Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fourth and FINAL LIDiversary

Today is our fourth LIDiversary. It is hard to believe we began the process to adopt from China 4 years ago. Time sure flies. I love all the excitement in the June group on RQ, as we are now less than a year away from bringing our kids home. People have started getting their nurseries ready, although we now realize that it is likely that at least some of us will get boys so final decorations will have to wait. Some of the early Junies may see a picture of their baby 6 months from now!

I alternate between excitement and panic. We know so much more about adopting now than we did 4 years ago (ask us anything – about any program J). With that knowledge comes the realization that not everything always works out well or is easy. Nikolai transitioned and attached easily; he very quickly caught up developmentally, really largely before we even finished the bonding period in Kazakhstan. Overall he is fairly healthy, and he has always been a good eater. His attitude of “everything is fun until proven otherwise” certainly helps him. There were aspects of his baby house that were great, and are pretty uncommon in orphanages. He had a consistent group of caregivers who really enjoyed and interacted with the kids, and his playroom was bright with lots of toys.

I remember everything about Nikolai’s adoption as easy, but looking back I can see that it was a process to get to the point we are at now. It is daunting to think about going through that process again – especially with a child who may have a significantly harder time attaching or have significant sensory issues. RQ did a good series of posts on sensory issues that can be read here You can read her posts on attachment here

During our visitation period in Kazakhstan, the first week Nikolai sort of played next to us, the second week he laughed and was excited to see us, but it was not until the fourth week that he reached back for us when we returned him to his caregivers. In China, our child will be handed to us after what may have been a long bus ride with people they didn’t know without any further transition – rip-the-band aid-off style.

After we came home, Nikolai was happy and engaging, and would cry for food or attention. But he did not seek us out for hugs and snuggling for some time. At the same time I realize I did not bond to him instantly either – not in the way we are bonded today where I think my heart would literally stop if I lost him. I found him adorable, but I was jet-lagged and sick and often just wanted a break. This is totally normal, and something we learned in adoptive parenting classes. It is especially important for people to keep in mind when bringing home a toddler or older child. When you suddenly have a stranger in your house who is grief-stricken and constantly raging or completely shut down, it is understandable that a strong bond is not felt immediately. Plus it is hard to shake a feeling of guilt when all your child wants is to go back to what is familiar to them. Fake it until it is real is the guidance always given.

Health wise, it is easy to forget that Nikolai had what we and other Kazakh adoptive parents called “orphanage cough” for almost six months. The doctor thought it might have been RSV or something like that. He had many appointments to get blood drawn and other evaluations just to get a baseline for where he was health wise. It turned out that all of his vaccines had to be repeated and that he had been exposed to TB and needed antibiotics for 9 months. He was in the 10% for height and weight, and quickly shot up to 50% in less than six months. So, life in the baby house was not exactly perfect.

I especially worry about how the China adoption will affect Nikolai. Before we had him, I would have said that we would be prepared to bring home a child and deal with anything, but now I am not so sure. I read posts of people who upon arriving in China find that their child has significant undisclosed needs and they are faced with a daunting choice of bringing them home when they feel utterly unprepared or coming home without a child. It would be SO much better if the orphanage/CCAA were honest in the paperwork. I always am relieved when I read that parents decided to continue, and heartbroken when they leave the child behind. But who knows how we would react in that situation? People often mention that there is no guarantee when giving birth that your child will not have significant issues and you can’t choose not to keep them. But adopting is not giving birth – and all adopted children have special needs that must be dealt with whether it be issues with speech, physical development, sensory, attachment, medical, or other issues; we are prepared to deal with these things. You can choose not to drink while you are pregnant, shouldn’t we be able to choose not to adopt a child with fetal alcohol syndrome if we don’t feel we can handle it?

I think that there are few issues that would cause me to leave the child behind, and most of those issues (mental illness, RAD, FAS) are impossible to diagnose in the one day you are given to make a decision. A child suffering from grief and exhibiting post-institutional behaviors (e.g., head banging, rocking) may appear to be severely disabled or autistic. How do you know in such a short period of time? The truth is you don’t. You just jump in and hope for the best. Many people describe the feeling of being handed their child for the first time as panic, as they put it “what the hell did we just do.” While there are no guarantees that the child is not disabled, I am lucky to have read many parents’ honest accounts about those first few days. In one example, the family was handed a 22-month old who did not appear to be able to even sit up unassisted, made absolutely no sound, could not suck on a bottle (the openings of bottles in the orphanages are large enough that the liquid just pours out), and certainly could not eat solid food. To the parents’ complete surprise, on the fourth day the child stood up and walked around! Chris and I are going to try to come to an agreement about some of the more common medical issues that appear in the NSN program. Some, like spina bifida and deafness, scare us more than others, so we need to do some research.

Of course the fact that I do remember everything as easy with Nikolai’s adoption should be reassuring. In rereading this post it sounds so discouraging. Now for the excitement part – yes, many things can go wrong, but in most cases everything ends up great. I know the first year or so may be hard, but you just take it one day (or one hour) at a time. Kids and parents make great strides in six months to a year. I have read only a few times out of the thousands of people adopting a second child that they had regretted it – and those times were only people whose children had severe RAD. I love having a sister, and want Nikolai to have a sibling. We are so excited about potentially having a baby in the house again (or at least young toddler). Nikolai keeps saying he wants a baby, and he doesn’t know that we are adopting yet (a year is too long for a 2-yr old to look forward to something). He will be a great big brother.

*READOPTING: Several people have left comments on our blog requesting info on readopting in VA. I am SO sorry I haven’t checked the blog lately. If you still want templates leave a comment and be sure to include your email address – or you can get on the adoption in VA yahoo group, where several templates are stored.

And now, what everyone wants to see – new pictures of our cutie!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Late Night Musings

Yes, I went out with the young archaeologists tonight. They aren’t even that young – late 20s and early 30s. We went out to eat at a seafood restaurant on the water and then to a karaoke bar just a bit down the street from the motel. We work hard and it was good to relax a little.

I hate ticks.

One of the crew members is a great singer and sang in choruses throughout school. She wanted to sing three karaoke songs. Of course the DJ gave preference to his friends, so her third song didn’t happen until after 11:30. It was cute – after I told her that I was fine and had half a beer and half a napkin left to doodle on, she told her friend, “it’s ok, she’s not mad or anything.” Of course it makes me feel old to be the one who may be “mad” about staying up late, but they are sweet and good archaeologists so I forgive them.

Tomorrow I just have to monitor a backhoe and dig a 50-cm square hole 1.5 meters deep (or two). But I am sending the young ones to dig as many shovel tests as they can in an open field.

Ticks are bad.

How can anyone not want to be an anthropologist? There is nothing more interesting than watching people at a bar in a town you are not from on karaoke night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cute Things

When we pull into my parking space in the evening, Nikolai now happily proclaims “we’re home!”

Daycare has graham crackers for the kids on the way out the door. Nikolai eats his on the way home, biting them into various shapes such as cars, buses, lions, and kitty cats (or so he claims).

I took him with me to the grocery store this evening just to pick up a few things. As soon we parked he started crying, saying “no shopping, no shopping cart.” I assured him we would not get a cart and he could either walk or be carried. I handed the first item to him to carry and then put in the basket. Then he wanted to carry the basket, so we got a separate one for him. He was SO cute carrying it through the store and putting things he wanted in it. I let him keep most things (a toy chick, a pear, blue berries) but the cookies, candy and lettuce had to go back and the bananas were too heavy so they ended up in my basket. This was definitely not a quick shopping stop, but still a fun outing.

Driving home this evening I actually was able to figure out what song he was singing. He said “no! no more! No more!.. Doctor…jumping, jumping.” Can you figure it out? It’s the “no more monkeys jumping on the bed” song. Although he kept correcting me when I was singing; he said “no monkeys…doggies.” Maybe school sings it with doggies jumping on the bed? I doubt it, but who knows.

He has started memorizing parts of the books we read at night, and now “reads” them to us.

When we eat together, if I finish something, Nikolai will kindly ask “do you want more?”
Daycare has been working on opposites (up/down, big/small, left/right). All of a sudden he suddenly ‘gets’ big and small. He correctly identified the baby bears as small bears and the mama as a big bear. He got it right with his rock collection tonight too! It is amazing to watch him learn new things every day.

He plays air guitar, violin, mandolin, and piano.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nikolai is 2!!!!

Nikolai's birthday was Thursday. Due to the forcast for two feet of snow today and tomorrow (oh my), Chris's mom and my parents came down on short notice for a party. Nikolai had fun, and enjoyed the sports theme, with lots of footballs, soccor balls, etc. We had to relight the candles and sing to him twice. I did not finish his cake in time for the party, so we had little cakes from the store - which Nik assumed were his alone. When we did not produce a fork fast enough, he just leaned over and took a bite! We got his cake done, and sang to him again today.


What? Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I lifted this from Mary on Rumor Queen. I thought it was really funny:

"Surprise Paper Pregnancy"

Wife: Honey, sit down. I have some news for you.
Husband: What is it?
W: Well, I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just come out with it. I went to the mailbox today and, well, we got a 797.
H: A what?!? A 797? As in, we’re going to have another baby?!?
W: It looks that way.
H: But how? We’ve been so careful! I put away all the blank I-800A forms. Didn’t you hide our homestudy update?
W: Of course I did, but don’t forget, there was that one night?
H: What night? (pauses) Ohhh, that night, But it was only once. We were just messing around. I didn’t print clearly. I didn’t even use ink! (pauses again) But it was kind of fun. (giggles). It was, wasn’t it?
W: I’ll never forget how cute you looked getting your fingerprints taken.
H: So now we’ve got our 797, eh? But that doesn’t always mean you’ll adopt, does it? I mean, shouldn’t you see the agency or something, make sure everything’s okay?
W: I already did.
H: And?
W: I’m five documents along.
H: Five documents! And they’re all notarized, certified and authenticated okay?
W: Just great. There was one small scare when the agency couldn’t see the Notary’s middle initial but it showed up just fine under the magnifying glass. Thank God. And you, honey? Are you feeling okay?
H: I’m feeling fine. As long as I know you’re happy about this.
W: Happy? I’m thrilled! It’s always a shock at first when something like this happens, but of course I’m happy.

And yes, we got our 797 for China. We are officially approved for one or two kids, either gender, up to 36 months, non special needs or mild to moderate special needs. That should cover all potential variations of our referral. Of course when I had hoped USCIS would actually drag its feet, they decided to be ultra efficient and we got our approval in 35 days – which is among the shortest time recorded in the past year for people who have submitted their stats on RQ. Our approval expires in April 2011. I think we will get referral some time between January and April 2011, so we will probably have to file for an extension since the 797 must be valid for 3 months after referral.

Nikolai is going to be a good big brother. This weekend we ended up watching a 13-month old during the choir concert at church since both parents are in the choir. Nikolai was so cute with him. When the concert started, Nikolai kept pointing to the choir and asking the baby if he saw the singing. When the baby flicked a few cheerios on the floor, Nikolai picked them up. I thought he was going to eat them, but instead he put them back on the baby's tray and wagged his finger saying "no throw." Nikolai also gently scolded the baby for "throwing" his sippy cup - of course Nik did not seem to see the correlation as he threw his toys on the floor. Nikolai shared his toys with the baby, sweetly saying "here you go." So CCAA - you see we are ready NOW.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Christmas +

Christmas was a lot of fun. We had Christmas morning at home with both sets of grandparents. Then a few days later my sister and her family came into town. Nikolai was really good – he loved opening presents, but understood that many of them were not for him. He really likes all of his new toys; we are trying to figure out how to manage all of the pieces, though. It is fun to see how imaginative he is when he plays now. He is so cute with his stuffed animals – and new Mr. Potato head. He acts like they are real. He will lay them down and say “night night”, ask “do you need help?” when putting on their sunglasses or having them turn the light off or on, and put them in a chair, walk a few steps away, and turn back and strenuously says “sit!”.

Nik has started talking in complete sentences! He has moved into the 2-year old/discovery preschool class almost full-time and seems to really enjoy it. I don’t think he can officially move until he is actually two, though. One of the morning teachers teaches him Spanish, and actually pulled him into the room after the Spanish classes’ performance at the “Winter Gala” to show him off. I kind of think they are angling to get us to sign him up for the Spanish enrichment class. I have no problem with him picking up as much of any language as possible, but I am not ready to pay for Spanish class for a 2-year old!

He just learned almost all of his colors. It happened in one day – we sent him to daycare knowing yellow, black, and pink – and he came home knowing all the rest. I am not sure if he just learned them or just decided to identify them correctly. He thinks it is hilarious to answer incorrectly.

Nikolai is generally still a really happy and easy going kid. But clearly there is a switch somewhere in that little brain that has alerted him that he is about to be 2. He will yell and throw things across the room for the most minor thing – like if I give him the wrong spoon, or if I try to help, or if I don’t help quick enough, etc.