Saturday, June 27, 2009


"When you leave here, don't forget why you came."
- Adlai Stevenson, to college graduates

The blog is long overdue for an update; it has been a very busy and draining couple weeks! The week before last we went up to the Utica area (in the foothills of the Adirondacks) where we lived before moving to Binghamton to attend my beautiful baby sister's high school graduation. We ended up going out to a restaurant with my family and our entire kid circus at 10pm - they were amazingly well-behaved and were quickly asleep on the drive home!

Last week was Cade's preschool graduation, the last day of school and the beginning of what is going to be a very busy summer for me - Emerson has now started receiving therapy services so between her and Dawson, Macy's two speech therapy sessions each week and Cade's three speech therapy sessions and two occupational therapy sessions, we will have 17 visits from various therapists throughout the week. Yes, 17. Although it can be overwhelming to think about, I try to temper my stress level by reminding myself how lucky we are to live in a place where such an existence is even possible - and completely free of cost to us, other than what we put into taxes.

The last week or so has been particularly emotional for me. Dawson is having little explosions in his development - taking steps on his own when we hold his hands or support his hips, giving high-fives, saying more words than I realized he could hold in that little head of his (bubbles - pop!, Elmo, hand, hair, glasses, sock, hat, to name a few) and is now completely done with bottles and only drinking from straws or open cups. His progress stands in stark comparison to Emerson, still having trouble connecting with others - though she has improved since we first met, many times she still looks around us or through us, not AT us. She laughs or smiles when we tickle or play with her, but it is a lonely kind of laughter, a self-smile. We've been making plans to celebrate both Parker's and Emerson's birthdays and the reality of where Emerson is right now as she nears the big 2 has been heavy on my heart.

Part of me recoils at the thought of celebrating her birthday at all - she is still refusing any form of baby food, so there will be no pictures of her happily munching on birthday cake; she has little interest in toys other than rattle-type objects, so there will be no excitement in unwrapping the latest noisy, light-up gadget from the toy store. It is not like celebrating a 2nd birthday. It is not like celebrating a 1st birthday. It is like a grand mix-up on the calendar has resulted in the celebration of reaching the 5th month.

The reality that she has for all practical purposes lost the first two years of her life is harder to face removed from the abstract. Especially since I don't think she lost that time; rather, it was stolen from her. I cannot help but feel guilty, not as a parent because I know we did all we could to get her here as soon as possible, but guilty as a human being. Guilty for thinking simply removing a child from such a situation would be enough to make a difference, enough to mean something. Because the truth is that it's not enough.

I have not spoken much about my deepest thoughts during our stay in Serbia. I have not mentioned a sweet little boy I saw many times during our visits with Emerson, a sweet little boy I babbled with a few times and held just once. I still think of him often. He is a bit older than Emerson, he has fair hair and the biggest knowing eyes like Dawson's, for some reason at first I thought his name was Nika and though it isn't, that is what I will call him because Nika means "unconquerable" and that is what I hope he will be - an Unknown Hero. He is not available for adoption because his parents will not allow him to be. They don't want him, but they want no one else to have him either. I have had a few bad dreams over the last few weeks, some where the officials in Serbia wouldn't allow us to leave with Emerson for strange and silly reasons, like it was raining. Others just of that little boy, banging his head on the crib bars as Emerson sometimes does against the wall, babies' cries going unanswered around us, children left sitting in strollers for hours at a time. Last night I dreamt Emerson was falling and though I tried I could not reach her; I woke up gasping and clawing the air.

Cade's preschool class included one darling little boy with Down syndrome. I had spent the entire school year fighting back the urge to pick him up and hug and kiss him whenever I saw him. I saw Dawson in him, the same special magic leaping from his almond eyes. At Cade's graduation ceremony, when it was that little boy's turn to walk across the stage and stand on the little wooden "Bridge to Kindergarten" with his diploma, the applause of the families of 88 other students thundered passionately like it hadn't for anyone else. Many people stood and shouted out. Two more little ones with other special needs crossed the bridge and met the same enthusiasm.

And I sat there holding Emerson, near tears for a few minutes, wondering what in the world could make so many of us Americans see something that so many others just can't see. What is it about us? Do we learn it at some point in school? - some quiet appreciation for the underdog, for the one who must overcome the most and work the hardest. Perhaps it is part of our history, because we have made and continue to clean the stubborn stain of oppression and are careful not to spill anymore. Maybe it is because although we stray from the path of freedom, in our hearts we all believe in the ideals that formed our nation and we know that the "weakest" among us are truly the strongest because only they have the power to remind us when we forget. Not all Americans feel this way, but I have to say I think the majority do and most of those who don't are well-equipped to change.

And as Emerson continues to balance precariously between the disconnected world she has made for herself and the one we are trying to draw her into, as I learn for the first time to love without knowing if it will ever be fully returned, I know still I want that applause for her. For Dawson. For Nika. For all of the brave little ones with their "disabilities," a term only made so by the most disabling human trait of all - injustice.

The above quote is meant for graduates, but I can't help think it's meant for me, as well. There was a reason for all this, all the struggles, a reason I sat across the ocean in a stuffy little room feeding a bottle to a 21 month old abandoned child and staring out the window at a temple still being toiled on to honor a God, a God who would find the greatest dishonor in the children lying in cribs down the hall.

My book is at my fingertips, struggling to get out, hoping to mean something, to change something. Now if I can just find some time around those 17 therapy sessions each week... ^_^

Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator.
Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

And now, before this post gets any more serious, some pictures. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

evaluation day

Emerson had her Early Intervention eval today - we chose the same clinic as we did with Dawson (and Macy for her speech issues) so we are all like old friends now and we sat joking about our house o' therapy and how TLC should offer us a reality show so we can replace Jon & Kate LOL.

At the beginning I gave my guess that she would measure around 5-6 months of age in all areas - and I was right! It feels a bit strange knowing that although Em is 4 months older than Dawson, he is about 10 months older than her in development. It is amazing to think what a difference a loving family environment and EARLY intervention can make for a child with DS. The only area she scored at an age-appropriate level was Social-Emotional, coming in at low-average - and I know that wouldn't have been true one month ago. :) Speech was her weakest area... her receptive skills are basically like that of a newborn... such new territory to us. Dawson was too tired to impress the therapist with his new skills of saying "up" and "down" and "right there" when you ask him where something is in a book - instead he fell asleep on the floor next to her LOL!

Em did a great job during the 1 1/2 hour evaluation, tolerating being passed around between 3 therapists and the psychologist without fussing once. I think by the end of the day though she was very over-stimulated and tired because when we started our bedtime routine at 6:30 she started crying - refused a bottle, wasn't happy being held or lying down - and kept crying until after 8pm until she started dozing off amidst tears on my shoulder. Poor baby :( Sometimes she does start screaming for unknown reasons when she gets her bottle... we are not sure if it's just sensory overload since she has such oral sensory issues, or if she has some tooth decay down into the root that is causing her pain. I don't think her teeth were ever brushed, or at least not well, based on how they look, so it's possible. I know the orphanage staff must have been very short on time, but it's a shame to neglect something so important. She'll be seeing our pediatric dentist in a couple weeks, then has an appointment with the opthamologist and then she and Dawson will be going to the audiologist for hearing screenings.

Hoping she gets a good night's sleep tonight and is back to her happy self tomorrow morning!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

as promised

Friday, June 12, 2009


After an incredibly stressful and busy week taking care of one sick little boy (my poor Dawson - his very first ear infections) today was finally the long-awaited appointment with the pediatric cardiology team in Syracuse.

Matt and I decided to divide forces to make it easier on everyone - I took Emerson and Cade (who was very fascinated with the idea of seeing pictures of his little sister's heart LOL) and Matt headed to the huge shopping mall with the other three.

Em had an EKG, an echocardiogram and a visit with one of the very sweet cardiologists. When all was said and done, I sat there staring at him unblinking for a few minutes, trying to decide whether I most felt like crying or laughing, before shaking his hand and heading to the check-out desk to make the next appointment for her...

It was not an appointment for a heart catheterization, as I expected would be the next step. It was not even really a follow-up appointment. It was simply a customary measure to check on her growth.

Because Em doesn't have a complete AV canal anymore.

She has an intermediate (also called transitionary) AV canal. In laymen's terms, a complete AV canal is a hole between the upper chambers and a hole between the lower chambers. Em has a standard sized hole between the upper chambers, and a very tiny hole between the lower chambers.

She doesn't need surgery right now. It's typically done between ages 3 and 5 for this sort of defect.

She doesn't have any pulmonary hypertension at all.

Her oxygen saturation was 100%.

Her blood flow was good, her blood pressure was great, she had only a tiny insignificant amount of leakage from the valve. The cardiologist said her heart looks great.

He ordered her off all medications immediately - she just doesn't need them.

Can you imagine my jaw on the floor?


I am still puzzling over how all this came to be. Who got what wrong, and why. How her oxygen went from 87% two weeks ago to 100% today. How we spent the last year worrying, agonizing, planning.

Disbelief. Miracles. Amazing. ^_^

I promise - a montage to come this weekend! :)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

chaos, joy

Dawson and Emerson are down for a nap and Matt has the older three outside playing and I am stealing a few minutes to upload some pictures and maybe even post a few LOL! ^_^

Matt went right back to work Wednesday and Grandma and Grandpa went home and we've spent the last few days in survival mode as we try to adjust to having another baby to take care of!

Em is doing great - she is so happy, it almost feels like she is a different child than the one we met in Belgrade! We were worried she might be overwhelmed by all the kids hovering, hugging, kissing, playing - but she seems to love having them around. She is babbling a ton now, so much so that I have to rock Dawson to sleep in the other room or she'll keep him awake while she is lying in the crib LOL. She makes happy noises when she sees us in the morning, lets us hug and kiss her and has started snuggling into our chest when we pick her up, and smiles and giggles so freely now. Macy adores her and will sit for ages tickling her while Em laughs deep belly laughs we've never heard before. Her appetite is huge, she's taking over 30 oz a day of formula/pediasure and we're hoping to start introducing some baby food consistently now that she's adjusted to her bottles. She doesn't scratch her face anymore, she doesn't bang her head into the floor/crib/any solid surface she can reach anymore LOL. She just seems...happy. :)

The last few days have been stressful and overwhelming at times, but seeing the changes in her makes it all feel so worthwhile.

She was 15 lbs, 15 oz at the pedi visit on Wednesday (Dawson was about 24 lbs! - he is a monster next to her!) and her cardiology appointment is on Friday. We also managed to squeeze in a prenatal visit for me and our big ultrasound. And we are very happy to announce we are having a healthy baby....
BOY! :)
The kids are all excited to be having one more baby brother, Matt is thrilled he gets to use his long-awaited boy name, Holden, and I am thinking I probably should have been a queen born a few centuries ago LOL!

I am hoping to create a montage of our adoption journey this weekend including many more photos of the kiddos together, but for now here are a few. :)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

home at last

Just a quick post to say we are home!!! We got in last night about 7:30 and we were all up until 10:30. Em was absolutely amazing on the flights - even the 9 hour transatlantic where she could only nap for 30 minutes because of a screaming toddler in the row next to us LOL. She was exhausted toward the end (as were we!) but still was happy to play on the floor and watch her brothers and sister with much curiosity while they smothered her with kisses and hugs.

Hopefully I'll take lots of pictures today and will have more to say tonight. :)

Monday, June 01, 2009

have visa, will travel

After our very long, very busy day including 3 hours and 15 minutes of nail-biting in the U.S. Embassy and a 10 minute dash to get new pictures of Emerson because she was too pale in the ones we brought - we have the infamous brown envelope of immigration visa paperwork!!!

We weren't sure how things were going to go at the Embassy because when we finally got called in for our appointment, we realized we were meeting with the grumpy Serbian guy who gave us a hard time the first time we were there. You know, the one who insisted "there are no orphans in Serbia" LOL. Matt and I were both silent as he read very, very slowly through every scrap of paper we gave him. I didn't even dare mention that we were scheduled to go home tomorrow morning and would really appreciate if we could get the visa the same day... of course that was partly because they had tons of signs with huge lettering all over the Embassy that proclaimed IT TAKES 1 BUSINESS DAY FOR VISAS - DO NOT ASK US IF IT CAN BE READY THE SAME DAY!!!

Well after tons of waiting and dashing out for new pictures when they asked for them, we finally went in and did the swearing to everything, the Consulate seemed a bit shocked we were adopting this kid with DS and said, "I could never handle a handicapped child." Geesh. At this point we still had no idea if they were going to give us the visa immediately or not and when she finally asked when we're leaving and I said tomorrow, she said "Hmm...cutting it close."

We went out and waited some more (and bit some more nails LOL) and finally they called us again and there was the envelope, all ready to go!! Longest 3+ hours of my life, but Emerson was an absolute angel the entire time - she sat upright on Matt's lap happily playing with her little toys, only fussed a few times and was easily calmed. :)

And best of all - our family will be back together in just over 24 hours!!!

Next post from me will be tomorrow night from Binghamton! :)