Thursday, November 8, 2012

The changing vision of Elizabeth

Sigh.  Wait, let me do it again.  Sigh.

If you are reading this thinking that you will glean some insight for your own adoption journey as you are contemplating taking the leap, I will give you my most important piece of advice yet.

Stop. Run. Have your own babies, or steal them from a neighbor, a friend, a relative. Foster some, adopt from America.  But do not, under any circumstances, wake up one morning and turn to your husband and say, "honey, lets adopt a baby from...Russia...Ethiopia...China...Guatamala...Ukraine...Thailand....Pakistan.  Just don't.  Resist the humanitarian urge.

If that did not deter you, then my second piece of advice is this:

Have no expectations.  If they give you a time frame, double it.  If they give you an age range, triple it. If they give you a gender, think the opposite.   Do not try to plan your life, picture your child, or make any plans for the presence of the child in your family until that child has been in your family for at least 3 months. Maybe longer. Just to be safe.

This whole process has been so unbelievable its unexplainable.

When we started this process...18 months ago, we were told that we should have the girl in our home 1 year later.  Well...18 months later, we don't even have a referral.  Some idiot woman from Tennessee put her son on a plane back to Russia and ruined any sense of timeliness we'd hope to have in this process.  Russia came to a grinding halt.  First, they told us we'd have to take 3 trips instead of 2.  Then, they tell us there were no referrals happening. Then, they told us we had to do all this new required (additional) training and a few weeks ago we dropped everything to go to Chicago and get it done. I think the theme of this process has been "hurry up and wait.''  Last November we rushed to get our dossier in before the end of the year so we'd get on the wait list early. That was 1 year ago.  Then we got a referral 7 months later and we rushed to get the child evaluated only to turn her down.  Then they told us we had to hurry, hurry, do this training immediately because there are no referrals without them. So we hurried to Chicago. We hurried through some online training courses. We hurried to order this book we needed. And we got that all in last week. Then we heard there were some referrals coming available in November. But we also heard our dossier was expiring (the one we submitted a year ago). So..hurry up and get it done. Hurry up and re-do the forms, the notaries, the certifications. Tim's boss left work in the middle of the day to get an employment verification taken first to the bank and then to the courthouse (remember, we are in CO, we can't do any of this in OH) and my dad had to drive up to our house in Dayton and fed ex copies of our passports overnight to our adoption agency. Tim drove around like crazy in CO getting this together. We sent our new, updated dossier just before November so we could hopefully get a November referral.

So...when we came down from the mountain (literally) on our hike today and Tim is on the phone walking towards me and smiling, I knew he was on the phone with our adoption agency. This was it. Finally.

Wrong. Instead, now, they say that we will be waiting over a year for a referral of a girl under 2.



If we are willing to make a decision to accept a child up to age 3 (read: the oldest she can be when we bring her home to the USA is 2 years 11 months old) then we can get a referral in the "beginning of the year" which I finally found out will be either February or March. (read: 3-4 more months of waiting...)

So..hurry up! Make this decision! We need to know! We will have to redo your paperwork ASAP. No big deal. We're just totally changing everything we've imagined about this adoption. Adopting a baby and adopting a toddler are two very different things. So we talked about it..weighed our options...for all of about 30 minutes...because it was almost close of business in Ohio. The emotional challenges a 2 year old and a 1 year old faces from being in an orphanage are huge, and I do not pretend to be ignorant of the potential behavioral and emotional challenges bringing home an orphaned and poorly cared for 2 year old will present to our family.

But, here we are, hurrying now to redo our paperwork by Monday to allow us to adopt a child up to her 3rd birthday. Only to wait again..for 3-4 more months.

I feel incredibly at peace and incredibly unsettled about this decision all that the same time, but we have until February or March to change the vision we have for little Elizabeth Claire (insert Russian name here) Larson and to prepare ourselves for what this will look like when we bring her home next summer(?)

I am very thankful I now have some kind of timeline, but if the the last 18 months have taught me anything, it's that any expectations I carry are really quite laughable.

God, I hope this works out. I hope that somewhere in Russia right now is our daughter and that in 3-4 months we will get to see her picture and travel to Russia to meet her.

So...again, I implore you: make babies or steal babies. It's really the best way to go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On parenting an (almost) three year old

Some days I feel like the world's worst mother, I wonder if my kids have any hope of turning out normal.  It is SO easy to parent other people's screaming children in the grocery store or in the hospital or out at a restaurant (if they would just tell that child, no.  Perhaps if you didn't yell at him like that....)
But parenting your old child is hard, hard work.  And some days, most days, I feel completely inadequate.

I've been working in the ER lately and some days I work 1:00pm-11:00pm.  Today is such a day.  I know that if I don't keep Matthew home with my in the morning, I will not see him at all, so I do it, despite the fact that it throws of his schedule. But on those days I do, I feel like such a parenting failure.

Our morning went as such:
Go for a quick run. Come back and pump (stationary time, can't really do much with Matthew.)  Meanwhile, Matthew is "playing" with the blender pretending to blend food like he sees me do for Samuel.  "Mommy, will you blend with me?"  I can't right now, Matthew. I'm pumping for Samuel. Then I ask Matthew what he wants for breakfast. Eggs. I start to make eggs. No, waffles.  But I'm making eggs, Matthew. Let's have eggs.  No, waffles. Minor temper tantrum. Since I haven't already started to make the eggs (only gotten them from the fridge), I commence making waffles, going back on my "no."  Meanwhile, "mommy will you plug this in? Mommy will you blend with me? Mommy, will you get me milk? Mommy, can you pick that up?"  I get frustrated. No, Matthew, I'm trying to make you waffles now because I have to feed Samuel his breakfast and we have to go to school soon.  I finish the waffles. Give them to Matthew. Sit down with some of my own.  Mommy, can I have yours? No, matthew, you have your own (which are half gone by now).  These are mommies. They are the same. You need to eat yours.   Breakfast is done. Samuel is screaming. I somehow manage to feed him is fruit.  Mommy, will you blend with me? Not right now, Matthew, I'm feeding Samuel.  Matthew is playing with his plate and knocks Samuel's bowl off the table and onto the floor. It spills.  "Matthew!" (in an exacerbated voice!) I'm so frustrated.  I go to get more food, "are you getting Samuel more food?" "yes," "Why?" "because you spilled it, Matthew."  The kid is 3. It's not his fault, what happened to the days when he was a younger baby and would knock something over or spill something and I'd simply say, "uh-oh! No problem!"

Then, the kitchen is a disaster. I commence cleaning.  Samuel is screaming because he's tired and a little sick with a cold. Matthew is still "blending." I'm telling him "no" every other second because he's trying to do something he's not allowed to do.  I finally finish cleaning and put Samuel in his crib since he's so tired.  He falls asleep.  I take a shower. Matthew stays downstairs, alone, still blending. After my shower, he comes upstairs for a band-aid because he has a cut on his finger.  I give him a band-aid, change his diaper, get his shoes on, put him in the car.  

He plays with the keys in the car, opening and closing the automatic door while I get Samuel ready to get into the car. While putting Samuel in the car, he starts to close the door on my. "Matthew! Stop.  He does not listen.  "Matthew Benjamin, give me those keys right now!"  He complies. But he's only 3. He doesn't understand. I'm the one who gave him the keys in the first place, because if I don't, a large tantrum ensues. I get Samuel in the car, and we go.

I never did blend with him.

And when we get to school I drop him off and he clings to me. How on earth can he love me so much and not want me to leave when my interactions with him that morning consisted of, "no," and "not yet."

I get so frustrated with him all the time for the stupidist things.  For not sitting still like I want, smiling for pictures like I want, for always wanting to play with my phone, for not listening to me when I tell him no (ok, maybe that one is not so stupid), for not laying still when I change his diaper, for still needing to USE a diaper, for splashing water onto the floor in the bathtub.   He's 3.  He doesn't know. It doesn't really matter. And while I don't "yell" at him, I often get quite frustrated and change the tone of my voice more than I want. Or raise it just a little. Oh, to have the (non-existent) temper of my husbad, or my mother.  But...I got my father's temper and I got a child with my, shall we say, zest for life.

I go back on my "no" more often that I should--typically after i've re-evaluated the situation and decided I don't have the energy for a battle. But then why did I say no in the first place?

I have no idea if I'm normal or if I'm just a huge failure. I definitely have no idea how single mom's do it, and I have no idea how stay at home mom's do it. They must have the patience of a saint, because at least going to work revives me in someway so that I'm a little more patient with my children when I return home.

I apologize to Matthew sometimes, which I hope will help him in the long run, but all the time I feel like I don't spend enough quality time with him or have enough patience with him or enforce the limits like I should.  

I need a parenting mentor.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Our budding photographer

Matthew's favorite thing ever is to take pictures.  He is always using our phones as cameras and pitches a big ol' fit when we pull out our real, expensive camera and tell him he can't play with it. He turns everything into "cameras": legos, blocks, pieces of paper, etc.

We got him a kids digital camera for his birthday. His birthday party is next Saturday and we're going to give it to him then. He's going to flip a lid. We're going to have to video him opening it.   Here are some of the "better" pictures Matthew has taken. I think it's funny, because it documents so many things that wouldn't otherwise get documented.

 This is Matthew's gummy vitamin that he takes every morning. I'm pretty sure it's the highlight of his day.  Its obviously important enough to him to take a picture of it:

Signing forms for Samuel's shots at the doctor:

Exer-saucer fun

Samuel loves his Exer-saucer.  We had some fun while Daddy and Matthew went to the store. 

The rogue agent

I have a problem.  A personal problem. And so this blog is about to get really personal because I need some serious help, so I'm going to have to tell you all about it.

Bertha has gone rogue.

(Big) Bertha is my left boob.

My "extra" pumping has been, until this point, something I have done in order to build up a giant (and I mean giant) supply of extra breast milk and also something I've done to continue burning as many calories as humanly possible (hey, I love my ice cream).  Samuel has slept through almost every single night since he was about 6 weeks old.  He is now 6 1/2 months old.  I have not slept through the night since sometime during my pregnancy with Samuel because, since he started sleeping through the night, I've been awakened by painful boobs (mostly my left) and gotten up to pump.  I did this with Matthew, too, to build up my supply. So every night since Samuel was 6 weeks old I've pumped and typically I would get I'd say maybe 10-11 ounces of milk in my night pumping. Samuel drinks 7.5 oz bottles. Sometimes I've gone through spells where I'd get 15 ounces of milk, and I would like to tell you that 9 or 10 of those ounces were pumped from Bertha alone. I said that at 6 months I was going to stop the middle of the night pumping. I have no idea how to do this.

With Matthew, around 6 months, he started waking up consistently in the night to eat.  And I'd feed him and he'd always eat way less than the 10 ounces I had been pumping, so for a month or so he did this and my supply decreased and I wasn't in pain because he drinking, but just not that much.   Then, when he started sleeping again, so did I and it was pretty nice.

But this is not happening now. Samuel woke up in the night for about like 4-5 days and I fed him and those nights I didn't pump, and I thought we had a nice streak going that would end my pumping drama.  But then he started sleeping again and I was still waking up in pain.  My supply had definitely gone down but was still there. I was pumping maybe 8 ounces instead of like 10, and Bertha was putting out 5-6. But then I started working nights at the ER (just 3 nights in a row) and so I had to pump in the middle of the night. And now I've been done with nights for like a week or so, but for some reason, the last couple of days my supply has just skyrocketed. I am trying to force myself to stay in bed and not wake up in the middle of the night, but like 5:30 rolls around (which has been my wake up time the last few days) and I am in so much pain I absolutely have to pump. It's like, I had no idea I had bread tissue up by my collar bone. Seriously. And I've gotten like 15 ounces, with 9 coming from Bertha. And after I pump, oh my gosh, the relief.  My aunt Linda once said that pumping that much milk after you're that full is better than sex.  So, so, true.

But...this cannot continue. Because I only have one more day of waking up at 5:30 for work (Thank you, God) and then I will be sleeping until like 7 and I'm not going to be happy when Bertha wakes me at 5:00 or 5:30.

So what do I do? How do I tame this beast? I need to sleep in the middle of the night. But my schedule is so erratic. It changes weekly, if not, monthly, with each rotation and so, therefore, does my pumping schedule, so that's probably not good for tying to decrease things.  Do I just pump until I'm not in pain? (Because today, that was like 6 ounces out of Bertha alone until I was not in pain) or do I set an alarm at like 2 or 3, before I'm bursting, and wake up and pump just like 3 ounces out of Bertha? And how long do I do all this for? How long is it going to take to tame this?  Do I need a stepwise program here to decrease my addiction, here? I'm not sure I can go cold turkey. I'd be in so much pain that'd I'd be awake for hours in the night thinking about my pain when getting up to pump and going back to bed takes 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Not sure how long it would take to decrease things, though, if I went cold turkey.

Has anyone ever dealt with this before? Things just worked so seemlessly with Matthew, but with Matthew I was nursing more often than I was pumping and now that's not really the case with my schedule. I think the pump has caused my problems, which have not really been problems until I decided I really, really, need to sleep through the night.

So, nursing friends, and particularly those who pump a lot (I think I even have some whose kids never took the breast and they exclusively pumped...) fix my problem. Please.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two competing desires

You are probably wondering how on earth I'm going to adopt a child from Russia and finish medical school and start residency. The answer is, very simply, I'm not. I can't.  Even if I theoretically could work out the time off for trips to Russia, I just cannot justify bringing home a child from an orphanage who has had like no love or attention or consistency in her whole life and who most likely did not win the genetic lottery and say, "so sorry, sweetie. I'm going to work 80 hours a week."  No way. As much as I want to just keep pushing on through the very long and tumultuous process of medical school and residency, I just cannot be that selfish. She needs to bond with me.  And...really...staying home with my kids for a year or 8 months or something will probably help to relieve some of the mommy guilt I feel for working so much. I'm hoping to stay home with them (and I'm hoping I will love it...but will not love it too much, so that in 2 years, when I'm an intern in residency I can remember that I do, really, want to work.)


The adoption is so uncertain and I just can't stop medical school. I have to continue with the process of applying to residency, of continuing my rotations, until the adoption is as certain as certain can be (Ideally, when she's living in our house) But the longer and longer we wait for a second referral (hopefully the next one will be healthy child!) the more frustrated Tim and I become at the uncertainty we are faced with. We are coming up on residency interviews and in February we will provide our ranked list of schools to "the match" and in the middle of March we will receive a lovely envelope telling us where we will be living, and at that point I am legally and contractually obligated to go to that program.  I'm not entirely certain of the problems that will present if I call them and say, "actually...can I come in 2014?" but I think there could me many..depending on the school. And I'm really hoping to not be in that place.  Plus, there is a huge part of me that WANTS to finish and match and become a doctor so that I can get through residency and start making money and working normal hours instead of making no (or very little) money and working terrible hours. Sigh....


The adoption takes 4-6 months to be totally complete from the time we get a referral. And it's October. And we have no good referral. And Russia closes down from Dec 15- Jan 15. do the math.  Our time is limited and we are trying to pursue to very life changing things at the time same time the end...will likely be mutually exclusive in the short term.

If we have to move before the adoption is complete, we cannot proceed with the adoption anymore because our homestudy was for our particular house. And we are not applying to residency programs in Dayton. So we go back to day 1, a year and a half ago, and lose all that money. Which is a lot of money. Trust me.

With each passing day we become more anxious for a good referral, not only because we long to have a daughter but also because we long to know what our future holds.

Pray for us, as we deal with discouragement at how very long this process has become.

To Russia with Engraged Fury

I have said this many times, but the international adoption process is just not for the faint of heart. I mean, really, this is ridiculous.

So last Monday was my birthday and for my birthday I was really hoping we would get a call from our adoption agency saying, "we have your daughter!" but...instead...they called and said, "We have more nonsense for you to do!"  Apparently Russia just changed their laws like September 1st and is now requiring more training of adoptive parents before adoptions can be finalized.  This training is not online, like the training we did 1 year ago but has to be "face to face."  So, in a scramble to meet these requirements and not delay the adoption process for their families, our agency is hosting several in person training days that, of course, are mandatory. But these training days are being given for their families all around the country who are adopting, so the trainings are in: Chicago, Washington DC, California, and Arizona. Awesome. Cause I don't already have 10 residency interviews that are taking me all over creation. Oh wait, I do.

These trainings are not well timed. The first one is Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th.  Our prior plans were for my to take my Emergency Medicine final exam the 19th and then for us to fly our to Colorado that evening to start my away rotation at the University of Colorado on Monday. So, that won't work.  But the other two trainings are in November, during the time we're in Colorado, when I am supposed to work 6 days a week and only get 2 "sick days" which I am using for interviews at residency programs out there.  So...I can't do the training then, either.  But if we don't do these, we don't adopt. Perfect. a long ordeal I talked to the clerkship director for Emergency Medicine who was less than thrilled about letting me make up the exam and miss the 19th (the last day of the rotation) to do this training. And when I say, "less than thrilled" I mean, she said, "no."  But she did say I could ask the Student Promotions Committee at school and see what they thought. So I did and then a few days later I got a gruntled e-mail from her saying, "well, I don't like this at all, and I don't think it's a good decision, but you can make up the test."  I guess the student promotions committee told her to suck it up and let me make up the test. I think, after two children during medical school and being in the top 20% of my class, I've earned their respect. Thank God. I really need them on my side for this adoption. So the clerkship director gave me all these stipulations for making up the test, including "you will receive an incomplete until you make up the test..."  Really? Is that supposed to scare me? Cause....I was expecting that. And then she kept telling me that if I make up the test I will be at a disadvantage because the "emergency medicine material will not be fresh in your mind."  I wanted to reply and say, "Dear Dr:  I am a 4th year. I have had 2 kids. I have yet to fail anything in med school.   I think I can pass your test even if I take it in April. Love, Katherine."  Ridiculous (now, watch me fail...)  I'll tell you, folks, women doctors are another breed of people. I have had so much more trouble with the whole kid, pumping, adoption, etc business from women during med school instead of men.

So...anyway....we are going to Chicago for this training Oct 19 and 20th. Two long days of ridiculous training. And to mention, my schedule until then is as follows:
Oct 4 (today) through October 8: work
October 10 through 12: work
October 13: Matthew's party
October 14: work night shift
October 16: Fly to Wisconsin for my first residency interview
October 17th: return from Wisconsin
October 18th: drive to Chicago
October 20: return from Chicago
October 21: fly to Colorado to live for 4 weeks.

Someone please tell me when I'm going to see my kids.

So...Russia...with your stupid laws stemming from the stupid woman who sent her son back to Russia: you better start giving me a referral instead of giving me more hoops to jump through or I'm going to.....continue to post blog posts about how annoyed I am.

Love, Katherine

The 6 month saga

The moral of this post is as follows: drop out of medical school.

I am delayed on Samuel's 6 month post because I've been waiting for the story to finish so I could give you the entire thing.  Knock on wood, somebody, but I think I'm ready to tell you the saga.

So like a week or so before Samuel turned 6 months I thought it was time to try solids. I made my own oatmeal cereal from steel cut oats. I was so super mom. Only the healthiest for my baby. So Samuel did fine with it for a few days but then we started pooping a crazy amount. Like 7-8 times a day. And then it got worse. His little bottom became flaming read, his poop started having mucus in it, and my happy little baby was super fussy all the time.  Then, at his 6 month check up he weighed 15 lbs 12 oz and had dropped to the 17% and was only 25 3/4 inches long, had dropped to the 10%.  My pediatrician was not worried, just said it was an allergy to oats.   But I, you see, I am in medical school. So, clearly, my son had some horrible, rare disease.

The rare disease I diagnosed him with was Celiac's disease, an autoimmune condition where the body cannot tolerate gluten and alters the intestine so it cannot absorb nutrients. People who have this disease are in horrible pain experience horrible diarrhea, and cannot gain weight.  Oats are often contaminated with gluten. I was certain this was it. I talked with a friend whose son has a milk allergy (pretty common) when she has dairy in her diet (because, clearly, Samuel had developed a milk allergy suddenly, at 6 months old, as well) and learned that the mucus can stay in the poop long after the offending agent was removed.  About 3 days after we stopped the oats, Samuel was much less fussy and his bottom cleared up, but his constant pooping didn't get better and his poop still had mucus. I fretted. I was convinced something was horribly wrong, so I went gluten free for a day until I decided...perhaps totally changing my diet was a bit premature.

He was doing better on the fussy scale, but I was so certain he wasn't gaining any weight. We were weighing him at home on our fool proof cookie sheet laying on top of a postal scale. Error free---for sure. And our scale showed us he was losing weight. Celiacs. For sure. I started him on rice cereal (store bought, this time, I was done being super mom) and that night he had one episode of diarrhea. I made Tim call Gerber who said that there is a chance it could have been contaminated with Gluten. Celiac's for sure.

The next day he came down with a fever.  I stopped the rice cereal and continued him on just homemade fruits and veggies. THEN a few days after the fever was gone, he broke out in a rash.

An allergy? I didn't think so. I suddenly had enough clinical foresight to note the rash was viral, but I still took him to the doctor (who agreed with me...).  I told her all about my woes, how he was certain to have Celiac's disease, how I was not looking forward to going gluten free. How he was losing weight. We weighed him. 16 lbs 8 oz (two weeks after his 15 lbs 12 oz) 20%, right back to where he belonged. He's not fussy at all now, and is doing quite well on his fruits and veggies and his pooping, praise God, is now well under control and fully back to normal.  I'm still a little hesitant to re-introduce rice cereal, but I am hopeful his diarrhea that night was from his virus. The oats...I'm still out on that. But if he had Celiac's disease, I think he'd be reacting to the gluten in my diet and losing weight.

Crisis averted.   So we will try rice again in a week or so. And who, knows maybe oats too (rolled this time, not steel cut).  This whole incident may have just been a long virus.

But, for now, he is a happy go lucky (albeit short, he's still in the 10%) 6 month old baby who can now sit up (pretty well) and who loves to spend time on his hands and knees rocking back and forth.  It will not be long now until he's chasing after his brother.

I promise, I do not over diagnose other people and other people's kids with rare diseases.  Just me. And my own kids.   It's exhausting, being me.   I think its more exhausting being Tim, who has to listen to my nonsense.  Medical school friends totally understand, because I know I'm not alone. Medical school and parenting don't mix.

Matthew's favorite thing in the world is to take pictures with my phone. Don't tell him that we got him his very own kid camera for his birthday. I think I'm more excited then he will be, cause then I can get my phone back. But here are a few he has snapped of Samuel:

At the doctor getting his 6 month shots...I had no idea Matthew even had my phone:

This one is from like 5 months old, but it's still cute. I am terrible about loading pictures from our camera onto my a lot of blog post pictures are limited by what's on my phone.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Matthew's Summer

Matthew doesn't get much love on our blog, but that's not because I love him less.  I suppose it's cause he changes a lot less than Samuel since he's older. We are currently trying to think about plans for his 3rd birthday in October. Can you believe it?!?!

"Matthew, do you know that I love you very much?"
"I know, mommy.  Mommy?"
"Yes, Matthew?"
"When the traffic light turns red, we stop.  Mommy?"
"Yes, Matthew?"
"When there's a fire drill, we go outside.  When there's a tornado drill we go into the hallway where there's no glass windows and cover our heads. "

--Typical conversation.

My biggest brag on Matthew is that at 2 1/2 he can swim.  He can swim half the width of the pool at swim class under water all by himself.  He doesn't know how to swim on the surface yet and he can't come up for air under the water and then keep going, but he beats out a lot of kids years and years older than him already.  My fearless little athlete.  Here are just a few summer pictures:

One Month Later...

Well, it's been just over a month since we got and subsequently turned down our referral from Russia.  I've had lots of people ask us how we are doing and how much longer it will be so I thought i'd post.

It feels like such a long time ago that we got a referral, it's really hard to believe its only been like 5 or 6 weeks. It's been a hard wait, because patient has never been my strong point.  I was doing quite well waiting, until we got that referral and saw that little girl's picture and realized how badly I want this to happen.  I pray every day that we'll get a referral soon, within the next month, but I know that such timing is not my own...  It's hard to wait when my longing to meet my daughter and to have her home has grown, but we don't really have a choice.

We are making so many plans for this fall:
Next week, September 7th, I finish up my family medicine clerkship. Then, September 22 I take step 2 of my boards, then the 24th (my birthday), I begin my Emergency medicine clerkship.  Sometime about October 20th we manage to move the entire family, plus our temporary babysitter (thanks, Alicia!) and likely the dog across the country to Denver, CO for me to do my subinternship in internal medicine at University of Colorado Hospital.  Then, around November 16th, we again somehow manage to move the entire family across the country to Chapel Hill, NC so I can do a an elective in endocrinology at UNC Hospital.  Then, a month later, we return home to Dayton and it's pretty much Christmas.'s not like we have a tone of time and space to sit around waiting for Russia to call, but still, I long for them to call.  I tell Tim all the time that instead of doing any of the above activities, I'd rather go to Russia. So we'll see. I don't have any control over when they call or what I have to miss.

As far as timing, we really have no idea.  I haven't been given any time frame or any information other than to say that referrals coming out of Russia are "slow."  A passing comment was made to Tim from the adoption agency that she would be surprised if we didn't have a referral by November. But who knows, really. That still seems like a long time away to me, so it doesn't offer much consolation.

I'd say my main emotions are just impatience.  I am also filled with a deep longing that leaves me, at times, feeling empty and sad.  But I am so in love with all 3 of my boys that I am not weighed down by my sadness.  Occasionally we'll be driving or running or cooking and I'll turn to Tim, "Timmy?" "yes?" "I want a referral."  

Please, oh please, Russia.  Call us soon!

5 months old!

Ok, so I am really behind with the monthly posts on Samuel, cause he will be 6 months in 2 weeks. Alas, time flies.

Well, we went to the neurosurgeon to discuss his head and she diagnosed him with "mild to moderate plagiocephaly."  She recommended that we try aggressive "positional changes" to keep him off of the right side of his head in order to see if we get any change.  She thinks that with work, we can avoid the helmet, which seems to be a lot of work. You have to go to the doctor all the time with the helmet to check for skin breakdown and for fittings. So we are trying lots of things. The first step was to not swaddle him at night anymore.  I know a lot of mom's probably stop swaddling their kids a lot younger than 5 months, but I was attached to him sleeping through the night and worried that he would have a rough time.   Luckily, it was a seamless transition.  He still sleeps through the night but now he likes to sleep on his side (his left side) and sometimes rolls onto his stomach so now he is not sleeping and putting pressure on that side of his head.  I think this will help a lot.  He spends lots of time upright in his bumbo or exersaucer.  He is also "tripoding" now so he can hold himself sitting up on his arms for several minutes. I think in a few weeks he'll be sitting independently and this will also help a lot, too.   We try to never put him on his back during the day, but he rolls a lot so he ends up there at least part of the time. We go back in 2 months for a follow up.

At his neurosurgery appointment right at 5 months he weighed 15 lbs 1oz.

He wants to crawl really badly and he can scoot pretty well and does a lot of push ups to move himself forward.  He will be crawling after his big brother in no time!

He is a happy, vocal baby and has become quite fascinated with Matthew.  He loves to look at Matthew and laugh and smile, and Matthew laughs and talks to him and Samuel smiles back.  It is so precious to see my boys forming a bond and beginning to play together.  Having children is just so precious.  Time to bring in that sister....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

4 months old!

Oh, baby Samuel.  I am so in love.

Samuel loves to smile and talk.  He recently has started laughing.  Priceless.  And he enjoys watching his big brother, which I am sure will continue for many years.  He continues to sleep and eat well, spit up like a fountain, and poop explosively through his outfits.  He ensures that we do laundry often!  He is still the happiest, most mellow baby on the block.

Samuel was 14 lbs 11oz at his check up (21%) and was 25 inches (20%).   He now rolls over both ways and can sort of sit up with balancing on his hands for about 2 seconds.


His head is lopsided.  I have diagnosed him with Plagiocephaly, a condition where part of the head is flat, usually caused by prolonged laying with his head resting on one side.  Apparently being such a good sleeper has its drawbacks.  I also think it has to do with how he was positioned when I was in labor...he as turned in a funny way and I think he head was pressed up against my pelvis.  Since my parental diagnosis, we have been putting him a lot more on his tummy (he is now quite active and enjoys the beached wheal inspired army crawl to move.  He is quite good...) and also sitting him up in his bumbo more often.  I switched him to sleep with his head at the other end of the crib.  These are all recommended to try to help the shape return to normal by decreasing the pressure on the spot of his head that he favors.  But not much has changed.  His condition isn't getting worse, it's just not getting better.
 If the condition is really bad, babies have to wear a helmet to correct their head shape. So our doctor, who agrees that his case is somewhat beyond the level you'd expect to go away on its own, is referring us to a Neurologist. I have heard that getting into to see the neurologist is really quite a challenge, and that it takes months to get an appointment. But we don't have months, because they say you need to treat between 4-6 months.  Though, she did say she's not sure they will do a helmet at all.  They see the "really" bad cases that she doesn't, so they may not be impressed.  This condition shouldn't cause any neurologic damage, though she thinks they might do some imaging to make sure his growth plates haven't closed prematurely.  She doesn't think they have because his head circumference is growing perfectly.   His condition is not that noticeable from the front, and he is so cute, I'm sure he'll rock the helmet look if needed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

To our friends with gratitude

I just wanted to write out a quick post to express our sincere gratitude to all of our friends who have reached out to us in the wake of turning down the referral last week.  I was overwhelmed and sincerely surprised at the number of e-mails, text messages, facebook messages, and phone calls we received...many from people I have not spoken with since high school. I had no idea so many people read our blog! Thank you to all who are praying for us to get another quick referral and for all the kind words of empathy and condolences.

In the aftermath of turning down this referral we have also received many words of affirmation that our decision was the right one for our family. I cannot say how much these mean to me, as I have been questioning our decision. I know that I do not want a fetal alcohol syndrome child, but I also know that I want a daughter, and without meeting her it is so difficult to make such a final decision.  But alas, I know in my head that our decision was the right one.

We are now waiting again, and I am definitely a lot more anxious than I was prior to receiving the referral.  I have been fervently praying for a quick referral.  There were so many things that I was uncertain about with the possibility of traveling to Russia so soon, namely what I would have to do about the ever inflexible medical school.  But it's amazing how those things don't matter as much to me after I was so so close to actually traveling to Russia.  We have so many plans (we are going to Colorado for 4 weeks for an elective in October and North Carolina for 4 weeks for an elective in November) and I was so concerned about how the timing of everything would fall.  This no longer concerns me...if I don't get to go because I'm in this point I really don't care. 

Matthew says he thinks we will have to wait 3 weeks for another referral.  I hope my 2 year old has foresight I don't know about.

So anyway, friends, thank you so much for all the support you have given us.  Adoption is not for the faint of heart, and I have heard story after story of people losing their children at the last minute, some of them after they had already cared for them for several days.  If this is the only bump we have, I will be surprised and consider myself blessed.  I remind myself often that this child was not taken from me, but rather I chose to turn this referral down.  While it was hard to do so, and I do feel a sense of loss, I can still find hope that we will receive a referral for a healthier child who is a better fit for our family.

It means so much to us that you are choosing to follow our journey.  What a ride it will certainly be. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Russia with Devastation

My heart is broken.  The last time I felt this sad was the day and weeks following my 2nd miscarriage.   Because, in some ways, that's what happened.

We spoke today with the doctor at Cincinnati Children's International Adoption Clinic and she said there were many "red flags" about our referral.  While I understand that the child we will receive will highly likely have been exposed to alcohol in the womb, I also understand that there is definitely a "threshold" level at which the baby begins to experience effects, so not every child exposed to alcohol has fetal alcohol syndrome.  However, this child appears at "high risk" according to the doctor, for having fetal alcohol syndrome.  Several of the "indicators" for fetal alcohol syndrome were present in this child: extremely small birthweight, extremely small head size, and continued poor growth with continued poor head size, not all of which can be accounted for by life in an orphanage.  From several things in the medical report the doctor also indicated the child may have been exposed to congenital infections, and drugs.  While the child's facial features were not distinctive for fetal alcohol syndrome, there were a few things that the physician noticed which may or may not have indicated it.  However, given the child's birth history, weight, and growth, there were so many parameters indicating to the doctor that the child had significant alcohol exposure which likely impacted her brain development.  Additionally, the report documented that the mother drank.  Apparently, it is very unusual for the reports to document that the mother drank, because almost all mothers over there drink as it is an accepted social norm.  The doctor said that typically, when it is documented, that is a red flag that the mother drank excessive amounts.

When we started this process, Tim and I decided that we could not accept a child with known or highly suspected fetal alcohol syndrome.  I am about to be a doctor, and I cannot give such a child the parenting she needs if I am a working mother.  I also don't feel I could give my other children the parenting they need if I had a child who required such extended attention.  Long term, the doctor said, she would not expect this little girl to do well.  Also, she indicated that often children with fetal alcohol syndrome have behavioral and learning problems that prohibit them from acquiring the executive decision making skills they need to be fully functional and independent adults. This is just not something Tim and I are equipped to deal with long term, and while we understand that we might get this anyway, either from a biological or adopted child, with no prior indicators, it is a situation we need to avoid if we have the "objective findings" as the doctor called it, ahead of time.

I have to trust the doctor, that she is right and good at her job.  She has seen hundreds of internationally adopted children and is a mom to 3 internationally adopted kids. I have to defer to her expertise and turn down this referral even though I feel like I have been hit by a bus.

This little girl is a strikingly beautiful girl and to look at her picture and know she desperately needs a family and know she is living in an orphanage and tell her "no," well, that just kills me. I feel subhuman. I also feel incredibly unsure of our future. While I was so confidant before that we would get what we wanted, now I find myself saying, "will we ever get a child who fits our family? How long until we get another referral? Am I going to have to wait another 6 months for a referral?"  We were so fortunate to get a referral for such a young child, and I know the chances of that happening again are very, very slim.  So again I feel so uncertain and so sad about having to turn this down.  No one can answer these questions. I just have to trust that things will work out--that what God started in our family, He will complete.  I have said to Tim several times, "maybe we should just accept her, and hope for the best." But Tim keeps reminding me, we have been given enough information to know that hoping probably won't work.  This is a child I am adopting. I cannot send her back, I cannot change my mind. I cannot regret this decision. I am not buying a scarf.  I am not picking a dog out at a shelter.  I cannot adopt her out of guilt. I cannot adopt her because I am afraid that another one will not come along. I cannot adopt her because I long for a little girl. I have to make the right decision for my family and my future.  But in doing so, I feel like I have just killed this child. I pray she finds a wonderful home with a patient mother who can bring her up the way she needs.  Because I loved this little girl.  I fell in love with her.  For 48 hours I was her mother. It's impossible to explain this to you, reading this, how I can see a picture of a child and feel a connection to her as if she is my own, but that is how I feel.  The doctor stated that when she was adopting her 3 kids she also turned down several referrals.  Even though that was 20+ years ago, she said, she still remembers each of those kids she turned down, their names, their pictures, their stories. I suppose this is common.  Perhaps therein lies the miracle of how you can adopt children and love them just as much as your own biological children. 

I am sad.  I have every right to be sad because this is a very, very, sad thing.  The saddest. In a way, it feels like my 3rd miscarriage. That is the only other experience I have had in my life where I felt this profound sense of loss and hopelessness butting up against this very real and very powerful desire to be a mom to another child.

And so, we wait.  More waiting.  And pray that we don't wait another 6 months for a phone call with "Medina, OH" on its caller ID.  And also pray that when we do, that child is a good fit for our family.  A family I spoke with at the adoption picnic in June said that they turned down a referral and that it was 8 months until they received another one.  I asked the mother what the hardest part of her entire adoption process was, bringing home her children, and everything involved and she said that the hardest part was the wait after turning down the first referral.  I get it now.  But alas, here we go.  This time we have no time frame, and that is the most frustrating part of waiting.  I guess, in a way, the analogy of having a miscarriage really works.  The loss of something only magnifies your desire for it more, and makes its absence in your life that much more devastating.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From Russia with Glinda.

Well, it happened.  I did not think it would happen, to be truthful, perhaps the same way as you don't think your wedding will ever happen until you are literally walking own the aisle, or the same way you don't think you'll ever have a baby until you are actually carrying one home.  But nevertheless, while looking at the parrots at the Naples Zoo (of course, we are on vacation), my phone rang and came up as "Medina, OH."  I knew. Here we go. Or not.

I wish I could tell you all this information that I have just read, or post the pictures on here I just received, but there are so many things holding me back.  The main thing being that a year ago, when I began filling out forms and signing my life away, I recall signing that I wouldn't share any information about our referral until she was ours.  The second being that I am not sure we are going to take the child.  But I will share what I can.

The child they called us about is very young, much younger than we had anticipated, which we are incredibly thankful for.   I cannot tell you her real Russian name, but it starts with a G, and reminds me of Glinda, the "good witch" from the Wizard of Oz (or Wicked, which is my preferred reference point.)  And, like people give nicknames to their children in utero, this is what I will call her until we can share her Russian and American name with you.  She was born in December and is just a few weeks older than my newest nephew.  She is coming on 8 months.  I looked through her medical file and I am so thankful that I (almost) am a doctor because I understood the medical jargon they were using and know what the potential problems are as well as the things that are really not problems at all.  For sure, I don't care if she has baby eczema. Our first and foremost concern is that we receive a healthy child.  Since we will undoubtedly have a whole host of challenges with raising her, it is best if her emotional and physical health are as good as can be given her circumstances.  So, we are working with the international adoption clinic at the University of Cincinnati.  There is a doctor there who is trained to review these crazy documents and interpret words, findings, etc in light in the country of origin.  There are a few things on there that I am really unsure of their true meaning given what we know of how these medical records work, so we rely in the consultation of this doctor to tell us if she is healthy.  The doctor will also examine the 2 pictures we received for signs of any genetic syndromes, fetal alcohol syndrome, obvious neurologic problems, etc.  I already scrutinized and don't see anything obvious.  The only thing I will say about her picture is that if we do end up adopting this girl, my hopes of adopting a blue eyed, blonde haired Russian girl will be dashed. Alas, I shall have bigger disappointments in my lifetime.

We also know that this child was referred to another American family who turned her down.  We do not know why as they used a doctor that the adoption agency we are working with does not know.  I do not see any glaring things with her medical record that surprise me or overly concern me, but my training and knowledge are very limited.  There are several things in there that I think would be very concerning to someone if they either had no medical training and were just looking things up, or if they did not have knowledge of how Russian medical diagnoses go with children in orphanages, so part of me thinks that perhaps that family was thinking there was a big problem that is not really a big problem.  Or maybe I am just being overly optimistic. We are going to be putting a lot of weight on the report we get from Cincinnati and are not going to really be making a decision or really even able to talk about making a decision until we get the meeting with Cincinnati.  I have a ton of questions for this doctor.

So....we meet with her on Wednesday afternoon by phone as by then she will have time to review the pictures and medical records that we have already received.  After that Tim and I will have to make a very, very, very gigantic and life altering decision.  Our adoption agency tells us we have until Friday.  No pressure, here, while we are on our family vacation, trying to relax.  No pressure at all. the time I touch down in Dayton with the boys on Saturday, we'll have this decided.

I am trying to not get too attached to this little girl because I might have to tell her no.  And what's funny is that when I looked at her picture my first thought was not, "how cute!" or "my baby!" or "yay!"  My first thought was, "DARN IT! No blonde hair. No blue eyes."  My second thought was, "Thank God, she has a filtrum."  (A sign that she might not be too terribly damaged from alcohol exposure in the womb.)  But, in her defense, I often look at Samuel's eyes and find myself feeling very sad that they are no longer blue. I still love him to pieces.

Fear not, oh blog stalkers, we will update again later this week with our decision. I will do my best to update my blog regularly so you can see the whole process.

And...since I can't share this girl's picture, or name, or birthweight (she was VERY tiny) or anything with you, I will show our fun vacation.  I will try to post more from our camera, this is all I have on my phone.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


On Tuesday the United States and Russian governments ratified the long awaited bilateral agreement regarding Russian adoptions from Americans.  This agreement was put to the government because of few adoptions gone horribly wrong.  According to an article I read from the Washington Post, the Russian government has stated that 19 Russian adopted children have suffered abuse or death at their hands of their American adoptive parents.  When that crazy woman in 2010 sent her adopted son back to Russia alone, there was outrage within Russia at the adoptions that take place between the two countries.  This agreement, now in place, requires all adoptions to go through a certified Russian agency and requires that agency to monitor the child's upbringing in the US.  This doesn't affect us at all because we were already in compliance with those laws.  It also requires the Russians to provide more medical and social history to prospective adoptive parents.  I am not sure how much this will change as much is unknown about these children's backgrounds.  But what we do think this will mean for us is that things should speed up again.  We have now been waiting 6 months for our referral and we began this process 1 year ago.  We continue to wait...hopefully we will receive news soon of more referrals being handed out as a result of this agreement.

In June we went to the picnic for our adoption agency.  It was encouraging to meet the families who have adopted and see their children.  By and large, the Russian kids were as I expected.  Most were seemingly normal with reported issues from their parents such as attachment problems, sleeping problems, and difficulty controlling emotions.  A few kids I saw had noticeable fetal alcohol syndrome (and by a few I mean 2 out of probably close to 75 to 100.)  But, other than that and one child with an impressive hearing aid, no other health issues were obvious.  I think what was so encouraging about all this was seeing that my expectations for our daughter are reasonable.  Of interesting note, probably 60-70% of the adopted Russian kids were boys, and of those boys, over half were named either Alexander or Andrew.   I think a lot of families adopt older kids so they keep their Russian names. We may keep one of our girl's names as a second middle name but we have a very American name awaiting her.

And now we begin month 7 of waiting...

Cow Appreciation Day

Yesterday was cow appreciation day at Chick Fil A.  So, in an attempt to get a free dinner at Tim and Matthew's favorite restaurant, I did some last minute throwing together of some cow costumes.  I just used the cut outs that they provided online and then found a huge sheet of cow print fabric that a gift was wrapped in for our wedding and cut out some bandanas for all of us.  I must say, for getting the idea to participate in cow appreciation day one hour before we ate dinner, we looked pretty awesome. Next year, though, I will be more creative with our costumes.  This is definitely a new family tradition.

We enjoyed our free meals and are so thankful for Chick Fil A, the only restaurant that can get Matthew to eat protein 100% of the time.

In other news, yesterday was Samuel's 4 month birthday. We will have to celebrate him in another post later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

3 months old!

Happy 3 months to my sweet Samuel.  He is getting so big and is starting to look so much like his big brother.  Samuel's eyes are still blue and I'm hoping they stay that way.  Other than that, he looks very similar to Matthew. Especially when he sleeps. So sweet.

I have had so many people recently tell me what a good baby he is.  I know this to be true.  He is so calm and so easy, it's actually a little scary.  He does not cry.  Really.  Even in the morning, sometimes I will go in to his room to wake him up and feed him and he'll be awake, all swaddled nice and tight, just looking around.  Then I have to wonder, "how long has he been awake?"  He fusses (and I wouldn't even call it crying) when he wants his binky or if he's really hungry (which doesn't happen very often since I feed him on schedule instead of waiting for him to ask for it.)  We can put him down on his mat or in his chair and he'll sit there and look around and kick his legs and coo for an hour. I feel like I neglect him sometimes because it's so easy to put him down and forget about him in favor of the screaming, shrieking, running, busy, mischievous toddler.

He hardly sleeps during the day, especially considering he is only 3 months old.  He sleeps in spurts at day care for probably a total of like 2 hours.  He might take an hour nap in the evening. So maybe he'll sleep for 3 hours total during the day.  Then at night he'll sleep for...well...I don't really know how long because I usually have to wake him up to start the day so i can go to work.  I think he'd probably sleep for between 10 and 11 hours.  I am thinking of trying to feed him bigger feedings during the day so I can cut out one feeding and put him to bed earlier.  He currently eats 5 times a day. I feel like 4 times is a little few for 3 months, but maybe it will work.

Not really sure how much he weighs now since we don't go to the doctor till 4 months, but I think he weights about 12.5 lbs since i tried to weigh him on our scale at home.

He talks a lot, making cute little cooing sounds. ;He gives small little squeals and is experimenting with "aahhh."  Matthew was never so talkative.  Samuel also has very little interest in rolling from his tummy to his back.  He just lays on his mat like a sack of potatoes.  He doesn't even lift his head or push up.  It's very funny, really. When he's on his back he is so active and will sometimes turn to his side.  And he can hold his head up well and put some weight on his legs pretty well, too.  But apparently tummy time is not so appealing.

Samuel often has a very concerned look on his face.  It's just how he always looks if he's just checking out the world.  We think it's very cute. But we are a little biased.

I could not be more in love with this wonderful son God has given us.  Tim and I were talking last night that perhaps the reason Samuel is so easy is because by the time he is a year (hopefully) we will have a (potentially) needy little girl who is not that much older than him.  Perhaps Samuel's temperment is going to be what prevents us from checking ourselves into the psych ward. We love you, Samuel Christopher!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We've had Matthew enrolled in gymnastics since about September.  He loves it and it has been so fun to watch his skills and interests change as he has gotten older.  This morning he kept asking me to take pictures of him during different activities.  Thought I'd post some on here Matthew loves to jump on the trampoline, flip on the bar, walk on the beam, jump off the vault, and do somersaults. . 

Pool Adventures

We belong to the best pool.  It's really more like a mini waterpark for kids.  There are a ton of slides, including a tunnel type slide that spirals, and a lot of things that spray, squirt, and dump water for the kids to play with.  (There are also super steep slides for adults...)  And the baby pool is really fun, too, with some mini slides and other fun equipment.  Matthew has so much fun at the pool and really loves all the water slides.  Of course, I can't get any pictures of him going down the bigger slides because I'm certain my camera would get wet.  There is a giant bucket (and I mean, giant) that dumps water over the play area every minute or so. It's impossible to play on the equipment without getting dumped on. I will say, that's a bit annoying.

Yesterday was Samuel's first time at the pool where he was awake.  He enjoyed sitting in the water with his dad.  We are looking forward to spending a lot of time at the pool this summer!  I am so thankful Matthew is fearless in the water, and even more thankful that a lot of the pool here is so shallow that Matthew can stand.  There is only one area that's to deep for him to stand, and that's not the area with the slides, which is helpful.  We're going to have to watch him when we go to Florida. He's going to run and jump in the pool faster than we can catch him.  We have him in swim lessons for the second summer, but of course he's not really capable of swimming by himself yet.