Sunday, December 30, 2012

What a ride!

Wow.

What a ride! 

I finally have time to sit down and write this stuff down.

The past week has been all about getting and keeping Ralph and Theo well again. Theo made a quick turnaround and only spent one night in the hospital. Ralph on the other hand...

I had not seen my little rock star work so hard to breathe in ages. He was frightfully ill with an adenovirus on his first Christmas in 2007. The atypical pneumonia he was diagnosed with this time was just as awful. His oxygen saturation would plummet if he knocked his mask off at night. The doctors were attempting to arrange a transfer to the big city children's hospital, but there were no beds available for Ralph!

We were in limbo.

On Friday evening, I requested the respiratory therapists to perform CPT (chest physiotherapy) on Ralph after his treatments. I am convinced that this patting (or pounding, depending on the therapist!) is helpful in breaking up crud in the lungs.

After a horrible night, chocked full of wild and scary desats, Ralph was transferred to PICU on Sunday morning. This was so that he could have cpap or bipap support if he had another scary night. We were still waiting on word from Kansas City about a transfer.

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as the little stinker was transferred to PICU, he started perking up. After a CPT session that afternoon, Ralph coughed real big and his O2 sats jumped up...and stayed up! He had a great night that night. Me? Not so much. The unit was full of screaming, super-sick kiddos seperated by curtains, and I slept in a stupid recliner. 

If you want to call it sleeping, that is. I cracked an eye open and struggled to focus on the sat monitor every so often...or whenever I would hear an alarm...any alarm...which was probably every five minutes. When Ralph was sitting at 95% around 2am I started to get excited. In my mind, I began to rehearse my arguments for taking Ralph home with a sat monitor and supplemental oxygen. (I know I can still change an oxygen tank while half asleep, in the dark!) I got myself so worked up that I ended up running to the restroom every hour after that...3am, 4am, 5am...
Ralph ate two plates of eggs...feeling better for real!!

The morning of Christmas eve, when the day nurse arrived, I told her my plan. Ralph needed to be going home and they needed to get the discharge paperwork going. We had to wait until rounds to speak to the docs. They insisted on an EKG to check for heart damage before they would release Ralph. They were not happy with the chart, but I explained that he had an enlarged right heart as a baby.

With promises to follow up with Ralph's cardiologist, we finally busted him out around lunchtime!! Then we sat in the home oxygen office for an hour, trying to get him set up with new equipment. Blech! Ralph tried to open the fake Christmas presents under the tree there! haha! He wanted to play and run around, but he had been in bed for a week and was really clumsy and uncoordinated. 

By the time we were done there, my favorite pharmacy was closed for Christmas Eve. I checked three more pharmacies before finding an open one. I was so happy to finally get Ralph home. It was the best Christmas present. Ever.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm home!

I'm home. Well I was for a few hours anyway. I surprised the kids this morning. It was fun to see their faces!

Actually, right this moment I am on the way to the hospital with Theo. Its going to be an interesting Christmas.

More later...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ralphie

Oh goodness! My Ralphie is sick!


I learned last night that he had to be taken to the hospital with low oxygen sats. I felt that cold fear grip my heart again, that fear that I thought I conquered years ago. 

I'm too far away to do anything but wait for more information. I have to be patient and trusting. Please pray for my little rock star. He's not doing well tonight. I understand the he might get worse before he gets better. 

There are two other little boys with Down Syndrome that are fighting for their lives tonight. Please remember Ethan and Peter in your prayers as well. I know their families would be grateful. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week two

Today marks two weeks since I left home. 


Maxim is great! He has learned my version of Pat A Cake and can do it with no prompting. He has a little trouble "rolling it," but we can work on that some more later.

Can I just say that I was very nervous about adopting an older child? I might not have had the courage if not for a certain young missionary girl who has visited him often over the past year or so.  But, these kids are amazing! I have also had a chance to hang out with many older kids and teens here, and they are so emotionally open, full of hope, and life. They ALL say, "please adopt me, too!"

The children I met last night were surprised that I wish to adopt "sick" kids. They wanted to know why? One boy offered to become sick to have a family.

Do you get that?

This handsome, intelligent English speaking boy was willing to have Down Syndrome if it meant that he could have a family. If you are reading this, and your heart is pierced, won't you consider what you might do for one of these little lambs?

And by the way, would you kindly leave a little comment for me? With over 500 hits each day, it's a little discouraging to only get spam comments. Please delurk for me, would you?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday with Maxim

Maxim is always happy while playing with balls. It makes for an easy visit, too. 


Today I allowed him to throw the balls into the ball pit, instead of out! It's too warm in the therapy room for me to be chasing balls all over. 


Ruby sent me some love this afternoon...morning for her.
 I have at least four sick children at home right now. I can't do anything for them and it doesn't feel right. We are all praying BIG prayers...for healing, for signatures, for heart and minds. The most difficult parts of the process are still to come.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Don't even know what day it is...

As you can probably tell, I'm not in the mood to blog. I've got very little emotional energy to spend, and it's all for Maxim right now.

A spelling error was discovered in Maxim's file on the day of my initial appointment in Kyiv. A spelling error from 2004 when Maxim's mother's rights were terminated. Why this wasn't discovered at some point in the past eight years baffles me. The adoption department scrutinizes adoptive parents dossier paperwork with a fine tooth comb...letter by letter. Internal documents regularly get the same treatment. This one slipped through a tight crack.

My facilitator went to work immediately last week to try to get this court decree fixed. By early Wednesday, it was apparent that it would never be completed unless we went personally to the courthouse to speak to the judge. You see, Maxim was born in an entirely different region, one that is not an easy trip from here.

We set out in a sleet storm on Wednesday morning. The roads were terribly icy and in terrible condition. It is no surprise that there is a tire shop on every corner here. Seven hours later we arrived in Max's birth city. We would go to work in the morning.

It's long story, every story is long here, but we did get the document fixed, finally, at 6:30pm, after a whole day of office hopping, driving, waiting, and with the assistance of Ben Franklin. The document is considered official on the 5th day after it is prepared. Then it must be signed by the adoption authorities in the capital city. This normally takes 10 days. Then, and only then, will I be able to go to court to adopt Maxim.
If you can count, you will understand that I have a difficult decision to make. Will I stay here and wait for a court date? If so, I will miss Christmas with my family.

Will I go home for Christmas as originally planned? If so, my second trip here will be a very long one...and I don't even have childcare lined up for that trip yet.

I'll need to make this decision in a few days.

Maxim is doing great, if you don't count his poor bloated belly. And his extreme oral defensiveness. And gosh he is skinny. He seems to like me. He LOVES getting kisses and snuggles. He's a real treasure and I can't wait to get him home.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 4

Today's visit was difficult. Not because Maxim is difficult, or naughty, but probably because he is eight...he is well loved and cared for...he has friends. Now, someone new is messing around with his schedule, and is too stupid to speak his language. 

I found a snowsuit for Max at the market yesterday. It was a good price, but when we got home I noticed it smells like smoke. Yuk.

This building is part of an iron ore mining operation. There are many huge mines like this here and much of the city is covered in red dirt. 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 3

Max was brought to me in his wheelchair today. Little tiny dude. 



He had a ball in the ball pit. It's really the only thing he wants to do here. I tried to put him on a bouncy ride-on cow toy, but he screeched and freaked.  I've got to find something else to entertain him.

I brought a drink and snack and that was also a bomb. Apparently, I found through a cell phone conversation with my interpreter, he drinks only from a spoon. Yup. 

I did some measuring yesterday. From waist to ankle is 18 inches and his little foot is 5 inches long. I will soon have virtual quints!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Max

This may be the theme for the next few weeks...more Max!


We had a very short visit today as we still had paperwork to complete. For some reason, the notaries in this city do not care to do paperwork associated with adoption. Notaries here are much different than in the states. Here, they are actually more like lawyers and are responsible for the content of the documents they prepare.


Max is a ton of fun! He's going to have a blast in our family. 

I saw a mother visiting her teenaged daughter this morning. The mom had brought her some breakfast.  As the girl was eating, between bites, she repeatedly asked her mom, "do you love me?" And my heart broke all over again.




Friday, December 7, 2012

Max

I know what you are here for so I'll just give it to you up front, with no strings attached. I met Maxim this morning and he is perfect...everything I imagined...and wearing the same danged sweater as in all his other photos!


Thursday I slept until after noon, and I'm very glad that I did! Early in the afternoon, my facilitator and I went to buy our train tickets. Thank goodness we were able to find 2nd class tickets as the roads were to slick to consider taking the bus.

With 140 grivna train tickets (so cheap!!) in hand we set out to do some exploring. Snow had given way to light rain and every intersection was deep with soupy slush. I felt so thankful for the waterproof boots that my mother bought for me a few weeks ago. They were not the cute boots that I had in mind, but all that I could find in my home city.

On the way, we visited St. Vladimir's cathedral. Google it if you can, I didn't take any photos of the place, but it is simply magnificent. I was so moved my the dark and mysterious atmosphere that even though I am not a Catholic, I bought and lit candles for two adopted children who recently went to live with Jesus.

We walked in silence for awhile after that. The light started to fade and I knew that it was almost time to pick up my referral. My feet started to complain. We started to get hungry, but realized that there was no time to sit down and eat a meal. After picking up the referral, it was quick but complicated, we took a taxi to pick up our bags and headed for the train station.

Our second class, bottom berth seats were in a old, old train car. Everything was made of wood and metal. The windows were wood. I find that fascinating. Two men slept over us, no big deal, they were quiet and respectful. However, I could absolutely not sleep.

The compartment was SO hot. I could not get comfortable. We slept with the door open. I felt safe because all my valuables were in the underseat storage. If anyone wanted to steal my bag they would have to get through me first! I just laid there with my eyes closed for eight hours.

We pulled into the station about 6am and drove the WORST streets I've ever seen to drop our bags at the apartment. We waited around awhile until it was time to visit the city inspector. Someone in the building was cooking mushroom soup. I could smell it. I saw a middle aged woman wearing white tennis shoes, that cracked me up!

The inspector was so friendly! We took her to the orphanage, quickly met the director and headed to the building where Max lives. The immediately brought him in to see me. He was obviously unsure of what was happening. He would not walk to me. I had to snatch him up to set him on my lap. I was really nervous with all the people watching me.

My facilitator and all the others left us along to try to get some paperwork done and fix some complicated issues. After they left, Maxim started to open up a bit. We played pat-a-cake, itsy bitsy spider, iPad flashcards and "walk to mommy." He really loved being snuggled, so we spent much of the time doing just that. 

When the visit was over, I left Maxim in the "therapy" and we went hunting for a notary. Amazingly there was not a notary in this town willing to do our adoption documents. I was falling asleep in the car, so I got dropped off at the apartment for a nap. My facilitator was able to find a notary and I have an appointment in the morning to finish up paperwork to request a court date. 

Since I have an appointment in the morning, I will not be able to visit the mental aslyum as I had originally planned. I will send the donations with the group that goes tomorrow, but do plan to visit them before I leave. We want to make sure that everyone there has a new pair of socks and underwear for Christmas.

I will visit sweet Max again tomorrow. If you like, please pray for his poor tummy. He has some significant GI issues, though I cannot say for sure exactly what is going on. I also hope to get more of his medical information tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm here!

I'm finally here! I left the house a little after noon on Monday, flew to Chicago, then to Dusseldorf, then to Kyiv...arriving on Tuesday afternoon about 3pm. That time difference really steals a whole day of one's life.

The flight from Chicago to Germany was oddly empty. I've never seen such an empty flight. People were sprawled across three seats sleeping. I finally got my window seat, so I only had two seats with which to get comfy. I didn't get much sleep. I did better in the gate area in Dusseldorf. There was one seating area without arms at each seat, so I laid down, using my backpack for a pillow and got a solid two hours of shuteye. I didn't care what anyone thought of me. I have an important job to do here and I need to be on top of my game.

I gambled when packing my bags at the last minute and put all my clothing and makeup in my checked bag. If the bags got lost I would be wearing dirty clothes for a few days. I was delighted to actually see my bag being loaded and unloaded from the plane of my final destination.

At the airport, a driver was there with my name on a sign. I was tickled by this, as last time we made an adoption trip, no one was there to meet us at the airport. Very disappointing and, at the time anyway, scary. Andrei had the heart of a racecar driver, but the city traffic frustrated him at every turn. It was still an entertaining drive for me, as he weaved in an out and squeezed between marshrutkas and big trucks. There was a big snow the day before, so the roads were very slick.

My facilitator is a sweet and pretty lady. I'm very pleased so far. She explains everything to me and doesn't mind my endless questions and comments. My appointment this morning with the adoption authorities was long as they were running behind schedule. I had a moment of panic when Maxim's file was apparently missing. Turns out, he was born in a completely different region from where he lives now and they had to look in a different file to find him.

There were several photos in his file, but they only allowed me to exchange a recent photo for one of the old ones. I chose his baby photo: 


Isn't he a little dolly? I'm so sad that I missed out on his baby years.

After the appointment, we walked down the hill to a travel agent in an attempt to find train tickets for tomorrow night. Nothing but 3rd class was available. Masha explained that tickets may be available again anytime today or tomorrow and that we would try again later.

We were famished by this time. A little way further down the hill we stopped into a place called Le Borsht. I had a bowl of Borsht and a dish of viniagrette salad, beets, carrots peas and pickles in vinegar. Tasty! I needed to find a phone so we walked down to Kreschatik Street to find an electronics store. I left my gloves at home, so we went to the undergound mall to find some. I tried on a few hats, too. The sales lady and Masha said I looked very Ukrainian in one of the black knit hats, so of course, I had to buy it!

After this we tried another ticket agency for train tickets, but no luck. If you want to pray for me, please pray that we find 1st or 2nd class train tickets for tomorrow night. I don't want to take the bus in this weather. The streets are very slick.

If all that wasn't enough excitement for one day, I hopped on a city bus (only 1.5 grivna!) to go see a new friend. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Jill, another adopting mom, and her new son. We had a great time just chatting and playing with the little dude. He reminded me so much of Theo when we first met him...so tiny and undermourished, but full of life and open to accepting affection. Jill made me a grilled cheese for dinner, and before long it was 9pm. She sent me on my way with a whole bag of groceries that she wouldn't be able to use up before flying home in a few days. What a sweet time we had. When I stepped out of the building, onto the street, I found that it was snowing again. The scene was magic, with snow piling up high on each of the branches and little twigs on every tree.

Tomorrow, I plan to do some sightseeing with my facilitator. Late in the afternoon we will pick up Maxim's referral and, God willing, jump on a train to his region. Friday is the big day.


Friday, November 30, 2012

TGIF!!

TGIF, right?

Oh yes, indeed!!

I knew it was going to be a rough week, but I had no idea what was in store for us. I would love to share with you how excited I am to be leaving to meet Maxim, and about all my preparations, but I've been in survival mode for a week and I'm not prepared at all.

Last weekend was the long Thanksgiving weekend. Theo had a difficult weekend, with many troubling and heartbreaking obsessions and behaviors getting in the way of his joy. He cannot get into a developmental pediatrician until February, and we are really hurting for him.

Zhen developed a frightening cough over the weekend. By Monday afternoon I was concerned enough to make a doctor appt. I brought Theo along, just in case the doctor had something new for Theo's behavior problems.

Long story short, we had to have Zhen tested for pertussis and Theo got a new prescription to try, Focalin. I bought a new humidifier for Zhen's strangling cough, took it home, set it up, it didn't work, saw that it was broken, took it back to the store and bought one twice as expensive that works very well. So frustrating to have to make several trips.

After the kids were in bed, Theo continued to cry and rock in his bed. I got him out of bed and rocked him while he drank a bottle of milk. Then he started to thrash and bite and hit and scream. After consulting with some other knowledgeable moms, I gave him some melatonin on top of his regular night time medicine. He rocked himself (stinker) on the couch for awhile, bouncing his head forcefully off the cushions, and passed out about 11pm.

The next morning Theo woke up bright and happy. I gave him his Focalin, his breakfast and put him on the school bus. About two hours later I got a message from his teacher, Theo was out of control. The teacher and paras had tried all of their sensory tricks to calm him but nothing was working. I called the doctor to see what we could do. She said it sounded like a reaction to the Focalin and that I should give him some Benadryl to counteract it.

Poor Theo, in trying to help him with his behaviors and obsessions, I pushed him over the edge. I grabbed a bottle and a dropper and headed over to the school. Oh, and all this is going on while I'm waiting for a delivery of a new dining room table that was gifted to us! I had to leave several children home with the delivery men building the table (they were SO slow!)...so not cool.

I finally caught a break on Thursday. I had some time to work with my home schoolers so they are not behind when I leave. In the afternoon I got a phone call from the school nurse. Zhen had been exposed to the chicken pox at school. The health department was giving me 24 hours to get him vaccinated or he would be excluded from school for 21 days. Did I mention that I'm leaving on Monday?

Through the miracle of social networking, I was able to locate several people who can read the handwritten Russian cursive notes that constitute Zhen's medical history...within one hour I found that he had chicken pox in February 2008. Praise God!!

I don't have my travel cash yet. I don't have enough clothes. I'm certainly not packed. I did manage to get some donations into a duffel bag...eight pair of shoes for the men at Buri Ooglie, the men's mental asylum in Maxim's region. I will buy some more items for them when I get there, socks and undergarments and such.

Challenges keep cropping up. And I'm weary and I may be down but I'm not out. We are about $700 from having a fully funded adoption. I'm traveling in just a few days. We have so much for which to be thankful!

This could be the last time I sit down to write before I leave. I'll be posting as many updates and photos here as possible, so please don't give up on me!

If you have time today, check out our final fundraising auction that closes today. We have some very high quality art items and aprons up for bidding until tonight at http://maximimpact.blogspot.com/. You need a cute apron for holiday baking, don't you?

TGIF!! Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I was all set...

I was all set to write this morning about how Thankful I am, even though I didn't get an appointment date yesterday. I expected to hear something yesterday. I was checking my phone all night long, hoping for that golden email.

I checked email all throughout the day, periodically. Nothing. I was resigned to the fact that I would not hear anything until next Monday.

Still, thankful.


However...
This morning I received an odd email...straight from the government office. It was an appointment letter!! I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn't hear a word until Monday, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Now I have NINE days to make my final plans, including childcare. If you've been praying for us thus far, please don't stop!! A lot of pieces need to fall into place over the next few weeks.

Maxim, here I come, sweet baby boy!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A hundred little gifts

 Here is the first photo I ever saw of our Maxim. I'm not sure if it was just a photo op, or if he was really allowed to play on a toy four-wheeler. It didn't matter to me. I fell in love with that funny looking, cross eyed little kid. Something about him grabbed my heart and made me pay attention.


I thought he was lost after being transferred to a mental institution. We didn't know what sort of facility it was at the time.


Now, after a hundred or more little gifts from people all over the country, we are very close to making him our son forever.

I have a heartwarming story to tell you. Our preschool director contacted me not long ago and told me that the school would like to have a "crazy socks" day and collect loose change for our adoption. What a fun idea! Not many families can count on this sort of community support. 

The "crazy sock" day came and went. A few days ago, the director stopped by the house to drop off a card with the proceeds of the event. She said it wasn't much but we agreed that every little bit helps. She didn't stay long. I opened the card when she left, expecting to find $20 or $30 inside.

There was $200 in that little envelope.

 God willing, a hundred little gifts will bring Maxim home. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Last night...

Last night it happened...finally.
I very dreamed very clearly about meeting Maxim.      

I often find that I work out problems in my dreams. As a youngster, I distinctly remember visualizing myself swimming the butterfly stroke in a dream...that's how I got the timing right in my head and learned to swim the stroke properly! I confess that some of my dreams are just housecleaning for my overactive imagination. Total weirdness. However, I do believe that we can receive messages via our dreams. 

I got a message last night. As I stood in an office, I turned to look at a door, slightly ajar. Maxim appeared and I flung open the door and snatched him up into my arms. He wrapped his arms and legs tightly around me. He started pecking my cheek with kisses. Then a woman stuck her hand in my coat pocket and grabbed a croissant! Ha! It was a dream!!

The message I'm claiming is that I will, indeed, meet and hold this boy called Maxim, and that we will love each other. I needed something to hold onto as I wait for a travel date. Nothing is certain, even at this point.

As we wait, we are striving to raise the last $5000 that we need. I'm so humbled by the gracious and generous donations that we have received so far! The fact that we only need $5k more is really a miracle.

We have several fundraising plates spinning right now! Here is a rundown:

First and foremost, Maxim has been chosen as the Ten for Orphans sponsored orphan for the month of November! Ten for Orphans is a great organization and we are so honored. They seek to bring together a large number of people who are willing to make a small monthly donation, $10 or more, to help bring orphaned children into families of their own. I encourage you to join with TFO this month to help Maxim, and also to commit to a small monthly gift to help the children and families they feature in the future.

We are conducting Round Two - Art 'n' Aprons auction and giveaway at http://maximimpact.blogspot.com/.

The giveaway item for this round is a beautifully framed Nancy Noel print called "Gentle Heart."  You can see a close-up of the image HERE


Earn entries to this giveaway by chipping in to our adoption fund. Instructions and other ways to enter are spelled out HERE.
 

There are also art prints and cute handcrafted aprons to bid on, silent auction style at http://maximimpact.blogspot.com/

Check out this DARLING 50's style apron! Can you see yourself making magic in the kitchen wearing this little beauty?


Also, don't forget to get your Ukraine adoption t-shirts. The online order form can be found HERE.




Sunday, November 4, 2012

Orphan Sunday

Did you know that today is Orphan Sunday? No? If not, you are not the only one.


Until we adopted Zhen and Theo, I had never, ever heard of Orphan Sunday. I wasn't aware of the mandate for the church to care for the fatherless. It just wasn't on my radar. I had a depraved indifference. I know I was not the only one.

I was so radically changed by our adoption trip to Ukraine. I was really hoping to inspire some families from my church to adopt as well. I'll never forget the first Sunday we took Zhen to church! He was so overstimulated and freaked out by the crowd of people in the foyer that he started to slap me and claw my face. Arrggh.


Great. Who would want to deal with a child like that? Some beautiful adoption testimony, right?

Today I read this from my friend and fellow adoptive mom, Amy:



Today, Orphan Sunday, I am thankful that my Vera is an orphan no more. After church today she bit me, hit me, pulled my hair, screamed and fought as I wrestled her to the van. I chuckled inside as I thought about saying to each person that we passed, "Don't you want to adopt a child too?" :) The scene did not exactly exude warm fuzzies about adoption. Rather, the scene shouted ORPHAN CRISIS! May I suggest, the orphan crisis is not just the millions and millions and MILLIONS of orphaned children around the world. It's not just the number. The orphan crisis lives inside each of them. They carry their trauma, neglect, abuse, etc. with them. Their trauma will not be healed overnight (or 16 months). It runs deep, friends. Whenever Vera begins to feel love from Jon or I, she does whatever she has to do to fight it. She doesn't understand unconditional love. She doesn't know how to respond to it. She has asked us why we don't leave her when she screams and hurts us. This is the orphan crisis. It's in my home and the homes of some of my dearest, most courageous friends. Would any of you tell my precious Vera that she doesn't deserve a family because of her negative behaviors? I didn't think so. So, what is stopping you?


PLEASE consider what you can do for an orphan. Foster. Adopt. Pray. Donate. Advocate. Spread awareness and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. We solve the orphan problem one child at a time.

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

What can YOU do? What WILL you do?

She's so right. If we all catch the vision, and do a little bit, we can make a dent in this crisis. 



I hope that you will catch the vision.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Announcement

When we began this new adoption journey in July, I was certain that we could have traveled to meet Maxim by October. The pieces fell effortlessly into place at first. Then came October.

We have met one hurdle after another. One emergency followed by the next. The stress of fixing paperwork in a rush on Fridays, hunting down notaries on Sundays, driving to the state capitol in the wee hours of Monday mornings, racing to ship paperwork in time, and trying to continue to care for nine children at the same time is crushing. 

But I continue to have peace in my heart. I cannot tell you if this is the peace that surpasses understanding, or if my poor heart is just numb. It's possible that I have built a wall to protect my heart. Adoption from Eastern Europe is never a sure thing. But I keep taking the next step, in faith that this is what I am called to do. December is looking more realistic.

I recently received a few new photos of little Max. He's a happy child, but he doesn't look well. I'm feeling some cracks in my wall. The closer I get, the harder it is to keep my composure. This boy needs out now. Yesterday. Two years ago. He needs someone to pour love and life into him.


Will you just look at those scrawny legs? And those fingers and wrist. Too thin. Not cool. I have a new sense of urgency...

          ...which is why I'm happy to announce that Maxim is the child of the month of November for an organization called Ten for Orphans!!

Ten For Orphans is an organization which seeks to unite people everywhere with the common goal of raising funds that will help facilitate orphans with special needs having a family of their own by removing one of the biggest roadblocks to the process–that of money. What if thousands of people were making a small $10 donation monthly? Think of the impact!

I urge to you to go to http://www.tenfororphans.org/. I challenge you to donate $10 (or more!) for Maxim and then commit $10 every month to the children that this organization serves. Be a part of a modern day miracle.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31 - Whoa, where did October go?

Shoot where did the month of October go?!

Honestly the month was a blur. My high school reunion was the last weekend in September, and that seems like yesterday!

Today was crazy, but we were able to put some candy collecting costumes in time for the harvest. Zhen was such a good boy! He listened to me and only picked one piece of candy at the self-service trunk-or-treat stations. We still had to work on putting the candy in the bag for later, but we celebrate EVERY victory.


Finally, Thomas let me do some zombie make-up! I've been wanting to do a zombie for years. I love to have fun with make-up.

Poor Ruby ate too much candy. Her sugar high lasted until 10:30pm! Gonna be a cranky-panks in the morning.

I've got big news to share with you tomorrow, so please check back. I need your help. Yes, you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30 - Stuff

Down Syndrome awareness month is coming to a close. I'm not sure I did much to further awareness. Are you more aware? ha!

It seems that our transportation problems will be solved tomorrow. I just need to get my teenager driving and life will be rainbows and unicorns! Well, the evenings when my husband is traveling will be more enjoyable anyway.

Daddy was gone last night. So we had cereal for dinner and I didn't even feel a little bit guilty.

Except for Ralph. No cereal for Ralph. He goes through phases with food. It used to be bologna...on sandwiches or alone. Yick! Then it was buttered bread, one piece after another. He is presently going through a green bean phase. He got a can of green beans out of the kitchen and brought it to me in the living room. He shoved it in my face until I agreed to open it for him. At least he knows what he wants, right?

Theo is getting a feeding therapy evaluation. I recently posted a video of him eating lunch, in the lunchroom at school...with all the other kids...and not grabbing their trays and throwing food!! It was pure victory. But, someone commented that he had not chewed any of the food he was eating.

That person was right. He smushes. He doesn't chew. We are going to get that looked at.

Zhen pops the lenses out of his glasses. Turkey! I pop them back in and try to keep a better eye on him. Recently he "lost" the bifocal lens for his right eye. He might have thrown it in the garbage for all I know, but it's GONE.

I took the frames to get new lenses today and guess what? Yep. The prescription is expired. Sheesh. We are going to try a new doctor but can't get in until next Monday. I hope the new doc is more tolerable than the old one.

Hey, it's a full moon. Bright, huh? Anyone else having trouble sleeping?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28 - Good News/Bad News

The good news is that my dossier has been successfully submitted to the adoption authorities! Better late than never, right? 


The bad news, there is still a chance that some of my papers could be rejected, and there is nothing I can do but wait for it. I don't know why some documents that were fine two years ago are not acceptable this time around. The department has been reorganized over the past year or so. Perhaps that is it. Perhaps I am being more closely scrutinized. Hard to say. 

The fun news...which I suppose could be filed under "good news"...
  • Theo waved "bye-bye" to me when he left for school on Friday!!! That counts as another sign. He has two signs, now!! I've been doing hand-under-hand assistance with him lately, for eating, for coloring, for signing. I place my hands under his elbows and give his arms some support. Friday, that made his hands come alive and he just started moving his fingers up and down, WAVING!! Every single victory is so precious for him.
  • Zhen did not freak out at his school "fall party." You know, the party where kids dress up but they can't call it Halloween! I was honestly worried that he would fall apart, considering his history of fear of stuffed animals, particularly puppets. I arrived at his school to find him waddling down the hall in his dinosaur suit and groovy headphones. (He has an MP3 player with a playlist and headphones to keep him calm during stressful events)
  • Thomas had a great swim meet on Saturday. He's only been learning the different strokes for a few months, but he gives it his all. His freestyle looks great already! Size 13 feet and huge hands don't hurt at all. He's got a huge meet next weekend. I think he can better all his times if he works on his turns and starts.
  • The four "littles" played outside all afternoon today. It's so hard to keep them busy on a long day at home, especially when the weather is not nice and they are stuck inside. This afternoon was nice! Not warm, but not howling windy, so we played out front. No one ran away. No one got hurt. Theo enjoyed picking grass and weeds. Zhen and Ruby ate the rest of the broccoli in the pallet garden. Ralph, Ruby, and Zhen took turns pulling the two seater wagon. I'd have photos of the adorable scene, but I left my phone turned off all day. Heaven!
The please pray for us news...we have transportation issues. They are not new, but we are trying to fix things this week. For one thing, Richy, who is in college in California, needs a car. I think we have found something for him, but the timing is not great for spending money. I bought him a beater last spring and it was never reliable to drive anywhere. I'm hoping to trade in that piece of junk sometime this week.


Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26 - A Comment from a Dad

From an Adoptive Dad of Multiple Kids with Special Needs 

When asked about how he feels about society's vision of large adoptive families with children with special needs, one adoptive dad very frankly shared this from his heart to a group adoptive parents. The other adoptive parents appreciated his insight and validation, but felt that we aren't the only ones that needed to hear this. Written candidly, here are his thoughts:

The general population of America is mostly ignorant and oblivious to the reality of anything beyond what they have seen/experienced in their lives. While I acknowledge that having multiple adopted children is unusual, I do not worry about, nor am I offended by the general idiocy we face as a family. In my opinion, adopting multiple special needs kids will teach several lessons: 

1. Who your real friends (and family) are. Many friends and family can't handle "it". In my opinion that's their problem and if my life is too much for them to handle they can pound sand. I've got too much going on to baby them. Fish or cut bait, all I've got to say about that. Go for quality friends, not quantity. 

2. There is more to life than the McLifestyle. We have a lot of friends with two kids, three cars, big TV and a big fancy house in a neighborhood of houses that look exactly the same. Most of them are up to their eyeballs in debt. They can keep that life because self-glorification just isn't for me... (yes there is some generalization here, but not much). The reality is that special kids don't belong in the McLifestyle - and that's NOT a bad thing. 

3. Do what works for you. (And no one can tell you what that is.) I don't know why people love to give unsolicited advice. But man it's annoying when a one-child mother of a one-year old tries to act like she's "been there, done that." when it comes to our lives and our family. (The caveat to this is older grandmotherly women who raised large families - they're like the Oracle in the Matrix.) The only person who can make good judgements for what your children need is the parents - everyone else should just shut up and stand aside. 

4. "Let me know what I can do to help" = "I don't really care enough to really help, so I'm just throwing out this bone knowing that for you to call me would be to admit that I'm right about adopting all those kids being a mistake." Boy this is common isn't it folks? If a friend shows up at your door with brownies, they're golden. If they show up with a mop bucket and cleaning supplies, they're your best friend (or a maid.) 

5. Accept the fact that some folks just can't fathom what you do. They'll try to do the math, they'll try to figure out how you fit in the house, how you make the meals, how you handle the medical needs, etc. The reality is - we just do it... we don't think about the math, we don't wallow over ourselves when we deal with medical issues. One foot in front of the other every day... it just happens. 

Final caveat - I've found that it is important to surround yourself with people who understand and accept you, your family, and the special needs of your children. For us this has created an environment of stability and safety that helps our children grow and develop. We have a strong support system through church and (parts of) our family.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25 - Staying Busy

I was hoping to have some good adoption news to share today. But I don't have any news at all. Figures, right? I figured I might not hear anything, so I tried to stay busy.

It's fine for me to be busy when Ralph is at school, so I try to get as much done in the mornings as possible. He's really a good boy, don't get me wrong. He plays with Ruby and watches his favorite shows on Netflix in the afternoon.

But...

Ralph knows. He knows when I'm preoccupied and that's when he makes his move. That's when he disappears. Poof! Gone!

One day we looked for him for 20 full minutes. Upstairs. Downstairs. Garage. Front yard. Down the street. Finally we found him in Boo's closet, under some clothes, drinking a juice box!

Today he got into my bedroom and found my toy stash...toys that I have picked up on clearance and have stashed away for Christmas and birthdays. He was so excited!! What could I do?

I broke out the philips head screwdriver and the AA batteries! It was almost as fun as Christmas morning, except that no one took these toys away in order to shove yet another present in their faces. It was precious.



A new batch of granola...one of my projects today.


My kids are cereal pigs. I try to keep cereal stocked, especially when I can match coupons up with a decent sale. My stockpile has recently been exhausted and I haven't found any great deals lately. Maybe I'm just too busy to look?

Anyway, I have planned to make our own granola for awhile. I even ordered a 50 pound bag of organic rolled oats from Azure standard about a month ago. I'm serious!

I found a nice simple recipe and made it my own. I use good quality ingredients. I hate the idea of my kids eating soy anything, canola oil, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. So here is what I came up with:

18 cups of organic rolled oats
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup melted coconut oil
2 cups honey
6 tsp vanilla
optional: nuts, dried fruit

Thoroughly mix the oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, blend the coconut oil, honey and vanilla with a hand mixer. Pour the oil and honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix completely. Spread the sticky granola mix in an even layer on a cookie sheet. This recipe will cover 4 cookie sheets. Bake at 300F for 10 minutes. Take out and stir. You may add nuts at this time. Bake for 7 - 10 minutes longer, or until the granola looks toasty. Take out and stir, add any nuts or fruits that you like. Let the cereal cool completely, break up and store in an airtight container. Shh! I use plastic ziplock bags. :)

My big kids absolutely would not wait for this to cool. They all had yogurt with hot granola for an appetizer tonight! I'll let you know how long this recipe lasts.

October 24 A Week of Firsts

We have had a wonderful week of firsts around here!

I got this note from Theo's teacher yesterday, "Theo ate lunch in the lunchroom with the gen ed.kids today. He did such a great job. We will start having him eat in there unless we are really working on a skill."


So what, right? He ate in the lunchroom, big deal. You cannot even fathom what a big deal this is unless you have spent time with Theo. For as long as I have known him, he has been OBSESSED with food and water. He has a history of grabbing food from anywhere he can on impulse. He hangs around the stove, he has grabbed fistfulls of food off of other people's plates to many times to count. Grabbing food, throwing dishes, dumping drinks is all typical behavior for him...driven by obsession and lack of self control. 

I actually wept when I read that note from Theo's teacher. For him to have developed enough self control to eat in the lunchroom with other children is a miracle. 

Zhen had a big first this week, too! He went on a field trip with his kindergarten class!!


This one got me a little choked up, too. Zhen went to the pumpkin patch with his regular ed kindy class at school. He got to eat a sack lunch, play in the dirt and brought home two cute little pumpkins! This is just so far removed from his former life that it blows my mind. I'm so thankful that he has the opportunity to go to school and participate in these events alongside the typical children at school. 

I wanted to share this story before, but I'll do it here. I was helping Zhen participate appropriately in Sunday school a few weeks ago. He had been in an unstructured play room at church for too many months, and it did him no good. Taking the boys to church is really stressful, but I'll talk about that another time. Just know that I was feeling pretty blue that first day back in the classroom with him. I was helping Zhen with his coloring and making sure that none of the crayons got eaten, when the last girl to arrive sat down to color her lesson page. Zhen was grumpy and noisy. The girl looked up from her work, and noticed him, and very matter of factly said to the whole group, "hey, I know you, Zhen. He's in my class at school."

She didn't say anything else. She didn't have to. Those simple and pure words of acceptance healed my hurting heart that day. 

And finally, my little Boo had a great big first this week, too!!


Out of concern for my nine year old daughter's rapid development, I signed her up for Girls on the Run this fall. This is a confidence-building program for young girls that incorporates running. The program culminates with a 5k run in November. Daddy has signed up to be her running buddy, an encouraging runner to stay on pace with her throughout her 5k on race day. Since he couldn't be with her for the practice group run, he took her out for a 5k run last night.

I was so proud to hear that she completed the 3.1 miles with her daddy without stopping to walk one single time! She was so bubbly and cute when she tole me, "daddy encouraged me the whole time. He told me I could do it!" 

So now I'm crying again, thinking how special it is for Boo and daddy to have each other. What I wouldn't give to have had a daddy like that for my very own! What a difference a daddy can make.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sorry about that...

I just about fell off the face of the earth there for a moment.

The past month has been unbelievably stressful and blurry. Homestudy, immigration approval, four trips to Topeka, one trip to Kansas City, calling my social worker over and over for new copies, hunting down notaries on a Sunday, 25th high school reunion, no sleep, driving, puke, rental cars, notaries, tears, grandma's memorial service, tears, driving, poop, laundry, emails, more documents, you get the picture.

In the middle of the storm I experienced some real love and encouragement. We received some of the most heartfelt donations ever...one out of the blue from a high school acquaintance, one out of the blue from a long lost high school BFF, one out of the blue from a current dear friend.

Another dear friend was available by phone to help me figure out paperwork, shipping, and talk me off ledges in general.

I got to hang out with my cousin and his sweet little son. I got to cry with and love on this devoted dad and enjoy watching him care so tenderly for his little boy.

I got to watch my childhood girlfriend walk her handsome son out onto a football field and cried with her as he was named homecoming king! I got to hug her tightly later and do some catching up.

I learned a few things, too. Things that I though I knew. I'm not good in noisy crowds, just not my element despite the crew that lives in this house! I learned that I'm not in control. Really. How many times to I have to learn that one?

I'm looking for some more positive adoption news this week. But if I don't get good news I won't be surprised. I won't be crushed either. God's in control, not me. I'm just along for the ride. Storm or no storm.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19 - Special Guest Post


Hi! My name is Angela Kosmicki and I am married to Steven Kosmicki. We have been married for 14 years and have 3 amazing kids. Jonathan is 12, Katelyn is 11 and Mackenzie is 10. When I was 25 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. My heart was broken when this happened because I realized that I would never be able to give birth to another child. I prayed about it and I realized that I just because I couldn’t’ bear a child, I could always adopt. There are so many children that need lifetime mommies and daddies. My husband and I have talked and prayed and we do really feel GOD is calling us to adopt and love more children. Steven has been in the Air Force for 11 years and we love this lifestyle. The reason we need this $3000 is because Steven is leaving for deployment in 11 days, and will be gone for 4 months. We need to get the lawyers paid this amount before we can start any of the paper work with the birth mother, so that Steven can sign all the necessary documents. I have ran my own in home daycare for 10 years now, we love having lots of children in our lives. I have had children living in our home on different occasions while parents are deployed or just having financial hardship. I have helped out a dear friend of mine when she went through a financial hardship, she didn’t have electricity or running water for her children. They were getting baths from a neighbor’s water hose, so we volunteered to take her child in until she could get back on her feet. He lived with us for 5 months and we loved every minute of it. We also have enjoyed having another child live with us for 6 months while her single mom had to go on a deployment with the military because her family wasn’t able to help her out. Our whole family loves having lots of children in our house.

We were blessed this past week by a wonderful person asking us to take her children in as our own. Here is our story. The birth mom is an 18 year old girl that is a senior in High school. She was kicked out of her parents’ house when the parents realized she had a “baby bump”. Her parents told her that she was dead to them and to never return. The birth mom started staying at friend’s house from that day on and continued to go to school and keep up her straight “A” grades. She didn’t know what to do or where to go, so she went through her pregnancy with no prenatal care. Her water broke on 10-10-12 and she thought something was wrong with the baby because she didn’t feel any movement, so she went to the hospital. The hospital staff hooked her up to the monitors and they realized that there were 3 babies! One of the babies was transverse. They took her in to perform an emergency c-section to deliver the babies.

The birth mom had been undecided on her decision of adoption for a few days, until Thursday October 11, 2012 the babies’ father came to the hospital to see the birth mom and babies. There was a heated discussion and the dad was arrested. He is currently on a non-bondable hold in the county jail. On Saturday October 20, 2012 the birth mom tried to call her mom to see if her feelings had changed. Her mother proceeded to tell her that her children were bastard abominations of Satan and that she should get rid of them as soon as possible. She then proceeded to tell her daughter (the birth mom) that she is dead to them and not to contact the family again. The birth mom got upset at this conversation and decided that she wanted to give the babies to a family that would love them and never show them the kind of anger and hate that her mother had shown her. She was so distraught over her conversation that she checked herself out of the hospital and gave one of her friend’s temporary guardianship of the boys until she could get the adoption finalized.

On Sunday October 13, all 3 boys were flown to a bigger hospital because they became very ill and remain in intensive care isolation today. The pediatricians cannot figure out why all 3 boys are so weak and not gaining weight. On Monday October 14, the birth mom started back at high school again but midday she passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital. The hospital staff couldn’t control her bleeding which resulted in her having an emergency hysterectomy. When the birth mom woke up on Tuesday she was complaining of a severe headache, they did a CT scan and found she had a brain bleed, then on Wednesday they found a blood clot in her lung. The hospital staff started her on a blood thinner which made her bleeding severe again. The doctors seem to have things under control for now.


The triplet boys are still in the hospital in isolation and cannot be held or loved on due to the illness. So they are just laying there without a mom or dad supporting them! We have always wanted to adopt, but we were going to wait until my husband got back from his deployment so we could save all the money from his deployment for all of the adoption fees. Since he is leaving in 11 days, we don’t have enough time to come up with the money. I believe with my whole heart that God has brought this family into our lives so that we could be their forever family. It makes my heart so sad knowing that the only thing holding us back from being mommy and daddy to them is the money.  I want so badly for these boys to be ours, and I believe that GOD will allow this happen because he is SO very good!!

Thank you for reading our story. ~ Angie

**************************************This faithful family needs $3000 fast to expedite the adoption paperwork so her husband can sign them before he leaves! This opportunity fell into their laps and they said "YES!" to God in faith. Donations through this link are tax deductible.

http://gracehavenhome.com/?page_id=4

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10


Ralph at the age of six months or so. Still so squishy-cute. Still loved and doted on by everyone. Still insulated from the big bad world.


I was prepared to fight for him, to the death if necessary, for his inclusion and acceptance. But I wasn't really concerned at that time. We still had time, right? He wouldn't be in school for years, right?


Well, I learned early and at a place that I never would have expected, that inclusion and acceptance don't always come easy. Can you guess where?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9 - Brotherly Love

Today was the last middle school cross country meet of the year, the league meet. I like to attend as many of my children's sporting events as possible, especially when dad can't be there.

Ralph and Theo had their therapy at Heartspring this afternoon, and Ruby always comes along. Since we were already on the other side of town, my plan was to stop at the meet before heading home. I had grandma coming over to care for the other kids after school.

We did a quick trip to Sam's Club for dog food and snacks before driving to the coliseum. When I opened the back of the van to load the dog food I saw, to my dismay, that the stroller was not there! Heavens! How could I take those three little kids to the meet without a stroller? Could they even walk that far?


Well, we managed. Theo wanted to sit and play in the grass...or the gravel...or the asphalt...wherever we were, he wanted to sit and lick it, grab it, or fiddle with it! I carried him a little way, but mostly I strenuously insisted that he walked, meaning that I was often holding him by one arm as he lifted his legs and refused to walk.


Thomas ran a great race today, a personal best by about 20 seconds! After the run, he shared snacks and drinks with the little ones.


Thomas knows how to keep Theo from dumping the whole water bottle on his head. 


And he knows when to put it away.


And he's not embarrassed to be hanging out with babies, eating animal crackers when his friends are watching. He is the kindest, and coolest 7th grade boy in the universe. Love these kids. Love my life!

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8

Yep, I missed a day.

In the past 11 days I have been to Kansas City once, Topeka twice and Hays twice. I've hunted down grocery store notaries and begged for new paperwork from social workers on Sundays. I've run back and forth from state office building to state office building. I've reunited with long lost friends. Stayed out until 4am. Reunited with relatives from Vermont to Arizona. Had my heart broken. Laughed. Cried. Screamed. Cleaned up puke, poop, and more (trust me, a lot more) poop. Steam cleaned a rental car in the dead of night (puke, remember?). Got a parking warning when my meter ran out. Thank goodness it wasn't a ticket!

All I want is to stay home, bake banana bread and assorted pumpkin goodies, hang out with my kids and get the fall and winter clothes organized. I want to spend more time with my home schoolers, working on school. I want to spend time with my swimmer, working on his strokes and turns. I want to spend more time with Ralphie, working on his sight words. I want to spend more time with my teen, working on his driving skills. I'm really in the mood to paint trim, too.

I just need life to slow down a bit, but I've nearly given up. Each day brings it's own fresh drama and emergencies and expenses. Each day I make it through. What other choice is there, right?

I *think* I'm getting close to a more relaxed pace. It's time to start cooking ahead and putting meals in the freezer. It's time to start thinking of warm things to pack for Ukraine. It's time to rearrange sleeping quarters, and make a nice spot for Maxim. There is much to do here at home.

I'll be saying "no" more from here on out. I'm the type that wants to do everything! I hate to miss out on anything...until I start missing out on the really important and eternal things, right? So easy to lose perspective.

It's been a wild week and a half, but I do have fresh perspective. And I'm very thankful for it.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 6 - Remembering

Today our family is gathered to remember a special woman. 


My gram.

She was not just my gram. She had seven other grandchildren, and they weren't always very happy with me when I said, "my gram." But from my earliest memories, she was mine. Mom and I lived with gram and gramp for most of my growing up years. She made me bacon and toast and dunkin' eggs for breakfast. She gave me my first coffee, with lots of milk and sugar, while grampa complained that it would stunt my growth. 

Gram worked her tail off, from a very young age. She lied about her age to get a job making ammunition boxes during WWII. She started and ran at least five restaurants. She took care of people, lonely customers, hobos, employees, her family and more. 

I'm sorry that I can't call her up in the middle of the day anymore. I could always count on her to help me figure out what to make for supper, or how to work with a certain cut of meat that I found on sale. Sometimes I'd call just to chat about nothing. 

I think I'll miss that the most.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 5


The T-shirts are ready!


This adoption shirt, designed by the beautiful and talented Heather Schlitt, features the outline of the country of Ukraine. We chose a cotton/poly blend for durability. Your choice of adult M, L, or XL is available for a gift of $20, XXL for $22.

Proceeds will benefit our adoption of Maxim.