Last week I took Alex to the doctor for a check-up and to mainly be referred up to Children's hospital. They were able to update his shot records and start the ball rolling for Alex to start seeing the necessary specialists up at Children's hospital. He had two shots that day and boy did he scream! Since it looked like he had gotten shots in his right leg before and I thought he had very little feeling in it because it is paralyzed to a certain point, I asked them to give the shots in that leg. Boy was I wrong--- Alex felt every bit of those two shots poor little guy. Thankfully, a sucker took his mind off of the pain right away and I was able to give him some Motrin in the car.
Just yesterday I took Dennis up to Children's hospital for a check-up with the plastic surgeon who also happens to share an office with the neuro-surgeon that Alex has been referred to see. When the office called to confirm the appointment for Dennis, I had asked them if the referral had come through for Alex yet so that maybe I could have both boys seen on the same day. They said no and so I figured I would be making two visits very close together.
Then surprise! When I got to the office for Dennis, they informed me that the referral came through and that the neuro-surgeon could Alex that same day after all. Praise the Lord!
Alex is thirty-two pounds-- a whopping four pounds heavier than Dennis. The neuro-surgeon said that Alex is most likely lumbar-sacral-- whatever the heck that means. I guess it refers to the location of the lesion. He let me know that he was referring Alex to the Spina Bifida clinic that is in the same Children's hospital (another praise) and that he has ordered up an MRI of his head and back, and an x-ray of his hips. He thinks Alex will walk with braces based on where the lesion is and the fact that he can stand and somewhat already walk--- yet another praise. At the Spina Bifida clinic Alex will see a Urologist and an Orthopaedist and other specialists to address his needs.
Alex for the most part seems to be taking everything in stride and his mobility is continuing to improve everyday despite having any medical intervention this far. It is encouraging to see he has such a will to be like his siblings.
I took him to have a TB test yesterday and I am pleased to see that there is no reaction like I thought there might be with most Eastern European children being vaccinated with the BCG vaccine. Dennis seems clear too.
If I had to share the hardest thing there is in caring for a child with Spina Bifida, I would have to say it is the bladder and bowel incontinence. I have been reading up on these things and have joined a few support groups--- and a few wonderful parents of children with SB have kind of taken me under their wings. With Alex being four years old already and about to start pre-school, I am trying to get Alex on a bowel management program where he can get used to going to the bathroom at a certain time everyday. Though he is more than willing to try-- we have not had much success yet--- though it is still very early in the game. We will just have to keep working on it together.
Other than what I have shared, Alex is a normal, healthy, bright four year old boy and his smile and laugh brightens up the room.
Honestly, God has us in a pretty good place right now. Back in Ukraine, I was a bit concerned that Alex might has some behavior issues, but now that he is home and things are pretty predictable around here and he has so much love surrounding him, Alex is in every way a very loving and happy child. He is sleeping through the night and goes down really well too. He is continually trying new foods. He is picking up English. He is able to go to WalMart with me and sit in the cart and doesn't scream or cry for me to let him touch things. He will sit and snuggle with me on the couch, and he comes to me when he is hurt so that I can kiss his owie.
Today I left to go to the store and he began to cry. I promised that I would be right back and when I asked how long he had cried, it had only been for a minute or so. I left again later in the day and he only had a quick sniffle. I think it makes all the difference in the world having so many siblings to learn from.
For the last two or three days, I have been putting on a thumb sucking medicine when he goes to sleep. I was concerned about how he would get to sleep and how he would sleep through the night, but I was just as concerned about his overbite and the big callouses on his fingers. I figured I would give it a try and if he cried or had trouble sleeping I would hold off doing it until he was home for a few more months. When I put it on his nails, I explained that it would taste bad if he put his fingers in his mouth and I even encouraged him to taste a tiny bit with me. We both made faces that it was very yucky tasting-- and he even chuckled and threw his hand down. I pretended to put a little on my own fingers to be like him and I showed him that I would not put my fingers in my mouth. He nodded that he understood and he has been fine ever since. He is not sucking his fingers, nor is he crying himself to sleep, nor is he even so much as stirring in the night. He also reminded me at nap time once to put on the medicine by holding out his fingers. It was really cute. He is just utterly amazing---- and such a big boy! I think it helps that he sleeps next to Dennis every night. (And for those that want to say it is too soon---- I would agree if he was showing signs of distress and I would stop if he was, but I know from experience that the longer a child is allowed to suck their thumb or fingers, the longer it takes to break them of the habit. And I did the same thing for Jonny and Dennis-- only with bandaids because they were much younger and didn't try to pull them off.)
Alex and Anna have so much fun together. She is a wonderful big sister to him.
Alex loves to take baths. He understands so much more than Dennis does. When I say that bath time is over, Alex doesn't whine like Dennis does. He understands that he will have another bath tomorrow.
A fellow adoptive mother and blogger sent my two little boys these adorable towels. I think they are awesome-- both the towels and the boys!
Alex and Dennis encourage each other to do things. At first, Alex was not to excited to get into this floaty, but when he saw that Dennis was getting in one too, he wanted to get in his so that he can be like Dennis.
Alex has been home for six days now and there is no way this child is ever looking back. Out of curiosity I have asked him a few times if he wants to go back to his groupa either by mentioning it or showing him a picture. Alex has no desire whatsoever--- and though its not like he has the choice anyways, it does make me feel good that he doesn't want to.
I have him off the medication that the doctor had given me to calm Alex down, and John and I have no plans to put him back on it. He is such an amazing, good, smart little boy that listens and behaves great without it.
Tomorrow I am taking him to the doctor to get him checked out. They will most likely update his immunizations and refer us up to the Children's hospital. I am curious to see how much he weighs. I will be asking the doctor to fill out a form for a handicap parking permit. Alex is a big boy-- much heavier than Dennis and walking long distances with him will be challenging at least in the beginning.
We are all getting used to calling him Alex instead of Alosha or Alexsey and earlier today he actually responded to his name being called. He answered from the top of the stairs, "Stoh Mama!" It was cute.
Alex loves the water. Whether it is the pool or the bathtub, his face lights up when I mention, "Coopatza?" "Da!" he says as he gives his head one good shake.
Overall, I couldn't be happier with how all of us are adjusting. Alex loves looking at pictures on the wall and thinks it is really neat that he recognizes his family. I feel bad for not having more pictures of him up on the wall yet---- something I plan on doing next week.
We made it to Kiev! What a relief. The train ride was exhausting. Alex literally running on empty because of not taking a nap that day and it being nearly two hours past his bedtime, I did the unthinkable and told him that he could not play with the light anymore because it was time for bed. Immediately he started crying-- and loud, but I knew we both needed some sleep. He was a mess--- crying louder than ever-- fingers in mouth--- snot running out of his nose--- yelling how he didn't love me and how he didn't want to sleep. Probably having my arm across his stomach to keep him from sitting up didn't help, but it sure tired him out even more. I eventually started singing in Russian the words, "I love you.... always...... truth." I kept whispering that in his ear and Praise the Lord, it worked and he fell asleep within five minutes.
I laid teetering on the edge of my mattress on the top bunk----- staring at my new son.
God, he is beautiful. I could smell his wet, sweaty hair....... and I could hear the cutest little sucking noise. Alex had two of his fingers in his mouth sucking them ever so sweetly while he rubbed together the corner of the blanket between his other thumb and index finger.
So my son sucks his fingers. Nice to know. I must have stared at him for an hour watching him sleep before I drifted off to sleep myself. Since the window was open all night, I nearly froze, but I didn't dare move to cover myself up with a blanket.
As soon as we got off the train, we headed to the Embassy and then over to get Alex's medical done. Is it alright to say here, "What a joke!"
For $110, I listened to a doctor recap what I already knew. The only new info she told me was that his medical mentioned him fracturing his hip bone when he was younger. That's it. She couldn't even tell me which side it was or at what age it happened.
All the while we were running around, I had to endure Alex calling every woman he saw Mama, reaching out to every stranger, and taking every chance to test me. I couldn't wait till we were done and could have a down day with just him, Julia, and I. That evening, we met with another adoptive couple who has a five year old with Spina Bifida and was in Ukraine adopting another child with SB. I weighed the risks of Alex acting out even more verses me getting alot of my questions answered by parents who knew first hand about SB, and I thought that talking to parents who have first hand knowledge about raising a child with SB was worth the risk of Alex acting out for a little longer. So, we walked to McDonald's.
Even after nearly polishing off a whole double cheeseburger, fries, and some of my coke, Alex was still acting hungry. I had to say enough is enough---- I knew that he was smart and would soon realize that food would continually come and that he didn't need to gorge himself.
After we all ate, we parted ways, and as we saw our apartment in sight, Alex started crying and acting up. At one point he was calling me, "Te Ca-ca!" Lovely-- my son has a potty mouth.
At this point I knew that I had to be very firm with him--- and I was. In my broken Russian, I explained to him simple rules--- and once we were back at the apartment he tested me to see if I truly expected him to follow those rules. Yup, I did.
That night, he went to bed better than he did the prior night on the train. And he woke up well-rested.
To pass the time, Julia and I made up anything and everything. I had bought a cheap little doctor kit that had tweezers, so I ripped up little pieces of paper and showed him how to pick them up with the tweezers. He thought that was alot of fun..... I thought, "Cool, my son is practicing his fine motor skills."
After we ate lunch and Alex rested for half an hour, we took him for a walk down by the river.
He was only a little upset that I wouldn't let him crawl by the water.
He loved looking out the window with Julia and yelling at the machinas!
Before bed, we gave him a cool shower in hopes that he would sleep better. In Kiev, our apartment did not have air conditioning-- and it was hot and humid.
Once Alex fell asleep, I took a picture of his adorable little feet that only a Mama could love.
The plane ride home went better than expected. The hardest part was our five hour layover in what I think is the dumbest laid out airport----Amsterdam. There was not enough seating at our terminal and we had to go through security after we had our boarding passes. But on the plane, Alex did great. In fact, he slept nearly 7 hours on the second stretch. It was wonderful.
Today has been a whirlwind. Lots to blog about, but I don't have time to write a book.
I'll try to sum up my day the best I can in one or two sentences.
Before we took Alex from the orphanage, the doctor came up to us and told us that Alex is taking medication (just right now) twice a day to calm him down----- and she gave me enough medicine to get us home. I would normally be totally against this----but........
he needs to calm down.
And you think you had it hard John, traveling with Dennis----phish!-- that was a breeze. Julia and I have already discussed our strategy and tag-team sleeping. One way or another--- we are coming home! Train tonight and plane this Friday. Did I mention we have to leave for the airport at 3am?
Today we took Alex from Antoshka. It was bittersweet. But, before we left, I made sure to get pictures of Alex's whole groupa.
And his best friend Leeza.
Then we came in quickly feed him lunch and get him dressed into the clothes we brought him.
He ate a broth like soup, mushy rice with carrots, and eekra which is an eggplant stew.
While he was eating, I took pictures of where he slept. His bed was the one with the blue blanket. Notice the word "was"?
Before we left, we gave the kids their toy phones. They loved them and could hardly believe that they didn't have to share!
One caretaker named Nadya had a very hard time-- as did Alex. They certainly seemed to have a special bond. She cried and nearly followed us down the stairs. She was so sweet. I guess I am to blame for her tears---- when I asked if I could trade an extra piece of clothing I brought for the undershirt he had been wearing is when she started to cry. She completely understood why I wanted it--- and I have it!
We walked home and gave him a bath, and now we are resting. I really should go. :)
Today was a busy day! We did tons of running around getting all of the necessary paperwork like the court decree, new birth certificate, and Alex's passport. We had to drive to Slovansk first to get the birth certificate, and then drove all the way to Donetsk which is an hour and a half long ride each way. Not only was the car ride hot and bumpy--- but we had to change two flat tires too! But everything got done-- praise the Lord and we all ate at McDonald's afterwards! What a treat that was! Still.... I couldn't bring myself to buy ketchup so my fries were a little dry. But I washed them down with ice cold coca-cola.
Here is where we had our first flat tire changed.
This is where our driver changed our second flat tire on the side of the road. Yes, men carry purses in Ukraine-- especially in the bigger cities like Donetsk. On our drive we saw miles and miles of sunflowers. It was hard to believe that any country could eat so many seeds. Later, I found it the sunflower seeds are squeezed for their oil--- there are no olive trees in Ukraine.
Here we are driving back into Kramatorsk.
By the time we got back to our apartment it was too late to go and sign the paperwork so we could pick-up Alex----- but it is on our to-do list first thing in the morning! I am so excited! This is the very last night he will have to sleep in the orphanage--- the last time he will go without hugs, kisses, and prayers as he is tucked into bed.
This is also our last night in Kramatorsk--- and believe it or not--- I think I am going to miss this place. I am going to miss seeing all of the Mama kitties on our walk to Antoshka. I am going to miss watching all of the children playing outside. I am going to miss being able to buy ice-cream on any street corner in any one of the many kiosks.
I am going to miss people watching---- I still don't get why so many women wear heels here. I am going to miss a more simpler life.
I have promised myself that life is going to be different when I get home. I want to take the time to walk more......... to get the mail.......... to walk to my kids' bus stop........ to go around my neighborhood and meet more people. I want to complain less. If I have to drive to the doctor's office-- so what. My car is air conditioned and I am pretty sure that I have enough tread on my tires so that I won't get a flat. If I have to wash my fifth load of clothes that day--- big whoop--- I won't have to hang up all of the clothes to dry. If my son falls in the mud--- at least I know I will have hot water to give him a bath. I want to take more time to just visit with friends and family. Back in America I was always so busy-- yet I don't know what I was doing. Probably too much computer, too much worrying, too much planning, making way too big of a deal about anything and everything.
Last night I tossed and turned worrying my heart over everything you can imagine. I continually refocused my thoughts on my Heavenly Father-- but I was up against a battle.
Thoughts that went through my mind:
I won't wake up on time to make it to the airport by 5 am this coming Friday.
They will not have the old passport forms which take only one day-- but they will have plenty of new passport forms which take a week.
We will not be allowed to enter the country because Alex won't pass his medical.
I run out of diapers on the train.
My kids are getting into trouble back home every day I am not there for them.
I can go on and on, but you get the drift. It wasn't until 1:00am that I finally fell asleep. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep, but I am still managing to stay positive. We made little gift bags for each of the children in Alex's group. Inside each one is a teddy bear shaped chocolate filled cake, a juice box, a napkin, and a toy telephone. Julia and I decorated the outside of each of the bags. We think they will like them. Alex will probably come back to the apartment with us tomorrow evening after we do all of our running around to get our paperwork complete. I am looking forward to giving him a bath, putting on clean pajamas, and feeding him a bowl of ice-cream. Most of all, I look forward to him really being my son------ here to stay by my side-- no more visits!
Don't get me wrong, Ukraine is wonderful, and so is adoption, but being away from family for so long makes a person kind of long to be home back in their own bed---- settling disagreements between the kids, washing loads of smelly socks, and sitting in church listening to your Pastor talk.
Ahhhhhh, it will be good to be home.
Meanwhile, Julia and I are having fun buying inexpensive little treats for all of our loved ones back home.
For my family---
Adam, I miss hearing you play guitar. Rachel, I miss cooking with you in the kitchen. Caleb, I miss rubbing hands with you in church. Sveta, I miss your funny talks with the dogs. Annalyn, I miss your beautiful smiles. Anna, I miss your sweet hugs and kisses. William, I miss cuddling with you. Andrew, I miss hearing your laugh.... so much. Jonny, I miss your sweet little voice. Dennis, I miss the way you prance around the house. And John, I miss you making me laugh. Friends and family-- I miss all of you too!
Just got back from dinner with Julia. Julia ended up really enjoying the borscht compared to the smoky chicken dish that she ordered. Oh well------ who said we had to finish everything off of our plates?
Our afternoon visit with Alex went well---- but I am so done visiting my child everyday. It feels so much like a chore---- which I hate saying-- but it is true. It feels weird looking forward to our visit with Alex and then watching the time go by slowly hoping that this is the last visit before we get to take him away for good.
Our facilitator is coming back in the morning so this is our last "just girls" night--- free to not close the door when we shower-- free to eat in the living room---- free to binge on ice-cream. But it also means having a translator again which is nice to have last minute questions answered.
1.) Officially today our 10th day is up! And this is the last Saturday we are spending in Ukraine!
2.) We are at an Internet Cafe walking distance from our apartment! Woooo-hooo!
Julia and I both have computers for the next hour and a half--- so now I can tell you all about the last few days. Alex is getting more and more used to us and seems sad every time our visit is over. He is for the most part a very happy and outgoing little boy---- but there is a mischievous side to him that I will have to keep an eye on. I think he has just been couped up for way too long and is ready to explore the world around him. The other day I tore off a dead branch with dry leaves and crumbled it up in front of him. Then I let him do it. He loved it! We also got to let him play in the sand with all the other children--- something he is not allowed to do all the time-- and he loved that too! I can only imagine how he is going to react to the world outside the orphanage fence--- we keep counting down the days for him till he gets to ride the big train to Kiev.
The day we played in the sand with all the kids is a day I kick myself for not bringing the video camera. We had a blast! I pretended to make food and then had the kids serve it to me.
"Ya nee hachoo kasha-malasha!" I said making the yuckiest face--- and breakthrough! All the caretakers started laughing and it seemed like Julia and I made it into their club. After that we were offered some of their black, unsalted sunflower seeds. It was a neat feeling of acceptance.
I pretended to eat the kasha (sand) as the kids saw me throw down the spoonfuls-- this had all of them laughing. Soon after, the kids were playing with each other---- Alex and Leeza were the cutest together.... both laughing up a storm!
Quite a few times Julia and I have timed our arrival to be just as the kids are coming outside to play. The caretakers have to call all the kids back as they come running up to us yelling Mama. I have given up correcting them to call me Choit-cha which means Aunt after learning that they have eighteen different caretakers whom they all call Mama. I wish they could all have Mamas-- all of them need one and deserve one.
As Julia and I have learned what the kids do day and day out--- we have decided to do something different for the kids when we take Alex. Instead of the traditional cake, fruit, and juice, we went and bought all of the kids little toy phones. We went to the same lady where Julia bought her siblings a few souvenirs and she remembered us. Instead of twelve grivna per phone, she told us they were only eight grivna, but when we told her we wanted to buy 7 of them, she sold them to us for six grivna each. Knowing what a great deal she was giving us-- we gave her a fifty grivna bill and told her to keep the change. It was a win-win for all of us! We will probably still do something else but we are not sure yet. We are giving the caretakers the dishcloths that Julia handmade, filled with candy and tied together. Hopefully they will like them. ********************************* Going back a few days-- one evening when the Penman's were still here we went to Premier for dinner-- a very affordable and good place to eat in Kramatorsk. I felt a little adventurous and ordered a pork, cabbage, and kiwi salad.
It was so yummy! Julia played it safe and ordered boring mashed potatoes and rice with cooked veggies. I also ordered chicken with spinach and cheese. It was just nice getting out and not having to do the dishes afterwards. Our whole meal with two cokes each was only seventy-one grivna equivalent to about nine American dollars.
The other night, Julia and I had a Racko tournament and made a little bet to make it interesting. If she won, I had to take her to the pastry shop and let her pick out anything. If I won, she had to go to Premier with me and have a bowl of Borscht.
Guess who won??
Since it rained last night we couldn't go-- so today after our afternoon visit with Alex we are going to Premier! ***************************
Here is a place where I think handicapped people live. What a nice ramp for wheelchairs.
We played outside with all of the kids again.
The caretakers even allowed Alex to get out and play with us.
8-7-09 - Fly Home! 8-6-09 - Pick up Visa 8-5-09 - Apply for Visa 8-4-09 - On the Train back to Kiev 8-3-09 - Pick up Court Decree 7-31-09 - 10th Day done 7-23-09 - John and Dennis no longer in Ukraine with Us 7-22-09 - 10 day wait begins 7-21-09 - Court 7-15-09 - See Alexsey! 7-14-09 - SDA Appointment 7-11-09 - Leave for Ukraine 6-30-09 - Found out SDA Appt is moved up to July 13 6-22-09 - Found out SDA Appt is July 15th but could be sooner if we redo our medical quickly 6-22-09 - Dossier Successfully Submitted 4-22-09 - Dossier in Ukraine! Begin the translation! 4-14-09 - Whole dossier apostilled 4-6-09 - Finished paperwork for dossier, waiting for immigration approval to come in mail 4-3-09 - Notified by email that we are approved to adopt an orphan 3-14-09 - Fingerprinted twice for immigration and police clearance letter. Received copy of marriage certificate. 3-13-09 - Received invitation for I-600A fingerprinting 3-9-09 - Immigration get our homestudy 2-10-09 - Finished all paperwork for homestudy and mailed off I-600A 1-31-09 - Homestudy Visit 1-28-09 - Notified Homestudy Agency 1-27-09 - Committed to adopting Alexsey