Archive for the 'family' Category

Double your fun

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Laelia and Roland have been given a matching grant to get their cousin home!

(Art by Lauren Burke for those of you who asked. She does good work.)

For every cent you give “Cousin” Thompson pictured here, it will be doubled until 12/12/12 at 12:12pm (CA time) or until they reach $1,000!

So your $1 will double and become $2!

$10 will become $20!

$100 will become $200!

Go here to donate!

All donations are tax deductible and DOUBLED!

And of course all donations go directly to adopt a little  Congolese  boy who is coming out of poverty.

Did I mention that today is Laelia and Roland’s uncle’s birthday?

Let’s get him a fully-funded adoption for his birthday!

Please give! We don’t want to lose a cent of this grant!

Merry Christmas!

All we want for Christmas

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Maybe you’ve noticed the new blog banner for the month of December?

Laelia and Roland keep getting asked what they want for Christmas. Laelia will shrug. She doesn’t want anything. Roland is surrounded by more toys and stuff and things than he’s ever seen in his little life, and usually only wants whatever his sister is playing with. :)  But when their aunt announced they would have a new cousin, Laelia was super excited and Roland got excited because Laelia was excited. That’s exactly what they would want for Christmas!

This cousin is coming from the Congo. From poverty. And the quicker they can fundraise, the quicker they can bring him home into a family who cares for him and an extended family who loves him already.

When we were fundraising for Roland’s adoption at this time last year we remember the mix of excitement and fear. What if we didn’t raise the funds? Our son was suffering every day we didn’t bring him home. I started praying that if we couldn’t get him fast enough that another family (maybe even one in his birth country!) adopt him quickly before he starved, suffered abuse or was transferred. It’s scary. Now my sister is in that position.

My dad (Roland’s grandpa) had an MG that he sold to help bring Roland home. He didn’t have much money lying around, but he had his car worth around $3,500. Well now that his other daughter is adopting… let’s just say we’re out of cars to sell.

So our fundraising goal is $3,500 for the month of December. Help the kids get their cousin home!

Go here to support them! It’s tax deductible and a great end of year donation to make.

Then, if you want, just email me or comment on this blog and let me know you helped get the kids their cousin for Christmas. I will read them every single message.

Merry Christmas!

Roland took his first steps! HE IS WALKING!!!

Monday, November 26th, 2012

On November 15th, 2012 Roland took his first steps! I had the worst cold of my life and had lost my voice so all the cheering him on just came out air. :) Click here to see his very first ever steps!!!

And here’s a video of his longest walking stretch that day. He falls at the end, but after the initial fussing he was begging to get up and “wok” again. :) I just wanted to take more medicine and go to bed, but Rolly pleaded for me to do more walking with him. He couldn’t turn since his little make-shift walker lacked caster wheels so after he ran into something he’d whine for me to turn him around.

So proud of himself!

Love his little monkey tushy. :)

For weight we put a bag of quinoa in the seat that we drew a face on and called “Keenwah baby.”

Although he was falling a lot, Roland was taking more and more steps! But then two days before Thanksgiving he got a cast change which left him hurting and miserable. He couldn’t weight-bear, stand or even crawl. Poor guy has to have a new transition every two weeks as his body changes slightly through casting and he has to relearn how to do everything all over again.

Before

After

But check out the progress we’re making! Less than a month left of upper body casts! Look how bendy those arms are!

*Someone* was happier about the trip to the hospital than the other one. She was great and helped Rolly all through the casting process.

Oh and speaking of Laelia, she walked the entire day. I forgot her wheelchair and her walking sticks, but instead of going back for them she begged to walk. She walked from the parking garage to the elevator to the hospital to the casting area to McDonalds and back to the parking garage. (Those who have been to Rady’s know what a huge distance that is!) And she did it all without walking sticks! Just held my hand for some of the rougher terrain. Incredible!

She wanted her hair done up before we left with the bows we won at the auction to bring Igor home from the orphanage. People would compliment her hair and she would say, “And my walking is great too!” :)

Two days after his casting change Roland was feeling much better and started to grab his “walker” and fuss at me to stand him up. Quinoa baby had broken through the material in the toy stroller so we had to make due with a ten pound weight attached to the bars. Eventually he was walking EVEN BETTER than before! Know what helped the most? We got him a walking coach. She works for cookies.

Click here for the video of him learning to walk with Laelia.

Click here for the video of him “racing” Laelia. I no longer hovered as he was no longer falling!

My babies both walk!!!

Take THAT arthrogryposis!

Transitions are hard, but worth it.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I am constantly amazed by how normal our lives are.

What? Stop laughing!

I  concede  that sometimes everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Insurance for one thing has gone wrong lately. We were suppose to be covered, but it had not been activated after my husband’s career change. Then we got the fun of getting denied for a trip to the casting clinic, a trip to the pediatrician, a trip to the ER, a trip to the pharmacy, a wheelchair order that had been in the works for over a month (which is now semi-permanently  stalled), Roland’s walker (we now have to borrow one instead), and a trip to the orthotist for the lift in Laelia’s shoe that allows her to walk. All in the same week. I admit. Those times suck the life out of us. But I think every family has *something* that sucks the life out of them if they let it.

But day to day my kids are active, happy and sweet. Normal. They will squabble like siblings–”don’t touch my crutches! I want that! Noooooo!”–but they also love each other. Last night Laelia was falling asleep before I got her in bed. Roland crawled up to her while I was removing her KAFOs and very gently reached down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He said “ah uv oo,” which is what he says after he hears, “I love you.” Precious!!! Right after that he grinned and went to pick her nose, but I grabbed him in time. Stinker. ;)

Often if Roland is having a hard time sleeping in his crib Laelia will walk up to the bars and stick her face between them to make faces at him. I hear him giggling and I pretend I don’t know anyone’s up. ;)  Laelia has also taken it upon herself to be Roland’s personal English tutor. So far she has taught him “up,” “good boy,” “good girl,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” She encourages him a lot while he parrots the noises back to her. I love seeing him grin when she praises him.

So I guess I want to say that life is good and we are happy.

It’s been three months since Roland has been home. The transition has not always been easy, as adding a child to a family is often a difficult transition no matter who you are. There was a time when I was so worried about Roland’s transition from orphan to son, especially when I would see behaviors that made no sense to me. One of the first weeks he was home Laelia won an award at school for citizenship. (Oh I shutter to remember this story.) I had to go to the school to see her accept it in the morning. I had to bring Roland. The little guy had a hard time in an environment of children. I’m sure his institutional spidey senses were going crazy. I don’t know what orphanage connections he was making, but I do know he threw the biggest screaming fit through the first two children receiving their awards. He was bright red and screamed so much that he threw up a bit on his shirt. I had to leave the room as the other parents had brought video cameras and I was ruining their moment. Laelia was the third and final child and the teacher came to get us from outside and told me that we could just let Roland scream and she would talk loudly, but it was important I be there. Laelia had just been through a lot of transitions herself and was not reacting well to Roland’s screeches. She refused to go to the circle. (Did I mention she was getting this award for following the rules?) She simply said no and then planted her stubborn little feet. With Roland arching his back and swinging his arms and legs wildly I knelt down by my daughter and in my sternest voice told Laelia she would go to the circle (then lowering my voice to a dangerous level added) right. this. minute. She complied. Roland swung an arm around and clocked me in the face, my glasses went flying. Thankfully at this point he was only in two casts and not all four, so his arms were not the plaster punchers they are now. I had to hold his arms down which caused him to scream like someone was killing him. My ears were ringing. I didn’t know this little one well enough to know what soothed him yet and nothing was working. I got lots of nasty looks from other parents which was the real kicker. I realized that it looked like I had broken my son’s legs (which I got accused of by strangers that week) and now he was throwing a fit because I was a mean mommy. No one would believe the unlikely story that he had a joint condition and had *just* been adopted. I was dying for this dumb award to just be thrown at my child so I could retreat. A parent was still filming (why? shoo!) and Laelia got her award. But she had an attitude and pretended not to hear the adults. So I took her award and told her she could have it back when she’d earned it. One parent blocked my escape and asked if her son and my daughter could take a picture with their awards. Uggggggh. My son was now upside-down in my arms from squirming around and I had my neck craned back to avoid his kicking feet. “Quickly,” I snapped and then waited an eternity for them to finish while my daughter refused to smile. I was red in the face when I finally marched out of that classroom, crumbled award in one hand, screaming boy in the other. But a few steps outside was enough to get Roland to calm down and cling to me. I was so unhappy with him I didn’t even speak when he asked, “Dadoo?” (His way of saying, “Mommy?”) A guy walked past us and stared. I just thought,  What?! Ever see a tantrum before!   Then another dad walked by near the school gate and looked straight at his shoes. What?! Am I embarrassing you?!!  Then, I swear, a THIRD guy walked by and this one grinned and chuckled at us. What?! Okay that was a weird reaction. Roland is not even throwing the fit anymore, I mean he’s just sitting in my arms grabbing my shirt…. *gasp*

Yep my son had grabbed the front of my shirt and dragged it down to expose my entire (colorful) bra. I had just flashed every man I had walked past. When I realized this and grabbed my shirt up, Roland began to laugh. Yes laugh. He is lucky he’s cute.

See this memory was floating through my head last Thursday during my parent teacher meeting. Laelia and Roland played happily while the teacher went on and on about how wonderful Laelia was and how good she was doing. Roland didn’t scream once and when his toy would fall out of his hands he would say, “Uh oh,” to his sister who happily got it for him and lectured him to thank her each time. (“Day do!”) Roland seemed so happy and adjusted compared to our first classroom appearance. Now he was with his family and content. Instead of a stranger, I was a comfort to him. And my shirt stayed up to my chin the whole time. :)

I found out last week that my sister and her husband have decided to adopt from the Republic of the Congo. Their son will be an abandoned (most likely starved) little guy. She was on the other end of the phone while I cried that my son wouldn’t stop crying when he got home. She was there when I told her that I had to go out one morning to a doctor’s appointment and my son was now stimming like crazy and wouldn’t make eye contact. And if I was going to scare her away with how hard a transition can be, then maybe getting my son in four casts (plaster punchers) may have done it. :)

But transition is an easy price to pay for a little human person being added to the family. And realistically our eight week transition was not that long. Right now both my kids are enjoying Thanksgiving break and playing together. Roland can pick up his own toys after they are done. They both cleaned their room the other day by themselves! Laelia has been doing more physical feats with Roland around to encourage her (read: chase her around). I’ve seen Laelia “fast walk” (run) without crutches to avoid a rolling Roland bulldozer. Roland has done more physically too, but it’s not like he had much of a chance in an orphanage to begin with. It’s fun to see your son become a well-adjusted typical two year old in the space of a few months. It’s fun because you know it wouldn’t happen if you hadn’t adopted them, so it gives you this proud feeling of accomplishment even though you just provided the environment and your kid did all the work. :)

I can’t describe how happy I am that we adopted. (I literally can’t get computer time enough to talk about all our joy.) I can’t tell you how happy I am that my kids get a cousin from the Congo. Life is full. It is good. Adoption is worth it. Transition is worth it.

 

Halloween

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Carving. (Roland is banished to the high chair after repeated attempts to play with sharp knives.)

Laelia: “Mama, why is my pumpkin sick?”

Roland’s pumpkin in a diaper

The kids’ pumpkins greeting visitors.

“Laelia are you a good witch or evil witch?” asked almost everyone.

Laelia: “Evil.”

Meow

Witch Laelia’s black cat

“Come back here! You’re my cat!”

Summary of futile picture taking: “Roland come back here! Roland pose with your sister! Roland can you hold still? Where’s Roland?”

Norbert the Dragon in University Heights

Laelia’s reason for meeting dragon: “We can both fly. We should be friends.”

Right before meeting dragon: “Why is he so… big. *gulp*”

During meeting with dragon: “…”

After meeting dragon: “That’s my friend the dragon.”

Washing the orange out!

Washing the kitty paint off.

Roland is harder to bathe. :)

Laelia’s summary of the night: “Apparently I’m very cute and everybody seems to like me.”

Roland’s summary of the night: “Meooooooow!”

Happy Halloween!

Friends!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Last Saturday was our Southern California Arthrogryposis Meet Up! It was at Angie and Rob’s new house and we had a blast. There was a bounce house which Roland LOVED, and Angie made Laelia a birthday cake for her fifth birthday which she LOVED. Plus we got to see so many friends!

Hanging out in the living room.

Liam, Ryan, Laelia and Roland.

He loved the bounce house! No fear!

They had a blast in there!

Roland and the ladies. ;)

Ryan (Laelia’s *cough* boyfriend) helping decorate her cake.

The first time the fan blew out the candles and we had to re-do. :)

These girls are so much alike. Marion and Laelia.

Roland and Jen spinning Laelia in the chair.

And here’s a video of Laelia and Jen spinning Rolly in the chair.

Ileana (who also has AMC) designed these shirts for the kids! You can order your own here.

Here are some cool black-and-white pictures from Rob’s camera:

From left to right: Laelia, me, Roland, Angie, Heston, Ileana, Elliot, Ryan and Marion.

Here are a couple of adorable pictures of not-so-shy Laelia with her little shy boyfriend, Ryan.

Click here for a video of Laelia chasing poor Ryan (who was walking without his KAFOs) down, hugging him, kissing him and then bossing him into following her to play in the other room! Oh my goodness!

We stayed late and it was close to a three hour drive home so obviously the kids were exhausted. Roland did okay on 2/3rds of the drive up, and he slept most of the way back. After playdates or a lot of stimulation, Roland often can’t sleep. He gave a little  resistance when we got home, but his Ukrainian teddy helped put him to sleep. He did so well during this adventure that we’re debating whether or not we want to start doing more grand adventures with him. We’ll see! :)

First month home!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

This is that first month home  blog post I promised. It’s over a week late. Sue me I’m busy. :)

Let’s get to it! Here’s everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Roland the Adjusted

Roland has been adjusting nicely. There’s no official measure of this of course, but if there were, he’d be rocking it. There’s also no official timeline of this, but if there were he’d be on the faster end of things I think. (I’ve learned that kids with physical limitations bond faster because they have to rely on their caregiver. That is definitely true in our case.) The classes we took during our home study process (the first step in adoption) are finally coming in handy. We also have a support group online. Those two things have put a lot of light on Roland’s behaviors. Understanding him has helped us parent him. For one thing diaper changes were somehow traumatic. Before my mind went to dark places, I got the advice that he probably just doesn’t like the vunerable position he’s in since we were placing him on his back. We made diaper changes more fun, added toys and eventually he felt safe in that  vulnerable  position. Now it’s fine. He occasionally throws a stink (pun totally intended) if we change him, but only because he’d rather be playing, not because he’s scared.

Food was another part of adjustment. If he saw food anywhere around the house that was not in his mouth right that very second it would cause a melt down. Not getting it into his mouth fast enough while he was at the table also caused a melt down. If it was food he hated BUT it was taunting him with the mere fact that it could never be touched by mortal taste buds… melt down. He was always afraid of not getting fed or not getting enough. We had to have Laelia eat her food in another room so he wouldn’t freak out and try to grab it out of her mouth anymore.  (He once threw himself on her red tray table to get to her food. He did it so hard that it collapsed the whole thing. Food flew everywhere and he just put his little body on top of the food to guard it because he had no way of getting it into his mouth with his unbending arms. Then he made loud Ukrainian noises at us when we tried to remove him from the pile of food. It was totally like this.) Things are much better now. I can make a cup of tea while in the middle of feeding him breakfast and he waits for me. I just ate something in front of him without thinking and he happily played with toys because he had just eaten. Obviously he trusts us to feed him consistently now.

He can also now eat our foods with their different smells and textures and that helps. Cheerios and graham crackers were yucky to him several weeks ago and now they are ambrosia. He came to us not being able to chew and that caused any chew-required foods to be avoided. Now he chews and swallows and even drinks from a straw! We’re so proud of him!

Of course on Saturday someone handed him some fruit snacks and he swallowed them whole. When we made chewing motions and pointed to his teeth he enthusiastically made those chewing faces right back to us and then swallowed another fruit snack whole. *sigh* It’s progress. ;)

As far as other adjustments…

It didn’t take long for Roland to realize that Daddy comes home around the same time everyday and it’s fun to block the door.

Or that if he grabs Mommy’s hand and puts it on his little head that Mommy (aka the sucker-for-baby parent) will coo over him and love him all over.

Or that everyone wants to take his picture.

And every picture looks like this, “Oh boy a camera! Must point at it!”

And if we ever see mommy go into the big box in the bathroom it means she’s being eaten by a giant monster and we must bang on the glass door and scream the ENTIRE time to keep the monster away.

As soon as mommy turns the water off we get super excited and tell her all about how we helped.

(I used to leave the shower door open enough for him to stick his head and one arm inside and happily play in the water. Not since getting his can’t-get-wet casts though.)

Let’s see, what else?

Roland has two stimming behaviors that have followed us through this first month. To stim is to self stimulate. You see this in kids with autism or kids who were institutionalized. It’s a way of creating stimulus  when there is none, but this coping mechanism sometimes becomes ingrained and follows children home from institutions. Usually stimming includes rocking or moaning or rubbing or licking and it is always repetitive. Roland used to rub his eyes over and over, but that is largely gone except for when he’s really tired. Only two behaviors have really lasted the month. The first is a movement he makes with his head. He shakes his head “no” in a slow motion moving all the way to the left and then all the way back to the right. This is his way of avoiding eye contact. He will do this if he’s overwhelmed. And once his head is all the way to one side he’ll look at you by straining his eyes and using his peripheral  vision. It removes him a step away from full-on eye contact. I don’t have a video of this as it happens so rarely now, but the day (a week and a half ago) he had to go with Daddy to get x-rays (I was throwing up at the time and couldn’t go) he did it to me when he got back. It was like he was saying, “Mommy wasn’t there. I feel abandoned. I have to regress to this behavior to look at her.” But really I don’t see this lasting the second month.

The other stimming thing he still does is a humming noise he makes. We call it his “thinking noise.” This, I’m pretty sure, will last SEVERAL months/years. It happens when he’s bored or working out something in his head. He used to do it 100% of the time whenever we handed him a book. We used to joke, “What bad things did the books do you to baby?” Here’s a video of him making his noise. It doesn’t mean he’s unhappy and never turns into crying.

One adjustment Roland has made is to bond with a primary caregiver. In this case that’s me! (Bonded for life! Woohoo! Watch our future Mrs. Rolly! I’m gonna be *that* mother-in-law. :)) Bonding is super important and helps when visitors are introduced into our lives. He needs to know that these are friends, but they won’t take him away to live with them. They go home and we stay here. We have been working on this so that he’ll be ready to have his grandparents come visit. We’re making progress. As you can see last week we went to Philly and he played with other children. He even got held by others, but  preferred  me. It was awesome. And a good sign. But before that we had a play date and he had a great time, but as soon as they left he was a mess.

This was his first ever play date. He had a lot of fun.

Click here for a video of his dance party.

That night he was up from 11:00pm to 7:00am crying and getting reassured. It didn’t make sense to me, but when I got on the support group and said, “My son is pulling an all-nighter!” Someone wrote, “Did he gave a great day or a birthday party?” Really?!!! Yeah he had his first play date. Poor thing is either  sabotaging  himself or wondering if the fun people will be his new parents. Grrrr orphanages suck!!!

Adjustment is hard, but it’s going really really well!  We have a little ways left to go, but not a long way. Mostly we have been blessed with a well-adjusting, happy kid. A kid so happy he wakes up with smiles in the morning and even when he’s throwing a tantrum over a toy he’s not getting (scissors, sharpie markers, etc.) he is always brought out of it by being picked up and loved a bit. Very spoiled child over here.

Roland the Trouble Maker (abridged… very abridged… very very very abridged)

Roland has an engineer’s brain. It’s kinda awesome to watch him work things out in his head, kind of like our friend Abu does. So I’m resigned to the fact that Rolly will be taking our thermostat apart or “fixing” the microwave some day. In the mean time his engineering mind mostly causes messes or trouble. Like the time he got my cell phone out to play with. I had locked the keypad so I let him play with it. He not only unlocked it, but texted “I’m in a meeting” to my husband using the saved text thingy already in the phone. That led to some funny back and forth between me and my husband when he called to ask if my meeting was over because he had been sitting on some important information about Laelia’s school. I was mad because I’d been waiting for that info all morning and could not figure out what he meant. Roland also set an alarm clock to go off at noon everyday on my phone. *sigh*

What other things has he done recently? Oh my word you would not believe me.

He turned on my work printer, pressed “print” which printed out my time card, then danced to the “music” while it printed, then repeated that 14 times before I realized what he was doing.

After two weeks home I just resigned myself to wasting one bag of Cheerios and one cup of water per day. He just loved to open the bag (hard to do since he can’t supinate well), get the lid off the cup and just start dumping it all over himself.

My son loves to pull the siding off the walls. It exposed the nails so we put some duct tape there so he couldn’t do it. Why Mommy why?! That was like my favorite thing to destroy!

Five minutes alone in a room. Enough said. (Those red things used to be the sides of a box of toys.)

Look at those two stinkers! After I took this the phone rang. When I came back a minute later they had flooded the bathroom. No joke. Roland had also put the toddler toilet seat in the bathtub and the plunger in the toilet.

One day I had put over an hour of work into a project for my job. Roland happily entered the room, saw a button (ooooh button) and turned off my computer. All work was lost. When I said “nyet!” he ignored me and happily turned off my husband’s computer too. Now we have a baby gate thanks to Craigslist. He just stares at the buttons with longing in his eyes on the other side of the gate. Must. Press. Buttons!!!

He chases and actually catches the kitties who then become his little furry pillows. (Video here.)

Here’s him dumping all the shampoo into the bath water along with anything else he can reach. Baths and destruction are like his right and left arms.

Even at the famous train table at Shriners he’s the one destroying the track.

Oh I could go on and on and on. There’s the time he pulled the window slates off, then he unplugged the Internet router, then there’s the fact that he’s always pulling all the books out of the bookcase, and all the DVDs out of the cabinets, and soup cans out of the pantry which I find in the garage because he gets them through the kitty door. We now have to put the cats’ food and water dishes up high after Rolly had a little party with them one day and move all plugs behind the couches. He has pulled two pictures off the walls, set off my car alarm using my keys, got all the pots and pans out, stole and lost the clean and dirty magnets that go on the dishwasher, found my box of letters from when my husband and I were dating and tore them up, oh and he got into the bathroom.

Steve came over and had to baby proof our cabinets after this.

I swear I have too many stories of this trouble maker happily making trouble!

Usually they end with him falling sound asleep in the middle of his destruction.

Moving on…

Roland the Skilled

Holding his own cup!

Playing the piano. (Video here.)

After a month of daily stretches we finally got enough bend in his elbow to hold his food!

Side view of his new bendy arm!

And that’s just holding the food. He also fed himself a graham cracker for the very first time! Click here for that video.

Roland loves the wheelchair. Click here for a video of him using it!

And I know I’ve already shared it, but the video of him knee walking with a walker is just so great. Click here to see it. (I also love his happy noises in this video.)

Roland the Patient

Pretty much Roland’s medical treatments are very easy. They would have been bad if we hadn’t already been through the entire thing already (only harder) with Laelia. Pretty much when the doctor is breaking news to me like, “Well…….. it looks like he may need surgery on his hips.” I’m all like, “Oh a release? For the hips? Yeah we don’t call that ‘surgery’ in my family. We call that ‘day at the hospital followed by ice cream.’ Unless you’re talking about cutting my child’s legs off and then screwing them back into a different position then just call it an ‘outpatient procedure.’” :)

But seriously, his AMC is more mild than Laelia’s and while still requiring hard medical intervention, it just feels like we’re on a vacation.

You know what? The best part?! There’s no “mommy guilt!” You know, like the kind I felt after my daughter was born thinking I had caused her condition. It didn’t matter that amyoplasia has no known cause, is not genetic and they’ve ruled out accidents and diet for possible causes. It didn’t matter because she grew inside me and my womb crushed her. That’s hard to forgive myself for. With Roland I have only ever had the good feelings like I’m doing good in the world by helping my son thrive. That has made things easier. Much easier. Most of us special needs bio moms gave birth and were dealt a blow and grieved a diagnosis. But with my son it was so different. Choosing this path has been empowering in a way. It’s hard to  describe, but add it to the amazing realization that I did not have to go through pregnancy or labor or breastfeeding again and just call me insanely happy.

(Well, some people may enjoy those things. For me it was “get it out,” “cut it out” and “pump it out.” Did I like that? Figure it out.)

Of course there are set backs when you don’t have a baby from birth. I can’t tell you how many medical  questionnaires  I’ve filled out with question marks or “who knows!” next to the question. Was he premature? Was he breach? Was he small at birth? When did he cut teeth? When did you first notice____?

The other down side of not having him since birth is that he has missed some windows for things. For one thing he doesn’t qualify for a cranial band (those helmets) because he’s too old and his head has firmed up. He’ll just have that flat spot on that back left for life, and it may or may not cause headaches or jaw issues later and may require surgery.

He also has some lead in his blood from living in the orphanage in a third world country. Actually there are a lot of little things when you bring home a little one and a lot of initial doctors appointments where you wonder what will be discovered and where that discovery will take you.  And they always want a sample or three of your child’s poop. Welcome to tiny shovels and vials. Welcome to blood work. Welcome to range of motion measurements.  And welcome to shots since you have to retake some important  vaccinations  because they are notorious for being junk or expiring in his birth country.

As far as orthopedic treatment right now we’re doing serial casting. Roland got casted recently (as you can read in the previous post) and hated life for about a day. But after almost two days he’s back to the old happy Rolly. Oh look there he is tearing up my carpet. :-/

Here’s a video of Rolly re-learning to crawl with large plaster casts on. Next week we’re adding at least one arm cast to the mix too. Poor dude.

Roland the Little Brother

Riding on the wheelchair with Big Sissy

Cuddling on the couch. He won’t let her hold him like a baby and she is resisting the urge right now.

I have to say I’m impressed with my daughter. She was an only child, a spoiled child, but she took on the big sister role even before he came home. She prayed for the orphans in Ukraine and Russia and Bulgaria every night. She mentioned things she was going to help her brother learn or do when he got home. After her last surgery she woke up and the first thing she said was, “When baby brother has surgery, I’m going to hold his hand.”

Laelia calls Roland “baby brother.” We’ve all started doing it. They fight like siblings and cannot share a toy without someone screaming (Roland). But it’s so very normal. Laelia loves to dominate and mother Roland. Roland had to learn to have a sister who is bigger than him and wants to pat his head and hold his hand. At first a larger child wanting to touch him just scared him to death. In his orphanage he only ever played with a small “groupa” of children his age. He never experienced love, or watched someone else be loved. Watching Laelia fall down and get comforted led to him crying out to be comforted. (Which was a break through at the time.) Watching Laelia say words to him, led to him making similar sounds.

I’m starting to think that larger families are just so perfect for these adopted kids. I wish we had more siblings to give him.

My favorite part of parenting is watching my children grow and mature. Roland went from an orphan to a member of a family. And Laelia went from only thinking of herself to thinking of her brother. I love to hear my precious daughter’s voice on the baby monitor in the middle of the night singing to her brother who woke up crying. Or even her world-weary voice saying, “You’re okay baby brother. That’s enough. Go back to sleep.” Haha!

But of course my daughter will also pick on her brother. She likes to set all his toys to Spanish and then laugh and laugh while saying, “Bwahahaha!!! Now you’ll never learn English! Hahahahaha!!” (It’s kinda hilarious.)

Roland the Talker

Roland says kitty and Laelia. That is all. :) “Why you no speak English?!”

Oh and “da” which means “yes” in Russian.

Okay well he’s also just started to parrot some sounds back. When I say, “up” he sometimes says, “ahhhb.” Or at the post office today I said “people” and he said “peeool.” Last night I was tickling him and said, “You want more?” And at the word “more” he opened his mouth wide for food. (“More” is a word we often use at the table.) So he’s getting it.

He only says “mama” when fussing or crying. For example when I’m in the shower, “MA MA MA MA MA MA MA MA MA!!!!!!!!!!”

Mostly, and I mean almost always, communication is simply raised eyebrows, a pointing finger and the sound, “Mmm.”

(Update: Week five and he now says “no.” Often.)

Roland the… Roland

Pretty much the weirdest thing about bringing Roland home was that he was not the baby I had prepared for. I think during the waiting period you fall in love with a picture and then you fall in love with an idea of a child who is not real. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I held onto that one picture like a  talisman  through the pain and travel and paperwork. When the real boy entered the scene he was wonderfully better in some ways, and woefully hard in other ways. But he was real. We were expecting a baby who didn’t move. We got a tiny tornado. We were expecting crying and we got total happiness  punctuated  with bouts of screaming. We were expecting gratitude and we got honesty. Oh and we expected him to chew. And we got schooled in the heimlich.

He has a personality. Part of it was shaped by having to look out for himself–hitting and screaming and fighting for what’s his. Part of it was shaped by being always around other small children so he is loud and screams for attention. Part of it is due to his arthrogryposis limiting his mobility. Part of it is foreign, from a culture I don’t fully understand. And part of it is biological from a gene pool I don’t share.

But largely, little by little, day by day, a major part of his personality is being shaped by me. It’s incredible to watch. He gives kisses like I do. He gets excited and shakes a bit like I do. He makes faces like I do. When I’m telling him, “Can you say BA NA NA?” He says back to me, “Da na da, DO DO DO?” in (I swear) my tone of voice. We even joked he was teaching us his language, the language of do do. :) Okay none of those things are relaying my point, but just trust me, this boy is assimilating into a family for the first time ever. It’s amazing to witness.

Hardest: The easiest parts were kind of covered already in the adjustment section so I’ll tackle the hardest. I think the hardest part of adoption so far has been during the first several weeks anytime Roland threw an angry fit. The first three days were different. Then we were in the fire and we knew it, and it was so bad that we couldn’t  concentrate on ourselves at all. I think caring for extreme needs like that was easier on us, maybe because our brains shut down and our instincts took over.  Then there was the get-to-kn0w-you period of time after the initial shocks were over that I didn’t expect for whatever reason. He would cry and we would play the figure-out-why game. Now after a month I know why he’s crying 95% of the time. That has helped.

But I’m talking about the angry, I-want-my-way, typical toddler fits. (Typical fits, but unusual triggers.) I didn’t expect to be so insanely angry when he’d scream, and I didn’t expect to remain bitter towards him even after he was happy again. I didn’t expect to feel violent thoughts when I’d had enough. There have been two days in a row, and then another day a little later, where I simply faked being a loving mother. I did all the steps without any of the feelings behind them. And I know my husband had more days like that than I did. It surprised me that this anger would be a side effect of bonding, of things getting better. It humbled me. I felt like a terrible person. When Laelia was this age and did the exact same thing I would get angry, but when she was good or cute again the anger would vanish. Yes she threw this or hit that or screamed, but, you know, she has her daddy’s eyes and my stubborn chin. How can you stay mad at that? But with Roland, this adorable little stranger who was hurting my ear drums and causing my heart to race, there was a bitterness that lingered. It required a lot more monitoring of my own reactions and thoughts. When he would be over his fit and happy again I would see it as manipulative and just want to leave the room (which I couldn’t). Thankfully these situations didn’t happen very often and everything seemed to reset in the morning. The Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. It’s true. It’s a natural reboot. Roland wakes up with a smile on his face and he  beams  with joy when I make eye contact with him for the first time. And I fall for this baby all over again.

Hmmm, another hard thing is that there is a constant-ness to parenting an adopted child. It’s been five weeks. Whatever heartwarming story or fiery speech that geared me up to tackle bonding has well worn off by now. Now it’s just the constant being with him. The constant co-sleeping. The constant not being left alone. The constant carrying around the house or wearing him. The constant bother of being someone’s emotional well-being. It’s worth it, most definitely, but hard. Not enough to make me want to claw my way out of my house and run down the street screaming, but let’s just say that when Roland is sleeping soundly enough for me to escape, I do. And often.

And during those times can I get someone to please remind me that I should really be showering, doing dishes, brushing my teeth and folding laundry? Because I don’t know how this happens but I always end up either playing Plants vs. Zombies or watching reruns of Xena Warrior Princess on NetFlix. ;)

Most satisfying: I love being covered in children. (I can’t tell you how large my heart got in my chest just thinking about this.)  I love saying, “My kids.” It was so surreal the first time I said, “kids.” I love the plural. I love kissing two little heads in my lap. I love cuddles. I love love love my kids.

I was told that the first three months are a time of constant holding, never leaving him alone and sleeping together. And that’s what I’ve done. But tonight he was doing so well that his daddy took him to run some errands and I took Laelia to Home Depot to get her a cactus and let her run around in the plant area. It was the first outing with just us girls since Roland’s been home. We loved it so much. Laelia talked the ENTIRE time. But what amazed me was how much I missed little Mr. Clingypants. When we walked in the house after less than an hour away, Roland saw me and started laughing and grinning and holding his little arms out while half crawling/half stumbling his way towards me. I ran to him and scooped him up in my arms where he squealed in delight! I love him so much! This boy is pure joy!!!

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.