphanage. I was so glad for the Facebook correspondence, but it was even better to sit down with her at her kitchen table for some one on one. All I can say is that if you’re feeling something about adoption you can bet another mom is too. And it doesn’t take super human beings to adopt, just us.

We also got to meet Susanna and several of her children. (Here’s Susanna’s blog.) They are the family that adopted little Katie, who at ten years old was only ten pounds when they adopted her.  My husband and Susanna’s son, Daniel, had a long conversation about math. I think my husband would be up for adopting again if we could adopt Daniel. :)  I’d have to put my foot down since theoretical math conversations all day long would not be good for my brain. ;)

Roland and Katie

Ball fun!

AMC reunion

Backing up a bit. So I had to work late into the night before our trip since it was my last day of work and there was a lot to do. I packed our bags two hours before we flew out. Oh and of course my dumb cat with the feeding tube decided to claw the tube out of his neck the day before. He was going to spend the next few days at the vet while we were gone. And now he has a big hole in his neck. That cat… Just what we needed. More stress.

Dumbest cat alive won’t feed itself.

Roland did better on these flights than the long flights home from Ukraine. It is amazing what a month of love and bonding can do. He was still cranky and tired, but clung to mommy instead of wiggling out of my arms and throwing huge fits on the floor of the aircraft. Our first flight was uneventful, but the next flight was majorly delayed. An air conditioning unit had blown a hole in the side of our plane and finding us a new plane took several hours. And  Roland had a major melt down during what turned into a five hour layover. He cleared two rows of seats in the waiting area. Seriously. Some people just quietly got up and found other seats. Others grumbled under their breath. My boy has lungs! (I need to take him to the DMV so he can clear the line for me.) At one point all he wanted to do was run (crawl) away and go get into other people’s bags. I made a make-shift leash and attached it to his shirt. He thought it was great until he realized he could no longer reach the other people in the waiting area and smack them. (Hitting is his new way of saying, “Hi! My name’s Roland!”) This led to melt down city, with the added effect of looking like he was freaking out over being chained up. Thankfully another passenger brought his one year old over to play. (Parents get it.) Actually it was really good for me to see that this one year old acted a LOT like my son. I realized that even though Roland turns two in 21 days he has a mental delay and I need to treat him like he’s still a baby. Watching the other little boy smack the stuffing out of our toys put Roland’s hitting in perspective and caused me great relief. I’m sorry but I have only ever parented one mild, gentle creature before; I know nothing about this boy business. My default is to over-react every time with, “Oh no, you think this is orphanage behavior? Is he violent? Will he need therapy?!!!”

We have since made high-fives okay and if he hits we say, “Oh not there, here!” and put out an open hand. He happily smacks away.

Okay so back to the miserable trip. We arrived at our hotel around 4:30am and still had to eat dinner. McDonalds is open 24 hours, but it turns out that neither of my smart children will touch McDonalds so we made the oatmeal I brought. At some point I realize it’s past 5:00am and we need sleep.

The next thing we know we wake up and it’s noon and we realize we have not checked out of our hotel room! So we call the front desk and the lady says, “Oh no, you checked in this morning, you have until tomorrow to check out at noon.” Yay! That’s like two nights for the price of one! It turns out she was new (and wrong), but they honored what she told us and gave us the next night for free. (Even though the next morning two room service people were startled to see us and tried to kick us out.)

So we didn’t check out (yay!) and instead went over to DuPont hospital in Delaware to meet Dr. Rahman and the WREX team. They watched Laelia play, took some little measurements of her arms and then strapped her up to a WREX. They are making one for her that will be ready in a few months. Laelia is excited!

Click here for the video.

I was impressed at how knowledgeable they were, and how willing to help Laelia they were. Her triceps are tight (she does everything with them) and they were adjusting the WREX to help loosen them up. I felt like I was on Team Laelia and we were working together for her. (I wish IEPs still felt like this.) I went into the appointment feeling like I needed to show we qualified for this, but they were just happy to help her. One of the guys held her upper arm firmly and asked her to bend her elbow. I was just about to explain that she didn’t have any biceps (required to do that) when she moved that little elbow a slight bit. Turns out she has a different tiny muscle (he explained which one) that did that for her and he noticed it right away. Wow. I’m used to knowing more about my kids than the doctors. Not this time.

The next morning (okay afternoon, but our schedules are totally wacky at this point) we headed over to Philadelphia Shriners. Laelia and Roland were really good for their appointments. Roland did not like to be measured with the “go-knee-o-meter”, but he calmed down right away. Laelia loves Dr. van Bosse and was ready to show off her walking skills. (Of course he was ready to sing her praises to all the other doctors.) She gave him a little bear we had picked up for his little son. It came all the way from Ukraine.

Laelia was also happy to avoid casting. She’s walking so well that they want to let her be mobile, continue to let the plates in her knees do their job and we’ll adjust the braces to  accommodate  her re-clubbing foot. So an easy appointment for my little girl. Turns out that when standing her knees are 15 degrees from straight instead of the 5 degrees when she’s sitting. To fix this they add a strap to her KAFOs. They didn’t have time to fix them while we were there so they’re mailing them to us on Tuesday. (It’s a long wait for this mobile little girl!)

She also got her x-rays like a pro. She told the technicians all about how she used to cry (very true) and how her mom used to cry (not true) and how everyone was sad (just her), but now she’s in kindergarten so she’s practically an adult and can handle silly x-rays. :)

While waiting for Laelia’s wheelchair to be fixed (they fixed it despite the fact that it’s not from them) we ran into the arm doctor: Dr. Z. (The Z stands for Zlotolow… but I know him by “Dr. Z.”) Dr. Z recommended we cast Roland’s elbows and do them one at a time so he’ll only be in three casts instead of four at a time. If he were a lot less mobile it wouldn’t matter, but to bind all his limbs would be mean to this active guy. We’ll begin casting the elbow in a week and a half here in San Diego. But the funny part was when Dr. Z walked in the room and my husband whispered to me, “Mark Ruffalo.” Totally! Am I right?

Also while we were in PT we let Roland run loose with a walker. He was knee walking for the first time ever and he loved it! Click here for the video.

Roland had had x-rays done before we came to minimize the poking and  prodding. We found out he needs his clubfeet casted (duh), possibly two tendonotomies  on them (two?!), his hips need a surgery (but NOT the awful osteotomies that Laelia had, just a release) and when he’s four he’ll get his knee surgeries. We’ll either get him in fixators (one at a time) or do releases and 8 plates like Laelia had done. It totally depends on the contracture severity. (Please please please no fixators.) First things first is clubfoot casting. That’s the Ponseti method for you AMC pros.  Roland was pretty good for the right leg and mesmerized by the wrapping. Then the left leg he started to panic since that one was getting a good stretch.

Then he cried for the next couple hours straight.

We had planned to visit the other few AMC families while we were there, but Roland was really not doing well. So since he is so new to our family and to medical treatment I felt I had to go someplace safe and just hold him. There was “no room at the inn” so to speak as our sweet deal with the hotel had run out and the Philly Ronald McDonald houses were full. So we drove back to Delaware to stay at that Ronald McDonald house there. (About an hour’s drive.) It was really nice.

Roland screamed all night long. No one slept.

He would jerk and then scream. Since we were all sleep-deprived zombies we didn’t really notice (care?) that the jerk always came first followed by the screaming. Lucky me got stuck with him in my bed so every time he screamed I would rub his back and comfort him. It wasn’t until we were on the plane and he was still doing the jerking thing that I started to worry. He would be sound asleep and then jerk or spasm (or convulse? or seize?) and then cry until I comforted him. Then go right back to sleep. Repeat and repeat. Now it’s scary because he was diagnosed (we had believed incorrectly) with convulsive disorder while in the orphanage. They also gave him something to get him to sleep in the orphanage, and for the first time we had given him something to help him sleep (and reduce pain)! Could it be? Is there a drug connection here? We discontinued the Tylenol with Codine immediately just in case. To my surprise the screaming stopped and the jerking stopped. Oh my goodness, was it the pain meds? Or just the shock of his first casts? Or did I happen to stop meds at the same time he happened to get over it? Was it really convulsing??? I have no idea, but not being able to give him pain meds is a bit of a scary thought as he has surgeries in his future.

I took this video on the plane. At the 52 second mark his body jolts and that was not me or the plane  turbulence doing it. He jolts. Wakes up. Cries. Then goes back to sleep. Anyone have any idea what that was? It happened a LOT. Just like that. Seizures?

When we finally got home it was near midnight. While on our lay over the vet had called and told us that we needed to put a feeding tube back into our cat since force-feeding was not getting him enough calories to survive. That surgery would cost $900. There’s no way we could afford that (as we’ve already sunk money into this cat already and now I have no job) so we called back and tearfully said, “Just make him comfortable. We can pick him up on Sunday.”

Since then we’ve gotten the cat to eat a little and been able to keep his medicines down him. We’re not telling the kids how bad he is just yet.

I have never been so happy to see my own bed. We put a sleeping Laelia in her bed and a sleepy Roland in his crib. I just slithered into bed like a snake and Charley even rubbed my back for a while. It was heaven, until Roland started to cry and Charley’s place in bed got  usurped  by someone younger and cuter. What can I say. ;) *sigh* I was passed exhausted, but thankfully he was doing better even without the pain meds. Charley got a full night’s sleep in the next room and was able to take over a lot of the parenting the next day because of that. So I’m happily blogging while Charley does all the heavy lifting.  Life is good! :)

The story of Roland continued

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

Being at home was surreal. We were legally a family of four, but could not claim our son from the orphanage until after the appeal time ran out. Not that we didn’t have plenty of distractions. I was unpacking and repacking, Charley was getting documents notarized, Linda (Charley’s sister) was moving in, Niki (our roommate) was getting ready to move out and Laelia was settling back in after a lot of travel. We were also trying to get return tickets set up, which after some back and forth turned out to be one-way tickets. I told Chelsea we didn’t know when we would get to come home. I’m super comforting like that. ;)

When Chelsea and I got to the ticket counter we were told that Ukraine may not let us enter with one-way tickets. It was pretty funny. I also think the guy thought Chelsea and I were adopting as a couple. Let’s just say you get a lot of strange questions when you travel with an empty car seat stroller (that Germany liked to lose).

Traveling without children is glorious. I highly recommend it.

When we landed I recognized Niko and all the sudden realized how comforting and familiar Kiev was. There’s the lemon and chocolate ice cream and there’s the random people in my personal space and there’s where I get  grivnas for my dollars and there’s the unbearable heat (which happened to be a record-breaker for Kiev). Home again home again. :) We were asked if we wanted to wait around for an hour for another family. It turned out to be Chris and Julie who we started this whole process with! Super exciting to see them again! In fact we also got to meet several adopted families who we’d been Facebook friends with but had yet to hang out with. It was a lot of fun!

AMC mommies

Then we settled into our apartment. Chelsea and I scored a better apartment than what my family and I shared a couple weeks earlier. We hauled some water up there and battled the multiple locks to get in. (Three locked doors until you get in the apartment, five locked doors until you get into the bedroom with the  meager  AC unit where we were huddled.) So we were plenty safe. I was so glad to have a friend for this part of the trip.

I’ve got to say that for the first week it was like a vacation. We did a lot of tourist-y things that I couldn’t drag my daughter to while we were here the first time. Plus I could now find my way around. Chelsea wouldn’t sit still so we had a lot of adventures. :) We mastered the metro. We saw all the sights. We visited anyone who was in Kiev for any reason who we kindof knew from Reece’s Rainbow. One night we got on a bus late at night going “somewhere” (we can’t read the signs) and got off after about six stops and found our way back. Just for fun. This was a grand adventure.

While I was gone for the two weeks, Laelia had learned two new tricks (Linda was taking over PT at home). She learned to walk down a step with her crutches (video here) and open doors (video here). She could not wait for me to get home and show off her skills. I was able to Facetime with her one morning and she was so darn cute and showed me how she also learned to lock and unlock the doors. (Ut oh! Haha!) She said she missed me and it about broke my heart. I love my little girl.

The first full day in Ukraine was a big paper chase. We were in a car for over six hours just so I could sign three pieces of paper. It was killer. But I finally got my son’s birth certificate! It now listed his new name and me as his mommy! That was super exciting.

At least they assure me that’s what it said. I can’t read a word of his birth certificate. Our last stop that day was to change his tax code. I guess it’s like our version of a SS number. They need to officially delete (or change, I wasn’t clear) the tax code to show that Yegor no longer existed now that his birth certificate has been changed to Roland. This needed to be done *before* we could apply for his passport. After waiting for hours it was clear something went wrong. Our driver was late to pick up the next family from the airport and we needed to leave. We just prayed it would work out.

It didn’t.

We couldn’t get Roland and take him to get his passport photo without this code change. We couldn’t get this code change. If we couldn’t get the process started on his passport then we couldn’t leave. And without reason to visit (like to get official stuff done on his passport) it was hard to get a driver from the team to take us to the orphanage since there were so many families in need of the team this summer. I posted the following plea for prayer on Facebook Thursday night: “We hit a snag in the paperwork processing part of this adoption. I’ll just say something went wrong and it kept us from getting Roland’s passport photo today or seeing him. It’s been five days and I have yet to hold him, and it may be four days before we can move forward in this process if they don’t fix it tomorrow before the weekend. We’re now behind and may be looking at more days here.”

The next day we waited around for hours for Niko to call us. Finally we got word that we could move forward and at least get the passport photo taken, although the problems had not been completely resolved. We jumped in  the car and drove to his orphanage. I was so excited to see my baby again!

First we had to drive down the road to get a picture taken for our embassy appointment. Upon entering the car for the very first time Roland burst into pathetic, fearful tears. It broke my heart. I started singing to him and he only  whimpered  occasionally after that. Cars are scary. (Ukrainian traffic is more scary.) Once out of the car he hammed it up for the first pictures. He is so darn cute! Then we had to make the long drive to Kiev to get his passport pictures taken. I sang and rocked and comforted. He did okay, considering this was all so new, with only this occasional whimper. It was his nap time, but he couldn’t sleep through something like this, even with the rocking motions. His eyes were wide the whole time.

I sang every song I could think of to him. From Christmas songs to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I started singing How Great Thou Art, but when it came to the line of, “And when I think, that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” I started totally choking up and tearing up. That was a no go. Wow, now that I have a son… well that means a lot more to me.

Finally we arrived for passport application and pictures and then got in the car to go all the way back. Poor little guy handled it like a champ. I think he was relieved to be dropped back off at the orphanage though.

Then the second of our delays happened. The person in charge of processing our passport had some sort of death in her family and was unable to be reached. So now we were waiting on a passport that was not coming, couldn’t reach the lady doing it (God forbid someone else takes over in this case), and without a passport in hand we could not finish our embassy appointments. We ended up going to the first embassy appointment without the passport. They said we had to bring it to our second and final appointment the next day. We hoped and prayed and waited but it never came. Also there was no word on if it was coming.

We had to cancel our second embassy appointment.

I spent $40 to visit the orphanage for seven minutes that day. It was suppose to be 30 minutes, but between delays and the nannies “getting him ready” our time was only seven minutes. I had just enough time to promise him I would come back for him. (It was either leave then or try to find our way back with a $100 taxi who didn’t speak English.)

The day we were *suppose* to book our tickets home  had come and gone. We were stuck. Chelsea had to work on Monday. I had an important medical appointment in San Diego for Roland on Tuesday with an adoption specialist. It was stressful. And part of the stress was that I didn’t have my little boy who was now legally mine.

So I made the decision to take Roland from the orphanage without having his passport. They recommend taking your child out of the orphanage closer to when you travel home so as not to confuse them with new living arrangements that don’t last. But the thought of leaving him in the orphanage one more day just hurt my heart. So I told the team I was taking him. When we arrived at the orphanage I was asked if I had an outfit for him. I didn’t. I had plenty at the apartment, but was under the impression that they sent them home with one. (They do.) They said, “Then maybe you wait and get him tomorrow.” Nah uh. I just offered to pay for the clothes on his back. It was  unnecessary  as they gave them to me. (Girl socks, pants four sizes too big and a shirt and sweater.) I also requested the blanket on his bed. They handed me a very stinky sheet. (It made my eyes water.)

I had asked to see how he ate his lunch. They put me in a white coat and led me up to the feeding room. Every child sat in a little chair and ate with a giant oversized spoon. Every child except Roland who was on the floor. They told me they fed him tea and stew. They warned that Roland has a tiny mouth and to put the spoon back in his mouth with little tiny bites on it. He didn’t know how to chew and just swallowed the food whole. Roland was “done” before the other children and he sat there watching them eat. Then I took him upstairs to finish signing him out of there. I felt strange in my white nanny coat.

This is the director of the orphanage and our driver, Niko. Both of these people are wonderful, and our family owes them a great deal.

We walked out of the orphanage forever. Here’s the video I posted in a previous teaser post.

He would never go back there. Never be left alone. We took him back to our apartment in Kiev. By this point the unbearable heat was gone and it was raining and cold. We walked around in the rain trying to find diapers since our local pharmacy (because they only sell diapers there) didn’t have any. (The umbrella scared him.) Roland was in the city with it’s noises and he was completely overwhelmed. He  buried  his head in my chest and threw up down my shirt. But finally we found some diapers.

And finally, like magic, the passport came through! We drove out to get it and held it like it was made of gold.

We quickly had Yulia set up a new embassy appointment for Thursday and booked flights home for Friday.

Unfortunately our friends Julie and Chris didn’t end up getting their passport in time and had to cancel their flights home. We visited them and their new son, Ryan, in their apartment before we left. Isn’t Ryan adorable?! They are the same size, but Ryan is several years older.

In Kiev Roland explored the apartment. He loved to turn on the microwave. (Who puts a microwave at toddler level?!) He loved to open and shut the hall door. When I tried to feed him lunch I realized that Roland has a lot of feeding issues. For one thing he doesn’t know how to chew. And I wasn’t about to stick a large spoon down his throat. The first stupid thing I did was feed him a grape that he choked on. Ugh. You’d think I’d never had a kid before. Then we tried little bites of pasta. We settled on baby food in jars and he happily ate that. Little guy couldn’t even bite off a tiny piece of graham cracker. Both Chelsea and I were pointing at our teeth and making exaggerated chewing motions. He sucked everything like a bottle (like chewy granola bars) or swallowed it whole (he gummed and swallowed an entire banana).

Roland got his first real bath. He loved the splashy fun. It was hard to scrub him as he was just a blur of motion. I learned he hates to have his little hands scrubbed so we had to pretend to play games with them. He was so happy. And he finally smelled wonderful. It was easy to curl up with him that night and smell his shampooed little head.

When it was time for bed I put his sheet (eww) on him for a familiar smell and curled up beside him. He didn’t move from that spot and slept almost through the night. This would be the last time this would ever happen. I’ll explain more on that later. It was so nice to sing him to sleep and hold his hand until he drifted off. His arms don’t bend so he sleeps with them out like this.

It had just been one day, one huge day, and his life was forever changed. He was loved. He would never be left again.

Our ride to the airport showed up at 3:00am the next morning. Roland said goodbye (he can wave bye-bye) to the team, and to Erika (Bernadette and Mason‘s mommy) who enjoyed loving on him. Travel was hard, not as hard as it could have been, but hard nonetheless. Roland still has belt burns on his skin where they made him put on a seat belt for the first flight and he twisted and freaked out. The next two plane rides I did not make him wear it. He freaked out and would slide to the floor, then would fall asleep, then would be fine, and then freak out again and slide to the floor. He threw up. He couldn’t keep liquids down. He choked on a tiny piece of bread. He pooped a ton and had to get changed on the plane which he hated. He screamed a lot. I’m sure the other passengers loved us. :) I got through half of the Avengers movie and that was the only break I really got. Even when he was calm I was still worried about him.

We arrived home completely worn out. Just by accident we ran into some church friends in the airport parking lot on their way back from a trip to visit family. I got to show off my new baby. It was fun and I was starting to regret not having a big reception when we arrived. (After 28 hours of travel, one big cheering crowd can’t really add too much more to the trauma, right?) Roland got to see his daddy for the first time in almost a  month. Even though I was starting to get sick to my stomach (probably from a bug I picked up), I was so relieved to be home. We were home.

And life was about to get interesting. And hard.

To be continued…

The story of Roland

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I titled this blog post, “The Story of Roland,” but this isn’t really his story. There are parts of his story I will never know. Parts he’ll never be able to communicate to me. His story started in a hospital. He was born to parents who were married and waiting for their first child. He was wanted, probably planned. But the contractures on AMC kiddos are the worst at birth. I remember the first time I saw my daughter’s twist of limbs that would not move and I was pretty scared. But there was a social worker, several doctors and nurses, a geneticist and lovely prescription medication at the ready. I vaguely remember the social worker listing all the resources we would have available. I was grieving heavily at the time so don’t remember much, but we were left with many brochures for when we were ready. I doubt any of that happened for Roland’s parents. They named their son Yegor. They gave him their last name. Then they signed him over to the government and left him at the hospital. He was moved into the orphanage to be fed and warehoused.

He was never visited.

Until two weeks before we showed up. That’s where his adoption story begins.

A family came into the country. They were looking at babies to maybe adopt one. They didn’t want special needs, but were willing to look at children with something “fixable.” They visited Roland because he was still pretty little, but because of his special needs they just couldn’t commit to him. They decided to put off committing to him for two weeks. Their appointment at the Department of Adoptions was set for a Monday. We showed up for our Department of Adoptions appointment the same day, a mere couple of hours BEFORE they did. We committed right away. By the time they showed up the little guy was taken.

This ordeal gave our facilitation team grey hairs. They knew we were coming and that we knew about arthrogryposis and we were a better match for Yegor, but they could say nothing. If the other family had committed to him before we showed up then we would have had to turn around and go home! I knew about the other family as we waited for our appointment that Monday and stressed and worried about it until we were safely done with the process that day.

We met our little guy for the first time that Wednesday at 9:37am. For the video click here.

When they brought him out it took my brain a full ten seconds to recognize him. His strawberry mark was gone and there was a thin scar in its place. His head had a huge flat spot from being left in a crib which changed his features slightly. His hair had grown out, his eyes had settled on brown and he had grown. I actually saw his legs before I realized I was starring at my baby. Roland (or Yegor as that was still his name) was shy. He was scared. His little heart was racing. His little lip was sucked in. He couldn’t make eye contact. He’d already been handed to strangers a couple of weeks ago who never came back. He didn’t know what to think.

I started to sing the Disney song, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…” which was fitting since I had been dreaming about him like crazy. Slowly slowly he came out of his shell. He started to ask for things. He pointed at a toy and said, “Do.” (We would later call this the “language of do.”) So I took the toy off the window ledge and we started to play with it. Click here for the video of Roland learning to relax around us and start to play.

By the end our little guy’s personality was coming out. This video here is more like he is today.

One nanny asked if we clearly saw his arms and legs. Then she carefully asked us if we still wanted to adopt him. Still? We were so busy in our own little world we had forgotten that we had papers to sign. Still? Oh right because his legs and feet are bent? Or his arms are straight as rods? Why in the world would that keep us from wanting him?!! We replied, ” Still? Yes! Absolutely!” And then we listened to make sure the interpreter put enough  emphasis  into the words.

We got the chance to speak to the doctor on staff about Roland too. She knew that Yegor was severe, but after meeting Laelia she got some hope. She asked us all sorts of questions like how many surgeries we think Roland would need and if he would walk. I answered that he would absolutely walk one day. She looked at Laelia and agreed with me. Then she asked us very hesitantly if we wanted to adopt him. (Remember the last family to visit him were just “looking” and not serious about him.) When I enthusiastically said, “Da! Da! ABSOLUTELY!” she got all emotional and grabbed my hand to warmly rub it and shake it. She started saying, “Good good. You are good. You are very good. Thank you. Thank you.”

Do I want my gorgeous, talented child? Still? Yes and please. Am I in silly backwards world?

As far as arthrogryposis goes, Roland has joint contractures in all four limbs, but he also has strong muscles. (I’ve been in email contact with Dr. Judith Hall about this and we’re trying to figure out if he has amyoplasia or not.)  His fingers and wrists are affected, but barely. His elbows and knees are the most severe. His feet are clubbed (bilateral). He has AMC in his jaw and it’s hard to open his mouth wide or keep 100% of any liquid in his mouth, but he’s getting better at it.

As far as other needs, he’s an orphan who has spent his whole life in an institution. So yeah. He was given a mental age of 9 months old. (He is 22 months old.) He is not attached to a caregiver. He gets scared of things outside the four walls he grew up in. But he’s a tough little guy and nothing keeps him down for long. Within two weeks of visiting him he was up to a 12 month old level and could maintain eye contact. Booyah.

We spent every day with him for about an hour in the mornings. We drove two hours a day in crazy Ukrainian traffic. I got car sick every. single. day. Laelia usually fell asleep so that helped. :)

Going crazy!!!

Konk.

Nausea remedy.

Everyday we saw more and more of our handsome little man come out. And he started to recognize us and put out his arms for me when he saw me. We loved on him a ton for the hour to an hour and a half we saw him in the mornings. Cue the montage!

Is that enough cuteness to crash your computers? Good. It wasn’t all playing with Roland though. We also had to notarize stuff and drive to appointments. But our Reece’s Rainbow team held our hands the whole time. They really are an amazing team of people who are good at this!

At one point in our trip I started to get upset at myself for knowing about this little boy for a year before we committed to him. I raised funds for him and shared his picture on Facebook and wrote blog posts (on this blog), but was unwilling to leave our life of comfort and follow God’s heart for the orphan. How stupid and short-sighted was I?! I cried over it. I cried over my son’s life. Then we picked up the pieces as a family and moved forward to right those wrongs.

We got word that we had a court date, but these things aren’t set in stone so we didn’t count on it until a final phone call from our facilitator. The next morning we got to see Roland for 30 minutes before we had to drive to court. It would be the last time we would see him until after the appeal time ran out. I promised him I’d be back for him. I promised him I’d love him and get him out of there. I promised I’d fight for him. Then they took him (always a sad end to every visit) and I left to go change into something proper for court.

Nothing screams “courthouse” like bubblegum pink.

We passed court!

They always ask why you want a “disabled child.” They don’t get it. We were ready. The judge and jury deliberated for only a couple minutes before they called us back in and rattled off that we were Roland’s parents. His name would be changed to Roland Quest Wesley and his birth certificate changed to reflect us as parents. We just stood there trying to listen to the interpreter and absorb what had happened and what would happen next. We walked out of the room and Laelia asked what happened. (She had been sitting semi quietly in the corner playing with the orphanage director’s purse.) I told her we had passed court. She started cheering, “Yay we get baby brother!!!!” while hugging us. :)

Then we packed all our things quickly since our ride was coming to pick us up and take us to the airport at 3:00 a.m.

Laelia did really well for the next 28 hours it took us to get home with three lay overs.

Then we settled in at home, empty-handed and waiting. It would be ten days before my friend Chelsea and I would head back for two weeks to finish this process.

To be continued…

Where to begin?

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

This is the first time I’ve had to sit down and try to bring words to the amazing life experiences we’ve had in the last weeks. For one thing Charley, Laelia and I flew to beautiful Ukraine. We lived in Kiev. Here are some of the many pictures out of my camera.

Kiev does not have wheelchair access whatsoever so we had to carry Laelia a lot. That was hard. For example the grocery store was two buildings to the right of our apartment. Easy distance, right? Wrong. To get there we had to carry Laelia down five flights of stairs, down another to the alley, then since there was no access down the sidewalk you have to go through an underground mall which requires a long set of stairs down then another long flight up to surface, then a flight of stairs up to the front of the above ground mall that holds the grocery store… which is at the bottom… with more stairs. I do believe it is impossible to live in a wheelchair in Kiev.

Despite the hardships of being in an unfamiliar place with water you can’t brush your teeth in, I will miss this country. It is beautiful. We drove an hour outside the city to visit the orphanage (more on that later) and I swear if I knew the language and was more comfortable yelling about nothing (I mean *cough* if I knew the culture better) then we would live here. This is Boyarka.

Even in Kiev there were places you could walk to that were just as beautiful. This is Kiev.

Laelia loved inner city Kiev. She loved Ukraine. She loved the crazy driving with no  discernible  traffic laws. She loved our apartment and didn’t seem to mind the cigarette smoke that was a constant nose  assailant. She loved washing laundry by hand since the washer confused mommy. She loved line drying clothes with mommy. She loved the squeaky noises our floors would make. She loved the noises and lights that went on all through the night in the heart of the city. Despite myself I have raised a city girl.

Laelia also learned to walk without crutches in Kiev. It helped that our apartment was small and she could easily walk from one “island” (the chair, the table, the bookshelf) to the next. Eventually she mastered the small rise in the floor that separated the bedroom from the kitchen. She fell several times, but refused her crutches. After two weeks of this she gained confidence. Then she was becoming more mobile all over the place, even walking longer distances in her crutches or pushing her own stroller.

We went to a museum to learn everything about Ukraine. We were determined to learn all we could and soak it up. Our trip to the museum left our daughter bored and singing loudly. No one seemed to mind… no one except her mother. :-/  Here she is hanging on her daddy while singing. Eugene ignored her and kept telling us all about what we were looking at.

I will post about our adoption–about the process, about our new little one, about sweet life at home–another time. My two monkeys only give me a few minutes of free time each day and I’ve spent it pining over our Ukraine pictures and trying to put our trip into words. It was an emotional time for sure, and I think a bit more enjoyed in hindsight, but missed nonetheless. These are a few of my favorite things.

You, Sir  Borscht, are dearly missed.

Communist bill boards everywhere. This one shows someone handcuffed holding American currency. I’m pretty sure that means the commies love us.

This is not an aquarium. It’s the grocery store.

The soaps!

Bacon flavored chips.

How we could tell how many days we’d been there. We caught about 10 flies a day. This country does not have screen doors!

Green donuts in one of the many underground shopping areas.

Honey markets with bees EVERYWHERE.

Getting excited to run into English signs.

Random downpours that would happen out of nowhere, flood the streets and then dry up immediately so you couldn’t tell it had even rained.

Everyone out bent over their corner of street with these brooms.

Sunflowers everywhere. Seriously this land is covered in them.

I was told I would miss Ukraine, and I really didn’t believe it. But I do. I was able to enjoy it for only about 1/4th of our time there due to all the adoption scrambling and worrying. Getting Roland out of the orphanage was an adventure we’ll never forget. That will have to be another blog post.

Family of Four

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Blog changes! It’s now not all about Laelia anymore, but about her brother too!

It’s official! We are now (legally) a family of four! Introducing Laelia’s new little brother and our new son, Roland!

We now have a Lalibug and a Rollypoly. ;)

Laelia is thrilled with her little brother when he’s not trying to grab her face with his “grabby hands” (her words). He also has arthrogryposis and, we’re guessing here, but we think it’s the exact same amyoplasia type as Laelia. Both of them look so much alike it’s going to be hard convincing people that amyoplasia is not genetic! :)

Laelia will be five on October 3rd and Roland will be two on October 14th.

There’s so much to say, but I’ve been pretty quiet in the blogging world to protect the privacy of this process. Just know that I’ll be catching you all up on our foreign summer travels, adoption and everything Laelia very soon. (She can now walk short distances on flat surfaces without her walking sticks! And she learned to climb up on the couch! She learned to do both those things while in a foreign country!)

We love our kids so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!