Our new Boy!!

Our new Boy!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

GI Stas

Well I have tried very hard to update this blog more than once a week, but it is very difficult. There are so many details I want to include and sometimes that just takes a little time. Stasik is still doing very well and we have received more information that has been very positive for the most part.
In the last blog we had recently had his heart checked out and all signs indicated that it was healthy. Since then we have had no changes in that condition, however, we have still had a lengthy list of other items to get checked out. Almost everything we were given from our facilitators had a Ukrainian document and one that was translated to English. The “important documents” that were not translated were of course the medical information and history. We asked several times to have them translated when we were there, but we were just told that we would need to get it done when we were stateside. To me this was like taking a skydiving lesson where they tell you how to put the chute on and get in the plane, but don’t tell you how to pull the cord until you are 1,000 feet above ground. This health information was very important to us; more important than some of the other papers we received. If there were any major concerns, we sure did not want to miss them or be too late getting them resolved. For us it was like starting from scratch. We could not answer any questions about him at all; in a sense it was like he was a new born that had unexplained surgeries in the womb…geesh! We just had faith in God and prayed that we would get to everything in a timely and safe manner.
While we were at the cardiologist’s office, we found a nurse that spoke Ukrainian and asked her to try and decipher the medical documents we had received. We soon figured out why no one in the Ukraine would help us out. She determined that some of the medical documents were in fact written in Ukrainian, but most of them were in Russian. All that she could really determine is that Stasik needed all of his shots. Beyond that she could not say anything for sure. We left copies of the documents with the office and hoped that someone would be able to figure it out a little later. In the mean time we went to our pediatrician to get a full round of shots; 3 in one leg and 3 in the other. Poor guy! Wouldn’t you know it; he cried…I have to say that on this one, though, I don’t blame him. I am not a fan of shots either.
With a heart check and a full round of shots, we waited for our referral to go in for our GI appointment. We finally saw a doctor last Thursday. Unfortunately, we had to make two trips to Houston for this one. Thursday turned out to be a consult visit, but we did get to meet with a nutritionist that gave us some good information. The original thought based on surgical scars and vomiting regularity and intensity was that we were dealing with reflux (GERD). Reflux is usually gone when infants hit 11 months of age, but with children that have DS, the doctor said it is very common to see it last longer. That sounded great, but we wanted to know for sure as soon as possible. We were told that we would come back in a few weeks, but with a little sweet talking, I was able to get that changed. One of the nurses (Betsy) hooked us up with an appointment the very next morning. I had to get up early, but worth it so that we could get some answers.
Earlier in the week, Stasik and Debbie were at a friend’s house when Debbie was changing a dirty diaper. Our friend’s niece, who is an EMT, noticed that the poop had a very strange, but familiar smell. She had worked in and been around a lot of nursing homes and the smell was the same. She asked if we had gotten it checked out and Debbie told her not yet. We had some concerns about it, but were still waiting to see the GI doctor to ask. When we went in on Thursday, I made sure I transported a sample with us just in case they could use it. We wanted them to check for Giardia and C. Diff (Clostridium Difficile). These are two species of bacteria that cause intestinal disease and are very common in kids coming to the U.S. from Eastern European countries. C. Diff is caused by spending a lot of time in a hospital and taking antibiotics. It can cause diarrhea and release toxins that can be life threatening if not dealt with. Giardia is most common in animals, but is seen in humans when they come from poor sanitary conditions. Based on the smell, which is similar to mothballs, we think it is C. Diff, but we are still awaiting those results. Either one can be treated with medication and will clear up rather quickly.

On Friday, me and Stas got up at 4:30 and hit the road by 5:00. We had to be in the doctor’s office by 7:15 and I wanted to make sure there was no way we could be late. We arrived around 7:00, found our office, and checked in. Stasik was not allowed to eat before the tests and I was really concerned about this whole lack of food situation. Lucky for me it was so early in the morning that he just slept the whole way. By the time he began to get hungry, we were in the x-ray room sucking down barium contrast out of a bottle. The doctor had scheduled an upper and lower GI test to try to determine if there were any obstructions or narrowing’s in the GI tract that might be causing the food to come back up. Worst case scenario was surgery and best case was medication for GERD. We had to stay in the office until the contrast solution made it all the way through his digestive system into his colon. This required a lot of waiting and taking new x-rays every 30 minutes or so. Stasik was a trooper!! He did not cry much and did not seem to get really hungry.
You know when you take your car to the shop because it has been acting up for weeks? Then, when the mechanic is looking at it, the symptoms never even occur the entire time he is examining it. Then you drive away and go home, only to see the exact same symptoms the very next morning. I do not know what this “Car-shop mechanic fallacy” is called, but it happened to us that day in the doctor’s office. I argued up and down that Stasik would probably throw up the barium and would be upset because he was starving. I just knew that it would be a tough day and only hoped that we would be able to do all of the tests without any issues. Well of course, I was wrong (Don’t tell Debbie I said that). He never cried once about food and did not throw up a thing the whole day.
The doctor doing the x-rays saw a few inconsistencies, but said overall it looked good. He wanted to consult with our GI and heart doctor to rule out any questionable issues. We drove home and fortunately got the results back that afternoon. Dr. Wong said that there were no functional or acute GI issues at all to be concerned about at this time. There was some narrowing, caused probably by the recent surgery, but that was it. The doctor hoped that it would correct itself over time and we would see how things are in a couple of months. He said he believed it was reflux and gave us a prescription to help with that. We were very excited with the news…of course on Friday he threw everything up again…how surprising is that? We are supposed to be getting his poop results back very soon and that should conclude the testing for awhile; now we can focus on the teaching and therapy that we have really been anxious to do.
On a non-medical note, Stasik is outgrowing his clothes and now weighs 17 pounds. Pretty soon he will be able to sit forward in the car and watch Mickey Mouse with his brother. We were in Central Texas this weekend and took some time to get some pictures in the bluebonnets that take over the texas roadways this time of year. Stasik was mesmerized by them. I do not think he has ever just been able to sit out in the sun and just be free and surrounded by such a beautiful sight. After his fascination subsided a bit, in true Stasik fashion, he tried to see how a couple of them tasted. Maybe that was what was on his mind all along and he just did not know where to start. Still trying to figure out what goes on in that mind of his sometimes. He met his Nana (my mom) this past weekend and hopefully in the next month will finally meet the full gamut of family he has here in Texas. I am sure they are all anxiously waiting and they will get to see the new improved version we have been working on the last several weeks. Praise God!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three Weeks Time!

Well we have officially had Stasik home for three weeks and he is really starting to come into his own. I have not been able to really sit down and write a new blog post because the two boys have kept us very busy. Since the last post we have worked very hard to get Stasik settled and in a routine. As one might imagine, it has been very hectic for our family trying to get both boys to daycare and school while also getting ourselves to work on time. We have had a friend of ours keeping Stasik the last few weeks while we get the remainder of his health checks done. Starting next week, though, he will go to school with Carter. Carter attends a school for children with DS, children with autism, and normally developing children. It is a great mix of kids and very good for his social, motor, and intellectual development. Carter enrolled in the school right before our trip to the Ukraine and he just loves it. Since Stasik came home, school has kind of been Carter's get away. It is his old normal and a place where he has not had to share time with his brother. It will be interesting to see how the two do being together all day in a setting other than home.
Since he got home, Stasik has slept in a little bassinette next to our bed. We wanted to monitor him and make sure he is adjusting well before we moved him into his room. We always know when he is up. It used to be because he would stem and rock the bassinette, but now it is because he will start talking and will gradually get louder until somebody picks him up. Stasik is a good sleeper, but he is always the first one up. We hope it is because it is like Christmas morning for him every day....where he is happy and he just can not wait to get up and open his daily gift of a new life. After we pick him up, he normally lays in bed with us for a little while and then it is up and off to start our day. When Carter wakes up he always looks for Stasik, but we are not sure what his reasoning is yet. We would like to think that like any brother he just wants to start playing with him and say, "What's up brother", but we think a little of it may be just to see if the new guy is still in the house. Carter may have thought that this was just going to be a short little slumber party and now is thinking somehow it has gone on a little too long. We are not sure which it is, but the more they are together, the more used to one another they get and the less we even remember about how it was before Stasik's homecoming. Carter is helping out a lot more and is beginning to spend time with him independently and with me and momma.
We have Stasik's daily feedings down to a science now and we have just about figured a way to get enough calories in him. His vomitting is very sporadic; we have to find the right foods and be very creative in how we mix in liquids and formula. Liquids seem to be the main issue, but are a necessity to keep him hydrated. Formula is still the best way to get him the nutrients he needs and try any way we can to get it to him. We have an appointment on Wednesday with a GI specialist and hopefully we can get it all under control.
On monday of this week we went and got his first round of shots to try to get him up to date. Poor guy had to get six shots in one sitting. It is so different to watch Stasik's reaction to things like this. Carter never cried about anything....Stasik is just the opposite. Food in sight...cry, food out of sight...cry, take too long to give food...cry, shots...cry...take temperature...cry, change diaper...cry; I just feel for him and what he has been through. I know that time will ease all of this, but I just want so badly to make all of the pain go away, physical and/or emotional...it just breaks my heart every time. Crying is definitely his mechanism for communication and when he begins to speak more or use sign language I believe it will subside quite a bit. He learned the words momma and dada very soon after we met him, but in the last three weeks he has also learned to say Carter and Bubba. It is so neat to watch Carter try to help him talk and use sign language. When I try to get Stasik to say and/or sign "more" or to clap his hands, Carter will show him how to do it and then if he does not mimic it, Carter will grab his hands, tell him what to say, and then just show him how to do it. He is going to learn a lot from Carter and it is neat to watch Carter take an active role in his development.
Stasik has officially gained 4 pounds and is weighing over 16 pounds now. He has grown half of an inch and is wearing 12 month clothing. He just looks and acts so different now. He can almost sit up on his own and can now stand (assisted) for very long periods of time. He just smiles at us all day and it makes us feel so good about where he is right now. We thank God everyday for this opportunity. Hopefully we will get good information on wednesday and we can start giving him the stuff he needs to really put on some more weight.

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Hearty Day!

The last few days have seen much improvement for Stasik. He is getting stronger every day and is now starting to keep more food down consistently. Over the last week we have learned a lot of new information, but yesterday was the most revealing day to this point.
It is so difficult for adoptive parents when they bring their children home from another country. The adjustment is tough for both parties, but unlike bringing home a birth child from the hospital, there are so many unknowns with adopted children. All of the medical records we received from the Ukraine were in Cyrillic. This left us with the inability to answer questions about his previous condition and also with a lot of questions ourselves. Because of this, people in the medical profession tend to be a lot more cautious and conservative when checking Stasik out. Although I am glad they are taking precautions as they run tests and gather information, it certainly creates a longer timeline to reveal the answers we are anxiously looking for. We have a long list of questions and concerns and slowly we are getting answers and starting to learn more about our new son.
Yesterday we took Stasik to the Texas Children’s Cardiology Unit to try and determine what and if anything was wrong with his heart. The last doctor Debbie spoke to in the Ukraine told her that the problems were too severe for him to have a prolonged life. We obviously wanted a second opinion.
It seems that the doctor we met on the plane followed through with his promise and I believe he went a little higher than we expected into the administrative chain of command. We were asked a few times who it was that we knew to get Stasik in so soon. We told them we met a doctor on a plane, but I believe that God played the biggest part.
It was a tough day for Stas. He went through the gauntlet of cardiac tests and was very stressed at the end of the day. We hated to put him through all of that, but we knew we had to have answers. We spent most of the day going from room to room and driving to and from Houston. In the end, though, we got answers to medical questions and our prayers. The doctor in charge of Stasik’s case came in and explained that based on the translation of his medical records and the tests that were run, they were able to piece together his past and his current condition. Stasik had a double aortic arch, a hole in his upper left chamber of his heart, and a Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA) that did not close on its own. We have had experience with the PDA as it was a concern with our first son Carter as well. Fortunately, his closed weeks after birth and no further medical attention was needed. The other issues we were not familiar with, but learned more about while visiting with the cardiologist. What we found out was that all of these issues had been treated and repaired appropriately......Chalk one up for the doctors in the Ukraine. As the doctor continued to talk, I kept expecting a but….., it never came. Stasik was given a clean bill of health; we were told that we should not have any more concerns from a cardiac standpoint and to come back for a follow-up in a year. I literally wept right there in the hospital, tears of joy and relief. I thanked God for his mercy and for guiding the hands of the Ukrainian physicians. Our prayers had been answered and it was one more thing we would be able to move past and focus on our next item of concern.
One other bit of information we found out was that Stasik is in the bottom 3% for size. We knew he was small, but even with the weight he has put on in the last two weeks he still has a lot of catching up to do. The cardiologist, only with prompting, finally gave us an internal referral to see a GI specialist. After telling us where Stasik ranks statistically we would have thought he would be more concerned about his lack of size and perpetual vomiting. He wanted us to get a referral from out pediatrician first. After we told him that had been done already, he told us to follow-up on that referral and try to get in as soon as we could. I told him that I needed a referral from him and that it was the only way we would be able to get an appointment in a timely manner. He finally agreed and hopefully we will hear something soon. I know that doctors have to follow protocol and go through an order of operation, but with his extreme diminutive body size, I would think that a doctor would maybe place a larger priority on getting him in immediately. I know that they deal with a lot of kids that are probably much worse off, but this is the father coming out in me and my boundless concern for my son. That is one thing that will never change.
Stasik just seems so happy right now. He is always smiling and kicking his feet. He loves being held and like most toddlers is starting to become pickier about the food that he eats. When we first got him home we thought he would eat dirt if we put it on a spoon. Now he turns his nose up at some of the unflavored foods that we feed him to get him some extra calories. To me this is a good sign that he understands he has choices and that there is always more where that came from.
He is such a busy body and is all over the place. He hates to sit still and is constantly in motion. He army crawls all over the house and is starting to follow us around. He used to stay in one place, but now he seems to want to be where the rest of his family is. We started putting him in an activity jumper with a bunch of little toys around it. He has to stand up in order to reach them and play with them. Our hope was he would begin to stand more and strengthen his legs. The first few days he would just lean from side to side and we had to place a small pillow in front of him so he did not fall over. After a couple of days we were able to remove the pillow and he was able to almost sit up by himself. Today, he actually started jumping while pushing up and down with his legs. He did this for half an hour until he finally wore himself out. He is having so much fun and once again he surpassed our original expectations.
Watching Stasik achieve and progress every day is just so rewarding. You can tell he wants so badly to be like his brother and I have no doubt that as he gets stronger and healthier he will do just that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day to Day

We are still waiting on an appointment to Texas Children's Hospital. We thought we would get in pretty soon, but have not received an official date yet. We have some people working to get it as soon as possible but as of now we are still in standby mode. In the meantime, we continue to do what we can to try to get Stasik up to speed. He is continuing to gain weight even though he has now had three straight days of vomiting after feedings. He seems to keep solids down pretty well, but the formula just keeps coming back up. We are trying to base his diet on the assumption that he will lose some of it. We are able to maintain a high calorie count and it is definitely making a difference in his energy level and everyday activity. He is sleeping well at night and during the day and is starting to fill out physically. He has better color overall and he has lost the dark areas under his eyes.
With increased energy comes a lot of redirection. Sometimes, he is not very delicate when playing with us or Carter. He likes to grab hair, ears, noses, and really anything he can get his hands on. A couple of times he tried to nibble on my ears and I had to correct him. I think he is so excited about his whole new world and exploring it that he just doesn't know how to go about it yet. He is dong things that he has never done before. You can see the excitement in his eyes when he pushes up to get his face closer to ours. He tries to kiss us, but doesn't quite know how. We usually wind up with some slobber in our hair or licks on our face, but that is ok with us. Sometimes he grabs Carter or crawls on top of him and he is not quite sure how to deal with that yet. Carter is so sweet and docile that he just usually moves to another location or just pushes him away. If Carter initiates the contact it is usually ok unless Stasik just wants more attention and that is usually when Carter uses evasive action. We knew that there would be an adjustment period and the two boys are still just trying to get to know each other right now while also sharing the same space.
Today Stasik fed himself with a spoon. After he showed me his ability to put food in his mouth I decided it was time to move to phase two. The last couple of days I have been trying to show him how to use a spoon. He still is not patient enough to get food on it by himself, but if I get something on there for him he will take the spoon directly to his mouth and eat. It is amazing how quickly he picks things up and it seems that every learned skill is starting to build off of the one before. He is doing a lot better at sitting up by himself and I do not think it will be long before he does so without any help. His core strength continues to improve and he does not want to just lay back all of the time now. He is standing with assistance for longer periods of time and now does this on his own without any pronpting. His leg muscles are getting stronger and and he just likes to push up and down until he wears himself out. It is obvious he just wants to start doing things and as he accomplishes more I think it fuels his drive to continue.
We weighed him today and he now weighs 15.6 pounds. Not a huge gain from Monday, but it is still a gain. With the amount of food he throws up we consider every pound a major accomplishment over where he was. I can not even imagine the amount of weight he will gain when we work out all of his gastric issues.
We feel very blessed for a lot of reasons. There are many other parents that we met while adopting in the Ukraine that have not had the success story we have had. We pray for them everyday; for patience and knowledge to help them through whatever difficulties they may be having. Some have adopted older children and they face additional challenges trying to help those children learn or relearn skills while also dealing with some more serious emotional and physical issues. We all have to remember that these kids are resilient; they are in a better place and over time will truly be able to live up to their full potential.

Hope to have more info in a few days!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Got Skills!!

There have been some awesome things happening in our house. Our two boys are feeding off of and competing with one another. We knew that this would happen, but had no idea it would happen so quickly. First, let’s talk about Carter. Since Stasik’s arrival, Carter has loved him like a brother. He has been a little rough with him sometimes, but isn’t that the way all big brothers are? Carter is also ensuring that he will continue to get the same amount of attention he is used to getting. He knows that Stasik has some needs, but he is not going to be outdone when it comes to new tricks. Carter has always had a way about him. He is very high functioning and gets frustrated when he cannot do something. If we try to do it for him, then he just gets mad and frustrated with us. He watches everything we do and tries to mimic it. He is on target for all motor skills and just continues to amaze us every day. With all of that being said about his personality, he knows he has to come up with new tricks in order to maximize the amount of praise coming his way. We have been trying to potty train him for some time now, but he is a kid that will do things when he is ready even if he has already figured it out I guess yesterday he decided it was time; especially if he was going to try to keep us amazed. He jumped up on the toilet and after he was done, Mama let out a big woohoo and Carter gave himself a very hefty sitting ovation. Carter was so proud of himself and just knew he had pulled off the biggest exploit of the day. Luckily for us it was bath time so the cleanup did not entail a whole lot of work.
Now let’s rewind so that all the readers understand what led up to this. When we met Stasik almost two months ago, he was not very adept at doing anything. He was used to doing nothing all day in his crib and a few times a day someone would stick some food in his mouth. His only job really was to chew and swallow. Now in our house he is going to get plenty to eat and an abundance of attention; the caveat is that he is also going to be strongly encouraged to learn to do things on his own. The third day we saw him in the orphanage I placed a teething cookie in his hand. Now if you remember back to that blog post, he freaked out when this happen
ed. He dropped the cookie and cried until I actually placed the cookie in his mouth. Basically, if I did not feed it to him, he had no clue what to do with it. We worked on that every day for the remainder of our stay in Priluky. I would put in his hand and show him what to do with it. We finally made progress on holding it, but when it would get close to his mouth he would drop it, then he would finally take a bite and then drop it and spit it out. He was thoroughly confused. Since he has come home we have continued to work on this proficiency. My secret weapon the last few days, though, has been Carter. Carter gets cookies, banana slices, Fruit Newtons, etc. for snacks. He also eats chicken nuggets sometimes for dinner. Carter will walk around the house and Stasik will watch him. When he sees food, it is like a hypnotist swinging a pocket watch; he will not take his eyes off of it. This is actually working to our advantage because now instead of me just showing him what to do, he watches Carter intently and sees how he feeds himself.
Yesterday we had a follow up appointment at the doctor. I happened to have some oatmeal cookies in my diaper bag and as we were sitting in the waiting room I wanted to use that time for a teaching opportunity. I took out a cookie and Stasik watched it with the vision of a hawk. I took a little piece off and set the rest of the cookie down. I placed the cookie in his right hand and before I could grasp his arm to help him, he immediately put the cookie in his mouth. I thought it must have been a fluke so I gave him another piece; he did the exact same thing. I truly almost cried right there in that office. Weeks ago he could not even take a bottle correctly and now here he was feeding himself. As amazed as I was at that, he had worked the kinks out of a few more new skills that he showed us all later in the day.
When we arrived at our house, we had to change him out of his clothes; as special as our cookie moment was, the entire incident must have spurred a prolonged episode of vomiting. I stopped the car several times on the way home to clean him, but his onesie was still quite a mess. We put him in a new outfit and after about 30 minutes, the vomiting finally subsided. We have a bumbo to help him learn to sit up and we place him in it quite often to build up his core strength. It has helped him improve immensely so we also utilize it when we are feeding him. He sits up more when he is being fed and it is much more therapeutic than the high chair right now. We feed him and Carter at the same time so that neither bot gets upset. Most of the time, though, Stasik finishes his food first because he eats very quickly. After he is done he always wants more and if he sees someone else with food he will cry and just stare down whatever they put in their mouth. He has plenty to eat, but he is just used to not having enough. This activity has decreased substantially, but sometimes old habits die hard. Today, our new addition acted like Marine Sniper; he sat and waited patiently for an opportunity and when it presented itself, he took his shot.
Carter was walking a little too close to Stasik, who was in a sitting position in the bumbo. At the perfect time and with the speed of a cobra, Stasik reached for the nugget with his left hand. He snatched it from Carter’s loose grip and hastily and unerringly stuck it in his mouth. Stasik’s unassuming brother did not know what hit him. Carter checked his hand to make sure of what had just happened. He kept pointing at Stasik and looking back at us as if to say, “Hey, did you see that; what are you gonna do about that”? What could we say; we were just as astonished as he was; only we were probably a little more impressed. Mama bent over to get the nugget and gave it back to our eldest son. After placing the nugget back in his hand, Carter bent over and stuck the nugget right out in front of Stasik’s mouth; as soon as he tried to take a bite Carter pulled it back quickly, pointed at him, waved his finger, and haughtily sauntered away. I think that was his way of saying, “listen brother; that was pretty good, but it will never happen again." Carter kept his distance for the rest of the night. Anytime he had to walk by him he was very careful; it was like he was walking around an open manhole.
Carter went to bed at 8:00pm and Stasik was still up. I wanted to try to give him some more milk before he went to bed. He had thrown up a lot and right now every calorie counts. I fixed a bottle and set it on the floor next to the couch. By this time Stasik was out of the b
umbo and playing on the floor. When I walked to get a bib from the bedroom I came back and witnessed him army crawling across the living room to the bottle. I let the whole event play itself out and just watched. As much as we have tried, we have never been able to get him to hold his own bottle. However, in the last few days he has watched Carter roll around on the ground with a sippy cup. I wondered what Stasik’s plan was once he finally arrived at his destination. I figured he would push the bottle over and start crying until I returned to the room and fed him. With astonishment I watched him reach out and do some superman move with both hands outstretched while lifting his chest off the ground. He grabbed the bottle, rolled over and put it in his mouth. He held it up and drank out of it until I took it away to burp him.

In sports terms, our boys had scored a hat trick. Three milestones accomplished by two remarkable kids. What a great day for our family!!

As I laid Stasik down to go to sleep I could not help but wonder what he would be doing at that moment had we not adopted him. He has been a blessing in our home; his accomplishments belong to all of us, but mostly to him and his perseverence. I cannot imagine what these two competitive brothers are going to accomplish together. It is going to be a joy to watch and find out, though.

Pounding it out!

Well Stasik has been here in the US for 4 days. It is amazing the progress we have seen in that short time. We have been very inquisitive with what he needs and we have tried to provide everything that the doctors tell us to. I was told on Saturday that a good rule of thumb for growth was to feed him 40 calories per inch of height. He is 29 inches long and 1160 calories seems like a daunting task. Finding baby food with a lot of calories is tough, but the formula has really helped to fill in the calories between meals. What makes the process more difficult is that he still tends to throw food up sporadically. Anything can trigger a Mt. Vesuvius type eruption and the flow could go on for hours. Some days he keeps it all down and other days it just comes up. We are meeting with a GI specialist soon and hoping to figure out why this is happening. We are documenting all foods we give him, but have not been able to narrow anything down specifically. Even with the occasional, long lasting flow of food lava, we still manage to keep about 800-900 calories in him. Some of you may remember that when we met Stasik, which seems so long ago, he weighed about 12 pounds. Debbie had him for a week in the Ukraine and he was able to gain some weight even with the limited food available to her. At our first doctor’s appointment he weighed 14.1 pounds and now in just 3 days is up to 15.3. He smiles all the time with the occasional fits when feeding time is finished. A few distractions and he will forget all about it, though. He is sleeping 12 hours a night and now has a ton of energy. It is very difficult to keep him still. What the people in the Ukraine do not understand is that these special children have plenty of ability; they just need people to give them the opportunity to use it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carter and SK

One of the concerns we have had is how Carter would react to us bringing Stasik home. Would he accept him or would he be upset? For days leading up to Stasik's homecoming, Carter and I looked at pictures, practiced his name, and marked days off of the calendar until he and mom would be home. He did not do bad with his name and one day he pointed at the picture and said, "I love you". I know he understands that Stasik is staying with us for a little while, but I am not sure he knows how long this slumber party is lasting. The first night home I think Carter had a hard time with Stasik getting all of the attention he usually gets. One minute he was kissing him and the next he is pushing him away. Getting used to sharing personal space will take some time, but knowing Carter it will be shorter rather than longer. Carter is a very empathetic and loving kid. He knows when people are in physical and emotional pain. He has shown this ability many times. He knows that Stasik needs his help and little by little he is he is giving more of himself and inching closer and closer to Stasik's side. Just yesterday after I was done feeding Stasik, I placed him in his bumbo and went to throw away the food jars. When I peaked over the bar to check on him, Carter had heard him start to cry and was giving him some of his chicken nugget. I wish I could have snapped a picture!

One thing we have figured out is why Stasik cries when we take food away. He is stuck in a trust vs. mistrust crisis. This stage of psychosocial development is going to be very important for us to get through before he will truly thrive with us. Stasik still rocks when we set him on the ground or in a bumbo. We have also noticed that he will get on his hands and knees and place his forehead on the floor and rock back and forth while rubbing it on the ground. For those of you reading this that don't understand why, I will tell you. Children that are abandoned or feel lonely do this as a mechanism to comfort themselves. It is a trait most common with children of neglect; those that have been abandoned. It is a phenomenon seen with many children from orphanages or institutions like the ones in the Ukraine. It is very sad to watch and for many children this will go on well into their adult lives if their situation does not change. For children like Stasik, the only time they were picked up and held was when it was feeding time. Before and after, they are placed in a bed to lay by themselves for hours and hours at a time until it is time to eat again.

I believe that for Stasik, the anxiety is magnified by other factors. Add malnutrition to these emotional needs for comfort and security and you are looking at a little boy that has a enormous preoccupation with when feeding time ends and what that has meant for him. With his gastric issues, he has thrown up a lot of the food that should be giving him the nutrients he needs to be healthy. So in the past, the end of feeding time meant that he would not see food again for several hours, hungry or not. It also meant that for those hours he would lay there alone until feeding time came again. This is a behavioral and psychological response that will take some time to change, but we have already seen progress.

We feed Stasik about 6 times a day (3 bigger meals and 3 snacks) and because of that he is beginning to understand that food will come more frequently. After we feed him we hold him and keep him upright. This serves two purposes, one is to help keep him from vomiting and the other is to help him understand that the end of feeding does not mean he will be left alone. Whenever he begins to rock, we pick him up and comfort him; we tell him that he is safe now and he doesn't need to rock anymore. The frequency has decreased immensely and should, in time, disappear altogether.

We have changed Stasik's diet based on recommendations from multiple doctors and he has been able to keep food down for 2 straight days. His calorie intake has increased substantially and in 48 hours he has gained 8 oz. in weight. We go back to our doctor on Monday to evaluate all of these changes. So far so good!!

Medical Magnet!!

Yesterday was the first full day of Stasik's and our lives together. I guess he could not wait for the day to start; he decided that sleeping until 4:oo am was long enough and he got up just long enough to make sure we were still there I guess. After we laid him down next to us in bed for awhile, he was ready to go back down. He slept until we woke him at 6:30. It was very difficult for the entire family to get up and going. It has been so emotional the last few days; the final sprint and finish...we wish we could have stayed in bed all day. The day started out like any other day, oh except for the new little guy we had to get up in the morning. It takes us about 25 minutes to get Carter up, fed, dressed, and in the car to school, (Carter =x). The time it took to get both of them ready was about 1 and a half hours. Now I was never really good with word problems in math, but if x=25 then 2x should equal 50; not in our house!! Anyway, our inadequacy in math almost made us late for our doctor's appointment; the one we were very anxious to get to. We dropped Carter off at school and then we were off to get some answers.
We received very little information from the Ukraine. We received some records, but most of them are incomplete and all of them are in Russian. We plan to get them translated, but for now we needed to figure out if there are any immediate issues we should be addressing. Over the past 2 months we have learned that doctors in the Ukraine do not do a real thorough job of checking out kids with special needs. They tend to give up easily, especially when dealing with congenital issues. We wanted to see real doctors; specialists that actually type information into computers and do not use ochre to write cyrillic on cave walls or quillpens on papyrus leaves.
The first thing we did was weigh and measure Stasik. He was 29 inches long and 14.1 pounds. Now he has gained some weight since we first met him and I can assume a lot of that came in the time he was with Debbie overseas. Since the original weights were done with antiquated devices and procedures, I want to begin here; this weight, this length...this is his start point, his new life.
I really wish we would have had time for Stasik to get acclimated to his new life before starting this medical process, but we really feel like there could be a lot at stake. We would never forgive ourselves if we did not thoroughly check him out and do everything possible to help him have a happy, healthy life. Our pediatrician did all of the normal screens in the office and then created a list of specialized tests that needed to be run; blood tests, urine analysis, x-rays, EKG, upper GI, etc. Luckily these will happen over the next week and not in one day. I am not sure how much stress Stasik can handle. As it is, he must feel like he has been abducted by aliens. We put him in a starship, brought him to a foreign land, and then had all these tests run that required a lot of poking and prodding. It isn't a wonder that after a full day of medical, he was asleep in the car seat before we even left the parking lot. We know that it is a means to a very positive end, but we still feel horrible for putting him through all of that.
At the end of the day we received a much anticipated call. The results were in; no abnormalities with blood or urine. X rays were inconclusive as to why his hip and shoulder joints are so loose. The doctor thinks it could be due to the poor muscle tone and malnutrition, but time will tell us more. He has a compressed C1 and C2 vertebrae that was visible on his film. The doctor also explained that this is not totally uncommon and may correct itself at about 5-6 years of age. I have heard of this before, but we will be getting a second opinion.
Overall, a great first day for results. We can now proceed to the ones that concern us the most....for those we will go to Texas Children's Hospital. Our doctor says it could be a couple of weeks before they can get us in, but a quick call to my doctor friend from the plane and now we are in first thing next week. Please continue to pray for our family; understanding and peace!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well after the hurdles we have faced to get this little guy home, he is finally here. I want to thank Tina for accompanying Debbie on this trip; not only for my peace of mind, but also for Debbies sanity. Sometimes things in the Ukraine will put you about two parallels south of the nuthouse. It seems that until the very last moment of leaving and returning to the good old US of A, there was always one last hurdle. I can not tell you the anxious feeling I had waiting for Debbie to walk through the doors in the arrival lobby at the airport. When we saw each other we were both very teary eyed. It is like the feeling you have when you have given everything towards a goal and you finally accomplish it; this was our amazing race! When Carter saw Debbie and Stas he was ecstatic. I had just given him a cookie and when he saw them he dropped it and pointed at them and yelled mama!! To some this may not be a big deal, but for Carter it is the equivalent of a Samurai Warrior dropping his sword; it just doesn't happen. We embraced and for the first time in 12 days I felt whole again. This is my family and then some. Carter kissed Stasik and said his name. We have been working in this and he came through with flying colors just as he always does. We had a family picture taken and then we were off to head back to Port Neches. It still saddens me to see how small Stasik is. He has however gained a pound over the last couple of weeks and we will work very hard to keep those pounds coming. If Stasik will just watch his brother pound out the calories, he will be ok. Tomorrow we go to the doctor first thing in the morning and begin our search for answers to our medical concerns.

I have decided to keep this blog going. The new journey starts tomorrow!! If you would like to continue reading, then fasten your seatbelt cause it is gonna be a heck of a ride!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This is it... I think

Hopefully this is it for my blogging on this site. Today Debbie left the apartment at 8:30 to meet the driver and 4 other families for the medical check. There was no room in the van so I stayed behind. Debbie was hoping to bring Stasik back to me before heading to the Embassy appointment scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Kiev time. Since it is now 2:10, I think it is safe to assume he had to go to Embassy with her.

We are leaving the apartment some time this afternoon to stay in a hotel near the airport. We have to be at airport at 3:30 a.m. If you are in Texas and reading this first thing Wednesday morning, you can know that we should be on a flight home before you go to bed tonight.

Stasik continues to do well. He still has his good times and bad times when it comes to food. Trying to figure out what he can keep down has been a challenge. I know Debbie and Jared will be glad when they can have some guidance and understanding of his medical condition from U.S. doctors. There is no doubt in my mind that Stasik will gain strength and one day will be a force to be reckoned with. He has a stubborn streak in him that is already evident.

Before I leave this blog, I would like to say, personally, that there are many things about Kiev that I have enjoyed. The snow has been nice and the sunny days have been wonderful to walk around in. The people who have known enough English for us to communicate with have been nice and helpful. Some Ukranians were willing to try to communicate with us, and laugh with us, and for them I am grateful. The underground metro is amazing and the underground tunnels with all the shops are much appreciated in the cold. The bread here is terrific for toast. I think the toast is what I will remember the most. Being part of this long adoption process has been a joy and a privilege. Meeting Stasik and taking him out of the orphanage is an experience I will not forget. I am sure Stasik will not remember I was ever here but I will remember his first official day with his mom the same way I remember Carter's first day on this earth. I am so glad to call the Wingfields my friends and thankful they think enough of me to share the special times of their lives with me. There are no better people in this world than Debbie and Jared. Anyone who says differently hasn't met them.

Signing off from Kiev...... Honey, I'm coming home!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If it can go wrong, it will go wrong

Debbie and I keep waiting on something to go wrong. Nothing has gone terribly wrong since we have been here but it is not what you would call smooth sailing either. Today Debbie went to the Embassy appointment. I stayed with Stasik. All went fairly well except that Debbie left all the money to pay the Embassy at the apartment. It worked out fine because another family was there and they loaned her the money. She will see them again tomorrow at the medical appointment and can pay them back then, so it really wasn't a huge problem. By the time she left the Embassy, she still had not seen the Ukranian passport and wouldn't know until 2:00 p.m. if it was ready. It is crucial that we get it today if we want to be on a plane home Thursday.

It is a beautiful day here in Kiev but something kept us hanging around the apartment. Good thing we stayed. At about 1:15 p.m. Kiev time, the facilitator called with "good news and bad news". The good news ... the Ukranian passport is in. The bad news ...the passport office will only give it to the mother. The passport office is a 2 hour drive from Kiev! The facilitator told Debbie a driver would be here in 15 minutes, to be ready to go.

This will all work out fine. Debbie went with the driver and I'm with Stasik. Debbie will be home tonight with passport in hand. Tomorrow there will be a medical visit. The only possible snag is if, for some reason, the medical visit doesn't clear Stasik to come to U.S. We see no reason for that to happen. Assuming the all clear is given, his Visa will be issued tomorrow.

We just continue to wait and jump through the hurdles as they come.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where have all the babies gone?

Except for Stasik, we haven't seen many babies or children which is so surprising. Do they all keep them at home? I can count on one hand the number of infants I have seen. That probably accounts for the many stares we get when we take Stasik out. In restaurants, there are no high chairs or booster seats to be found. No changing tables in public restrooms. No baby food, diapers or baby lotions in the local markets. Baby food is found at some pharmacies and, even then, the quantity is so limited (about 12 jars total).

I have seen about a dozen or so young children age 5 or so. But still, that is not many for the largest city in the Ukraine. We did see a field trip of middle/High school kids at a local theatre. The lack of adult supervision and their behavior was surprising to us. To say the least, being in a place with a different culture is interesting.

Stasik continues to do well. I am finally feeling useful today. Debbie had to go to the first Embassy appointment and she needed me to watch Stasik. I'm writing this while she is gone and while most of you reading this blog are sound asleep. Hopefully, I will have nothing but good news to report by the time you all wake. We are still very nervous that something will go wrong that will prohibit us leaving on Thursday. There are still so many tiny things that could go wrong. Prayers are really welcome at this point!

A comparison picture. We think his color is better and his face a. Little fuller. Not sure if is shows in pictures.

Blurry picture but you can see the beautiful smile!

Look how long I am and I have great fine motor skills

I make these tights look good!

Things I will never take for granted again

Traveling in a foreign country causes me to realize the many things I take for granted. Here is my list of just a few:

1. Water out of the tap
2. Large washing machines
3. Washing mashines that actually spin out ALL the water out
4. Clothes dryers
5. Coffee makers
6. Cork screws and bottle openers (surely they are somewhere in this Country but we can't find them)
7. Fitted sheets
8. Toilet paper that couldn't be used to print the newspaper on
9. Not having to put on 5 layers of clothes to go outside
10. Knowing that you can get medical care for your child no matter what their pathology and being able to keep your child no matter what their pathology
11. Elevators
12. Towels
13. Trash cans
14. Television with programming in a language I speak
15. Internet connection - we'd be crazy without it
16. Fragrance free baby lotions
17. Bags at grocery stores - Austin leaders need to live two weeks in Kiev before they vote to ban all bags!
18. Fax machines and e-faxing for government documents instead of driving to the government offices all around the country
19. Food that is not past it's expiration date.

And the #1 thing I will never take for granted.... My family and friends. Thanks to everyone who is supporting Debbie, Jared, Stasik and Carter through this entire process and me during the time I've been here. I think I can speak for them and say we thank you all for the love, support and prayers. We will be home in 4 days (Texas time - 3 1/2 days for us) ... but who's counting?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Out and about in Sunny Kiev

Green Beans anyone?

Today Stasik tried green beans. We were a bit nervous. All that green would not look good on any of us. Our fears were for naught. Stasik kept it down for the most part. Score one for our team.

Stasik really loves riding in his baby pouch. I think he likes to be held close. His snow suit is a different story. He really doesn't complain about it but when we put him in it, he just lies there. He looks like the Pillsbury dough boy! But, it is a must if he is going to go outside. It was a very nice day today when we began our journey around the city but at one point it suddenly became really cold. We learned that you always have extra layers and you always know where the closest underground entrance is.

Kiev has the most amazing underground, and I don't mean subways. These underground areas are a maze of shops, food stalls, a restaurant here and there, a bank, and anything else you might need. Our problem has been that we easily get lost in this underground maze. Surely there is a map of the system but so far we haven't found it. Every once in a while, we need to pop up to the surface to get our bearings and we have been known to backtrack. It is such an amazing system. I'm sure it makes living through a Ukranian winter bearable.

We are winding down our Sunday night. One more day of nothing to do and then finally we get to start the remainder of this process on Tuesday with Embassy and clinic visits. We cannot wait!

Happy Days

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stasik doing well

Good morning to our American friends. This morning finds everyone well in Kiev. Stasik is doing very well this morning. He is such a great sleeper and a happy baby. He has really good fine motor skills. He has had lots of fun playing with the baby mirror and book Debbie brought him. He's learning the concept of touching an iPad and something happens on the screen. He takes a mini-nap each morning after being up a few hours but it is a short one.

We weighed him yesterday and he weighs 14.5 lbs. This is about 4 more pounds than we expected so we were happy about that. We are trying to keep a diary of his food intake and his outputs so Debbie can give doctor a full picture of his behaviors. Unfortunately, Debbie was not given any information when leaving the orphanage about what he was being fed, when he was fed each day, when he napped, when he went to bed and got up each day, or what medicines he has taken or might be allergic to. It really is like bringing a newborn home. There is no manual on what to do. A mother's instinct and basic knowledge of health and nutrition are our guides. We know this is enough but it would have been nice to have other information.

Today is supposed to be a beautiful day in Kiev. It is currently sunny and 12 degrees; high of 21 today. We are going to bundle Stasik up and head for a museum. The sun is good for him and getting out helps us, too. On the way to the metro station, I am hoping to find a knitting store. I need yarn! Who would have ever thought I would finish an entire project in three days? I did and now I need something to do.

We found out yesterday that the US Embassy is closed on Monday for President's Day. That is pushing our stay here out a little longer. As it stands right now, we won't be able to leave Kiev until Thursday. Tthe wait is long. Thank God for the Internet and Skype. We miss our families terribly and those things make the distance a little less far. So, for now, we continue to be ... Waiting in Kiev.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mop Water

What do you think of when I say "mop water"? Me too! It is that bucket of water you rinse your mop out in when mopping the floors. My bucket is red ... But I must admit I never use it (thank you Queta).

"Mop water" has taken on a new meaning for me, at least in the Ukraine. Here, you need to drink bottled water because of the impurities in the tap water. It seems that all people do this, not just foreign visitors. Most of the bottled water seems to be carbonated. It is impossible for us to read the labels on the bottles well enough to know which is carbonated and which is not. We had to go through some trial and error. Luckily, the carbonation will boil out when making hot water for coffee so we were able to use all of our experimental bottles. Finally, we figured out the word (it is probably more of a brand name than a word)to look for to make sure it is non-carbonated. The word is моршцнська. Of course, I can't pronounce that word or know what it is. I've tried putting it into my translator and get nothing. So, "mop water" it is! Debbie hasn't really seen the humor in the words as much as I have. I seem to think it is very funny because every time I reach for it, I have to say "I need some mop water". Debbie is tried of hearing it, I am sure, but I can't stop myself.

Crocodile tears

Stasik is a good baby. Generally happy. He will go to sleep on his own, be happy when he is lying on the floor with toys and doesn't even cry when he occasionally rolls over and hits his head on the floor. When that happens Debbie or I rush to comfort him and he just looks at us as if we are crazy... As if to say "I am perfectly fine".

The crocodile tears and heart wrenching sobs come at feeding time. Stasik appears to believe he may never get food again. Debbie can only feed him small abouts, about 3 ounces of food and 2 ounces of water/juice every couple of hours. We have also learned, based on his current throwing up, that the juice/water cannot be given at the same time as the food but must be given about an hour later. Figuring out how to feed him so food stays down is very much trial and error. During the feeding, he is very vocal... letting us know that he is anxious and excited about every single drop that goes into his mouth. On the first day, we noticed that he would start sobbing when Debbie wiped his mouth at the end of feeding. We assume that he associates the act of wiping the mouth as the sign that the meal is over. We assume something similar was done in the orphanage. By day 3, he has come to learn that the empty baby food jar, or the simple act of putting the lid on the still full jar, is an indication that the meal is over...that is when the tears start. To calm him, he has to be moved completely away from the table and his tears and verbal complaints continue for several minutes.

We wish we could feed him more and satisfy the terrible hunger that he seems to have but Debbie has read the research and know that this is not possible. Food will have to be introduced slowly so his body can learn how to process it. Also, there is uncertainty as to why he had gastric surgery and how to help with the recovery from that surgery. Answers will no doubt come once U.S. doctors can thoroughly examine him. Until then, Debbie continues to do the best possible.on a positive note, I do think his color is improving over these few short days. He is very alert and happy 99% of the time. He is reaching for toys and crawling around on his belly.

As for us, we are well. Our apartment is next to a French bakery and a small market. I was able to make toast and eggs for breakfast. We have pasta fixings for dinner. Still hoping to get a better timeline of when we can leave on Saturday. Until then, we are waiting...

in Kiev.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Smiling at Mama - 2/16/12

Hello World

A New Day

On the day we went to the orphanage to get Stasik for good, the alarm went off and I turned my music on to Celine Dion's song, A New Day. I don't know why I thought of it but the song was so appropriate for the day. If you haven't heard it recently, you should take a listen. It is very fitting.

Today was truly a new day for Stasik. His first day to not wake in some institution, either orphanage or hospital. I wonder what he thought waking up and seeing his new mom, right there. He seems to be adjusting well. He did great riding in a car seat yesterday. That was one worry we had since we don't believe the orphanage uses one. When he first got in the seat, he just looked up and down and all around in wonder. It didn't take him long to settle down for a long nap.

It did take him a while to go to sleep last night. Debbie fed him when we got home, had some floor time with him and then we both did our best to hold him and rock him to sleep. He wouldn't shut his eyes! We could only imagine what our own thoughts would have been at the end of that long first day out of the orphanage. We finally came to the conclusion that perhaps he was afraid to fall asleep, because if he did, he could no longer see his mom and she might not be there when he woke. We also surmised that he has probably never been held and rocked to sleep. That is so sad to think of a child never having someone whose arms he can fall asleep in. Based on this thought, Debbie put Stasik down in his portable crib and turned the lights out. He never so much as whimpered. He went to sleep.

Stasik slept through the entire night. He woke us this morning kicking his leg up and down but still making no sounds. He has been up and active this morning. He's eaten twice. He is able to keep most of his food down but Enfimil is a problem. Debbie has given up on that. He did eat some chicken and apples which has a good amount of protein, bananas with potassium and rice with several vitamins. He's drinking water to keep hydrated. So, I think he will be just fine until he gets home to get some vitamin fortified water or juices.

He's down for a nap now. Again, going to sleep on his own in the crib. It is sunny here today, although it is cold. We are going to try to bundle him up and at least get him out for a few minutes of wonderful, Vitamin D filled, sunshine.

We continue ..... waiting in Kiev.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yum! Yum!

First car seat ride... Happy!

Plumbing - it's hit and miss

Our adventure so far has been one with highs and lows. The biggest high, of course, has been walking out of the orphanage for the last time with Stasik. The lows have somehow often revolved around plumbing issues. One such low involved Stasik's internal plumbing. There was a time today when we were concerned that it was not working and that a hospital visit might be necessary. But, by midnight all systems were go! Thank goodness!

On a less serious matter and contrary to Jared's previous post, I have found TP abundant in the Ukraine. The location in which one uses the TP is another story! We Americans are so used to a McDonald's, a convenience store or some other such establishment every so often on the freeway. I will never take one of those places for granted again! In the Ukraine, there is no such place on the side of the road. Every once in a while there is a gas station but that doesn't necessarily mean they have usable facilities. Also, if you do not speak Ukrainian or Russian, you can really embarass yourself. For example, if you walk into a Ukrainian gas station and use your translation dictionary (that you so diligently downloaded on the iPhone so it can speak the word for you) to ask for a "bathroom" you will receive strange looks, a shake of the head no, and laughter as you walk out! Yes, I did this only to find out from our Driver that I had just asked them if they had a place for me to bathe my body.

If you do find a gas station that does have toilets (I've learned to just call them that when in a foreign country), the are often frozen and unusable or they are a hole in the ground... cistern style..and no, there is no TP there.

Our final adventure with plumbing to date, was our hotel in Preluky. The room was so nice, really like a Jr. Suite. The odor emanating from the toilet, however, was so bad that we had to keep the bathroom door shut and a room window open the entire time. When finally, out of necessity only, we had to go into that room, we literally had to hold our breath. Good thing we were only there one night.

We did find a great restaurant that we quite accommodating in the plumbing area. They did take the term "going green" very seriously with their obviously recycled (rough) GREEN TP! We didn't care. It was warm, free of smells and there when we needed it. We ended up eating there twice and having coffee there once.

Leaving orphanage 2/15/12

Long wait finally over - for Mama

Stasik finally in Mama's arms today, Feb. 15, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. Ukraine time. It has been a long 2 days in the UA and we have just returned to the apartment in Kiev. Having trouble uploading pictures from the iPad. Will try more tomorrow and also try to get some on Facebook. Need to go now and try to Skype with Dad. Check back for more later. I have lots to tell.

Monday, February 13, 2012

And the world is quiet ...

One thing I was not prepared for is the silence of our apartment in Kiev. I have never been some place so quiet. The city itself is a bustling mass of people and cars during the evening. In fact, so many cars on the street that it is difficult to cross a street. Better to use the underground maze that is a shopping center, although, last night on our way home from dinner, we did get lost in the maze and had to double back to our original location and try again from street level. Once back in the apartment we heard our neighbors for awhile but then a deafening silence enveloped us. No one moves on the streets, no dogs bark, no pedicabs ring bells, no water running or heating noise ...just silence.

I'm writing this at 4:15 a.m. It is hard to wrap my mind around the idea that it is evening at home. I know it is only 8 hours difference but it seems so strange to feel like I've lived one day more than my family at home. Our day today is a bit uncertain. Debbie is anxious to get Stasik but I think our driver has other plans. As best we can understand, we have a lot of driving to do and a lot of government offices to visit in Preluki (sp?) and the capital of the province. It is going to be a day of driving, it seems. Kiev, Preluki and the capital make a triangle and it is 250 Km (about 155 miles) between each place. It seems that electronic scanning and e-mailing documents is a foreign concept here! We are just hoping to get to see Stasik today with actual possession of him taking place on Wednesday. If it happens differently, it will be a wonderful surprise but Debbie is trying to not get hopes up so she will not to be disappointed. A good attitude but a very hard one to maintain when she is this close to getting her baby.

Our link to the outside world via the Internet is about to stop. Unlike Jared and Debbie's first trip, Debbie and I did not come with a laptop. We only have iPads (who knew they could land one in trouble?) which can only connect wirelessly. Preluki is only accessible with a modem...no wireless connection. This city girl, from one of the most connected cities in the world, forgets that wireless is not ubiquitous. So alas, we will be cut off for two days until we return to Kiev. We should have Stasik firmily in the grasp of his new mama by my next post!

I want my iPad!!!!!

Well, we are finally in Kiev. It was quite an experience. When we took off on our long cross-Atlantic flight, we were sitting near a young boy, about 5 years old who was screaming before, during and after take off. At first, we felt sorry for him, assuming he was scared or that his ears were popping but finally we realized what he was saying in his anguished screams. It was simply "I WANT MY IPAD". He screamed that over and over again until mercifully the seat belt sign was turned off and we were all instructed that we could turn on electric devices. All was well again until ... you guessed it... landing approached and all electronic devices had to be turned off. He was at it again. Oh well, I kind of know how he feels as the first thing I did was find a wi-fi so I could get on mine. But before I could do that, we had to get Debbie through customs. She actually had 2 iPads and apparently that is frowned upon. She was almost detained for 30 minutes or more and given a citation to appear in court. I had to leave the customs area while they interrogated her. I was becoming quite nervous and about to try to get back inside to her when she appeared, unflustered with both iPads and all other belongings.

So, we are fully and completely in country with all of our belongings. We have made a pit stop at the local McDonald's while we wait for our driver to pick up some documents. Trying to order at a McDonald's in Kiev is quite interesting. I managed to get a Diet Coke (I've got to figure out how to ask for ice) and fries (they were within view for me to point at. We will be in Kiev tonight and will be picked up at 6 a.m to start our adveture of getting paperwork.

Looks like we will "go dark" tomorrow as we will be spending the night in Priluki. Will post more when we can.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Testing the Waters

Hello everyone reading this blog.  My name is Tina Shands.  I have been given the honor of traveling with Debbie to the Ukraine to pick up her precious Stasik.  It is preparation day for me. Debbie and I will be leaving Houston Sunday around noon.  While on our journey, I will take over the writing duties of this blog, therefore I am testing the waters and making sure my post comes through.

I assure you that I will not be as witting and clever in my writing as Jared is.  Did you read his post about the TP?  I assure you it made quite an impact on this sensitive soul.  I'm packing plenty.  I'll let you all know when we get there and how the journey progresses.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The wait is almost over!

It has been 5 days since we got off of a plane back here in Texas. It seems like an eternity. Every day I think about what Stasik is doing. Has he digressed and gone back to the child we saw the first day or is he full of life like he was when we left? They say that children go through a mourning stage when people they spend time with disappear. I hope he knows that we are coming back for him and that we will be there soon. I hope that the orphanage is taking care of him. I hope that he is warm at night. I hope he is getting enough to eat. These are thoughts that pop into my head every day.
People that have not adopted may not understand what our family is going through right now. For those that have kids, imagine leaving your newborns at the hospital and just coming back to get them in 12 days. That is how we feel! We have no way to check on him daily and not knowing is the worst. We have a hard time sleeping and getting through the day because we worry so much about him. We feel about Stasik like we did Carter the day he was born. I was not sure how I would feel when I finally met him and held him, but it is no different. You feel the same love, the same commitment, and the same joy as you do when you give birth to a child.
Right now I wonder what his birth parents are feeling. They have been contacted and told that Stasik will be adopted. I am assuming that they have not filed to reclaim parental rights. I am happy, but also very sad. I am sad because of the decisions his birth parents are making and have already made; the choice to offer their child a better life or to just make theirs easier. Only they know their reasons and I hope they are at peace with their decision now either way. I am happy because now Stasik will know what it means to be loved and cherished like every child should. We did not give birth to him, but he is our son; he is Carter's brother, a grandson, a cousin, a nephew, and a family member to everyone that is going through this with us. He will be blessed just as we are blessed; he will be lifted up just as we have been.
We thank God everyday for the support we have received; kind words of encouragement and prayers. We have friends and family that have taken time out of their lives to take care of Carter and place our minds at ease. Others have helped raise or donated money to ease the financial burden. One of our best friends will get on a flight to the Ukraine with Debbie so she does not have to handle everything alone and I can stay home and take care of things here. Oh we are blessed beyond measure to have the friends and family we have. These same people, this village we live in, will be the ones that help raise Stasik just as they have raised Carter. They will love him as we do and that time is coming soon....the wait is almost over!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

There are no Coincidences!!

As young children we develop an idea of what we want to be when we grow up. For some, the vision and drive they have propels them to realize their childhood dreams. For others, certain life events or changes in interests lead them in another direction. Regardless of what happens, I believe it is all part of a bigger plan that God has for us. I know that not everyone believes what I do and many choose to believe that they make their own luck and their own success, but I trust that God has our lives mapped out long before we are born. Sometimes this can be frustrating because as human beings we can be selfish and well…just want what we want. It is hard for some people, including myself sometimes, to understand that occasionally when things do not work out the way we want; it is for a good reason. Tragedy, sickness, death…it is all hard to understand why this would be part of a bigger plan, but I have learned that in all instances, good or bad, something positive results from it if we have faith.
I say all of that to say this….This journey we are on can sometimes be very frustrating. Many parts of the process have not gone as planned. We have wanted everything to go smoothly, but sometimes God has other plans. From the realization that we could no longer have kids of our own to the original thought of adoption, it has never been our plan, it has been God’s plan and every part of it has just worked out. We were able to be in the Ukraine in one of the coldest winters on record. Days before we left to come back home, we were informed that many flights had been delayed or cancelled due to wintry conditions; severe weather…. even for the Ulkraine. Now in Texas, if it snows, everything shuts down. Schools close and Texas roads resemble a hilarious rendition of the Ice Capades , “The Comedy of Errors “ version. My thoughts were that in the Ukraine they are used to this weather and on our day to leave, everything would go as planned. Well I was wrong! I checked flight status up to the point we left the hotel…flight status…on time. About an hour before flight time we realized that we better go get a Snickers, cause we were not going anywhere for awhile. Our original flight was pushed back several times and it was obvious to us that we would not make our connection from Frankfurt back to the states. We spent several hours in line with customer service, changing flights and coming up with a new plan. We finally settled on a later flight that would get us home early the next morning, but would allow us to spend the weekend with our son Carter. By this time was just flat out wondering where the heck we were and if we were ever coming back home. After finally boarding our new plane we sat for an hour waiting for the wings to be de-iced and by the time we were in the air I realized that we might now still miss our new connecting flight. There were many people on that plane in our situation, but I thought that if we could just not lose any more time that there would be a chance.
I spent a lot of time on that plane thinking about a lot of things. One concern was whether our son at home would be mad at us at all. The other thoughts were of Stasik. We hated having to go back home, but with the extended time the process was taking, we did not have a choice. This child that we had loved from the start was now back in the orphanage without our daily visits or playtime; without our hugs and affectionate for 11 days. This is the definition of irony wrapped in a conundrum. It seemed that staying and leaving both carried a burden of guilt and there really is no way to feel good about either situation. On this flight I considered the multitude of health issues that we were going to contend with when Stasik came home with us and also the discussions that Debbie and I had about how to resolve them. The not knowing is the toughest part. Should we admit him to the hospital as soon as we land or should we wait to look for symptoms? If we do take him to the hospital…where? We knew that Texas Children’s Hospital was our best option for diagnosing the needs of a child with Down ’s syndrome, but the wait to get in there could be months. We were still not sure what G.I. or heart issues we were dealing with because the Russian to English medical translation left so much room for interpretation. I had prayed for days that we would find the correct answer, but at that time I just wanted to make my connection, get home to see my son, and then start making these tough decisions.
When our plane landed we realized that we had 20 minutes to make the connection. The Frankfurt airport is not really big, but it was still gonna take some effort and luck to make the next plane. First hurdle….Instead of going out through the jet bridge to unload we were all going to be put on a bus and taxied to the terminal. That took five minutes! Second hurdle..passport control. This was only slightly relevant due to short lines. Third hurdle…extra airport security station. Take everything out of your pockets, place your bags on the conveyer belt, walk this way, put it all back in your pockets… three minutes! We can still make it! Plane leaves at 5:00, we arrive at gate with one minute to spare only to see the plane move away from the gate and start its slow crawl to its runway. It was at that time that I became very upset with the situation. We worked so hard to catch this flight and missed it because they left early! That flight was the last one leaving back to the U.S. and we found ourselves stuck in Frankfurt overnight. We really wanted to get home and now we would be away for one more day. Needless to say, we were very disappointed.
The next day we woke up and went to the airport to catch our plane back to Texas. We boarded and took our seats at the back of the plane. The seats filled up around us and as we prepared for takeoff, this man to our left started talking with us. He asked us how we were doing and where we were coming from. We told him we were coming from the Ukraine and filled him in about our last three weeks. He told us that he had a cousin with Turner’s syndrome, which is also a condition caused by a chromosomal abnormality. He asked about Stasik’s health and if he had any heart issues. We explained that he had had a surgery and that the incision marks were in Stasik’s back and not his chest. He started explaining that some surgeries done on infants for congenital heart issues are done this way and is common in European countries. We asked him if he was a doctor and he said that he was actually a cardiac surgeon from Houston. Coincidentally, he also said that his office was right across the street from the Texas Children’s Hospital and two of the best pediatric surgeons in the nation work with him in his office. After continued conversation he also added that if we needed to get our new son admitted that we only needed to call him and he would get him in the next day. Prayers answered!

There are no coincidences!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait!!

For those of you following our blog I know that many of you want to know what has happened over the last couple of days. First, I would like to say that our court hearing was successful and that we are officially Stasik's parents. We thank God for the work he is doing both for us and all the families going through the same process in the Ukraine. We have not been able to write in the blog because we have spent the last 41 hours in either an airport, an airplane, or an airport hotel. Between weather or just horrible service at the Ukraine airport we found ourselves missing connection flights or just waiting for a plane to take off. Finally, though, we are able to settle down and write an update about our journey. We are exhausted, having had very little sleep, but just wanted to give some quick information as to what has been happening.
According to Ukrainian law there is a 10 wait for us to take Stasik home. This is due process and presents a window of opportunity for biological parents or other family members to file to recover rights of their child. It has been a long process and the 10 day wait is very difficult for us. During this process we have asked about the parents and were told that they have not wanted or attempted any contact with him. We have worked very hard to quickly get where we are and it is tough for us to know that history has shown that the odds of his parents coming back to get him are very close to 0%. To know that during this time he has to continue to sit in the orphanage just makes us sad. We love Stasik and just want to get him home.

More later..

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Now for the important one...

One thing about the process in the Ukraine is that it is very slow. Many parents here that are doing what we are doing find themselves as captives in their hotel rooms and the regions they are staying in. There is a lot of down time and unfortunately, not a lot to do. We get two hours a day with our Stasik and the rest of the time is spent walking around town, and after finally freezing, we wind up staying in the hotel room. We read, watch TV, and follow up on correspondence; but mostly we talk about this experience, both good and bad. We laugh, cry, and sometimes this cramped hotel room is just too small to hold in all of the emotion involved in this. Everyone has different outlets. My outlet has always been humor; so hopefully no one takes offense to my use of it sometimes. Twelve days ago I was so sad that it would have been impossible for me to even laugh, but today is a day to rejoice! We are less than 48 hours away from our court appearance and everyday with Stasik is just a great day. If I let everything else going on at home and here get me down than I would truly miss the miracle happening in the little orphanage we spend two hours a day in.

I guess the workers actually went and spent some time in our playroom and realized that it is freezing. Today we went to a new room. It was very bright, warm, and very pink. I think we arrived in part of the girl's wing of the orphanage. It seemed to be an area where they were doing some remodeling and one of the rooms seemed to be more new and modern. There were tons of beds and cribs and I just kept thinking, "I hope they are not getting these ready for more little babies coming in." The fact is, Debbie and I wish we could save all of them, but we can't. We can only do what we can do as adoptive parents and spend the rest of the time advocating for these kids and raising awareness. Hopefully, someone reading this blog might help save a life by either adopting themselves or by letting others know the seriousness of the situation here in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, there will never be a shortage of kids, only a shortage of loving parents.

Stasik was all over the place today. I am not sure if it was the sunlight or maybe the warmth of the room, but he could not sit still. He laughed a lot, grabbed Mama's hair several times, and kept trying to crawl up on top of us while we laid on the ground next to him. For the third day, he kept down his milk and there were officially no signs of reflux at all. We did not even have to pull out a wipey today to clean up anything. We keep looking back at pictures from day one and remembering how we felt. We remember being told about all of his problems and things he could and could not do. Now we just marvel in it everyday and think about how just small acts of love and encouragement can change the world for these kids.. We know that we are far from being out of the woods, but we are going to be glad for every good day that we have with him. We are so thankful to God for what we are seeing!

Thanks for your continued support and prayers, we can definitely feel them lifting us up!

You down with no TP!!

Well I went off the beaten path here because being cooped up in a hotel room will make you loopy. It is just my nature to not take everything seriously and I think we really needed the laughs. Deb and I have had a discussion several times and thought we might share it.

It is funny to see the differences that exist between cultures and different countries. So many people place importance on things that may not be so important somewhere else. The food we eat, cars we drive, houses we live in.....all seem so different, and probably excessive to people from other countries. Debbie and I have done a lot of traveling and we are always ready to make adjustments to the way we are used to living. In Europe everything is smaller; hotels rooms, food portions, even vehicles just do not even come close to what we see in the good ol' USA. Maybe that is why Europeans are thinner and get better gas mileage? Heck, the first morning we went to eat our free hotel breakfast, the waitress kept asking "Is that it?" Like she was surprised us glutonous Americans would actually complete our order of free food without topping it of with a slab of butter, whip cream, or heck let's add about 10 more fried eggs and some more bacon....since it's free!! Well one thing we figured out quickly is you better eat light because toilet paper around here is a rare commodity. It is like the holy grail of Eastern Europe. Indiana Jones and Benjamin Franklin Gates would have a hard time finding it here with 20 treasure maps and a lifetime supply of decoder rings. Not only is it scarce, when you buy it here, the middle cylinder is about the same circumference as a coke can. This leaves you a solid 10 feet of paper to work with from start to finish.
We were advised before we came here to bring some of our own TP. At first we thought it strange, but were told that a lot of public restrooms did not have any and well....better safe than sorry. Well we went with it and flattened a roll as much as possible to get it into our bag. When we arrived at our apartment in Kiev we realized that the laws of toilet paper do not just apply to public. We went by a grocery store on the way and I never thought, "hey I should probably pick some up". Well it wasn't a day or so before we had to go into emergency stash. Little did we know we were probably breaking 10 kinds of Ukrainian sanitation and sewage laws by bringing in my double-ply, aloe enhanced, mega roll. We later learned that the pipe and sewage system here is really only capable of handling single ply paper....oops! Dang, us Americans could have brought down the whole city; lucky for them we only brought the one roll. When we got to Priluky, we decided to go ahead and get some extra rolls when we went shopping for food. The area dedicated to TP was about the size of an American endcap. So much to choose from...hmmm, white or yellow?...soft or regular? Needless to say I did not have to take long to make a decision.
When we arrived at the hotel in Priluky we were surprised to see we had some toilet paper in the bathroom. Not a lot, mind you, but some. Most places I have stayed I might be used to getting a brand new roll, but here...you get what's left. We went ahead and unpacked and took out some of our "soft" stuff we bought at the store. I believe that their difference between soft and hard must be equivocal to comparing coarse sandpaper to a washboard. It is the worst case of false advertising since telling kids in the 50's that hiding under your school desk will save you from a nuclear explosion. Nonetheless, it was all we had....and when I say "had", I really mean it. We went out and explored Priluky only to come back to a clean room and the discovery that the maid had stolen our brand new roll of "semi-soft" toilet paper. Now I have been at places where they give you an extra roll, but I have never been a victim of TP theft. In fact they are so stingy here that if we are down to just a little bit, we are still unworthy of getting a new roll. I can not imagine how these ladies would have reacted to watching me and the boys toilet papering Mary Jone's house back in middle school. They would probably look like Fred Sanford grabbin' his heart and getting ready for the "Big one." In order to get a new full roll in our hotel, we have to hide the almost empty roll, flip up the TP holder cover, and put a sticky note that has an arrow and the word "nol" next to it and then hope for the best. Ok, I may have gone a little far with the sticky notes...but mostly because we had to use all those when the TP ran out!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Life is about the Journey..

Well today we finally got news we were waiting for. Our facilitator told us today that we would have our court date on February 2nd. I know that in the Ukraine, nothing is written in stone, but I am hoping this is at least written........ somewhere. We have been told that this is the day that really decides our fate; are we worthy or are we not? I do not think that there is a specific construct validity test that will be given. I think it is an eye ball test; a matter of personal opinion and bias; the anti-groupthink scenario where one person, not a panel, decides if we can provide better care for Stasik than the orphanage he currently is housed in. If the answer seems obvious, it should be, but it entirely depends on the region the baby is in. Good news for us is that we have heard our region is flexible and the judge is more supportive of International adoptions. That does not make this just a formality, but it definitely reduces our anxiety going into it. We heard that in one region, the judge told the husband that he had 2 weeks to learn the language and he studied as much as he could in that time. The judge wanted to know what lengths the parent would go to to preserve the child's heritage. Even though no one could learn this language in two weeks, they passed the test and took the child home.....Just the way things sometimes work around here.
Stasik had another good day today. He has definitely put on some weight and we can see it in his arms and legs. I tried to put my hand around his thigh like I did on the first day and I can no longer wrap my fingers all the way around. He also will not fit in some of the clothes we bought him. It just seems he is really growing and getting stronger. We are actually very surprised that he is so short in stature. He has long fingers and his feet look like skis. I am assuming he will hit a huge growth spurt once we get him home. We do not think it will take him long to catch up.
Today I actually pulled out the video camera and we just filmed him playing all afternoon. We were not sure we would gather much film a few days ago, but now there is just so much activity to capture. He crawled across the floor, banged on the drum, stood by himself again, and just sat and talked to us for long periods of time. He still says "dada" and reaches out for me to hold him. "Mama" is also now an official word in his vocabulary. The pictures we have taken show the changes over the last dew days, but the video just brings it all to life.
Please continue to pray for our family as we complete this part of our journey. It is amazing what we have seen and been through. When we think about this process and when it first started, it is hard to imagine we would be here. For us this adoption journey is beginning to wind down, but for Stasik, well....his journey is only beginning!